Backup Guns and Carry Gun Sizing

This post started as a rambling stream of thought over on A Girl’s blog, where she asks her readers about backup guns. When my response reached critical mass, and cleanly left the topic, I took the initiative to put it here instead of waste her bandwidth. This gave me the added benefit of posting pics.

As to the original question on whether or not a BUG…

When I carry my S&W 586L-Comps, I carry both of them. One sits on my right as my primary and the other is mirrored on my left, in a matched holster, as a Detroit reload, handsomely stowed in horse, ostrich, and stingray.

I’m largely ambidextrous, and have found that one eye is as good as the other to me. When I’m shooting left handed, I default to my left eye, right handed, right eye. I know this doesn’t work for the vast majority of people, so I don’t necessarily offer it as a solution for you so much as a glimpse into the window of my life. Today I’ve got both guns loaded with Hornady .357 Mag in moon clips, and I’ve got three extra moon clips, one in each of my front two pockets and another in a vest pocket. Heaven forbid I should have a gun fight today, but that gives me 35-rounds of .357 Magnum to fight my way back to my 12-gauge and carbine.

When I went out to get myself a more spritely backup, I (ahem) accidentally bought another primary. There’s a bit of a story here, actually. I had some extra cash and decided to go look at those Saiga 12s. In looking at them online, I liked the ‘hunting carbine’, with the 22-inch barrel that included interchangeable choke tubes. When I got to the gun store, they didn’t carry that model and the one they did have was about $100 more than I wanted to spend on one anyway. I’d played around with Jennifer‘s M&P9c, and decided that although toward the large end for of the scale, it would probably work pretty well for a BUG, as it really isn’t any bigger than a snubby. Also, I wanted a rough-weather alternative to my blued revolvers. Ice, rain, and sweat are rough on these things.

Well, Jennifer already had the 9mm, so why would I buy another copy of it? I decided that .40 was right out; it’s a fine cartridge, but because of household ammunition simplicity, we’ve decided to shun .40 for the time being. That left .45 ACP as the logical solution. Without much more thought into it, I picked up the ‘compact’ version of the M&P45. The barrel is 1/2-in longer than its 9mm baby sister, the grip is similarly longer, and the whole thing is at least 1/8″ wider.

This is no longer a pocket gun. LOL! Don’t get me wrong – I love my M&P, but I kind of wish I’d either stuck with the true pocket gun format, or gone with the full-size M&P45 instead. Just as the M&P9c is about the same size as a J-frame with a ~2-in barrel, the M&P45c is about the same size as an L-frame with a 3-inch barrel.

Pros? The 4-inch .45 is the beater I was looking for. I’ve had this thing in a swimming pool on more than one occasion and it cost half of what Jen’s FNP45 Tactical is worth, which she still carries more often than not. The M&P just works; clean or dirty, wet or dry, hot or cold, and any kind of ammunition, it simply doesn’t care. In this caliber at this length, it is legal for deer hunting in OK. It appears that the social ammunition that I keep it loaded with is actually legal for deer, for a seamless transition from the streets to the field, which I can’t claim on the similarly sized, 3-inch L-frames. Just for giggles, here’s a comparison between one of my 586s and Jennifer’s 640:

Cons? The M&P45 is really too big for a backup. At this point, I want a true backup for when I’m carrying the M&P. Also, this gun is enough of a beater that it does get neglected. I’ve had people chastise me on more than one occasion about my filthy gun. “What? I just cleaned and lubed it about… *thinking* …like six months ago or something!” LOL! I have once had it carboned up badly enough that the slide didn’t want to lock back on an empty mag. Still, that took a LOT of carbon.

Speaking of which, I do need to scrub that thing again. Maybe I’ll do that this afternoon… Clearly, the snubby revolver and the M&P9c are sized well for backup guns where as the L-frame and the M&P45 are just barely too big to do the job on a practical basis, even though I do carry a 586 as a Detroit reload. When you’re searching for a gun, keep purpose in mind. Remember that width makes as much of a difference as, if not even more than barrel length and grip length. A single-stack semi-auto will almost always pack thinner than a revolver, which can make all the difference in the world to comfort and concealability, although there are advantages to a revolver as well. And, don’t go with the excuse of “Well, this one is just barely bigger. It will probably be okay.” Additionally, the right holster and belt combination can make near miracles happen. If you’ve never had a really good holster, you might be shocked at how big a gun you can carry comfortably and fully concealed.

One thought on “Backup Guns and Carry Gun Sizing

  1. Oh wow, lots of great info here.

    It’s not easy finding the right combo of carry guns. I really enjoy seeing/hearing what others do.

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