If one is to believe some of the internet experts, their daily load-out comprises at least two guns, three knives, brass knuckles, a blackjack and a field first aid kit. While over here, most of us are just trying to get our students to regularly carry a defensive gun and one reload. My attempt at poking fun aside, there actually are times when packing more than one defensive handgun makes sense.
Carrying two guns has been a longtime tradition for lawmen. FBI gunfighter Walter Walsh often supplemented his Smith & Wesson .357 Mag. with a .45 Colt semi-automatic. Texas Ranger legend Frank Hamer was known to put on a Colt .38 Super or a Smith & Wesson .44 Spl. as a backup to his .45 Colt single action. In my case, I had a pair of .45 ACP Colt Commanders and would put on the second semi-auto whenever it looked like things might get western. Most of the time, we did this when working manhunts, narcotic raids, or felony apprehensions.
The armed citizen doesn’t have to run to the gunfire the way peace officers do, but there may still be times when two guns make sense. It might be a good idea whenever a person has to go into the worst parts of town for whatever reason. And the same can be said if the community is experiencing civil unrest. A late-night trip to the grocery or convenience store might also be a time to consider two guns.
Getting a second gun into action can be faster than reloading an empty gun and certainly faster than clearing one that has malfunctioned. And the reload is especially true if one is using revolvers. Also, it is not unheard of for a defensive handgun to become inoperable due to incoming fire.
Carrying two guns, however, will rarely make up for a lack of training and practice. Without training and practice, it is just possible that the crook will end up with two new guns instead of one.
Practicing helps us develop a smooth transition from one gun to the other. It also gives us an opportunity to evaluate just what kind of guns and holsters we are using and maybe determine if there is a better way. One might even consider carrying so that the second gun is accessible to the support hand.
So, no, I don’t always carry two guns. But sometimes the situation justifies it and other times when I get that old gut feeling. And, through training and practice, I’ve worked out what works for me. You might give it some thought, too.
A version of this article appeared in Shooting Illustrated.