Back in the days when the revolver was king, some police officers involved with high-risk duties would carry two, or even three, revolvers on their person. This was so they did not have to spend time during a gunfight going through the painstaking process of reloading one revolver. Instead, they could simply draw another revolver much more quickly and get back into the fray.
Coined the “New York reload,” this concept is generally credited to Jim Cirillo of the NYPD Stakeout Unit for bringing this mode of carry and its reasoning to light. He was involved in the neighborhood of 20 gunfights during his career, so I think it’s safe to say he had the experience to back up his methodology.
BACKUP FOR CIVILIANS?
I’ve heard too many times that civilians don’t really need a backup weapon, because they aren’t involved in as many potentially dangerous encounters as law enforcement. That’s a specious argument; the same reasoning could also be applied to civilians not needing a concealed-carry weapon at all. All it takes is one encounter, and from there, the civilian could face all the same possible contingencies as someone on the job—thus making the backup just as valuable for “John Q. Public” as it is for LEOs.
In some cases, there could be a stronger argument made for the need of a backup handgun for civilians. Typically, civilians don’t wear specialized apparel, such as jackets or coats with side vents to allow access to the primary weapon that’s carried inside or on their belt. Carrying concealed is just that: keeping the weapon hidden from the view of others.
In doing so, that sometimes limits access to the primary weapon. Examples would be while wearing a zipped coat or jacket when trouble pops off or while sitting in a vehicle, where it’s hard to draw from the strong-side position. In these cases, the backup weapon, carried in a pant or jacket pocket or in an ankle holster, actually becomes the primary weapon of engagement. Now, some would say it’s still the backup, because the primary weapon can’t be accessed. But you get the point.
EFFECTIVE CARRY MODES
With the advent of modern and reliable semi-automatics on the market today, there are more choices for backup weapons than ever—although revolvers still shine in some regards. I favor pocket carry for my backup weapon—whether it’s a pant pocket or a jacket pocket. These are typically locations from which the weapon can be drawn quickly. Also, because folks often walk with their hands in their pockets, it’s an unobtrusive way to have your hand on the weapon when things look sketchy but don’t yet warrant drawing the firearm.
Revolvers are especially suited for carry in a jacket pocket—provided you carry one with an internal hammer rather than an external one. Examples include Smith & Wesson’s model 642 or 640 and Ruger’s LCR revolvers. These types of backups can be fired reliably from within the confines of a purse or coat pocket. A semi-automatic weapon cannot do this reliably because of the slide’s movement and inability to reliably cycle in such circumstances.
The advantage of smaller semi-automatic pistols is that they are typically thin and easy to carry in the waistband or a pant pocket. However, dust and lint from a pocket can accumulate on and in the pistol over time, making routine cleaning necessary to ensure proper function. Also, some pocket pistols do come with slightly higher capacity than most small-framed revolvers, making them as appealing a choice in some circumstances.
Just as redundancy is important in any other aspect of our personal survival plan, having a backup weapon as part of our normal carry routine provides us with options. The benefits can include easy accessibility, additional ammunition or the ability to pass one weapon off to another defender in order to increase one’s odds.
There are far too many up sides to having a backup weapon to simply slough off the thought as being too paranoid or “gung ho.” There’s a reason law enforcement personnel engage in this practice, and it’s paid off many times by actually saving lives. Is your life or the life of a family member any less valuable?
Think about it. One day, it might pay off for you, as well. GW
WITH THE ADVENT OF MODERN AND RELIABLE SEMI-AUTOMATICS ON THE MARKET TODAY, THERE ARE MORE CHOICES FOR BACKUP WEAPONS THAN EVER …
JUST AS REDUNDANCY IS IMPORTANT IN ANY OTHER ASPECT
OF OUR PERSONAL SURVIVAL PLAN, HAVING A BACKUP WEAPON AS PART OF OUR NORMAL CARRY ROUTINE PROVIDES US WITH
Another popular hideout place is an ankle holster, such as this Apache model from DeSantis Gunhide.
While autos can be carried in this fashion,
be mindful of the dust and grit that can accumulate. Revolvers tend to be more reliable where conditions are
Carrying a pocket pistol in a jacket or pocketed overlayer keeps the backup firearm easily accessible when the primary weapon can’t be drawn easily from its position. Keeping one weapon easily accessible while driving is paramount, and carrying a backup in a shoulder holster meets that need quite nicely.
Long before it was adopted by the NYPD Stakeout Unit, the “New York reload” concept was already in use— although its utility and tactical advantage weren’t discussed until much later on. Even small-caliber handguns that can easily be hidden away can be decisive fight-stoppers if the primary weapon isn’t available.
Even a small, two-shot derringer can give the user an edge when
it comes to a lifeand-death defensive