A friend of mine, a retired chief of police still very much involved in firearms and tactics training, recently asked me for some cases in which a second handgun had saved the life of a Good Guy or Gal in a gunfight against homicidal criminals.  It reminded me that it’s a subject I ought to address here.

The article was done a few years ago. 

Let me add that backup can be important in several ways.  If you are with someone competent to use a gun but not carrying their own and deadly danger threatens, the second gun allows you to arm them for this exigent circumstance.  A second gun accessible to either hand can be a life-saver if one of your upper limbs is taken out of action early in the encounter. Under some circumstances, reaching for the second loaded gun can get you back in the fight faster than reloading the one that just ran empty.  In a recent sad case, a punk grabbed a gun an armed citizen was carrying and, when the latter tried to get it back with bare hands, the criminal shot and killed him: a second gun accessible to the law-abiding citizen might have changed that outcome for the better.



  1. In the case of arming another person who is not carrying (visitor not licensed to carry in your state perhaps), I was wondering what the legal ramifications would be if that person used the firearm in self-defense. Has that ever occurred?

    • Yes, it’s covered under the doctrine of competing harms, also known as the doctrine of necessity or doctrine of two evils. The principle is that you are forgiven for breaking the law if in a circumstance where following the law would lead to more human injury than breaking it.

      • Mas, would you say, that a legitimate self defense shooting in a place like New York (not licensed) would fall under this? I think even if you beat the charges on self defense, they would still nail you for felony possession.

      • Assuming that the arming took place after the exigent circumstance presented itself, doctrine of necessity as it is known in New York SHOULD kick in. The current NYC DA is a wild card, however, as far as self defense cases.

      • In the descried visitor scenario, the person is not “carrying” he is only temporarily holdihg it. Dont need a Mother May I Card for that….. most places.

  2. My 16-year-old has been going to the range with me lately and although he’s not far behind me in accuracy on the range, I’ve never talked to him about the scenario where I might hand him my backup …yet. Thanks Mas.

  3. I am sometimes in a location where the law maxes out my magazine capacity pretty low. The solution: Three Sig 365s. Training with one is training with all, and everything is interchangeable. (Phenomenal sidearm, by the way. And with my small build, it’s perfect.)

  4. I spent 40 years in SE Georgia Law Enforcement. When we were carrying revolvers, I carried a Gen 1 Glock as a backup and extra ammunition. During that time, I sometimes carried a modified Webley Revolver.
    But when we went to semi auto pistols( Glock 21’s and a Glock 17), I got out of the habit of carrying a backup. And when we went to the. Glocks, I either carried a Glock 30 or 19.
    I was very lucky that I never had to use any of those pistols. And I worked in the worst areas. I guess God looks after fools and police officers.

  5. Wow! Frankly, I believe in standard capacity magazines, not reduced-capacity, or sub-standard, magazines. But, I tend to think that most of the time, you don’t need them, unless “you intend to miss a lot.” But, after reading Case Three, where three guns were shot dry, and the 105 rounds self-defense shooting at the end, I am even more fervently in favor of standard capacity magazines. We do NEED them.

  6. In a recent advanced pistol course this topic was raised. The instructor told us that our carry permit allows only one firearm be carried. I asked if this is the case for constitutional carry which was recently passed here in Georgia. He did not know. And, does the single firearm rule (if valid in GA) apply in other states where they honor our Georgia carry permits? What is your advice Mas?

    • Zane, I don’t see that in the Georgia law, but I may be old and blind and have missed it. Ask the instructor politely if he can direct you to the specific law or caselaw he based his statement on.

      The only state I know that limits a legal carrier to one concealed handgun is New Mexico, and even there, I’m told, a second gun can be carried. Some jurisdictions (looking at you, New York City) will limit the carrier to a single handgun listed by serial number on their permit.

    • Thanks very much Mas. I called an instructor I have taken several classes with. He is a former state police captain. He tells me there is no case law or statute that restrics a licensed carrier to one firearm.

  7. Did LE trade shows all over the US for years, carried with me a retried cop, that had been “Mas Trained”.
    He always carried mine and his, as most places, I could not carry.
    Always used the old joke, “I carry a gun because a cop is too big”, but Doug was a little guy that fit well in a duffel bag if needed!

  8. Alone, the five shots from an Ithaca 12 gauge not stopping the criminals is downright spooky. Too likely a case where the unfortunate perps were previously self-medicated with some chemical substance. About par, in other words. I had a now-late friend who was a Marine in Vietnam & later a top gunsmith, who repeatedly mentioned that he liked the Ithaca. I like my Ruger spur-less SP101 of proven accurate 25-yard range as an all-around, primary defender. It is just heavy enough to securely handle (in strong hands) King Kong loads, and short enough to enable successful contact shots if necessary. .357 Magnum Corbon HPs, Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman hard cast, and CCI .38 Special snake shot are among the best selective-use “stoppers” you can get, even from the 2 1/4 inch barrel. My backup handgun to the SP101 is actually an early Ruger EC9s 9mm semiauto, reworked impeccably for free by the factory in Prescott, AZ. It is a light, hide-worthy, single-stack, now utterly-dependable pistol, except maybe for snake shot, that I load selectively for chosen applications with Hornady Critical Defense HP’s, Remington ball, or CCI snake shot. I can confidently employ either handgun in an emergency with appropriate ammo at near-contact range in the back yard, IMHO without “recklessly endangering” any neighbors on the other side of our shared concrete block walls. My (50%) invaluable 2 inside-outside dogs have a double dog door, and have learned to look carefully both ways before they go completely out into their little orchard. The dogs luckily seem to know when a need to wake me up obtains, & do discriminate vs. wild predators, as well as some strangers. Well, one of the dogs actually hates almost everybody, but is very brave, with a strong battle record vs. multiple coyote. At least he does not bite people hard when he attacks. He is the only dog I have heard of who bit the same LEO three times in imagined defense-of-dog-owner after a car wreck (not my crash), and survived. I apprehensively call him ‘Lawsuit” now, and leash him faithfully. Big wildcat (they can weigh 50 pounds or so), & sometimes puma, have come at night to hunt birds & pets among the shadowy orchard trees. All you especially need to encounter at three a.m. is a smiling puma (or even a “black swan” jaguar, may God save you from the F & G then) at close range trying to kill your dogs. You will remain thereafter a true believer that there is a Devil, and that Satan (“Hiss, see my ivory killer fangs!”) is a big feline. Caution, you may freeze, or yes, soil your drawers, at the sight of Beelzebub, so preventively practice judicious “freeze control” often & everywhere. That particularly means having your gun presented and fired appropriately in time. You gonna shoot, shoot, don’t freeze. Distemper & rabies tend to render even ordinarily human-timid predators very aggressive. They will not give you a second chance. A compact, powerful revolver of valued heft is thus my usual first choice for serious backyard security, with a semiauto to supply general backup. I concur with “2 are 1, & 1 is none.”

  9. I’ll add an improbable, but it actually happened ~50 years ago, reason for a second gun. Skipping the back story, your security holster malfunctions and refuses to release your primary sidearm. The holster in question at that time was a Speed Safety clamshell. Had to be cut apart with a welding grinder to release the gun. I dimly recall that one of our security holsters allegedly had to be dismantled to release the gun in the 2000s. That one was discovered on a training day.

  10. Sent this article to my oldest son, who’s a State Trooper. While they don’t discourage it, they don’t actively encourage carrying a BUG. How they can do that in 2023 is beyond me.

  11. When I hear of a mechanical device that never fails, I’ll stop carrying two flashlights in the woods.
    If it’s sensible to carry a gun, it’s sensible to carry two.

  12. Zane Hensley wrote:
    ‘He is a former state police captain. He tells me….’

    ‘If you want bad advice on gun laws ask a cop or gun shop employee’ – Old Irish Saying

  13. IMHO, people make a mistake by lumping all gunfights into a single “Gunfight” category. If one studies a lot of these cases (say, by reviewing years worth of NYPD Firearm Discharge Reports), it soon becomes clear that gunfights (typically) fall into TWO separate categories. I tend to think of these categories as follows:

    Type 1 – Defensive Incident: In a Type 1 incident, neither of the parties are looking for a “fight to the death”. Typically, a Type 1 incident involves what Mas calls a “Failure of the Victim Selection Process”. Some crook or bully will decide that he has identified an easy victim. The criminal then provokes the intended victim into making a defensive response, typically by drawing a gun and (possibly) firing off a small number of shots. The criminal is looking for a victim, not a fight to the death, and quickly either runs or surrenders. A Type 1 incident is usually resolved with only a few rounds fired and, very often, no shots are fired at all. For a Type 1 incident, the important thing is to follow Rule #1 of Gun Fighting: Have a gun. Just about any gun will do and ammo capacity and/or use of a backup weapon simply does not come into it.

    Type II – Offensive Firefight: In a Type II engagement, the combatants are SERIOUS. Very often, it is a fight until one side is either dead or utterly defeated. Very often, multiple weapons and a large round count comes into play in Type II engagements.

    Type II engagements are common in warfighting by regular troops. They are less common for law-enforcement personnel but they do happen. Occasionally the police will encounter criminals who are either (A) drugged out of their minds, or (B) have no intention of ever going back to prison again. These mindsets can lead to a fight to the death and a Type II engagement.

    I would expect that Type II engagements are common in warfare. For law enforcement, I would estimate a breakdown of about one Type II engagement out of every 10 incidents (in other words, about 90% Type I and 10% Type II). These are just estimates based upon my review of years of NYPD data.

    A backup gun is very welcome if one falls into a Type II engagement. In fact, if possible, one should reach for even heavier weapons (shotguns, AR’s, etc.) if available. For most Type I engagements, even a 5 or 6 shot revolver tends to be adequate. This explains why revolvers were used (mostly successfully) by law enforcement personnel for decades before they finally transitioned to semi-automatic pistols. About 90% of the time, the revolver was adequate even for law-enforcement work.

    Civilians always have the option to retreat. It is a very unlucky civilian that gets involved in a Type II engagement. I won’t say that it never happens. The probability is not Zero (0). Nevertheless, I would think that, for most civilian carriers, the use of a backup gun should be considered optional. For law-enforcement, Type II engagements occur often enough that carrying a backup firearm may well be recommended. However, it should be realized that the duty of a law-enforcement officer is different from the desired of a civilian for self-protection. Just because something is good for law-enforcement purposes, that does not mean it is also ideal for civilian self-defense. The cases are different. In my view, the weapons and carry methods may also be different.

    • Obviously, a Type I engagement might require reloading and/or a backup gun if there are multiple assailants/goblins. Murphy’s Law could make its appearance if the defender misses a lot, has a very determined attacker, makes good hits, but with a small caliber, and the perp continues to fight, or if the gun fails to fire due to a mechanical problem. Even a shot through the heart might take from 20 seconds to 2 minutes before the attacker can no longer pose a threat. Anything can happen, or not happen.

      • @ Roger Willco – You are conflating Type I and Type II engagements. If one is facing multiple assailants and/or they are determined attackers, then (by definition) one has gotten involved with a Type II firefight. If so, then YES, it is time to reach for multiple and/or heavier weapons because you are in Combat to the Death.

        If you are a civilian caught in such a situation, the best option is to try to retreat to safety rather than stay and fight.

        As noted, Type I assailants are not looking for a fight to the death. They will tend to bolt as soon as the defender produces a firearm for defense. This is actually the most common thing to happen. Even goblins have a survival instinct and most are not ready to die just yet.

        Type II engagements are the minority for law-enforcement and quite rare for civilians. Yet they do happen. As I noted, the probability is not zero (0) even for civilian defenders.

  14. It is off-topic, but I thought that I would link to this news article:


    As expected, the “Two-Tiered” Justice System operated, by the American Left, strikes again. They worked to delay charging anybody in the “Rust Shooting” case for as long as possible. Clearly, they were “marking time” and waiting for the story to fade out of the news cycle.

    Finally, after more than a year, a show was made of charging both Alec Baldwin and the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. However, the charges against Baldwin were all for show. As a connected Leftists, he is protected by the Left-wing “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The same card that protects the Clintons, the Bidens, and numerous other criminals on the Left.

    As we come down to the wire, the charges (of course) are being dropped against Baldwin. A lame “legal excuse” was offered as justification for dropping the charges on what is, otherwise, an open and shut case.

    Naturally, the charges against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were not dropped. She will be made into the “Fall Girl” for this incident.

    Baldwin played the victim (as any leftist would) in this Rust Shooting (it was not the woman who was killed, don’t you know?). I expect that his contract for the movie also shielded him from most civil liability as well. So, Baldwin will dance away without even a legal wrist slap or any serious monetary damages to pay. Heck, it will not surprise me if he finds someone to pay his legal expenses before it is all over. 🙁

    In fact, he will probably seek to profit from this incident. He will probably go “on the road” to make speeches about the evils of “Gun Violence” and how he was traumatized by having an “Evil Gun” grab him and involve him (personally) in a tragic incident of “Gun Violence”.

    Excuse me! I need to take a break from writing and go into the bathroom to puke!

  15. Trying to sort out what’s really going on from what’s reported in the legacy media is, at best, difficult. Might be something as simple as the original prosecutors getting handed a better/more important case. Or budget issues-see below.

    OTOH, what I read was something about how “new evidence” had turned up that showed the gun in question could have fired without the trigger being pressed. An ABC report on the FBI testing showed the gun could only have been fired by pulling the trigger. BUT a blow on the uncocked hammer could fire the gun without the trigger being used.

    Excuse me, but that’s over 150 year old news and why one only carries a traditional single action with an empty chamber under the hammer. Does not apply to the Baldwin case-see gun safety rules 1 & 2- but hey, it’s an excuse to punt. Actually, given pre-trial charge dismissal, might require a re-do on the trial strategy. This might require additional funding and dismissing with the option to refile charges might be a wise move. Or just waiting for the news cycle to move on.

    • WR Moore,

      The way I heard the FBI testing report is that the gun operated without issues. It would fire if the hammer were cocked back and the trigger were pressed (as expected). It would NOT fire from resting hammer, half-cock, or full-cock, without pressing the trigger. Even beating the hammer with a mallet did not make it fire…

      … that is, until they hit it with a mallet hard enough, at full-cock, that they broke the sear. THEN AND ONLY THEN would it fire without pressing the trigger.

      I suspect the “new evidence” is that “the FBI proved the gun could fire without the trigger being pulled,” which lends credence to Baldwin’s claims that the gun misfired.

      If this is true, the report that should be damning to Baldwin’s case — and absolutely would be damning for any of us — is being intentionally misinterpreted to justify dropping charges.

      And now, as others point out, the armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has been offered as the sacrificial “fall girl” for handing out a “FBI-proven defective” firearm.

    • Alec Baldwin accidently shot two people. He didn’t storm the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, seeking to overturn our Democracy! Some crimes are more heinous than others. What is the worst crime of all? Failing to vote for Democrats.

      • “Alec Baldwin accidently shot two people.”

        Alec Baldwin recklessly shot two people. I fixed it for you.

        Alec Baldwin recklessly pointed a dangerous weapon at two people. Since this was a rehearsal and these people were not even actors, you cannot say that that this was “just his job”. It was unnecessary (especially for a rehearsal), hence, it was reckless.

        Even worse, after pointing a dangerous weapon at them, he thumbed back the hammer and pulled the trigger on this single-action revolver. The FBI certified that the revolver, as received, was in good working order. The only way for such a revolver to fire was by (a) hitting the hammer/firing pin with a heavy blow or (b) by cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger. Nobody is saying that the revolver fired when dropped on the hammer or that, otherwise, it was hit a hard blow on the hammer. I, therefore, conclude that Alec Baldwin cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.

        By pointing a dangerous firearm at innocent people, then cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger, Alec Baldwin engaged in extreme reckless behavior.

        Reckless behavior that results in a homicide is, by definition, involuntary manslaughter.

        A true accident does not incur any legal or moral blame. What happen on the set of the Rust Movie WAS NOT an ACCIDENT. It was reckless mishandling of a firearm resulting in one person killed plus a second person injured.

        There is no accident to be found (anywhere) in this incident.

  16. So Alec Baldwin is innocent. Fox News just says whatever it’s viewers want to hear and Trump is a crook. Who knew?

    • Fox News does say what its viewers want to hear. But so do CNN, ABC News, MSNBC, etc. “Preaching to the choir” is how you keep the choir in their seats.

      Trump probably is, at some level, a crook. But, at some level, so are most other billionaire CEOs and Wall Street businessmen, and most-if-not-all national-level politicians. He’s certainly not alone in either group.

      But that doesn’t make Alec Baldwin innocent. Jeff Cooper’s “Four Rules” are dead simple by design — my then-eight-year-old (when I taught him) could recite, understand, and follow them — and by design “gun accidents” CANNOT happen without breaking AT LEAST two of them. The shooting happened because Baldwin broke at least two, and probably all four. That makes him negligent, and (in my “IANAL” opinion) guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

      That he’s an actor, not a gun expert, makes no difference; the Rules are simple for that exact reason. And that he (reportedly) skipped “required” safety trainings should not help his case; it should harm it. “It wasn’t supposed to be loaded,” is not a valid excuse or alibi.

      But because of the “two-tiered” justice system, he will be held blameless. You or I, in the same position, would have already been found guilty and been sentenced to a very long prison term.

      • Archer,

        You wrote, “Trump probably is, at some level, a crook.” I find that hard to believe. Here’s why. He has been in the public eye since about 1974, when he and his father were interviewed by Time magazine. He knows he is being watched all the time. If there is dirt on Donald Trump, it ought to be easy to find. Yet, the Democrats had to make up fake mud to sling at him.

  17. “So Alec Baldwin is innocent… and Trump is a crook.”

    Alec Baldwin certainly is not innocent. The charges were dropped, for the moment, but the prosecutor left the door open to pick them up again latter. Of course, they are hoping that the story will fade from the news cycle after Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is made into the scapegoat.

    A very strong case can be made, on the legal merits, for Baldwin being guilty of involuntary manslaughter. See this analysis, for example:


    Please watch Mr. Branca’s video discussion of the merits in the above linked page.

    As for Trump being a crook, the Democrats, the Anti-American Media, and the Deep State have been trying to prove that for years. President Trump is the most investigated human being (during his lifetime, anyway) to have every lived in the history of the World. He has been investigated by:

    1) Numerous intelligence agencies. Not just the U.S. Agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) but by foreign agencies (The Five Eyes) as well. His communications have been (illegally) tapped and leaked to media sources to weaponize them. This was augmented by numerous leaks of unsupported and anonymous information to the media (also to use as weapons).

    2) A false narrative was set up so as to authorize a “Special Prosecutor” to go after him.

    3) Multiple congressional investigation were launched leading to two (2) attempts to impeach him.

    4) The Anti-American media has assigned thousands of propagandists to try to dig up dirt to be used against him. They even awarded themselves “Pulitzer Prizes” for their dirt digging efforts.

    5) Both Federal and State Prosecutors have dug into President Trump looking for anything they can use. His tax and business records were, illegally, leaked and investigated to find any particle of dirt that could be used.

    All in all, millions of taxpayer dollars have been misappropriated to fund these political efforts aimed at Trump destruction. Millions more have been spent by private sources for the same job. No doubt, hundreds of thousands of man-hours have been spent on the effort.

    Yet, at the end of the day, what have they come up with? Some quibbles over his business filings, normally misdemeanors, that they are trying to pump up into being felony charges. Every effort to “Get Trump” has failed, to date, and I expect this latest, feeble effort to fail as well.

    Really, I think this latest effort is just to do further character assassination. They don’t really expect to dig up any actual crimes. If there had been any actual crimes to be found, they would have been seized and used against Trump long ago.

    Given the depth of investigative effort and how little they have developed from it, I think a case can be made to canonize President Trump as a Saint. I doubt that even the Pope’s background would stand up to such dirt-digging efforts. They have “burned the stump and shifted the ashes” looking for dirt on Trump.

    Could Biden stand up to such an investigation? Could the Clinton’s? Could your beloved Obama stand up to such an extreme dirt digging effort? I seriously doubt it.

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