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Carrying a Back-up Firearm

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One of the most famous gunfights of the 20th century occurred on April 11, 1986, in Miami-Dade County, Florida. On this day, 14 FBI agents met in the morning at a local Home Depot to plan their search for a stolen vehicle that was believed to be driven by two suspects who had carried out multiple bank robberies.

10mm Glock G29 under Glock G43 pistol
Glock’s 10mm power is not that much bigger than the 9mm G43, but it offers a lot more stopping power.

Around 9:30 a.m., two agents spotted the suspect vehicle and began following it until more agents were able to join them. In total, eight FBI agents were on scene when the lead vehicle attempted to make a traffic stop. The suspect vehicle, however, veered off the road and hit a tree.

Subsequently, the agents surrounded the suspect vehicle in an attempt to arrest the two males.

The two suspects, identified as William Matix and Michael Platt were armed with a shotgunRuger Mini 14, and .357 revolvers. The FBI agents involved in the shootout were armed with shotguns, .357 revolvers, 9mms, and .38 specials.

During the firefight, FBI agent Ed Mireles was severely wounded when his left arm was hit with a .223 round, rendering his arm useless. Mireles stayed in the fight and fired his 12 gauge shotgun until it ran dry.

The two suspects were still moving and attempting to get away from Mireles after he emptied his shotgun, so he drew his back up weapon, a Smith & Wesson 686 revolver and advanced on the suspects. Mirleles fired six rounds from his revolver with five of the rounds striking the suspects, hitting each of them in the face, ending the five-minute gun battle.

Smith and Wesson 686 plus revolver with open loaded cylinder
The seven-shot geometry of the 686 makes for a fast lock time.

Sadly, two FBI agents died in the firefight and all but one agent was wounded. Over 145 rounds were fired during the exchange, and there’s no doubt that had it not been for the actions of agent Mireles, more lives would have been lost.

The fact is, even though Mireles was injured, he stayed in the gunfight and transitioned to his back-up weapon to ultimately end the threat. Now, most people probably expect law enforcement to carry back-up weapons, but have you ever considered carrying one as part of your EDC gear?

Here are some pros and cons for carrying a back-up firearm.

Pros and Cons


If you are like me, you probably carry a gun, tactical pen, knife, flashlight, wallet, cell phone, and a keychain. My point is, your EDC gear can quickly add up, so adding an extra firearm might be too much to comfortably carry for some folks.

I know a lot of people who like to carry their back-up gun in an ankle holster. While this isn’t a bad idea, ensure you train and practice drawing from the ankle. If you do it wrong, you could easily get hurt. Personally, when I carry a back-up gun (it depends on where I’m going) I carry my back up in my front pocket.

Woman shooting a hi-power pistol
The modern Hi-Power 9mm is a great combat and personal defense handgun.

3 Shots, 3 Seconds, 3 Yards

Studies have shown that most gun fights involve an average of 3 shots being fired, lasting 3 seconds, and occurring at a distance of about 3 yards. In other words, in a self-defense situation, (hopefully) you won’t need multiple weapons to stop the threat.

Of course, as shown above, anything is possible. So, while you should be good to go by carrying a spare magazine only, you and I know that life is very unpredictable.


When it comes to carrying a back-up gun, you need to spend as much time practicing with this gun as you do with your main weapon.

I know a lot of guys who carry a back-up on their ankle and they often train to draw the weapon while falling backwards on their butt, while engaging the threat. Be prepared to train with your back-up weapon and consider choosing a back-up that is similar to your regular carry so you are familiar with it.


Browning Black Label 1911-380 Pro Stainless pistol
Browning’s Black Label 1911-380 Pro Stainless is available in full-size and compact versions, with an optional accessory rail. The slide is stainless steel and the barrel has a rust-­resistant satin-silver finish. Grips are a G-10 composite.

One of the biggest advantages to carrying a back-up weapon is that these days there are so many different back-up guns to choose from including the Ruger LCP and SIG Sauer P238. So, almost anyone can find a back-up gun that works for them.

Arm a Family Member

Let’s say you are out to dinner with your spouse when you spot an active shooter. Well, if your spouse or other family member is trained in the use of firearms, but doesn’t often carry, you could simply give them your back-up gun to help you confront the shooter.

The bottom line is, it can never hurt to have extra firepower on you. This is especially true if you’re heading into place that it might come in handy such as dangerous areas of town or through a city that’s experiencing violent protests at the moment.

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