One of the questions I'm asked most often about carrying weapons for defense of self and others, is about reloads and backups. Do you carry a reload, do you carry two, do you carry a backup gun...
This question is often followed by "doesn't that make you a paranoid or something?"
One of my favorite sayings, and one that I live by is "It's not whether you're paranoid, it's whether you're paranoid enough".
Yes, I carry a reload, in fact I sometimes carry two. I also carry a backup gun, and a reload for it.
I carry minimum of 10 rounds (5 shot revolver and 1 reload) to a maximum of 50 (BHP with two 18rd magazines, Keltec P3AT with spare mag). I suppose I could carry a third mag (one in the gun and two spares) for the BHP, to bring it up to 68; but I don’t really bother... I mean I have carried that much when I'm open carrying, but I rarely do.
Does that make me paranoid? Maybe. I just hope it makes me paranoid enough.
Oh and I also always carry a knife; a way to deal with screws, small nuts and bolts, and wire (either a multitool, or a keychain tool); a flashlight (actually I usually have two); some cording (550 cord); and a way of making fire. DOes that mkae me paranoid? Again I say I hope it makes me paranoid enough.
Often the question is then asked (usually by old revolver men), "If you can't do it with six, you're in more trouble than you can handle with a handgun anyway, so why bother?"
Well, they're right about one thing, if you can't stop a single threat with six rounds, you've got big problems; but I don't carry all that so I'll have more lead to send downrange at one target. The first threat is always that of multiple assailants; especially in an urban environment. More ammo gives you more flexibility in your response here; and that's important.
But that's not primarily why I carry reloads and a backup.
When it comes to defending my life, and the lives of others, I follow the dictum “two is one, one is none”. As far as I’m concerned, when I've got my Colt Defender (7+1 and 7) and my P3AT (6+1 and 6) with reloads (which is my most frequent carry rig); the total round count may be 28, but I’ve only got 15 rounds there that I can count on.
My biggest concerns are malfunctions and environmental loss.
I carry a backup magazine because the smartest way to clear a malfunction is with a fresh mag. Most automatic pistol malfunctions are caused by either bad ammunition or bad magazines. When you have a serious stoppage malfunction, the best thing you can do to resolve it is clear the weapon of any potentially defective ammunition and magazine, and reload with a fresh, known good mag and ammo.
I carry a backup gun because clearing malfunctions is slower than grabbing another gun; and also because it isn’t hard to end up with a gun lost to the environment in the exigencies of a fight.
If you end up having to clear a vehicle or a door frame quickly, or if you god forbid fall down some stairs or the median or embankment of a road (and I’ve had all of the above happen while in potentially threatening situations), it isn’t hard to end up without your sidearm, or with it out of the action (I’ve never had the first happen, but I have had the second happen).
If you're out in the woods, it's very easy to end up slipping in the creek, or sliding down the hillside; and suddenly you are without your most effective external self defense tool (actually, the only time I like pistol lanyards is when you're out hiking or boating).
I also carry a backup gun, because it is important to establish the unbreakable routine of carrying. You can't win a gun fight if you don't have a gun, so make sure you have a gun.
My backup gun goes into my pocket the minute I pick out my pants in the morning, and doesn’t come out until those pants go into the laundry.
My backup guns are generally a Kel-Tec P3AT or a KelTec PF9; but I sometimes use an SP101 (I’d use a 340pd if I had one. I keep meaning to buy one). 6+1 rounds each for the first two, 5 for the third, and I ALWAYS have a reload for my backup guns.
The reloads are small and light; and by rule of karma and Murphy, if not necessarily engineering (though often backup guns ARE somewhat less reliable than larger carry pieces), backup guns are the ones most likely to malfunction when you desperately need them. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
My primary carry guns are a Yost custom Colt Defender in .45, a Yost custom Springfield Champion, or the Hank Fleming full custom 10mm full size govt that was a gift from the Nation of Riflemen. Those 1911s hold 7+1, 8+1, and 9+1 rounds respectively, with the magazines I carry. I usually carry a reload for each of those as well; but with the backup, I don’t always bother. If I’m feeling froggy I may have two reloads, but I usually don’t bother; unless I'm heading out into the woods (where I'm likely to be carrying a large revolver instead by the way).
So a typical load for me is as I said above 6+1 and 6 for the P3AT, and 7+1 plus 7 for the Defender. That’s 28rds.
Less commonly I’ll carry an HK USP compact (8+1 and 8) or the FM Detective (cut down BHP) with KRD extended mags (which actually work great, at 18+1 and 18).
Of those, the only gun with more than 10 rounds capacity in it is the BHP; and I chose the KRD mags not because they offer more capacity, but because they are completely reliable, and they are easier to grab and seat (because they have an integral bumper pad base plate) quickly. Standard BHP mags are harder to handle quickly; and are especially difficult to strip if they jam in the magwell.
As to how much it weighs and how bulky it is? Honestly I don’t even notice it… ‘cept the 10mm, since it’s about 44oz loaded; but it’s an open carry only gun for me anyway, I’m not worried about concealing it. The rest I’m so used to, they aren’t even there anymore.
Because honestly, when it comes to defending your life, do those few ounces bother you all that much?