The fastest reload is a second gun. This sage advice has been handed down by generations of professionals and civilians who learned carrying a back-up gun was cheap insurance. Named after famed NYPD stakeout squad gunfighter Jim Cirillo, producing a second gun in a fight became known as the New York reload.
Most every police officer I’ve ever known carried a second gun, usually in the form of a snubbie revolver in a trouser or jacket pocket. It’s a hard habit to break, as the ones I know who have retired continue this practice every day. When I was in the Border Patrol, we were prohibited from carrying two guns, a prohibition dating back to the very early days to discourage two-gun western rigs. Still, many of us carried a second piece, especially when expecting trouble. When we formed up the Bandit Teams to hunt down border bandits, everyone carried two guns—at a minimum.
Concealed carriers who wish to carry two guns need to put a little thought into the problem. Firearm type and size, as well as how to carry and access an extra firearm, needs to be considered. While having a second gun is the goal, going overboard and carrying too much gear and weight will soon grow tiresome. I know folks who advocate carrying at least two guns, large amounts of extra ammunition, multiple edged weapons, several flashlights and medical gear—at all times. If that works for you, I have no complaint, but I’m willing to bet most concealed carriers go out with a lot less.
A word of caution is in order; however they’re carried, safety demands handguns must be in holsters. Holster selection dictates how to carry. There are belt, inside the waistband, appendix, shoulder, ankle and pocket holsters, among others. This gives you a lot of options for carrying your primary and secondary guns. As an example, you might prefer to carry your primary gun in a strong-side belt holster while the second gun is in an ankle or pocket holster.
Some considerations such as how you’re dressed and what you’re doing come into play. Have you tried to get a revolver out of your front trouser pocket while walking or running? Can you get to a gun in an ankle holster while driving? Do you want a middle-of-the-back holster if you’re going to be sitting? Does your setup allow you to get a hand on at least one gun, regardless of your activity? Accessibility and comfort have a lot to do with how we can carry both our primary and secondary guns.
Is it okay to carry a semi-automatic pistol as your primary gun and a revolver as the backup? Why not? Then again, you may wish to keep things the same, as in carrying two revolvers or two semi-automatics. How about ammunition commonality? Might it be a good idea to carry two guns that can accept the same ammunition? The same magazines? While your needs and circumstances might be different, here are a couple of ways to carry two guns I have worked out.
I like revolvers and carried them for many years during the early part of my law-enforcement career. They’re simple to use, powerful and are far less likely to malfunction in a close-in fight, as may happen with a semi-automatic firing a contact shot. I’ve also defaulted to carrying my guns on my belt—because it’s what I’m used to—so I carry the primary revolver, a Smith & Wesson Model 66 .357 Mag. with a 2.5-inch barrel, on my strong side and a Smith & Wesson .38 Spl. Model 642 as my back-up on the support side.
Both are equipped with Crimson Trace Lasergrips and are carried in leather CID model holsters made by my friend Rob Leahy at Simply Rugged Holsters. I use the same ammunition in both revolvers: a hot .38 Spl. +P “Super Snub” load from Super-Vel. I also carry a couple of speed strips with extra ammo because, unlike speed loaders, speed strips can load either revolver and are flat and easily concealed.
Like the revolvers, I carry semi-automatic pistols in two leather holsters from Simply Rugged Holsters. Both are Glocks that have been modified by my friend and fellow Gunsite Academy instructor, Lew Gosnell, who reshapes the Glock grip to make it point more naturally while being more textured and easier to hold. My strong side pistol is a 9 mm Glock G19 and the support-side pistol is a smaller Glock G26 in 9 mm. Because both pistols can use the larger Glock G19 (or even a larger Glock G17) magazine, I had Rob make the support-side holster with a magazine pouch to carry a spare mag. While I’ve carried several different defensive rounds in these pistols, I now prefer the solid-copper hollowpoints from Barnes and Super-Vel.
While your mileage may vary, these are some ideas you might want to consider when carrying two concealed handguns. And remember that sage advice: The fastest reload is a second gun.