I was in law enforcement for some 38 years, so I have some pretty set ideas on what qualifies as a backup gun. These guns have to be sturdy, reliable, easy to use and quick to get into action, plus they must pack enough power to get the job done.
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The one type of handgun that consistently met my expectations was the small-frame, double-action (DA) revolver. They are very sturdy and simple—little can go wrong when you need them to work in the worst way. I’ve never had one that was not completely reliable as long as I took care of the gun and its ammunition.
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Finally, most of these revolvers chamber the .38 Special or cartridges that are as or more potent and can get the job done given proper shot placement.
I’ve used two modes of carry primarily over the years: the trouser pocket and the ankle holster. With a snub-nose revolver, I don’t have to worry about losing a magazine, and since I prefer guns with alloy frames, they’re usually light enough that my pocket doesn’t sag or feel like a ball and chain on my ankle.
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When it comes to small, lightweight, easy-to-conceal snub-nose revolvers, the market has several options. Here are some of today’s best options to back you up in any situation.
Charter Arms’ Undercover line of small, lightweight revolvers has been going strong for over 50 years. The standard Undercover weighs 16 ounces and is a traditional double-action, snub-nose revolver chambered for .38 Special +P rounds with an exposed hammer. Charter also makes lighter revolvers, some with concealed hammers and various other options like finishes and laser grips. (charterfirearms.com; 203-922-1652)
Sturm, Ruger & Company started making a small, snub-nose revolver, the SP101, in 1989, but I always considered it a bit heavy for strictly backup use. Some 20 years later, Ruger introduced the LCR (Light Compact Revolver), an amalgamation of aluminum alloy, polymer and stainless steel. This state-of-the-art revolver certainly meets my criteria for backup duty, and Ruger offers 10 different versions, including the LCRx, which has an exposed hammer. (ruger.com)
SMITH & WESSON
The classic backup gun in my opinion has always been the Chief’s Special, a small .38 Special J-Frame five-shooter that debuted during the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950. A year later, it was offered as an aluminum-frame Airweight version, and today there are some 39 different variations. With this variety I will select what I think are the three of the best for backup uses. (smith-wesson.com; 800-331-0852)
Boasting at least 15 models that meet my backup gun specifications, Taurus is one of the best small-frame revolver manufacturers out there. While I never actually carried one while serving in law enforcement, I have tested a number of them over the years and would have no qualms about putting one in my pocket or on my ankle. Here are three that are worthy of your consideration. (taurususa.com; 800-327-3776)