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Most people who carry concealed will never find themselves in a situation where they need to reach for their weapon. I’ve had that nightmare of an experience. If you think you are going to realize a life or death threat in plenty of time to reach under your long shirt or jacket, unsnap the holster’s retention strap, draw your weapon, flip your gun’s safety off, or pull back the slide to chamber a round that should already be there, then I have bad news for you… you won’t. By the time you realize a threat is actual, it’s upon you. There is absolutely not enough time for your brain to assess if a perceived threat is an actual life-threatening event that warrants your deadly response and still have time to react.

Want to second guess the situation and draw your gun before you are certain? Try explaining to a judge that you pointed your weapon at a guy that was just asking for change, and watch your carry license and your gun, go bye-bye. Mistakenly fire that gun, and now you are the bad guy.

I was lucky. I carry a Smith & Wesson M642 Airweight Centennial in an Uncle Mike’s pocket holster that provides grip-up positioning and no retention. My hand is always in that pocket as a learned habit. During the altercation, I was given no time to both reach for and draw my gun. If my fingers weren’t already tickling the grip, I could not have gotten my gun drawn in time. If you think this kind of thing only happens in seedy back-alleys with one extremely easy to spot bad guy, standing still and threatening you from 25 yards away, then I have even more bad news for you.

My experience happened in the middle of the afternoon, as I walked toward a professional sports stadium where a lot of people were gathered in the distance. The bad guys were well groomed, wearing sports attire, and walking in my general direction. They were smiling, seemed to be chatting, and completely oblivious to me, or so it seemed. I saw them. I assessed them. They never even looked at me. Then, as they were within four feet of me and just about to pass by, they whirled and confronted me with “Gimme your money!” In a word, slick. They had obviously done this before and they knew what they were doing. Since my hand was already on the grip, I didn’t have to reach… just draw. At the same instant my gun came up, I realized their hands were empty. Again, lucky me. They jumped backwards but they didn’t look scared, or even nervous. They paused for a second, but didn’t run. They stopped backing up. They looked at each other, and then they looked around. I got a cold shiver down my spine… this wasn’t over yet. A snub nose .38 is a good defensive tool, but I was about a blink away from full blown street battle with multiple assailants and I found myself wishing for a true combat weapon.

Then the shorter of the two circled to my left and his hand started to move under his sweatshirt. I placed my sights dead-aim on his chest and he stopped in his tracks. The taller guy quickly took the aggressive one by the arm, said something inaudible and then they turned and casually strolled away.

I have relived that confrontation over and over again in my mind. There was no time to reach and draw… only draw. I couldn’t have been quicker without walking around with a gun in my hand. My .38 was and is with me like my wallet, cell phone and keys are. It’s just a part of my wardrobe. I’ve since come to the conclusion, however, that I need to carry a combat-ready back-up gun. Now I know what you are thinking—the .38 is a BUG, but I need a BIG BUG.

I have seen first hand the usefulness and need for quick access from a small-frame, pocket-sized gun, so I will continue to carry the Centennial in the same manner I have become accustomed to, simply because it worked. Nonetheless, my experience with more than one attacker has enlightened me to the need for a concealed back-up that not only delivers more punch but also holds more rounds. Regardless of your personal affinity toward any one handgun or caliber, if you have the misfortune to find yourself in a life-threatening defensive confrontation against multiple assailants as I have, your number one priority is lightning fast, unobstructive access to your primary weapon.


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