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A Pentagon Force Protection Officer, George Gonzalez, was standing outside the Pentagon Metro station when a criminal got off one of the arriving buses and. According to the FBI, without warning or provocation, the suspect attacked Officer Gonzalez with a knife. 

Best Backup Guns for Police

According to the reports, the murderer stabbed Officer Gonzalez in the neck and then proceeded to disarm and shoot the officer with his own duty weapon. It ended when the murderer deciding to use the duty weapon to shoot himself. 

Officer Gonzalez died tragically. It serves as a reminder of the toll, in any given year, of officers’ guns used against them after suspects disarm them. It remains a nightmare scenario dreaded by all officers.

According to David Swedler, then a doctoral candidate in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, attempting to understand attacks on law enforcement beyond the reported figures, he found incidents up to 2012 showed officers took fire from their own gun in 10 percent of the incidents. While statistics can fluctuate, the data reminds us that one of the real dangers law enforcement officers face often rides on their own hip.

Best Backup Guns: Stay in the Fight

If that does happen, an officer has a few choices. Either fight with the suspect and hope to regain control of the gun, run away and hope distance and cover inhibit an accurate shot, or use another gun. Other reasons include a mechanical failure of a duty weapon, a duty weapon damaged by enemy fire, or a duty weapon dropped or lost during an encounter.

Backup guns are probably the most reliable defense against a criminal gaining control over an officer’s duty gun. While there are many choices, before deciding to carry a backup weapon, officers should ensure they are adhering to agency policy and train with the weapon of choice.  

Best Backup Guns Considerations

  • A weapon that fires that same caliber ammunition as the duty weapon for ease of ammunition use
  • A weapon small enough to remain non-encumbering to an officer more than is necessary; refrains from adding a lot of weight to the weight most officers already carry
  • One that functions the same as the duty weapon to ease training and transitions to shoot.
  • Reliability and accuracy since smaller-frame weapons tend to need more deliberateness to shoot

Many law enforcement agencies moved back to 9mm pistols in recent years. The following list focuses primarily on weapons chambered in 9mm, with a few exceptions.

SIG Sauer P365 or P365X

SIG 15-round P365

Small, lightweight, and compact, this single-stack 9mm is easy to use and very accurate to shoot. At just over 17 ounces, the SIG P365 comes with a rail and either a 10- or 12-round single-stack magazine, delivering a slim profile.

Glock 43

Glock Buyer's Guide 2016 Glock 43
Glock 43: 24/7 Backup

The G43 single-stack, 9mm pistol is also ultra-concealable, accurate and easy to shoot. It offers an extender on the magazine to make it easier for any hand size to shoot. It has a large magazine catch with a six-round magazine that is reliable with each shot.

Walther PPQ M2 SC LE

Chambered in 9mm at over 18 ounces, the PPQ LE allows a shooter to switch from a 10- to 15-round magazine, depending on the situation. The 10-round magazine is optimal for carrying concealed, while the 15-round magazine gives the shooter the feel and performance of a full-size pistol. The PPQ M2 SC LE model includes three-dot phosphoric night sights, and three magazines (10-round flush-fit, 10-round w/pinkie extension, 15-round). This weapon is reliable, accurate ad versatile.


Heckler & Koch P30SK SubKompact Pistol SHOT Show 2016

Also camber in 9mm, this pistol offers a choice between a 10-, 13- or 15-round magazines. And like its larger counterparts, the P30SK is available in multiple trigger firing modes, including HK’s enhanced double-action-only “Law Enforcement Modification (LEM),” with a “light strike V1” setup — requiring approximately 5.4 pounds of force to pull the trigger. It also offers ambidextrous controls, including dual slide and magazine release levers for ease of use with either hand.

Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Compact

Available in 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 Auto, this compact pistol is a compliant to the duty size S&W M&P 2.0. Its smaller size, similar ergonomics and consistent operational system make this an easy transition for an officer from the duty sized version to the compact version. With multiple night sight options and changeable grip configurations, this weapon is a perfect compliant to those that already carry the duty sized version.

Ruger EC9

A slim, lightweight, and compact pistol that is just slightly larger than the popular and incredibly compact LCP, this weapon offers a short, light, crisp trigger pull for fast and accurate shooting. It also has a  finger grip extension floorplate for the magazine that can improve a shooters grip with safety features including an integrated trigger safety, manual safety, magazine disconnect and an inspection port that allows for visual confirmation of a loaded or empty chamber.

Historic Best Backup Guns

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the long-proven backup weapons of yesteryear were often revolvers due to their consistent ability to fire and ease of use – just pull the trigger and the weapon will fire until empty. The problem is these days most departments don’t carry duty weapons chambered in the classic .38 Special of .357 Magnum ammunition. As a work around, here are some revolvers chambered in 9mm that could also be a great choice as a backup weapon

  • Charter Arms Pitbull with a 2.2-inch barrel, a five-shot capacity, and at 23 ounces in weight fully loaded.
  • Ruger SP101 with a 2.25-inch barrel, five-round capacity, an integral rear sight, and a black ramp rear at 25 ounces.
  • Ruger LCR with a hammerless design, 1.87-inch barrel, carries five rounds at 17.2 ounces.
  • Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 986 with 2.5-inch barrel, titanium cylinder, carries seven rounds at 31 ounces.
Charter Arms Pitbull .45 Revolver unloaded
(Photo by Steve Woods)

Best Backup Guns: Discontinued Variants

Another weapon that isn’t made anymore but has long been considered by many to be one of the best backup pistols ever made was the H&K P7M8 or M13. This weapon featured a squeeze cocker on the grip that, for those that did not know how to fire it, would prevent the weapon from firing is someone picked the weapon up and just pulled the trigger. This inherent safety feature saved countless officers lives whose weapon was taken by suspects. The M8 had a very slim profile and carried a single-stack eight-round magazine, while the M13 had a double-stack magazine with 13 rounds. Once the squeeze cocker on the handle was depressed, each trigger pull was just over 2 pounds, and the polygonal barrel made this weapon easy, fast, and very accurate. 

The HK P7 is one of those weapons that isn’t but should still be produced, considering these days, the threats against officers on the street is persistent. If ever faced with that worst-case scenario, their own gun pointed at them, the best response might be a good backup gun.

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