I was a little surprised to learn that a lot of police
departments authorize their officers to carry a
back-up gun (BUG).  What isn't clear to me is the
extent of training, if any, most of those authorizing
agencies provide their officers regarding a second
weapon.  I'm very big on training,  and I've always
been amazed how training comes through under
stressful situations.  However, I've also noticed how
police officers can alter things that counteract their

One of my drug unit officers got into the habit of
carrying his Glock semi-auto with an empty
chamber.  In order to conceal the weapon, he
carried it inside the front of his pants. While the
Glock is a perfectly safe weapon, the officer feared
that an accidental discharge could cause him
irreparable damage.  He reasoned he'd just draw
the weapon and quickly rack a round into the
chamber when needed...just like the television cops
do it.  Then...one fateful day, he was fired on by a
suspect.  His training kicked in, and he drew that
Glock, came to point shoulder, and pulled the
trigger.  When nothing happened, his training took
him to the next phase of tap, rack, check and go.  
But, when he got to go, the suspect was,
thankfully, gone.  The point here is that his training
took over under stress, and he'd completely
forgotten about purposely leaving the chamber
Back-up Gun
aka "The BUG"
"My concerns regarding the practice of
carrying a back-up gun relate to control;
accessibility (for the bad guy as well as the
officer); and the training -- or non-training --
issues involved." ~ Barry M. Baker
Even though the Baltimore Police Department
always maintained a policy prohibiting the carrying
of a back-up gun, that didn't keep some police
officers from carrying a BUG.  Long before I gained
any level of experience, I can remember one officer
showing me, the rookie, how he only loaded five
chambers of his revolver.  He reasoned that if a
suspect gained control of his revolver, the first pull
of the trigger would cause the hammer to fall on an
empty chamber giving him [the officer] time to draw
his back-up gun and shoot the suspect.  Even in
that early and inexperienced stage of my career, I
could recognize the folly of that wisdom.  I knew
that the probability of that officer encountering a
suspect already armed with his own gun was much
greater than the officer losing control of his.  It
should be obvious that in the event that officer had
to draw and fire his weapon, that empty chamber
could not be viewed as anything other than a

In my early career, Baltimore experienced a number
of officers being shot and killed with their own
weapons, but that problem was due -- almost
entirely -- to the swivel holster for the .38 caliber
revolver. If that hammer strap came undone, that
gun was totally unsecured. Here's a good argument
for the BUG... I arrived first on the scene of a
shooting where a large crowd was gathered. I
jumped from my car, and I felt my revolver falling
from the holster... I grabbed and missed. The gun
hit the pavement and scooted beneath my radio
car. I looked across the roof of the car just knowing
I was going to see someone bend down to pick up
my gun... what a sick feeling. I was lucky. On my
first reach beneath the car, my hand came to rest
on the revolver. But... that was then.

During that period, a Baltimore officer was pursuing
a suspect. Shots were exchanged during the
pursuit. The officer fired his revolver empty. Instead
of the suspect taking the opportunity to continue
his escape, he ran back to the officer and executed
the officer while he was attempting to reload. That
was then. Today, that outcome would probably be
much different where the officer is armed with a
rapid reload semi-auto.

When it comes to technological advances, I'm hard
pressed to decide which is at the top of my list...
the bullet proof vest or the secure holster
technology. I began my career when both were
non-existent, so my appreciation for both cannot
be overstated. The high ammunition capacity
semi-auto takes a highly valued third place on my
My concerns regarding the practice of carrying a
back-up gun relate to control; accessibility (for the
bad guy as well as the officer); and the training --
or non-training -- issues involved. I'm in total
agreement with any reference to "Murphy's Law"
regarding anything; however, anything applies to
everything, and I look at the BUG as potentially
putting another gun into play.  You may hear or
read arguments from politicians or those with
activist agendas who allege that allowing officers to
carry back-up guns would result in officers planting
guns on suspects.  You read it here...now forget it.  
That allegation is just  nonsense, and it has no
place in this discussion.

As a police officer, you'll be in close contact with
suspects on a continual basis.  Some of those
contacts are going to be violent, and some of those
suspects may well try to disarm you.  Those who
attempted to disarm me never succeeded, because
all of my attention and strength was focused on
preventing the suspect from succeeding.  I never
carried a BUG; however, had I been armed with a
second gun, I'm fairly certain that some of that
attention and strength may well have been diverted
to ensure the security of the second gun.

When you begin your police career, you'll consider
this issue...everybody does.  While I'm not a big fan
of the BUG, I'd never vehemently argue against the
BUG, because it's going to be a very personal
decision for you.  My most strenuous advice would
be, should you choose to carry a BUG, ensure your
control of the weapon and consider the BUG as a
weapon of absolute last resort, and... don't let the
BUG provide you with a false sense of security.
This is a really great subject, and I can't believe I
hadn't thought about it; until, Sergeant Richard
Nable sent me his article which is linked below.  I'm
not as enthusiast about the BUG as Sergeant
Nable, but you'll soon learn that police officers
seldom agree (completely) about anything.
An Alternative View
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker