Yesterday we introduced ten reasons for carrying a second or back-up snub. Lets look at each of these reasons in some more detail.

You Run Out of Time

The classic example occurred during the FBI Miami shoot out in 1986.  Special Agent Risner ran through his Smith and Wesson 459 pistol and initially found it faster to draw a back-up .38 snub than to reload his pistol. Moments later he was able to transition back to the pistol and reload, but between slide lock-back and the first magazine change the back-up snub was his faster back in the fight option.

You Run Out Of Ammunition

If in the middle of a gun fight your primary snub runs empty, your practiced solution should be to reflexively reload the snub.  Unfortunately some threats come on so quickly or are so physically close that any effort to reload is unrealistic.  The alternative solution is the euphemistically termed “New York” reload – the second snub.  History is replete with incidents where a New York reload has saved lives while its absence has cost other men theirs lives. One well known example occurred in Michigan. One of several armed criminals shot and wounded a shop owned. The owner’s wife responded by drawing a revolver and fired at her husband’s attackers.  When her gun ran dry she grabbed a second revolver and continued shooting.  She won the gunfight and almost certainly saved both her life and that of her husband.
Your Primary Gun Malfunctions

A handgun like all other pieces of emergency mechanical equipment can fail at the single worst possible time. They can develop problems on the shooting range so why not in a gunfight?  Revolver malfunctions can include:

1 – Having the cylinder release screw back-out under recoil and loosing the cylinder release.

2 – Having the ejector rod back out and locking the cylinder in the frame.         

3 – Having the yoke screw back-out of the frame and loosing both the cylinder and crane during reloading.

Getting a spend casing caught under the star ejector while reloading.

While getting a spend casing caught under the star ejector with a short ejector rod equipped snubs is fortunately very rare there was at least one revolver armed officer who was killed when a round was caught under the star ejector and could not be cleared during a gunfight. A back up gun might have saved the officer’s life. Additionally there is also a quick clearance trick will address later in this text that may also have saved the officers life.

Your Primary Gun Is Disabled

An uncommon but not unheard of problem is that of the handgun being struck by an incoming round and being disabled.  In his excellent book, The Snubby Revolver, Ed Lovette referenced an incident of a bad guy’s round striking the good guys snub, and lodging in the cylinder’s charge hole and disabling the snub. 

When contacted about the shooting, author Ed Lovette was kind enough to fill in the rest of the story: “[In the] late 1970’s two Albuquerque police officers stop a vehicle. One officer approaches the driver’s side and immediately came under fire. [I am] not sure at this time … if he had his revolver out or had to draw it. At any rate one of the driver’s bullets went into the cylinder and locked up the gun. Fortunately he had a partner who was able to save the day. The first officer had no backup gun which was the point of the story. Had he not had a partner it might have ended badly for him.”

Your Primary Shooting Hand Is Disabled

Michael Boyle of the NJ Fish and Game department has indicated that in a gunfight there is a 19% chance that your primary shooting hand will receive an incapacitating injury due to incoming gunfire. Even with practice, shooting weak-hand-only can be something of a challenge.  Reloading one hand, weak-hand-only can be worse. The option of drawing a second snub rather than trying to reload one-handed, weak-handed can be a lifesaver. 

Your Primary Gun Is Lost

Even exceptional skilled gun owners can loose their guns before the fight starts.  Moments before the infamous 1986 Miami gun fight, the first FBI agent to make contact with the two killers lost his only gun when his car and the killer’s car collided.  Not having another firearm to fight with the agent is reported to have spent the entire duration of the four minute gunfight looking for his lost handgun.   Alternatively two of the seven other agents who were present in that gunfight were armed with a back-up gun and had occasion to resort to it the course of the gun battle.

Your Primary Gun Is Inaccessible

Shooters can discover that their primary snub is inaccessible while they are fighting with their attacker. One well known incident is recorded in both Ed Lovette’s book The Snub Revolver and Massad Ayoob;s 2007 issue of Complete Book of Handguns. An off duty New York officer riding in a subway was attacked by an armed two man mugging team.  The officer’s four inch duty revolver was inaccessible under his winter coat. Fortunately he had taken the advice of a well known gun instructor and writer who had argued if favor of carrying a back-up gun where it could be quickly accessed.  While pretending to reach for his wallet the NY officer reached into his overcoat pocket, seized his two inch Colt and came up shooting.  One attacker was killed and the other ran off only to be caught and arrested later.  The officer was unharmed.

You’re Fighting over the Primary Gun

Some years ago an auxiliary officer from Californian was chasing a burglary suspect when the suspect suddenly turned on the officer.  In the subsequent fight the officer found himself in a desperate fight over control for his duty weapon. His attacker managed to turn the weapon back toward the officer and triggered off five rounds.   Each time the officer managed to turn the weapon away from his face just before the weapon discharged. Knowing there was still a remaining round in the weapon the officer drew a back up snub from a rear pocket and shot his attacker off his duty sidearm.

You’ve Lost the Fight over the Primary Gun

Shooters who have lost control over their primary snub and realizing that they have nothing left to fight back with often don’t live long enough to regret it.  Loosing control of your sidearm can also cost other dearly. In Atlanta a court officer lost her fight over her handgun with a prisoner. With nothing left to fight back with she was left beaten with a fractured skull and a Judge, a court stenographer, a deputy sheriff, an off-duty federal customs official were subsequently murdered.

On the other hand having a second gun can save lives.  In Kentucky an officer was disarmed of his sidearm but was able to reach a backup gun.  The officer was able to shoot his way back to the land of the living.

You Need To Arm A Trusted Other

Shooters are “birds of a feather.”  Many of us know and travel with responsible friends who may be shooters but are not dedicated gun carriers.  Police officers and legally armed citizens passing an emergency firearm to a responsible and trained “trusted others” in anticipation of a dangerous situation is not unknown. For the legally armed citizen the list of trusted others can include a wife or adult aged children.  One close friend who vacations extensively with his family leaves his back-up revolver with wife whenever he has to step away from her. We who are into guns can argue the benefits of her carrying her own gun but it is a system that have settled on and it works for his family. He is leaving her capable of defending herself and their children while he is out of sight taking care of mundane tasks such as paying gas station bills and getting last minute directions.