I had an interesting question from a reader yesterday, “how many carry guns to you have”, and “how do you decide which one to carry”. Based on my work you would think I have dozens!  Truth is only a few are mine, most are test guns that go back. In general swapping carry guns around is not particular productive and can be problematic. I have one or two of the same basic design that are interchanged based on the environment.

Over 20 years ago as a new POST firearms instructor I decided it was my job to be familiar with every operating system out there for handguns, rifles and shotguns. It’s what we encountered and I needed to know and pass on what I knew to officers. So much so I sought out a local gun store owner and volunteered to work the counter. Only pay was “cost” on guns, and the ability to use the indoor range. It was an incredible learning experience on so many levels, but one of the things it seared in my brain was the need to use the same operating system in the handguns you carry whenever possible.

The One Gun Wonder and Fortune Cookie Training!

The idea it must be the “same” gun is over the top to me, and boring to be honest, it just makes you a “one gun wonder” limiting your knowledge.  Not bad, but not optimal either.  If thats all you have or want then fine, but its no concealed carry Nirvana either.

That whole ‘beware of the guy with one gun” is mostly pure BS propagated by those too damned lazy to be proficient with more than one.  It’s no different than the “master” of  a single martial art eschewing other arts.  It’s “fortune cookie” training, spew out a bunch of pithy quips and wow your followers or worshippers.  Every old warrior mastered the use of as many tools as possible, including their enemy’s its how they got to be old.    You want to be a master of the craft not just the tool.  As in all things similar you want to be proficient with any tool that is around not just your own.  As Clint Smith is so fond of saying, “what makes you think you will finish the fight with your gun”.   That being said,  going back and forth between completely different trigger mechanisms in your every day carry gun is problematic.

Cocked and Locked: Is that gun safe? 

Short answer, yes, it may be the safest handgun you can carry.  But, if you “never” carry or use a single action cocked and locked pistol (generally a 1911), do not carry one “on occasion”. Even experienced yet ignorant “experts”  spit out the myth that a thumb safety being “accidentally” disengaged is the issue. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! We all have stories of someone looking at that exposed hammer and stating “did  you know your gun is cocked”, yep, and even scarier, its loaded!   Few 1911’s kill or injure their owners sitting in the holster with the thumb safety disengaged, especially if they have not fubarred the grip safety.   What will get you killed is failing to disengage the thumb safety when you need it.  If that is not seared into your brain in a fight you may not disengage the safety turning yourself into a stationary bullet trap wondering what happened to your gun.

Thankfully that does not work in reverse as a rule.  If you are an experienced 1911 user operating your favorite combat polymer wonder nine is not generally an issue.  Disengaging a safety that is not there generally won’t cause an issue, it still goes bang when you press the trigger and that is the important part.  Still, if the trigger feels completely different it may be.   Moral here is simple, if you use a 1911 or similar design learn how to use it properly, practice with it often, or don’t carry it. If you swap back and forth keep the triggers similar.

Decocking or DA / SA pistols are evil, or safer, or something like that…

This is another system you should not carry unless you are familiar with it, more ignorance and mythology surround this kind of pistol than any other.  Used properly they can be safe to carry, fast to bring to action, and more than capable of proper carry.  However, they are no more “safe” than any other design and cause as many or more extra holes and blasted toes than any other.  It’s the opposite of cocked and locked, more loaded and locked  to be honest, especially if you use the safety too.  Same as a 1911, practice, practice, practice, especially if you make a safe pistol safer and decock it then engage  the safety.   Holstering what amounts to a cocked single action pistol is most often the issue and just may net a trip to the ER.  Unlike a 1911 there is no grip safety so anything that touches that now very light trigger sends it home. It can occur holstering or drawing with an errant trigger finger or clothing.    Just as importantly the act of “decocking” the pistol improperly has removed a toe or two, if not yours the guy’s next to you.  Over the years the most dangerous gun handling ever encountered involved decocking a pistol, not because the pistol is in an issue, but the shooter  just did not know how to properly use it.   If you don’t use one and have not properly patterned a safe and proper method to decock  and holster don’t carry it. Does no good to win the fight only to shoot a bystander decocking the thing or bleeding out after severing your femoral artery holstering a cocked (and unlocked) pistol.  

Safe Pistols are Really Safe!

Our latest crop of wonder plastic is no more or less safe than any other, they are just more simple to operate, its one of their strongest attributes.  Just like a revolver, remove, point, shoot, repeat as necessary and holster.   As a rule the more you manipulate your gun the more likely something stupid is to occur, striker fired pistols (without manual safeties) and revolvers remain the most simple eliminating some of that.   On the other hand it is the most likely pistol to crease your pants (or femoral artery) when speed holstering.  Never assume just because there are no manual safeties a pistol is more or less safe, its all in the operation.  

So,  what do you do? What should I do?

If at all possible my carry pistols have the same or similar operating system.  Moving back and forth has caused a problem or two over the years so I have pretty much standardized.  Having carried 1911’s for decades many of my preferred carry pistols use that design.  Situation dictates caliber and capacity, but the triggers and safeties are the same.  Every 1911 built for me or carried has a 4.5 pound trigger and ambidextrous safeties.   Each pistol may be different but they all operate the same way.  If I carry a polymer design it is slick, no safeties, decockers or the like. Test pistols are carried but generally back and forth to the office, on the range, seldom in public as a rule.  I carried a DA/SA pistol for years but seldom do these days.  Not because there is anything wrong with them, I just don’t practice with them enough to carry them confidently.

Carry pistols should be life saving tools not toys.  Use one designed for the job or task at hand  you are proficient with.  If using more than one keep the operating systems the same if at all possible.  Shoot, practice with, and become proficient with as many guns as you can, its all about learning and perfecting the craft.   Moving outside the “one gun wonder” mindset makes you a better shooter and fighter with anything you need, not just what you brought to the fight.   In Kendo we believe you should be able to pick up any sword at hand and fight with it no matter the length, weight, or construction. Why, because what makes you think you will finish the fight with your sword?