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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 training.

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 empty.
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 disadvantage.

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 list.
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 © 2016  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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