The carry of a backup gun among civilians is uncommon. For law enforcement, carrying a BUG is common, and if you don’t to carry a BUG as an LEO I think you are an idiot, quite frankly. Police officers are far more likely to need a backup gun than are civilians, one reason being that their primary gun is typically carried openly. Many backup gun uses among cops have occurred after being disarmed of the primary, or during a disarm attempt. LEOs are simply more likely to need a backup gun than is a civilian.
Still, in the world of the armed citizen carrying a backup gun is a good practice, though most do not. I find that I tend to carry a backup gun when I am traveling and I carry it primarily as a second gun so that I can arm a family if the need arises. This is, perhaps, the most obvious role of a backup gun in a civilian context. Another compelling reason to carry a BUG comes in the wake of the great deal of civil unrest witnessed this past year. Mob attacks on peaceful citizens have transpired, often with the citizen ending up on the ground. In such a situation, loosing control of a primary handgun is very feasible. A backup gun on the waistline or ankle would be life-saving equipment in such a circumstance.
For the most conceivable roles of a BUG in the armed citizen realm I believe a snubby revolver remains the best choice. For LEOs it might be different, although many LEOs choose a snub as a backup as well. Carrying a smaller autoloader that can take the spare magazines of the primary gun is compelling, however, for a police officer, and that leads many to pair a sub-compact version of their duty gun for backup use. However, even among law enforcement, a snub is a common choice and for the armed citizen I am inclined to consider it “the choice.”
There are three reasons that I think the snubby revolver is the best BUG option: First, it is impervious to the conditions that BUGs are often subjected to. Second, it can be shoved against an opponent for contact shots and not go out of battery. Third, it is the most fool-proof option to hand to an ally who is a firearms novice. I will explain each further:
It is not true that a revolver is more reliable than a good full-size auto, but small revolvers tend to be much more reliable than small pocket autos. Most civilians are not going to use a larger auto as a BUG, and if they do use an auto in this role it is typically going to be a small pocket sized gun. In this size range the snubby is far more reliable. Not only will it go bang when it needs to, but the debris the gun is exposed to while in a pocket or on an ankle does not effect the wheel gun the way it can a small auto.
Many revolver devotees make a big deal about the fact that the gun can make contact shots without going out of battery. While that is an obvious benefit, I don’t think it alone makes a revolver a better primary carry gun than a good auto. However, in the role of a BUG the gun is more likely to be employed in a contact distance situation. For this reason I believe this argument has some merit.
Finally, a BUG may be handed to an untrained family member or friend in a crisis. While many argue that small revolvers are terrible guns for novice shooters due to the platform being challenging, I would argue that for an absolute novice the snub is the safest and best option to hand in a crisis. The long, double-action trigger makes a negligent discharge far less likely, and the fool-proof controls of the snub make it unlikely to be rendered inert through user error. A novice can induce malfunctions in an auto, or inadvertently drop the magazine. This is a non-issue with a revolver. I don’t recommend revolvers as primary carry guns, except for those who are simply revolver enthusiasts, but for a BUG I stand by my assessment that a snub remains the best choice for most armed citizens. If you are considering embracing a BUG this is the direction I would go in. A Ruger LCR or Smith and Wesson Airweight J Frame is the way to go.