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Our Guide to Backup Guns

A second gun is the best insurance policy a cop can carry.

June 01, 2003  |  by Gary Paul Johnston


Maker of a vast assortment of 1911-type pistols, Kimber offers one that fills the bill of a second gun, the Ultra CDP. Designed with a 3-inch barrel, this custom lightweight .45 ACP pistol holds a total of eight shots and has a weight of just 25 ounces. Weighing only 24 ounces and holding 11 rounds of .45 ACP is Kimber’s new Ultra Ten II with its 3-inch barrel and polymer hi-cap frame.

North American Arms

Available in .32 ACP or .380 ACP, the North American Arms Guardian is a semi-automatic double-action-only stainless .380 ACP pistol (pictured) with a 2.19-inch barrel and a weight of 18.7 ounces. It comes with two six-shot magazines. (For more information, see Arsenal on page 62) North American Arms also makes a tiny five-shot single-action revolver in .22 Long rifle and .22 Magnum.


Favorite backup weapons for many officers, the Para-Ordnance P-12 (pictured) and P-10 pistols pack plenty of .45 ACP ammunition in small frames. Somewhat of a departure for Para is its .45 ACP 7.45 Para Companion and new CCW model. Being double-action only, these stainless-steel pistols use Para’s Light Double Action (LDA) trigger system in a seven-shot single column pistol with a 3.5-inch barrel.


With more tenure than any other pistol of its type, the Seecamp LWS32 is an all stainless-steel autopistol designed to fire Winchester .32 ACP Silvertip ammunition. Featuring a 2.1-inch barrel, the LWS32 is a high-quality little pistols and an excellent backup or hideout gun. The double-action-only LWS32 weighs 12.5 ounces and holds six shots.

Smith & Wesson

Part of its vast autopistol line, S&W’s Chief Special (CS) qualifies as a pocket pistol. Offered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, the double-action CS has a 3.25-inch barrel and weighs from 21 to 24 ounces, depending on caliber. New this year is a version of S&W’s compact Model 3913 in .40 S&W. Another popular second gun option, especially for veteran officers, is S&W’s concealment revolvers. Along with its titanium technology, S&W has now combined scandium with its alloy frames for added strength and durability. Yet its 2-inch barreled Airlite TI revolvers weigh only 11 ounces to 14 ounces, chambered for calibers ranging from .22 LR to .357 Magnum.

SiG Arms

SiG’s sleek P232 has long been a favorite second weapon of many cops. An 8-shot .380 ACP autopistol, the P232 is offered in double-action/single-action operation. The P232 weighs in at just over one pound in its lightweight version and features a 3.6-inch barrel.

Springfield Armory

The concealment model from Springfield is its alloy frame Ultra Compact. A tiny version of the company’s 1911-A1, this seven-shot .45 ACP pistol weighs just 25 ounces. A single-action pistol, the Ultra Compact can be carried cocked-n-locked.


STI’s entry into the compact autopistol market is the LS,  available in 9mm or .40 S&W. Based on the 1911 design, the 9mm LS holds eight rounds, and the .40 holds seven. The LS is a solid compact with a 3.4-inch barrel and a weight of 28 ounces.

Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Although Ruger’s stainless steel SP-101 is not exactly lightweight, this 25-ounce, small-frame, five-shot .357 Magnum revolver is rugged, reliable, and accurate. Smaller caliber SP-101 models are available and offer more capacity. In .22 Long Rifle and .32 H&R Magnum, the SP-101 holds six shots. The SP-101 can be ordered with a standard or bobbed hammer.


For some time now, Taurus has manufactured a line of ultra-compact double-action small-caliber pistols that are sold as the PT22 and PT25. Now the company has added its Millennium Series in .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. A double-action-only pistol, the Millennium combines a stainless-steel slide with a polymer frame. Millennium pistols feature 3.25-inch barrels, hold 10 shots in all calibers, and weigh from 18.7 ounces to 23 ounces. In its revolver line, Taurus Co. has added an all-titanium pistol with a 2-inch barrel. Called the Model 85CIA, this five-shot wheel-gun is double-action only and weighs just 13.5 ounces.


Famous for its association with fictional spies like James Bond and its adoption by real-life intelligence services, the double-action Walther PPK/S is offered in .32 ACP and .380 ACP. Featuring a 3.25-inch Walther barrel, the PPK/S is an oldie but a goodie, and it’s still the favorite second gun of many a law enforcement officer. The PPK/S weighs 23 ounces and comes with two seven-shot magazines.

A veteran police officer of 28 years, Gary Paul Johnston retired in 1991. He has authored more than 1,600 firearms/law enforcement-related articles. A former SWAT commander, Johnston teaches SWAT and patrol tactics.

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

AnalogDog @ 2/25/2016 1:32 PM

It was called the Semmerling manually cycled the slide, like a pump shotgun. Wish I'd never sold mine, because the originals go for about 3-5K now! Superb, superb backup...easy to hit with.
Real world, still ain't nothing wrong with a Charter Arms bulldog in 44 special, or the new Pitbull in 40S&W.

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