I was having an enlightened conversation with my wife about concealed carry guns and extra ammo last night. Truly, I did. Lindsay speaks common sense when it comes to practical concealment options. You'd think she's been doing this longer than me sometimes.
At the moment, I have three practical carry weapons at my disposal: my Ruger SP-101 revolver, my Beretta 92 FS, and in some cases, Lindsay's diminutive Beretta 21 Bobcat. All of these guns have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to concealed carry and shootability.
The SP-101 hides under a t-shirt and can be easily deployed to deliver a lethal does of 5 .357 magnum shots quickly and reliably. The only drawback is the reload. Speed loaders make me fast, but speed loaders are bulky. The other option is the slower, yet still effective speed strips. Speed strips may be slower than speed loaders, but it is much better than loading loose rounds into a cylinder, especially in high stress scenarios. With that said, those first 5 rounds need to count.
The Beretta 92 FS is big. It's probably one of the biggest handguns ever made. The size makes it less convenient to stuff in a pocket, or wear with only a t-shirt, however if a vest or jacket is utilized, it still disappears under a few layer of clothing. The biggest advantage is magazine capacity. I have high quality aftermarket Mec-Gar magazines that give me 17 rounds of 9mm in each magazine. The 9mm I carry is more powerful than standard 9mm. I carry +P+ rounds that are heavy and moving fast; which are two important considerations when it comes to knock down power. Another distinct advantage my Beretta 92 FS has is that I can carry a lot of ammo in a small space. Two extra magazines hide very easily and give me increased capacity up to 52 rounds for normal carry. That's a ton of ammo (way more than 5 rounds).
Lindsay's Beretta 21 is a pocket gun. It is less than 5 inches long (it is shorter than my Beretta 92 barrel). It hides in the front pocket of my jeans and after a few minutes I completely forget it is there. It has two major drawbacks though: 1, it only has a 7+1 capacity and 2, it's a .22 LR pistol; not exactly powerful. One advantage, however, is that I can very easily carry another magazine for an additional 7 rounds if I need it. It is also very accurate at self-defense distances.
Have you ever heard of the "New York reload?" Basically, instead of loading your gun after running it dry, you drop it and pull out a Back-Up Gun (BUG) and use that instead. Typically, it is a much smaller gun than your normal carry weapon - a pocket gun. The main drawback to any pocket gun is the caliber of the ammo it shoots. .22 LR is hardly a round I would want to use to fend off a crazed individual high on methamphetamines.
I've heard of the one shot stop used in magnum revolvers for years. That is one of the reasons I carry a 5 shot .357 magnum revolver in the first place. However, I'm a bit more realistic. When you get into ammunition ballistics, and start pouring over data on charts until your eyes bleed, read actual accounts and then do some test firing through things like wet phone books, pumpkins, other veggies, and 1 gallon jugs, you start to see what is really powerful and what isn't. I'm a proponent of shooting until the attacker does one of two things: 1, falls down dead, or 2, runs away. Either way, the attack is stopped, however I prefer the "falls down dead" result because they can't come back to sue me. However, in the heat of the moment, when you have to react within fractions of a second (while the attacker has had time to zero you and think out his plan), your options are quite limited.
Alas, we come right back around to my revolver's biggest weakness, and that is ammo capacity and the ability to quickly reload and keep firing (or at least reload to be ready for anything else). Of course, there are the people who say that if you can't stop an attack with 5 shots, then you aren't worth your salt. To them, I simply shake my head. They obviously haven't had to shoot while under stress. When the adrenaline is pumping, your hands are shaking, your vision is tunneled, and you have to use your training to protect your life or the lives of your loved ones, all things come into play. Let's not forget that many attackers are moving targets.
I also feel that, even though magnum rounds are powerful, they aren't medium bore rifles or shotguns. If I had as much time to plan my defense as the criminal has in planning my demise, I'd bring a shotgun. I mean, really. A shotgun is probably the absolute best defense against an attacker 100% of the time. The problem is that I can't just go walking down the street or driving in my car with a loaded shotgun. The drawback to any handgun practical enough for concealed carry is knock down power. That's why I train to just keep on shooting until they fall over. When in doubt, empty the magazine. At this point, what do you have to lose?
I always carry extra ammo. That's just good practice. Only a fool would carry enough ammo to drop a bad guy and then leave himself completely empty. However, when milliseconds count, you can't always count on being able to find cover and reload.
Enter the back-up gun; BUG for short. Ammo run dry? Don't have time to reload? Unholster the BUG and either keep their heads down or just keep a strong presence. Since most BUGs are usually pocket pistols anyway, it only makes sense to carry them. Okay, they aren't that powerful, but that's why it is a back-up gun.
Sometimes, carrying a big gun just isn't practical. So what do you do? Leave it in the car? Leave it home? That big powerful weapon doesn't do you any good unless you have it with you! A .22 in the pocket beats a .357 in the truck any day. Say, for instance, you are a church goer. Okay, carrying guns in the house of the lord is another can of worms completely (which I'll cover at a later time). You don't necessarily want your cannon because it doesn't conceal as well. In my case, my shirt is tucked in at church. Can't carry a gun on my hip because everyone would see it. The BUG hides in a pocket instead. No, it's not as powerful, but it does give that extra edge over the gun you just left in your car.
Another consideration is the summertime. Around here, I can get away with wearing my light vest over my t-shirt, no problem. But if the shorts come out, the vest goes away, and the sandles are chosen in favor of boots, my concealed carry options just went away with all the layers of clothes. A small pocket gun in the shorts beats the gun you had to leave home due to wardrobe issues.
To this end, I think it is prudent for me to find a pocket gun that will fit the bill exactly as needed. I don't want something that is chambered for .22 LR because that's just a little too weak for my tastes. Something in .380 or higher is more like it.