Should you carry a backup gun (BUG)? Will you actually carry the BUG? What is a BUG and what is its real purpose? Are there laws that regulate the number of concealed carry firearms you can carry? Is a BUG really necessary? Is the North American Arms (NAA) Black Widow Mini-Revolver in .22WMR (Mag) a good carry BUG option for extremely closeup encounters and your self-defense goal? I have wondered about these things and decided to explore them for myself.
Definition and Purpose of a BUG
A backup gun is a second handgun, normally carried very concealed, used as ancillary support, and as a supplement to a primary handgun. It may be carried openly or concealed, depending on the circumstances and state regulations, and is usually used for very close-range situations. To me the main purpose of a BUG is to serve as a final, last-ditch tool for self defense in extremely close quarters encounters where a few shots may be all that are needed to end or escape from an attack. It is not meant to serve as a primary carry gun. To me the goal of self-defense carry is to cease aggression and the assault from an attacker, to stop the immediate threat and the forward motion of the attacker. Not to kill the attacker; not to create a fist-sized hole in someone. So a BUG in an adequate caliber may accomplish the self-defense goal, but what is an “adequate” caliber? A debate since time immemorial. More later about this.
A BUG as a secondary gun should be difficult to notice and must be very small and concealable. I carry and have and still do recommend the 9mm as a good caliber for a primary concealed carry handgun. So I carry a 9mm and sometimes a .45. I think it is important to recognize that a BUG is not designed nor intended to replace a handgun of a larger caliber and size, especially for carry. Rather, a BUG should be viewed and carried as a complement, a backup gun for exigencies. Murphy’s Law does exist and if anything can go wrong, it probably will… eventually. I use my NAA Black Widow (BW) 5-shot mini-revolver in .22 Magnum with a laser sight as a carry BUG weighing only 8.8 ounces to my primary carry gun, and when my primary gun is not convenient or not practical. I use it when hiking, biking, jogging, working out at the gym, fending off snakes and small animals, etc. It is an option for you to consider.
Do Laws Regulate the Number of Concealed Carry Firearms?
I am sure you recognize that gun laws vary tremendously by state and jurisdiction. In New Mexico, for example, only one concealed carry firearm is allowed. In Minnesota according to their Statute 624.714 Subd. 11, there is no limit on the number of pistols a person can carry. The law states that “A person shall not be restricted as to the number of pistols the person may carry.” The state of Texas does not allow its uniformed, commissioned security officers to carry a second concealed backup weapon. So the laws vary considerably among all the states and jurisdictions, so check in your area.
Is it Necessary to Carry a Bug?
I have always believed that the most important aspect of carrying a concealed firearm is to carry a firearm, to actually have one with you and not let it be a “Safe Queen.” Some believe that carrying “a” gun, for example .380 or .22WMR, is better than not carrying any gun at all. The “best” gun is the gun that you will actually carry with you, everywhere and all the time. I believe in always carrying a concealed handgun and most of the time, depending on some situational variables, usually carrying a Bug “just in case.” Be prepared with support just in case of emergencies; like a life insurance policy for your family when you die or a spare tire for an unexpected problem. Others think the opposite that there is a miniscule chance of needing any gun, so do not carry any gun, let alone carry a Bug. Take a chance, play the odds, and win? Since there is only a 20% chance of a deadly encounter, do not carry a BUG. These folks believe that if we start preparing for small-probability situations, we can go overboard and start wearing even helmets all the time for protection, just in case we get hit in the head with a falling tree branch or smacked with a steel pistol. So it seems situations and possible threats enter into the consideration, as well as your skill level, your risk averseness, lifestyle, location, and other factors. There is a lot of controversy and a variety of opinions and factors to consider about carrying a primary gun and carrying a BUG, so you decide for yourself. I would not insist that everyone needs a BUG, but I would most definitely admit that two guns are better than one.
Some well-respected national self-defense and shooting experts believe strongly in carrying BUGs. Having a backup gun is necessary like Maasad Ayoob says in several of his articles and books. A BUG may be designed for deep concealment as a secondary gun or for times when carrying even a subcompact pistol is impractical. If you have your CCW license/permit, you carry a firearm every day because you recognize that although a gunfight is a low-probability event, it is a life-or-death possibility for which you can be prepared. The risk and cost of not being prepared for a major life-threatening, deadly-force encounter is simply too high to take the risk of not being armed. The stakes are too high relative to the minor inconvenience and efforts for carrying a BUG. Again, think of a BUG as a life insurance policy and protection for catastrophic occurrences.
Ayoob mentions these reasons for carrying a BUG in some of his books: (1) the primary gun may be taken away by the “bad guy”; (2) the primary gun may be unusable in the midst of a struggle and the BUG can be reached; (3) the primary gun may be empty and drawing a second loaded gun may be faster than reloading; (4) the primary gun, as a mechanical device, may malfunction and fail; (5) the primary gun may be struck by an opponent’s bullet and rendered inoperable; and (6) you can arm a second “good guy or gal” who does not have their own firearm.
A BUG Option to Consider
Rather than messing with a malfunctioning or empty primary firearm (assuming you cannot clear the problem immediately or execute a rapid reload), it may be easier to simply draw your BUG and address the threat. So what BUG do you use? What about the caliber and the features of the BUG that meet your carry needs?
I use the NAA BW 5-shot mini-revolver (not a derringer) in .22WMR as my BUG. I usually carry it in my pocket, sometimes inside the waistband at 1:00, and at times on my ankle. I rotate between the smaller rubber Cobblestone grips and the more bulbous and somewhat larger BW grips (shown) for a better purchase. The size and features of the BW make it very easy to have some gun with me at all times. I must admit that I sometimes only carry it because of its many carry features and depending on my risk assessment for the situation. The BW is very lightweight and small and can be well-hidden with no printing in almost ALL of my clothes, pants, and pockets. It sincerely is very inconspicuous in my clothes for this horizontally-challenged guy. Here are Specifications for the NAA BW 2″ Mini-Revolver- with .22 WMR and .22LR interchangeable cylinders:
|Model||Black Widow; NAA-22-BWC|
|Calibers||.22 WMR and .22 LR|
|Trigger-Action||Single Action Mini-Revolver|
|Barrel Length||2 inches|
|Overall Length||5 7/8″|
|Overall Height||3 5/8″|
|Weight- Unloaded||8.8 ounces|
|Grips||Rubber Stock; Polymer; Options|
|Sights||Fixed; Optional Laser|
PROS AND CONS OF THE BW MINI-REVOLVER
1. Small & Compact: Only 5.8 inches long and .87 inch wide across the grip
2. Lightweight: Only 8.8 ounces weight (frame & cylinders are stainless steel)
3. Decent Capacity: 5-Rounds
4. Interchangeable cylinders: of .22LR for economical practice and .22WMR (Magnum) for self-defense
5. Very Concealable: Narrow frame for deep concealability; no trigger guard with trigger only extending .25″ from the housing
6. Reliable: and well-made Single-Action Revolver which requires the hammer be manually cocked before it will fire; has a very short and soft trigger- about a 4.5 pounds trigger press measured on my Lyman Gauge
7. Safety notches: enhance safe carry with all 5 chambers loaded; safety slots are milled into the back rim of the cylinders, so lowering the hammer into a notch locks the chamber in place so hammer rests against cylinder rather than cartridge rim
8. The Grip angle: is very nice, open, and allows a solid & comfortable grip (the bulbous Grip allows a great purchase for me from concealment & the smaller Cobblestone Grip is nice for certain types of carry)
9. Many accessories are available, including many grips & holsters for various purposes; custom laser sights
10. The .22LR ammo: is less expensive to practice & plink with than the Magnum rounds (NOTE: a friend told me that the .22LR works almost as well if loaded with CCI Velocitor ammo which gives about a 30% higher power factor over a standard .22LR hollow point round.
1. Time consuming to reload and load- the cylinder must be removed for this, so the cylinder pin must be removed, inserted into each chamber to extract the spent cases, then the cylinder positioned correctly back into the frame, with the pin then reinserted (so make your 5 rounds count in an encounter!)
2. The rear sight notch is not that wide to help with sight alignment (but remember your purpose for this gun-an extremely up-close encounter probably not using your sights)
NOTE: The Laserlyte Venom Laser Sights are custom made for the NAA BW & weigh less than .75 ounce, adding no length or width to the BW. They quickly mount under the barrel by removing the factory cylinder pin and locking the laser sights easily in the notch there, projecting a red laser beam for quick target acquisition. Just press a reachable bottom-of-the-barrel laser button to activate either as constant-on or pulse mode. I found Point of impact and Point of Aim with the laser to be very close and my point-and-shoot up-close accuracy was acceptable. See my results below.
3. .22WMR cylinder with laser sights added will not fit in currently readily-available standard pocket holsters.
The .22 WMR as a Self-Defense Round
Many consider the .22 WMR (Magnum) as too small a round for self defense. I want to share with you some studies and tests I discovered. To me penetration, velocity, and shot placement are key for the carry goal and caliber. Richard Mann with American Rifleman did a 2013 study comparing how various .22WMR loads and larger-caliber loads performed in 10 percent ordinance gel, which most agree offers the same resistance to a bullet as would muscle tissue. With the .22WMR, it seems to me that velocity is more important because of the relatively small bullet. Of course, longer barrels result in more velocity, so Mann’s series of tests with various .22WMR loads were fired from barrels from 1″ to 22″ long. Remember, the BW has a 2″ barrel. Mann found that terminal performance from barrels between 2″ and 4.6″ were, for all practical purposes, identical. Mann also found the penetration for 9 mm Luger and .45 ACP to be about 13 inches and the penetration for .22WMR to be just over 12 inches with barrels ranging from 1 inch to 4.5 inches. Mann concluded “Not much difference.” The average 9 mm Luger velocity with varying barrel lengths is about 1175 fps, while the .45 ACP average muzzle velocity is about 1,000 fps. Mann found in his tests averaging all the .22WMR loads in different barrel lengths to be about 1,050 fps. Mann concluded the velocity and penetration of the .22WMR, when compared to 9 mm or a .45 is not all that different. The difference in the terminal performance of a .22WMR when compared to a 9 mm or a .45 is mostly in expansion and energy. You might believe what some believe, that displaying any gun generates fear and often leads to a fight being stopped. This, of course, is very situational and complex. What if the .22WMR is the most powerful handgun you can handle and shoot effectively? Perhaps a medical condition, etc. What if that is all you can afford or have to protect yourself– better than no gun at all? I believe that the .22WMR round is more weak in power and energy, but the deep penetration possible with its velocity makes it FOR ME acceptable as a BUG. I do not plan on switching my primary 9 mm and .45 ACP handguns soon, but do accept the .22WMR for its support role. You must shoot a .22WMR to see its power, deep penetration, and velocity. I did with the BW and was impressed.
Range Testing the BW in .22WMR with Laser Sights
I was impressed with the accuracy, bullet velocity and penetration of this little gun, especially for extremely closeup targets. It was fun to shoot. I believe with proper shot placement this BW may end an attack or potential attack and allow you to escape the encounter and the attacker to cease the assault from upclose out to about 5 yards or so. I certainly would not want to get shot with a .22 Magnum round. The .22WMR load is now a more appealing option for personal defense given the contemporary ammunition from Hornady, Speer, CCI, Winchester, etc. I know Hornady has Critical Defense 45 grain .22WMR available. There are several new loads specifically designed for self-defense with enhanced ballistics and deep penetration out of short revolver barrels. I have not used them, but I have been told about tests that showed the CCI Maxi-Mag +V in .22WMR had about 17 inches of penetration in gel. Here above are my first 9″ target hits with the NAA BW .22WMR with laser attached with rapid fire draw and 5 shots each at 5 feet, 3 yards, and 5 yards. I found I had to grip the gun very firmly for better accuracy, more so than usual for me. I shot the ammo I had available which was only 50 cartridges of Winchester Super X .22WMR jacketed hollow points, 20 grain, rated to 2200 fps. I had no malfunctions or stoppages with the BW and ammo and the recoil was very manageable for this very lightweight, ultra small, and very concealable mini-revolver.
I recommend the NAA Black Widow in .22WMR with the LaserLyte Venom laser sights as a BUG and supplement to your primary carry handgun, but not as a primary gun. This is just my opinion with limited data and minimal field testing; of course, you must make your own decision. The BW might also be nice as a companion when fishing, camping, hiking, walking your dog, working in the yard, etc. You should try it for yourself to decide if it works for you and how best it meets your purpose and goal.
North American Arms
2150 South 950 East St.
Provo, UT 84606
Photos by author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2015 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].