5 Best Backup Guns: When All Else Fails

We don’t get to choose the time and place that we’ll face an emergency.

That’s why an EDC gun is carried every day.

But no matter how much you’ve trained with, cared for, or tested your EDC — sometimes everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. That is why you might want to have a Back-Up Gun.

Sig Sauer Women's Concealed Carry

We’ll take a look at some of the best and most popular of the Back-Up Guns on the market right now.

These are small guns that can be used for EDC also, but due to their ultra-compact size make a great back-up also.

What’s a Backup Gun (BUG)?

Before we dive into the best options, lets quickly define what it is we’re looking for.

A back-up gun is exactly what the name implies, a plan B for when plan A fails in a critical moment. Because this is going to be carried in a second choice manner, such as a pocket, purse, ankle, etc. it needs to be small and light, but still useful.

This automatically rules out anything like a derringer (not useful) or a Sig 226 (not small). This mostly leaves guns in the “compact” or “sub-compact” categories.

With that in mind, these are the best options I’ve personally tested!

Best Backup Guns

1. Glock 26/27 (or 43)

Making a Glock the opening salvo is perfect.

When people think of BUGs their minds frequently wander to tiny snubby revolvers, derringers, and mouse guns. Guess what, BUGs don’t have to be wholly unrealistic or entirely painful to shoot!

glock 26 vs 19
The much smaller 26 on the left is a good bit more concealable than the 19 on the right….but also comes with fewer rounds on tap, and is a bit harder to shoot accurately.

Glock manufactures a number of pistols that fit the bill as backups.  The 26 and 27 are 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson models, respectively, in the expected Glock double-stack.

560
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s true they have a bit more heft than many BUGs; both pistols are 1.26-inches wide but the 26 weighs 21.52 ounces empty while the 27 weighs 21.43 ounces empty.

If you’re wondering why the 29 isn’t being included – and hey, I have one – it’s because at 1.38-inches wide and 26.81 ounces empty it crosses the admittedly blurry line between backup and daily carry size.

Could it be a backup for you?

Sure.

It’s a fantastic gun.

The Glock 43 keeps you in 9mm and plastic fantastic while minimizing size. When the company launched this gun a few years ago maybe they should have marketed it for backup rather than simply as the long-awaited single-stack 9mm.

Glock 43 and magazine
The Glock 43

The 43 has a 3.41-inch barrel, a 1.06-inch width, and an empty weight of 17.99 ounces. Capacity for this slim model is 6 rounds which is less than the 26’s 10-round standard mag capacity and the 27’s 9-round standard mag capacity but we’re talking BUG here not EDC.

Ultra Reliable Single-Stock CCW
449
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And of all the subcompact 9mms I’ve run in recent years, the 43 is the most accurate. 

Check out our full review here as well as our video review:

What’s your take on the G43?

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2. Remington RM380 Executive

Moving on to smaller-caliber pistols we have the Remington RM380 Executive (or just the RM380 itself since the Executive is Big Green’s newest version).

It’s chambered in .380 ACP.

Popular Pistol Calibers
Popular Pistol Calibers

Those of you who know me know I have a certain lack of excitement over .380 ACP but that doesn’t mean you should discount it entirely. Cue collective gasp.

Remington RM380 Executive
Remington’s RM380 Executive is a DAO pistol in .380 ACP and a good choice for a pocket pistol for a lot gun owners out there.

Again, this is not your EDC. This gun backs up your EDC. It’s also a gun I have used as my own BUG. The RM380 is a hammer-fired gun with a 6-round capacity and diminutive size.

It has a 2.75-inch barrel, an overall width of 0.95-inches, and an empty weight I cannot recall other than to say it’s light.

This is a pistol you can conceal, a pistol you could carry in an ankle holster without excessive bulk or imbalance. You could pocket carry it if such methods appeal to you and there are, in fact, pocket holsters made for it.

Perhaps the thing that recommends the RM380 most for use as a BUG is also its biggest downfall: the trigger. The gun doesn’t have an external thumb safety but it does have one heck of a DAO trigger.

Trigger pull is right around ten pounds and it’s long. It just might be the longest trigger pull I’ve ever felt.

I know how that sounds antithetical to what is normally recommended, but in this case, we can make an exception.

Because the trigger is so long and heavy, it is very close to impossible to negligently/accidentally pull it.

With some practice, you can learn to run the trigger more smoothly but as with many tiny pistols, it does tend to be a challenge.

I’m well aware of the propensity for people to chuck their loose pistol in their pocket or get sloppy in general and although I really don’t recommend doing that, the RM380 trigger does make it a safer option.

225
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s also ridiculously reliable and has eaten every load I’ve ever fed it. As with the majority of .380 ACPs its most accurate range is up-close-and-personal but that is okay in this case.

3. Ruger LCP II

Another .380 ACP, this one a slightly different design. The Ruger LCP II is the company’s updated version of the old LCP and it is a stellar improvement over the original. Out with the old, in with the new(er).

Sinterfire .380 ACP 75 grain HP Frangibles and a Ruger LCP II. If you like .380 ACP you really should check out Sinterfire’s frangibles
Sinterfire .380 ACP 75 grain HP Frangibles and a Ruger LCP II. If you like .380 ACP you really should check out Sinterfire’s frangibles

The LCP II has a 6-round capacity, a 2.75-inch barrel, a width of 0.75-inches, and an empty weight also unlisted and no I don’t remember this one either. But it’s light, they’re single-stack pocket pistols.

This gun doesn’t have an external thumb safety, either. Instead, its sear requires significant engagement and spring tension and there’s a hammer catch to stop the hammer from striking the firing pin unintentionally.

Ruger LCP II
Ruger LCP II

The slide racks smoothly, the grip is nicely textured, and it’s reliable. It does have fairly significant muzzle rise, but that is expected due to the size of the gun and can be trained for.

The LCP II’s greatest feature is also its potential downfall, like the RM380 only in reverse. You’ll find this trigger a pleasant surprise compared to the original LCP trigger.

It’s lighter, crisper, and does make it easier to land more accurate follow-up shots, faster. Because of that, the trigger guard must be protected – as it should be anyway – meaning your soft, unprotected ankle holsters are also no bueno.

Again, I am familiar with the penchant of people to treat pocket pistols like a fistful of keys and toss them in their pockets. This is not the gun for you all.

Most Affordable .380 Pistol
299
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Otherwise, this is a solid little pistol for fans of .380 ACP and deep concealment. Ruger did a good job enhancing it over the original. 

Check out our list of other nice .380 ACP Pocket Rockets.

4. Mossberg MC1SC

A newcomer to the field of sub-compacts: the Mossberg MC1SC.

This takes us back to 9mm BUGs meaning you’re back in the land of the FBI’s current golden child caliber.

It also marks the first Mossberg pistol since their early days. So no, this is not the first Mossberg handgun to ever exist, just the first in a good long while.

The Mossberg MC1SC has been pretty reliable but has some noticeable ammo preferences like its apparent love for Inceptor 9mm.

The Mossberg MC1SC has a 6-round capacity with a standard, flush-fit magazine. It has a 3.4-inch barrel, an overall length of 6.25-inches, and an empty weight of 19 ounces. The standard model ships with white three-dot sights but it is also offered with TRUGLO Tritium PRO sights.

Aesthetically it’s one of the better-looking subcompacts on the market. Performance-wise it’s a relatively accurate pistol. How comfortable it is to grip is going to depend on your hands and preferences. It’s offered with or without a cross-bolt safety.

What makes this gun unique is the Mossberg Safe Takedown System, a way the company devised for owners to remove the striker assembly prior to takedown. This means no pulling the trigger to field strip your gun.

The bright orange housing for the system is visible once you remove the slide plate and the assembly slides right out the back of the gun. Then you can disassemble the gun to clean or whatever it is you’re working on.

Before you ask no, I cannot answer yet whether this will prove to be a weak point in the gun’s design. So far there have been no reports of issues and the gun I have is fine.

This one’s understandably popular partly because it’s a Mossberg handgun and because it’s a subcompact 9mm. Mossberg might have been a tiny bit late to the tiny-9mm market but they seem to have done well with the MC1SC. 

5. Sig Sauer P365

It wouldn’t be a current BUG list without a SIG P365. Here we have a 9mm with a 10-round capacity, making it pretty unique among slim pocket pistols.

Despite its greater capacity, it’s still only 1.0-inches wide.

P365 Upgrades The Whole Lot
P365 Upgrades The Whole Lot

Other measurements are its 3.1-inch barrel, overall length of 5.8-inches, and empty weight of 17.8 ounces (we know you were wondering). It’s a striker-fired gun available with or without a thumb safety.

This is the part where things get trickier. The P365 did experience some growing pains but it appears the current generation of the pistol is performing well.

It has a lot of fans out there and understandably so. The SIG name gives it some of that popularity but it’s that increased capacity so many people really love.

Most innovative CCW gun [2018]
499
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s not to love about 10 rounds of 9mm in a skinny subcompact! As for accuracy, in my hands it’s neck-and-neck with the MC1SC. YMMV.

It’s worth mentioning SIG recently came out with the P365 SAS. This is a super-streamlined version of the 365 that might prove much more useful as a back-up gun if you’re looking to draw from the pocket.

Honorable Mention

There’s bound to be some that are missing in this article.

If you’ve got to go revolver…the tried and true backup gun is the S&W 642 Airweight.

Smith and Wesson 642 (5)
S&W 642 Airweight

Though not our favorite (we rate it a 3/5)…it does the job for many EDC-ers and law enforcement officers.

Best Bang-For-Buck CCW Revolver

Full review here where we go over all the pros and cons.

Conclusion

Here’s the deal with BUGs: they should meet the same requirements your EDC does. That means they’ve got to be reliable, accurate, and concealable.

Any and all truly diminutive guns are a little less pleasant to shoot than full-sized models but some are definitely better – or worse than others. For example, I cannot in good conscience recommend a snubby Airweight.

How you carry it is not unlike choosing how to carry your EDC in that it depends on your body, your needs, and your personal preferences. 

Then there’s training. You need to train with your backup. It might not be as fun as training with your larger EDC but it is important.

What good is your oh-crap gun if you find out you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with it, let alone a bad guy? What good is it if you neglect its care to the point it fails at the moment you need it most?

Train with it. Maintain it.

Do you carry a BUG? What is it? Or if you don’t, why not? If you’re looking for a proper EDC CCW, take a look at the Best Concealed Carry Guns and then our Best Concealed Carry Holsters to complete it.

34 Leave a Reply

  • Beerdy

    Ran a test with my Mossberg MC1 this weekend with some different ammo. It liked everything except the cheap range reloads.

    1 day ago
  • Vulcan

    The Taurus G2c 9MM, (got my dark purple and stainless slide for $185 delivered to my FFL), NATO pressure capable, internal polished stainless upgrades available cheap, dayglo sights for $30, is a near hit out of the park and super well reviewed everywhere, many color combo's, magazine pinkie extensions for man size hands (love them), and holds 12+1 in a near Shield 9MM size - and I have both, ...it's a winner! TEGE paddle OWB holster with finger release a must have and cheap from the Zon. And these are on sale for sub $200 often, and $215 anytime. Better warranty than some, these days too. Go to YouTube and watch the reviews and if you aren't BIll Gates and have a budget that doesn't allow yachts and trips to Monoco -- BUT want a true success and proven gun, the Taurus G2c would be an easy choice. Eats whatever ammo you stick in it, and not picky.

    1 week ago
  • MikeT

    Why isn't the Kahr PM/CM9 considered? It's the best of both worlds. Long pull DA trigger that's as smooth as can be and it's striker fired. It's small, light, accurate, and very reliable. I've carried all the ones you mentioned and have gone back to a Kahr because it's a solid choice that still surpasses all the ones you mentioned.

    2 weeks ago
  • Don

    Missed the Ruger LCP in .327 Federal Magnum. 6 rounds instead of 5, shoots from a purse or coat pocket...repeatedly, if necessary, and with power close to a .357 Magnum. Hell of a BUG.

    2 weeks ago
  • Clark

    9MM, 380, and 45ACP are primary gun calibers. 22, 25, 32 are backup gun calibers. None of the guns mentioned are sub-calibers. The guns mentioned are the same guns recommended in their concealed carry article. 32acp will blow their brains out just like a 9MM. Please mention the Beretta Tomcat/Bobcat and other guns that are actually last ditch survival tools.

    3 weeks ago
  • Bo

    Clark, As the great Col Jeff Cooper once said If you choose to carry a .25 cal gun please don't shoot anyone with it as it might make them mad and there is a possibility they will do you great bodily harm.

    3 weeks ago
    • Clark

      More people are killed with 22lr than any other caliber. If you are not worried about 25 cal, can I shoot you with it?

      3 weeks ago
      • Don

        I agree that the .22 can be just as deadly as larger calibers, but still prefer to carry a larger caliber whenever possible. If I can carry a BUG that is the same caliber as my primary firearm, so much the better. In the case of the Glock 26 or 27 as a BUG, not only will it use the same rounds as the primary, it will use the same magazines, giving these BUGs considerable capability for round capacity. If you think that .22 or .25 are the best options for self defense, you disagree with every police, military, and self defense organization in existence, Yes, I don't want to get shot by a .22, but I can say that about a pump pellet rifle as well, but I don't choose to use one of those over a .223 Remington. You completely miss the point: .22, .25, and .32 USED TO BE the backup calibers; now, with small guns in .380 and up, you have much better choices in BUG calibers.

        2 weeks ago
        • Bo

          Thank you Don. You are the voice of reason. Common sense is a flower that doesn't grow in everyone's garden.

          2 weeks ago
        • Clark

          Sub calibers are so many people's primary carry caliber because they are small enough to carry anywhere. "the best gun is the one you have with you". If you want to carry two 15+rd 9MM handguns everywhere go ahead, but I doubt you will be having very much fun. A BUG should not even be noticeable until you need it. Any headshot is going to incapacitate the threat. Comparing a 5 grain 350fps BB pellet to a 55 grain 3350fps .223 Remington is just silly.

          2 weeks ago
  • John Van Hollebeke

    What about the Browning 1911 380? Have you tried that one??

    3 weeks ago
  • DOUG TEDERS

    Kimber micro 9 Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 4.07 Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 15.6

    3 weeks ago
  • Michael

    I can't imagine carrying my 27 with a full mag in an ankle holster, but very thankful to my dad for gifting me the RM380 this fall. After watching the church shooting in TX this weekend, I think I will start making room in my pocket for this one. 27 btw is my edc., swapping out with TT-30.

    3 weeks ago
  • Tom Jamison

    What about the new Springfield Hellcat? To new to add?

    3 weeks ago
    • Clark

      This is a primary carry gun. Just because it is sub-compact does not mean you want to carry it in your pocket or on your ankle.

      3 weeks ago
  • Robin Lee Compton Sr.

    Thank you Kat for the information here... RLC

    3 weeks ago
  • Richard

    Sig 938, Hellcat, any 38 or 327 wheel gun... The list goes on and on...

    3 weeks ago
  • Sgt Jim

    The .38+p S&W snubby is my choice for a second gun. I don’t go to it because my high capacity auto is empty, I carry spare mags to reload. I go to it if god forbid I’m knocked to the ground or for some reason I can’t get to my edc or it’s dislodged from me. I can jam the snubby into the persons gut, chest, face or whatever I can and pump 5 fairly powerful +P rounds in. A semi automatic backup is a one shot pistol if jammed into a person. Also, I can use the snubby as an impact weapon. It’s all metal and will still fire if I do so. Hi cap semi as main, some type of snubby as a backup save your life gun.

    3 weeks ago
    • Clark

      Standoff is a great consideration, i'll be keeping my eye out for a S&W lightweight

      2 weeks ago
    • D Dillon

      Yep totally agree 38 stubby with no hammer is way to go for backup. If going for backup aggressor is on you. Any auto is not the way to go.

      2 weeks ago
  • Michael Carroll

    How about the new Springfield Hellcat, I love mine.

    3 weeks ago
  • Mark West

    No consideration for Ruger's LC9 or EC9? My LC9s has a better trigger than my Sig365 out of the box.

    3 weeks ago
    • Jose Del Valle

      Mark you are right , I do Carry a Ruger ec9 , nice and very reliable pistol for edc , just love it

      3 weeks ago
  • Clayton

    Glock makes a fine pistol....the 43 is one of them, BUT the trigger is the absolute worst trigger of anything I own. Very heavy, crunchy, hard to shoot accurately. Shouldn't have to start changing parts to get a decent trigger on any gun.

    3 weeks ago
  • Frank

    Sorry, Kat. Sig P238 Legion can now be had at the same price points as your rubber guns above. No comparison for ruggedness, heft, recoil control and shootability.

    3 weeks ago
    • Daim

      Agreed

      3 weeks ago
  • Gary

    Kahr P9. 7+1 9mm rounds, .9" wide, 5.8" long, 16.9 ounces with the magazine in it. Easy, comfortable shooter and very accurate, strong or weak handed. I have never had anywhere close to a burp with this one. Absolutely trust my life to it.

    3 weeks ago
  • Bruce

    Diamondback DB9 for me. 7+1, 9mm, no safety

    3 weeks ago
  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    .455 Webley, 2-in barrel, bobbed hammer, cutaway trigger guard. You can shoot it from inside your pocket without jamming.

    3 weeks ago
  • LazrBeam

    Roger that on the RM380. Mine goes everywhere with me in a Sticky holster in my right front pocket. On many occasions I’ve got a G19 or P365 OWB as well.

    3 weeks ago
    • LazrBeam

      Oooops, I forgot, or a Ruger LCR in .327 Fed Mag OWB.

      3 weeks ago
  • Ronald Hunter

    As I speak a Kel Tec P11 with belt clip is attached to my boot. I just left a movie theater and it went with me. I have the 12 round mag in it. It is usually my truck gun, but is also my jeep gun a nd my sedan and coupe gun. I have 4. They never fail to fire or eject a soent round. Heavy trigger pull but I have no trouble hitting steel at 15 yards. Good enough especially when you can't carry something larger. My EDC is a glock 29 ir a Kimber micro 9.

    3 weeks ago
  • Terry N

    As with every comparison test, somebody is annoyed you didn't include their favorite blaster. My contender is the S&W Bodyguard380 w/laser which wasn't mentioned, let alone in 'best 5'. Smallest, slimmest on the market makes for perfect pocket carry in custom thin leather 'split finger' holster. You can't tell it is there unless you pat me down.

    3 weeks ago
    • Jw

      What about the tarus spectrum

      1 second ago
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