I would like to begin this column with a poll — I would be very interested in hearing your answers to the following questions.
• How many officers carry a gun off duty?
• What is your rationale for choosing the off duty gun?
• How would you carry the gun off duty?
• How small a gun would you personally feel comfortable with when carrying off duty?
Send your thoughts to me via my PoliceOne email or my website.
Take This Off-Duty Carry Poll
__ I do carry off duty
__ I don’t carry off duty
__ Full size — 4” or greater
__ Mid size — 3.5” or greater
__ Small — 3” or smaller
__ Full Size
__ .45 ACP
Your Choices Reflect Your Values
I had an opportunity to evaluate several compact and sub-compact auto pistols and revolvers over a period of time and really get a feel for the pluses and minuses of carrying and shooting small auto pistols and revolvers.
I’ve noted some interesting changes in the thinking of officers (and civilians alike) with regard to off-duty/CCW carry over the years, and have had many interesting discussions of the pros and cons of various guns, holsters and philosophies.
The latest trends in the last few years of gun sales reflect a market shift to small, concealable handguns in the CCW market place. With the rise of concealed carry in the states, small auto pistols and revolvers are very popular sellers in the firearms industry. The current thinking of this day and age seems to reflect a point of view that something is better than nothing — that a small gun in the pocket gives one peace of mind versus carrying nothing at all.
Students of history will note that a similar situation existed in the 1600’s when carrying full length swords was gradually replaced with much smaller “gentleman” swords carried as part fashion statement and part “just in case” mindset.
The choice of weapon will reflect the values and belief systems of the person carrying the weapon.
For many, carrying something that is concealable, slightly smaller and lighter as a “just in case” option makes the most sense. Some carry the same brand as their duty weapon so they have commonality of controls, grip angle etc. A full size Glock 22 for on duty and a Glock 23 for off duty would be one example.
Others go even further and carry a subcompact auto or revolver such as a Kahr Arms .380 or 9mm, the Kimber Solo 9mm or a Smith & Wesson or Ruger 5 shot revolver as a primary off-duty/CCW choice.
The reason for carrying or justifying a particular firearm for off duty CCW carry is not only a logical choice but an emotional one.
Some just don’t feel the need or want to carry when they are “off duty.” They don’t want to feel they are working 24/7 or they don’t feel that they live in an area that is “dangerous.” Others really don’t believe that they will get involved in anything too dangerous but just want to have something with them, “just in case.”
Among other rationales I’ve heard are that most incidents will happen within 21 feet, and therefore you don’t need a full size duty type firearm for “CCW type” incidents — that a small gun will suffice. Some have told me that they usually can avoid situations off duty that they routinely handle on duty.
Ask Yourself Some Key Questions
Having had the benefit of both history and experience, I am going to ask some key questions as a way of evaluating our thought processes.
• How is off duty carry different than on duty carry in regards to weapon choice?
• Would you carry your off duty choice of gun on duty as a primary firearm? Why or why not?
• What are the key differences between the mission of an off duty gun and a backup gun?
• Do you believe your backup gun in suitable for off duty carry as a Primary gun?
• Do you believe that your opponents are less dangerous when you are off duty than on duty?
• Do you believe that you are a sworn officer 24/7 regardless whether you are on or off duty?
• What would you carry if you had your family with you and wanted to protect them?
• Do you believe that you could handle a situation with an active shooter armed with a long gun or handgun with your choice of off duty carry weapon as well as with your on duty weapon?
• Do you see off duty carry as a necessary burden or as a part of who you are?
• If you were to get into a gunfight tonight and could not carry a long gun around with you, what would your choice of handgun be if you could not avoid the conflict?
• What is the minimum caliber you would consider carrying off duty? Would you carry this caliber on duty? Why or why not?
• How much ammunition do you typically carry with you off duty?
Now, Let’s Have a Discussion
My personal choices for CCW and off duty carry reflect my values, beliefs and experience. I have run into some bad situations where I was very glad for the choice I made in a carry weapon.
I do not want to bias this set of questions by setting forth my personal beliefs at this time of what I would carry. I reserve that for further discussions in another article.
What I want you to do is think about what you carry and why you carry it. How did you arrive at your choices? Are you carrying what is convenient to carry or what you truly believe will get the job done against an opponent or opponents who might be armed with full size handguns or long gun? Is it time to reevaluate what you carry or are you satisfied with your choices?
What choice of weapon would you recommend to a friend to carry off duty/CCW carry? Is it different than your choice?
I am not looking for justifications of choice, only points of view here. As we get more input, we will have a better handle on perspectives and move forward from there in future articles on this subject.
I believe that it is time for us to take a fresh look at off duty handgun carry and talk about what will fulfill the mission requirements of your situation. I look forward to the discussion!