A friend of mine is very knowledgeable concerning handguns.
He owns a number of excellent handguns including a Colt .38 Super and a number of Colt Snake guns (Pythons, Cobras and Diamondbacks), but he confided that the handguns that are at ready in his home to repel boarders are all the same type.
Double-action revolvers are at the ready, loaded with Remington hollow points.
These .38 Special handguns are chosen because his wife and teenage grandson who live with him are able to use them reasonably well.
They are trustworthy folks, but not quite as gunny as my friend.
The choice he has made is worth considering. By the same token, some have favored handguns that are modern and effective, but the spouse has much different tastes.
I know a couple that have diverse ideas on personal defense.
Each is well-armed and each has fired the other’s handgun enough to be familiar with the piece to a useful extent.
The bottom line is — must a family all choose the same sidearm to preserve commonality among handguns? Is it important to be able to swap magazines or use the other’s firearms easily? Does it make ammunition supply easier?
One thing about shooting and civilian use versus institutional use I really appreciate — we are free to choose the best tool for the job and the handgun that suits our hand size and lifestyle.
Let’s look at some considerations and issues. For some such as my friend, commonality among handguns is the best program. For others, individuality is the key.
With few exceptions, institutional users issue a single handgun type, although frame sizes may differ.
9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP GLOCK or SIG pistols are commonly issued or allowed for private purchase. A few agencies have a broader policy.
Double-action first shot, double-action-only, selective double-action, safe action, fast action and the single-action self-loader are useful to one degree or the other.
Some of us own several types of pistols. It might behoove the person in question to commit to a single type of handgun and completely master it.
The affordable and reliable Bersa Thunder .380 has a manual of arms that demands the user master it to deploy the pistol with speed.
The Beretta Tomcat is a double-action first-shot pistol with a different manual of arms than the Bersa. The difference in safety location makes a great deal of difference in these double-action first shot pistols.
Young people on a budget often purchase what they can afford. They may be savvier than the economical choice they must live with.
Most of us purchase a big gun and a small gun as our first handguns, not necessarily in that order. Young people on a budget — or seniors — are concerned with overall protection more than recreational use.
Should a couple choose the same type of handgun for each shooter? Even though one may be more ‘gunny’ than the other, should they each deploy the same handgun? Should the backup be a smaller version of the primary?
Compromises are inherent in every choice, but there are good answers to these questions. There are both advantages and disadvantages in commonality among handguns.
As an example, if one spouse is only comfortable with a revolver, then the other will feel limited by giving up their 1911 .45 as a personal-defense handgun.
An EAA Windicator loaded with .38 Special +P might be indicated as a house gun in this instance.
The revolver may be kept at the ready without springs compressed or worries that the magazine will not feed. And that is the key.
A person carrying a more complicated handgun, a handgun that requires a more complex manual of arms, will be able to use a revolver by simply grasping the handle and pressing the trigger.
The shooter that is revolver oriented may stumble with a self-loader, even if it is the simpler DAO type.
As for backup handguns, in the age of the GLOCK, many carry a GLOCK 19 primary and a GLOCK 42 backup. I carry a 1911 .45 and don’t like the small, single-action backup guns.
If the backup is carried in a pocket such as a jacket or crews pocket, cocked and locked carry isn’t really viable. If you carry a backup, it is the handgun you probably practice less with.
You will be less familiar with the action. If you carry a self-loader with a safety, the backup up should be the same action or a simpler action, such as a revolver or a DAO self-loading pistol.
An experienced peace officer I knew well, was in a struggle for his holstered SIG P226 and drew his backup, a double-action first-shot pistol with a slide-mounted safety, and attempted to shoot his attacker.
He was unable to thumb the safety off in the heat of the moment. He survived, but he went to a revolver for backup after this. The backup should never be more complicated than the primary weapon.
As an example, I would not deploy a SIG P228 as a primary and an on-safe Walther PPK as a backup. There is too much difference in the operational imperatives.
The backup should be identical to the primary or it should be a simple, double-action-only pistol or revolver.
Why Have Commonality Among Handguns?
Some family members view the handgun with as much enthusiasm as a spare tire and jack. It is good to have, necessary, but not exciting.
They enjoy training as much as we enjoyed high school fire drills.
It isn’t just the distaff side — I have a family member who has her head on straight and owns a handgun, but cannot convince her husband to gun up.
At least one of them is armed! We should be realistic. A self-loader, any self-loader, demands attention to the manual of arms and range work a minimum of once a month.
If range time is closer to two or three times a year, you may want to choose a revolver.
Choosing a handgun that each may use well is much more important when it comes to the house gun than the carry gun, as others may need to access the handgun at home.
The rub is the carry gun often becomes the house gun for many of us. We carry the gun when out and then make it ready for home defense when we return.
Having a dedicated home-defense handgun is a good thing. I have one, a Colt Cobra .38 Special. This is in addition to the carry gun I make ready at home.
As long as the handgun is at least a .38 or 9mm and good quality, you will be able to defend yourself if you have practiced.
If you are only able to afford one home-defense handgun, then the lowest level of training must be the default choice.
Are two .38 revolvers better to have than the Taurus 24/7 9mm?
Having two armed citizens does not automatically double your chances of success, but with a partner you have practiced tactics with, your defensive status goes up exponentially.
One thing is certain — your other half should be familiar with your handgun in case of the dreaded worst-case scenario. You may be wounded or unable to access the handgun.
The qualified adult in the home should be able to access the handgun and be familiar with its operation.
Many of you are happy firing diverse firearms. Realize that practice is needed to stay sharp.
The old hand that has been at the game for decades suffers less deterioration of skill when they do not practice enough, that is simply a fact of life.
Going back and forth between carry guns isn’t the best program for survival, and the pros do not engage in a gun of the month contest.
By the same token, the handgun should always be carried in the same position or placed ready at home in the same place.
There are handguns that are more similar than they first appear.
If I carry a SIG, my wife would get the SIG as well. If she prefers the GLOCK and cannot live with the SIG, then why not have two GLOCKs? It only makes sense.
Holsters of the best type are expensive, and so are spare magazines. In an emergency, magazine discipline could mean a great deal.
When the bottom line is considered, the differences between quality handguns are often conversational at best, and one seldom exhibits an overwhelming advantage over the other given a skilled user.
Running a combat course with a CZ 75 9mm, SIG P226 9mm and H&K P30 may invite comparison, but there is little that may be done tactically with one that cannot be done with the other.
If you enjoy accumulating quality handguns that’s fine, but if combat ability is the bottom line, then commonality among handguns means a great deal.
Be certain you are able to trust your partner in an emergency and that they have skill at arms with the chosen firearm.
The bottom line is determination and will to survive. The tools are just that, tools, and they are just one part of the picture.
The common calibers are the best choices. This means the 9mm Luger, .38 Special and .45 ACP.
I have the greatest respect for the .40 S&W, but one spouse carrying a .40 and one a 9mm is a recipe for a mix-up.
Few have rigid discipline to keep magazines separated when they are identical in appearance. The 9mm is everyone’s caliber these days for good reason.
Having several handguns chambered for the same cartridge may not be as useful if they do not all use the same magazines.
Do you try and keep commonality among handguns and your defensive firearms? What caliber(s) do you select? Let us know in the comments below.