Backup a .45 with a 9mm

As we transition into the Third Wave, we will meet new and evolved challenges.
Surveillance capabilities are likely to expand by at least an order of magnitude. Not only will there be many new ways to gather data, but technology such as artificial intelligences (AI) will greatly increase the capability to process such data into meaningful information.
More so than in the past, information will be both a currency and a weapon.
In such a light, I have been thinking a little on the requirements of covert operations. I have also been watching some post-apocalyptic fiction, so have also been considering the field of logistics, particularly in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario.
Your best option is to always avoid combat. If you must defend yourself, a long-arm such as a shotgun or rifle is the preferred choice.
There will be, however, many situations when a long-arm will not be available. For example, enemy surveillance capabilities may mark as a target anyone carrying an object that might be a long-arm or other weapon. This brings us to handguns.

Primary Handgun

I have written quite a bit about this topic on this blog and in my book “Survival Weapons”, so will not repeat myself here. Suffice to say, when combat is serious and at close-range you want a handgun that is as effective as is practical. That means an automatic pistol in .45 ACP.
Of the relatively few autos in .45 that are available, top of the pile has to be the Glock 30. The Glock 30 is hard hitting, high-capacity, compact, light, reliable, and simple to operate. Standard magazine is ten rounds, but the weapon can also take the 13-round magazines of larger Glock .45s. That is nearly twice the capacity of the larger M1911A1!
The only downside may be a logistical one. Since the US military retired the M1911A1 Colt in favour of the Beretta M9, .45 ammunition has become less readily available. Outside North and South America, .45 ammo may be difficult to acquire.

Backup Handgun

Thinking on this matter, I will propose a strategy that may be of use to some readers, particularly in a long-term scenario.
If your handgun is likely to serve as your primary weapon, it is prudent to have a backup or two.

The Pocket Gun

Elsewhere, I have discussed how a lightweight, “hammerless”, short-barrelled revolver can be carried in an outside pocket and may be more accessible than a larger holstered weapon covered by a coat or jacket. There is no hammer or slide to catch in the pocket lining should you have to fire from within the pocket.
Unfortunately, such useful weapons only hold five or six rounds. In the heat of combat, reloading revolvers has often proven more involved than a simple magazine swap.

The 9mm Backup Option

The idea that I am proposing is to back-up your .45 with a 9x19mm automatic. To keep the weight down, my weapon of choice would be a Glock 19. Many of these are available second hand, so may be found for a good price. If your sense of symmetry is offended by using a compact 9mm as a backup for a subcompact .45, the Glock 26 is an alternative.
Glock 19 Pistol
All Glocks can take the magazines of larger models in the same calibre. The Glock 26 uses a ten-round magazine and can take the 15-round magazine of the Glock 19. Both the Glock 19 and Glock 26 can take larger capacity 9mm magazines. These are available in a wide range of capacities, from 17 to 33 rounds.
9x19mm ammunition (aka 9mm Luger/Parabellum) is more likely to be encountered than .45. It is probably safe to say you will find 9x19mm anywhere you can find ammunition. 9x19mm may be harder to find in China or some former-Soviet states, but even in these regions there are 9x19mm weapons.
Rhona Mitra holding a Glock 19
It makes sense to have a weapon that can use 9mm ammo, and save your .45 for situations that really need it.
There are a lot of Glock 17s and 19s out there in the world, so there is a chance your “battlefield-pickups” may already be in a compatible magazine.
Conserve your .45 supply by using the 9mm to shoot-off locks, signal, scare-off aggressive animals, coup-de-grâce wounded animals and similar. Mel Tappan considered the 9x19mm round as good for hunting game in the 100-125 lb range (in the absence of a long-arm). Thus, your 9mm backup can be used to forage for small to medium game. Anything wolf-size or smaller.
The higher velocity 9mm has a flatter trajectory than a .45, although the actual difference at practical ranges in only a few inches. The flatter trajectory may be useful for certain applications. The 9mm could be used for suppressive fire, saving your .45 for conducting or repelling an assault.
Against flesh, a non-hollowpoint 9mm penetrates about the same distance as a non-hollowpoint .45. The .45 makes a wider wound channel, hence superior physiological effect.
Against other materials, the lighter, faster, smaller 9mm may penetrate better than the .45. The .45 Thompson was regarded as the preferred solution to road-block runners in the 1920s and 30s, so I would be reluctant to assume that the penetration of fast 9mm always exceeds the inertia of the heavier .45.
A comparison of 9mm and .45 ammunition on a variety of building materials and vehicle parts might be a useful article or video!
If you are carrying two automatic pistols of different calibre, or even differencing model, the question of how many magazines to carry for the spare gun arises. Perhaps a standard-capacity magazine in the well: a 15-round for the G-19, or a ten-round for the G-26. With this, carry at least one higher capacity (17+) magazine.

Modern Quick-Draw for Self-Defence

Recently I have been thinking a little on the subjects of quick-draw and hip-shooting.
One reason for this is that I treated myself to the Kindle Edition of “Shooting” by J. Henry FitzGerald. A very entertaining read and lots of information that is still useful, even if the book was written in 1930. Expect me to refer back to this work in future posts. I highly recommend it.
At around the same time, I came across an article on quick-draw by Elmer Keith. Unfortunately the print quality is too poor for me to reproduce it here. Much of the article is padding and anecdotes, but there were a couple of useful ideas within. Article was originally in “American Rifleman” Sep 1938. Reproduced in Poor Man’s James Bond, Vol.5, Kurt Saxon. “No Second Place Winner” by Bill Jordan is also worth a read on this topic.
I also reread Fairbairn and Sykes’ (F&S) “Shooting to Live”. This is another “must read”, although it doesn’t have a lot on quick-draw. While most of the F&S technique is not hip-shooting, it did provide some insight.
The main reason I decided to discuss this topic was due to some of the videos I viewed. The cowboy action shooters I will discuss in a moment. Most of the “non-cowboys” would quick draw their weapons, then slow down as they locked their arms straight, lined up their sights, held their breath and did all the other things their shooting guru of preference recommends. Most took more than a second to draw and fire. Some individuals were faster, but still we were looking at around three-quarters of a second. In the early part of Shooting to Live the authors state that the considerable experience of the Shanghai Police had found making a hit within a third of a second was desirable to officer survival. Admittedly, this was not necessarily quick-draw from a holster.
Gun Magazines love to fill their column inches with “either/or” binary propositions. One example of these is “Frontier style” vs “Aimed Technique”. For the duration of this article I would like you to forget all you have read along these lines and temporarily accept two other propositions:
• There is a time for aimed pistol fire, and there are times when there is no time for aimed fire.
• If you have to quick-draw, you need to put lead in the target in the shortest time possible.
“Shoot double action if it is at short range and quick draw is not necessary at long range.”
Shooting. FitzGerald, J. Henry. Sportsman's Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.
Doc Holiday and Wynonna

The Cowboys

Cowboy action shooting actually proved less useful than I expected. Certainly the fast-draw experts are very fast. However, this is achieved by firing as soon as the muzzle is out of the holster. The muzzle may be right above the holster.
To speed this up, most cowboy action shooters would lean backwards. This technique is not really applicable to self-defensive shooting. If someone is likely to be shooting back you will probably be crouched forward. You also may have to quick-draw from a seated position where you cannot lean back.
My other reservation is that I have no idea how important accuracy is to cowboy quick-draw shooting competitions. One shooter did say something about accuracy coming with a few thousand practice rounds. Perfecting literal hip-shooting may be beyond the means of many of us.
Some aspects of cowboy fast-draw are specific to single-action only weapons such as the Colt Peacemaker. Practical defensive handguns should have a double-action mode.
The best advice I got from my brief dip into cowboy quick-drawer was “Don’t hold your breath!” As we know for other fields of combat training, relaxed bodies and untensed muscles move faster.

When Not to Draw

In a past blog I referenced a video of some young guys practising fast-draws against charging training partners and imaginary enemies. As I commented then, “speed and skills were impressive, their tactics deplorable”.
No matter how fast you are, if an enemy is rushing in from close range, your first move should be to get out of the way. A well placed palm-strike or trip may drop them more effectively than any bullet. Once the immediate threat has past, then is the time to draw your weapon.
See “Attack, Avoid, Survive” and “Survival Weapons” for more on this topic.
If a target is within a few metres, thrusting your gun nearer towards them may not be prudent. There a numerous ways to dodge out of the line of fire at such ranges. You may have brought your hand(s) into range of unarmed, blade or baton attacks.

Quarter-Hip Position

Quarter-Hip Firing Position

I am showing the F&S “quarter-hip” position here since it has some parallels to cowboy hip shooting. Fairbairn and Sykes suggest this only be used at ranges of a yard or less. The gun is held back so an attacker cannot reach it. The free-hand can be used to fend off the attacker.
F&S note that this is the only one of their firing techniques where the gun is not fired from the centre-line. It can be fired parallel to the centre-line, although there is an obvious difference of half a body-width. It can be fired to intersect the centre-line. although this will require more skill at greater ranges.
I show a similar postion in “Survival Weapons” and “Attack. Avoid, Survive”. Keep the free-hand well out of the possible line of fire.


As should be done before any firearm training, or handling, verify the loaded status of your firearm.
For dry-firing, chamber or chambers should be emptied. With some weapons a loaded magazine can be left in place to keep the mass realistic. A revolver will need dummy cartridges instead. Some semi-automatics need the backward movement of the slide to recock their strikers. Magazines of live rounds should not be fitted for dry-firing practice with these models.
The trigger finger should not touch the trigger during the drawing phase. The trigger only comes into contact with the trigger when the muzzle is pointed at the target.


The principle of consistency applies to many phases of training.
Train with the weapon, holster and holster position that you are most likely to be in when a potential need occurs.
A holster that always stays in the same relative position is obviously an advantage.
Accuracy comes from the weapon always firing from the same relative position.


Speed comes from efficiency. A quick-draw has three stages: the draw, the point and firing. Work to make each of these phases with the minimum of wasted motion. Make the transitions between them as as efficient and smooth as possible. The movement of the hand from the start of the draw until firing should be a single continuous motion.


To learn quick-draw safely, you should accept that you will have to practice at least several months without firing a round. You will be tempted to try it with live rounds, “just to see how it is going”. Do not! You will only be ready for live practice once you can honesty say that you have the phases of the draw and its whole working as efficiently as you can.
Start off at a slow speed. Trying to be fast is counter-productive. Speed will increase as you get smoother with practice.

The Quick-Draw

How you draw will depend on where you carry your holster, your weapon, your physique, manner of dress and many other factors.
Your free-hand may need to be involved to pull your jacket open or lift your shirt while the other hand draws.
For a strong-side holster, the most efficient draw may be simply to lift the pistol upwards out of the holster. As soon as the muzzle is clear of the holster the action of pointing it towards the target begins.
Shorter weapons are theoretically quicker to draw than longer ones. In practice an excess of force is used on the draw and, within limits, length has little significant effect. Shorter weapons are more practical to wear if you have to spend anytime seated. Compact/subcompact automatics of 7"/180mm loa. or less are recommended. If you have to use a revolver, have a snub with a barrel of less than 3"/76mm. Big bore options for revolver shooters include .45 Long Colt, .45 ACP, .44 Spl and .45LC/.410.

The Point

If we are quick-drawing, it is because we need to put lead in a bad guy ASAP! Logically, this means we fire as soon as the muzzle is pointing at the target. For the cowboy shooters this is a fraction after the muzzle is clear of the holster. With a typical low-slung cowboy rig, this is literally shooting from the hip.
For a shoulder carry, your weapon may be as high as chest-level when it points at the target. For most modern belt holsters, the gun will first point at the target at between groin and chest-level. “Hip-shooting” should not be taken too literally.
If your gun reaches eye-level before you fire, you have waited too long!
To continue my example of a quick-draw from a strong-side holster: Once the muzzle is out of the holster, straighten your wrist while at the same time pushing your gun-hand forward onto your centre-line. This is a very simple action that can be made very smoothly, particularly if your body is relaxed. Draw and point are thus a simple lift and then push sequence.
Raising the gun out of the holster probably raised your shoulder. The action of dropping the shoulder helps push the gun towards the target.
Keep your trigger finger clear of the trigger until your gun points toward the target. If your weapon uses a safety, do not release your safety until beginning to point towards the target. If it is single-action, cock as the target comes before your muzzle.
The weapon is aimed by turning the hips to place the target on your centre-line.
A sighting laser can prove useful when dry-firing. Plastic or wax ammunition can also prove useful.
Half-Hip Firing Position
For purposes of illustration, the F&S “half-hip” firing position. F&S suggest this for ranges of three yards. Actual angle of the elbow will depend on factors such as physique and holster position. The elbow angle will probably be more obtuse, although a high draw may make it acute. The point to observe here is the weapon is on the centre-line and pointed at the target.
In fact, the actual firing position may look closer to the F&S “three-quarter” position. This was for a crouched position and used for targets at three or four yards. Like the half-hip position, the gun was fired while still below the eye-line.
Three-Quarter Firing Position

The Free Hand

As already mentioned, your free-hand might have an important role in making your fast-draw.
Whether you need your free-hand or not, you should practice drawing so that your free-arm does not in anyway hinder or obstruct the draw. Shooting your own fingers off is not good form!
The technique described here may be made as either a one-handed or two-handed technique. As the gun-hand is pushed towards the centre-line, the other hand comes inward and upward to intercept it and come into a two-handed grip. Assuming a two-handed grip should disengage the safety with the free-hand (“fumble insurance!”).


As soon as the weapon points at the target, fire.
Your handgun should have a double-action mode. A weapon without a manual safety, or that can safely be carried without this engaged should be selected. I have plenty of reverence for weapons like the Colt Government Model and Peacemaker, but when it comes to personal defence, and particularly quick-draw, your handgun should be as simple, straight-forward and least fiddly to operate as possible.
Through the entire drawing process your eyes should have been locked on your target, not your weapon. You should have adjusted your body to place the target on your centre-line. If your weapon has reached the centre-line and is pointing at the target, there is no reason to delay firing.
A standing human is taller than they are wide. If you have the aggressor on your centre-line, there is some margin for the elevation of your weapon. A first-round hit is very likely at the sort of ranges fast-draw would be used at. The pointing technique suggested tends to put the plane of the barrel parallel to the ground.
Accuracy and precision can be improved with practice, of course. A pair of silhouette targets, set up about six feet apart and eight feet away, is a good start. The Elmer Keith article had the useful suggestion that something like a tomato can laid on the earth was a good target for improvement. Missed shots were easily seen as impacts with the earth. Objects floating in bodies of water were also good targets.
As your accuracy increases, so too will the effective range of this technique.


Something I like about this particular system of quick-draw is that it nicely integrates with other fast-shooting techniques. Once the first shot is fired at half-hip or three-quarter position, the arm can continue to straighten and rise up to eye-level. If you are shooting using the basic F&S technique you fire as soon as the weapon reaches eye-level. If you have a shade more time you use your foresight like a shotgun bead and place it on the target. This is how you would use a reflex sight. If your fast first shot has brought you more time you can line up and use the iron sights.
Bringing the gun on to the centre-line may be fractionally slower than firing from over the hip. I think this is compensated for by the benefits this has to making accurate shot placement easier.

Selecting a Handgun

When choosing a handgun it is easy to be swamped in opinion. If you wish to be logical about your choice, there are several strategies that you can adopt.

Choice of Model

Hollywood, video games and even some writers often tell us one model of pistol has a superior performance to another, despite that in real life the two may use the same ammunition! The chambering of your handgun is probably the first aspect that you should consider. Once this decision is made, you can select a model based on size, mass, capacity, budget and other factors.
Ideally, you want an automatic pistol of about 7"/ 180mm overall length. As a primary weapon for concealed carry, you want a weapon of small bulk. As a secondary weapon for overt carry, a weapon of low weight is desirable, since you probably have a rifle or shotgun and enough other things to carry. Hence the recommended handgun is of compact/ sub-compact size.


If you are shooting someone in defence of your life, you want to make a big, deep hole in them. Yup, size does matter!
The optimal pistol round for this is the .45 ACP. The .45 ACP is compatible with a semi-automatic action, allowing for easy and fast reloading. There was a time when it was hard to find a .45 that was not a large, single-action weapon with a single-figure magazine capacity. Now we have a variety of compact and sub-compact double-action weapons, with useful magazine capacities. Thanks to US military aid, .45 ACP ammunition is reasonably easy to find in many parts of the world.
The standard load of the .45 is subsonic, making it a good choice for general military applications that may include the requirement for weapons to be suppressed. A .45 round that fails to mushroom will often make a wider wound channel than many 9mm and other medium-calibre rounds that do mushroom. .45s that do mushroom make very big wound channels.
The Textbook of Small Arms, 1929 notes:
“Rapidity of fire is an essential in pistol shooting, and though the double action of a revolver may well be ignored when it is considered as a target arm, it is of the highest importance when the pistol is considered from the active service point of view as a weapon…
“The value of the calibre of self-loading pistols and revolvers has been much obscured by theory, but practice of recent years has amply proved that small calibre plus high velocity, although developing many foot-pounds of energy, yet lacks stopping or shocking value. There have been many attempts to substitute a high-velocity cartridge of ·38 calibre, as a Service equivalent to the traditional ·455. In practice it has been found that the small calibre sometimes fails to stop its man and that the large-diameter leaden plug of the ·455, moving even 300 or 400 feet a second slower than the high-velocity, small-calibre projectile, is yet far more effective. Recent experiment has, however, developed a new experimental ·38 cartridge [.38/200 of 200gr] whose efficiency is, so far as ballistic tests can ascertain, not less than that of the ·455.
A hit with a ·455 anywhere literally [sic] knocks an adversary over. This quality of efficiency depends to some extent on the massive soft-lead bullet and the relatively low velocity rather than on any inherent magic in the calibre, for the ·455 or ·45 self-loading pistol firing a lighter nickel-covered bullet at a higher velocity cannot be depended on to produce equal shock effect.
The efficiency of the ·455 revolver cartridge is due to combination of the large calibre with the soft material, the mass, and the relatively low velocity of the projectile. These combine in such a way that the adversary experiences in his body the maximum development of shocking as distinct from penetrative effect. This is just what is wanted in an active service revolver. ”
It is interesting that nearly a hundred years later, this passage remains a good account of the issue, superior to many things written since. I am well aware some readers will get distracted by the semantics of some of the terminology used. Perhaps the most significant change since this was written has been the creation of jacketed hollow-point (JHP) ammunition that will feed reliably through an automatic. This has narrowed the gap in terminal effect between large-bore revolvers and self-loaders. Advances in bullet design intended to improve the performance of light, medium calibre, high-velocity bullets are even better applied to heavy, large-calibre rounds.


You may regard logistic considerations over effectiveness. The most common combat pistol round is the 9mm Luger, also known as the 9 x 19mm or 9mm Parabellum. This is the NATO standard pistol round, but its military and civilian use dates back to the 1900s. It was the round of the German, and other armies, for two world wars. The majority of sub-machine guns are chambered for this round. There are very few countries in the world where 9mm Luger cannot be found.
The medium-calibre 9 x 19mm is not as effective as the large bore .45, although many try to convince themselves it is. If you have very small hands, a 9mm model may offer a slimmer grip without compromising magazine size. Guns like the Berretta M9/92 are too big for roles other than as a primary overt weapon. As for 45s, a compact or sub-compact model is preferable.
In nations that have received Soviet or Chinese military aid, the 9mm Makarov round, aka 9 x 18mm, may be more readily found than the 9mm Luger. The 9mm Makarov is designed to be the most potent load that can be accommodated by a light, blowback-action pistol. Velocity and bullet weights are lower than the more powerful 9mm Luger. The 7.62 x 25mm round may also be common in countries that use Soviet or Chinese weapons. Most Soviet sub-machine guns, and their Chinese copies, are chambered in this round. In handguns, it is usually found in the TT33 Tokarev/ Type 51/ Type 54 and a few other Warsaw Pact designs, such as the Czech vz.52. Some of these weapons are still in use in certain parts of the world. The round is effectively identical to the 7.63mm Mauser round, so may be encountered in countries where the C96 Mauser “Broomhandle” was popular. The 7.63mm Mauser/ 7.62 x 25mm/ 7.62 Tokarev is a high-velocity round noted for its high penetration and flat trajectory. The small calibre creates a narrower wound channel than many other combat pistol rounds. W.E. Fairbairn was familiar with the round from his time with the Shanghai police. He suggested that the round was more effectively used if aimed at shoulder level, where the high-velocity round was most likely to shatter bones and create secondary missiles. This is fairly good advice for any pistol round.



The gun you have with you will always been more effective than the one you left at home because the latter was inconvenient to carry. There are some lightweight, low volume automatics in 9mm Luger. The 9mm Luger round requires a locked breech. Many smaller automatic pistols are simple, blowback weapons and therefore use cartridges other than the 9mm Luger. If you opt for a pocket automatic, the best choice is a weapon in either .380 ACP or 9mm Makarov. Pocket pistols in 9mm Makarov are fairly rare, but many duty weapons, like the Makarov PM/ Type 59, may be compact enough. A wider choice will be found in .380 ACP, also known as 9 x 17mm, 9mm Short or 9mm Kurtz. The .380 is slightly weaker than the 9 x 18m. Like the Makarov round, it is well suited to small, blowback pistols and is a better choice than smaller calibre options such as the 7.65mm/.32 ACP and 6.35mm/.25 ACP. Having less energy and momentum than a 9mm Luger or .45 ACP, hollow-point ammunition in .380 or 9 x18mm may be less reliable. 


Many small-frame models of revolver such as the Smith & Wesson J-frames and Colt Detective weigh under a pound, but only have five or six shots. Small medium-calibre revolvers in .38 Special, .357 Magnum and 9mm Luger are preferable to smaller-calibre weapons in .32 or .22. The 9mm Luger has the edge over the .38 in velocity, but the merit of revolver rounds is that they can use rounds that would not reliably feed through an automatic. The .38 and .357 cases can be loaded with wide-mouthed, soft, malleable, hollow-points, ideally of 200gr or more, that are likely to be more effective than any medium-calibre round an automatic can fire. If fired in an emergency from within a pocket, a pocket revolver has no slide to catch in the pocket lining. For similar reasons, models with concealed or internal hammers are preferable.

Special Purpose

.25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9 x 18mm and .45 ACP are all subsonic in standard loadings. The smaller rounds are sometimes preferred since they allow the use of a smaller weapon and suppressor.
Most .22 rounds are subsonic when fired from pistols, so are also suited to suppressed applications. .22 weapons are useful for target practice or for foraging. .22 revolvers often offer the option of switching between .22LR and .22 Magnum by exchanging cylinders. Some .22 revolvers can chamber more than six rounds.


Other than the exceptions already suggested, revolvers are not recommended. After more than a century of military service it is finally being accepted that claims that revolvers are more reliable than automatics are more theoretical than practical. Possibly, only in the instance of a misfire, does a revolver offer an advantage. This is offset by the greater ease in reloading and the usually larger ammunition capacities. For a given calibre, an automatic tends to be lighter and more compact than the equivalent revolver. You may be adept at quick wheel-gun reloads on the range, but under the stress of real combat it is better to keep dexterous actions as simple as possible.
Rounds such as the much hyped .40 S&W, .375 SIG and 10mm Auto are not recommended. These are all medium-calibre rounds, most loads trying to emulate the performance of the .357/125gr. Essentially just faster 9mm Luger. Unsurprisingly, performance is inferior to the .45. Logistically, ammunition in these chamberings may be difficult to find outside the US.
If a big deep hole is better, why the .45 ACP and not rounds such as the .44 Magnum or .50 AE you may ask? The answer is that we need control as well as power. For many shooters a quick follow-up shot with a .44 Magnum or similar may be difficult. No round can be guaranteed to always neutralize a threat first hit, or to always hit, for that matter. Another reason for using the .45 ACP is that most of the loads that exceed the .45 ACP in power are primarily revolver loads. For many reasons, not least its mass and bulk, the Desert Eagle is not recommended as a defence gun. The .45 Long Colt and .44 Special are more manageable, but usually found in revolvers, so the .45 ACP remains the best choice.
Both “Attack, Avoid, Survive” and “Survival Weapons” have advice on the use of firearms.