If you live in a high-risk environment, practice a risky business, or just want to be better prepared than any Boy Scout, resign yourself to adding four or five pounds of metal to your daily wardrobe and dressing up like the real professionals do. If you are none of the above, you still might find something of interest in this fashion show.

The fully outfitted professional carries three guns in three different categories at all times.

(1) Primary. This is the gun you are most familiar with, train with most frequently, and are prepared to use at less than a moment’s notice whenever and wherever you need to. Your Primary gun should be of a man-stopping caliber, .40 or above, and combat-accurate in your hands out to at least 25 yards. You carry it always, in a quickly accessible holster you are comfortable wearing all day long. A semiauto is a better choice for Primary than a revolver because of its greater magazine capacity and quick reloading capabilities, and you need to carry at least one extra magazine on your belt or the off-side of a shoulder holster rig. This is a lot of firepower and a lot of stopping power at hand.

(2) Backup. There are times when the fastest reload is another gun. Otherwise, your Backup is the gun you go for in the unlikely and unfortunate event that your Primary gun jams or fails to fire or is taken away from you. Your Backup should be accessible by either hand because sometimes the reason you lose your Primary weapon is because your strong hand suddenly has a bullet-hole through it. The Backup can be a smaller gun, semiauto or revolver, in a smaller caliber, like .38 Special or 9mm. Or your Backup may simply be a more compact version of your larger Primary gun, as in the case of the Glock 23/27 or the Government Model/Officer’s Model 1911. Some people wear a double shoulder holster rig with two identical guns, in which case you will need to designate one gun as your Primary and the other as your Backup and practice with them accordingly.

(3) Hideout. This gun is for last-ditch defense in dire emergencies. The Hideout is not chosen for its accuracy, even at medium-close distance, as it has primitive sights if it has any sights at all. It is intended for shots to the head at powder-burn range, where its small caliber, anything from .22 Magnum to .32 ACP, has a chance of being effective. The prime requirement of a Hideout gun is size. It must be small and shapely enough to hide in unlikely places on your body and may therefore not be immediately accessible, though a well designed pocket holster or over-the-underwear holster pretty much overcomes this potential problem.

Now, let’s be perfectly honest. Few civilians carry three guns. Those who do are totally committed to going armed, fully prepared for any imaginable eventuality, and undoubtedly spend a great deal of time training in the handling and shooting of all three weapons. My hat is off to them. Most people do not see the need to go so far, and if they live a normal life in a low-crime community they are probably right. Assuming you are only going to carry one gun, let’s look at the three categories again.

(1) Primary. If you only carry one gun, it is by definition your Primary weapon. Train and practice with it until you are confident that you can get it into action quickly and shoot accurately enough to consistently hit the center mass of a man-size target at close range. There’s an old adage that says “Beware the man who owns only one gun,” the idea being that if you only have one you are intimately familiar with it and know how to use it.

(2) Backup. The gun a professional may carry as a backup will usually work quite well as the Primary gun for a civilian. Smaller automatics and revolvers are easier to carry and conceal and have saved many lives over the years. They may not offer the tremendous firepower and stopping power of larger guns, but they are quite capable of getting the job done if you do your part.

(3) Hideout. These small guns are lethal, but may not have the power to immediately stop an aggressor unless a head shot is delivered. They are not meant to be carried as your only gun, but there’s another old adage that says, “any gun is better than no gun.” This is true, and Hideouts have often enough come to the rescue and saved a situation that would have been otherwise lost. If you’re a really lazy person and expect your life-saver to weigh in at a few ounces and fit easily into pocket or purse, to be perfectly frank, a Hideout gun is a thousand percent better than no gun at all.

Perhaps the best compromise a civilian can make is to choose two of the three categories. Primary and Backup is most effective. But if you just slip a little Hideout into a pocket or over-the-underwear holster to go along with your one regular carry gun, whatever you choose to call it, you’re adding a lot to the one-gun carry in terms of real-life capabilities as well as psychological reassurance.

You may never need to stand onapply the emergency brakes on your car, but it’s nice to know you can.