When it comes to concealed carry, there are generally only two schools of thought about carrying an extra magazine. One side is against carrying a spare mag, while the other vehemently opposes the idea of carrying a concealed handgun without one. So should you be carrying an extra magazine? To be prepared, one option is to carry an extra magazine. In the event of a mechanical failure, it is better to have to cycle your handgun than to be without a means of self-defense. There are various options for carrying a backup magazine including holsters with built in mag holder, concealed carry clothing with extra pockets, and mag pouches.
First, let’s discuss the legality of carrying an extra magazine. There are several states that impose restrictions on the number of rounds a magazine can hold — magazine capacity. However, these states do not restrict an individual licensed to carry a concealed firearm from carrying an extra magazine (or multiple mags) provided they adhere to magazine capacity restrictions.
Should You Be Carrying A Spare Mag In Your Kit?
Data about the number of rounds fired is limited. However, for the purposes of this article I’ll be using FBI statistics on Law enforcement officers killed and assaulted (LEOKA) to make my case. According to data, officers fired 11.5 rounds total on average during altercations where an officer was injured or killed in 2018. Officers are trained professionals, but despite this fact, the number of rounds fired by law enforcement exceeded the capacity of many common concealed carry pistol models!
Benefits Of Carrying A Spare Magazine
Extra magazines are like spare tires. It’s far better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it. Having a spare magazine cuts down on the chances that your firearm will be rendered inoperable in an emergency situation. Any failure to feed or other magazine related malfunction can be averted by swapping the magazine with your spare.
Another reason to carry an extra magazine is to prevent you from running out of ammunition. However, given the data above, this scenario is far less likely than a malfunction. Depending on the model of pistol you carry and the magazine setup, the number of rounds in your pistol will vary. So long as your magazine is capable of holding 12 rounds, you’re unlikely to need an extra magazine because you ran out of ammunition.
Cons Of Carrying An Extra Mag
If you’re going to be carrying an extra magazine, you’ll need to have it quickly accessible. However, to accomplish this, you’ll need to find a holster or magazine holster to carry that extra magazine. Furthermore, you’ll also need to train yourself to be able to cycle your mags. A good exercise for this is the FAST drill (Fundamentals, Accuracy & Speed Test) which requires a reload as an integral part of the exercise.
Another hurdle you must overcome is how to carry an extra mag comfortably. Ideally, you will also conceal your extra magazine as well. Much of this decision comes down to personal preference on material, style, and capacity. While I can’t specify which style is best for your needs, I highly recommend checking out this list of the best magazine holsters.
How Many Magazines Should I Carry?
Trying to lock down what each individual officer carries on their duty belt is near impossible. However, I did conduct a survey of some folks I know in law enforcement to gauge how many extra mags they carried while on duty. From my research, officers carry between 1-3 extra magazines while on duty, which does not include the magazine in their handgun. However, this number varies from officer to officer. But, none of the sources I interviewed claimed to carry less than one extra magazine.
One source I interviewed was an MP (military police officer) and he carried one extra mag. His pistol was an M9 with a double stack mag configuration. He mentioned that this was pretty standard. However, he also mentioned that the number of extra magazines an MP carries will vary from post to post.
Another source I interviewed is a law enforcement officer for the civilian population. The number of magazines he carries is dependent upon his uniform. He carries three extra pistol magazines (double stack) on his duty belt. However, when wearing his tactical vest, that number drops to two. Both of these scenarios are for when he is on duty. While off duty he does not carry a spare magazine.
Contrary to my personal beliefs, my law enforcement contact finds an extra mag unnecessary for civilian concealed carry. Because fine motor skills degrade under stress, he believes many would be incapable of reloading their pistol. He did mention that those with prior military or law enforcement experience may benefit from carrying an extra magazine.
Best Ways To Carry An Extra Magazine Concealed
There are several different locations to carry a spare magazine to keep it concealed. Depending on where you keep the magazine will dictate the type of mag pouch or mag holster you use. The best way to conceal an extra mag is either inside the waistband or inside a pocket. Other options for concealing an extra magazine include ankle holsters, concealed carry apparel with extra pockets, or outside the waistband mag pouches.
IWB Magazine Holsters
For those of you with an IWB pistol holster, you know that a portion of your gun is exposed above the belt line. An IWB magazine holster is no exception, as the bottom plate on your magazine will extend vertically above the waistline on your pants. Finding a true tuckable mag pouch is difficult, so your best bet is to conceal your extra mag with an untucked shirt, or jacket.
Pros: Doesn’t use up pocket space, easy to access your extra mag, easy to conceal
Cons: Requires proper pant fitment to accommodate pistol and mag holster
Pocket Carry Spare Magazine
Another efficient way to carry a spare mag is by tucking it into your pocket. I would recommend you use something like the Tulster Neo Mag (on Amazon), to reliably unholster your extra magazine. Unfortunately, with many people carrying their cellphone, keys, wallet, and more in their pockets, finding space for a fully loaded magazine can prove troublesome.
Pros: Easily concealable, minimalist holster designs to save space
Cons: Takes up pocket space, mag tends catch or hang up in pocket without proper mag holster
OWB Mag Pouches and Holsters
Carrying your extra magazine using an OWB magazine holster makes access a breeze. However, it’s not exactly easy to conceal. Some may mistake the mag pouch for a cell phone case, but that is not always the case. A sturdy belt is often required to hold the weight of a fully loaded pistol and spare magazine.
Pros: Easier to unholster spare mag, comfort — no need to adjust pant sizing
Cons: Not easily concealed, usually requires EDC belt capable of handling weight
Ankle Magazine Holsters
Ankle holsters are another great way to carry a spare magazine, because it is out of the way and easily concealed. However, it is more difficult to access your extra mag in the event you need to cycle your firearm. Be sure to train using this method if it is your primary way to carry an extra magazine.
Pros: Comfort, easily concealable, free up space on waistline/pockets
Cons: Awkward to reload and requires practice, additional time required when cycling mags
I won’t tell you it is absolutely necessary to carry an extra magazine as part of your EDC kit. However, it seems to me that the burden of carrying a spare mag is worth the hassle. Additionally, with proper fitment and some forethought, finding a suitable mag holster is both easy and worth the extra few dollars. Do you have a strong opinion one way or the other? Share your thoughts and experiences with readers.