If you carry a semi-automatic pistol concealed or openly for self-defense, you may have asked, “Should I carry extra ammunition?”
Keeping additional loaded magazines in the glove compartment or center console of your vehicle is a good idea, but those magazines are not immediately available to you in a fight.
For that reason, many gun owners carry one or two additional magazines in pouches on their belt or inside their pocket.
What are Mag Carriers?
A mag carrier, also known as a magazine holster, is a pouch designed to hold a spare magazine for your self-defense firearm. Mag carriers typically attach to the belt on your non-dominant side.
When your weapon is empty, you’ll depress the magazine catch with your strong-hand thumb or index finger — depending on the design — as you retrieve a spare magazine with your support hand.
Is a Magazine the Same as a Clip?
Two terms that are commonly confused in the firearms community are “magazine” and “clip.” A magazine is designed to hold cartridges under spring pressure in preparation for loading into the chamber.
When the slide of your pistol strips a round from the magazine, the feeding spring raises the follower and the next round into alignment with the barrel.
A clip is designed to hold several cartridges in the proper sequence for loading into a magazine. Instead of manually loading one round at a time, you can strip 5 or 10 rounds off the clip and into the magazine in one continuous downward movement.
Do You Need a Magazine Carrier?
Throughout history, those who carried guns for a living would typically carry spare ammunition, whether loosely, in belt loops, bandoliers, or pouches. Shootings are unpredictable — you can never know for certain how many rounds you’ll need to stop or repel an armed assailant. Practical training and regular range practice can increase your hit probability under stress, but it’s not always a question of accuracy.
Modern semi-automatic combat handguns provide ample firepower for most self-defense scenarios. The popular Glock 19, for example, has a standard magazine capacity of 15 rounds. In a gunfight, especially if the assailant is wearing body armor or there are multiple threats, even 15 rounds may prove insufficient.
Subcompact handguns designed for concealed carry may hold as few as 6 rounds of .380 ACP or 9mm ammunition (plus one in the chamber). For some gun owners, that kind of capacity doesn’t inspire much confidence.
But why can’t you simply carry an extra magazine inside a pocket? If you need to reload because your first magazine was not enough to stop or deter one or more criminal attackers, you don’t need the fabric of your pants or jacket snagging on a spare as you attempt to withdraw it.
Magazine carriers provide a secure and accessible way of carrying an extra magazine that remains in one place on your gun belt.
Whether you should carry spare ammunition is, of course, your decision. If you don’t feel that an extra mag is necessary for your self-defense weapon, that’s up to you. Only you can decide that, as you have more insight into your risks and capabilities.
How Many Magazines Should I Carry?
If you decide to carry extra ammo, the number of magazines you carry depends on your weapon’s standard capacity and what threats you’re preparing to face.
You’ll also need to consider the weight, how the extra mags affect your clothing choices, and how comfortably you can withdraw them after the first or second.
The Importance of Training
Training to hit your intended target under real-world conditions is essential. You must be able to place your shots accurately even when your heart is pounding, and you’re breathing heavily.
Shooting moving targets, shooting from cover, and force-on-force training are more practical than shooting at a stationary target on a traditional firing range. However, you should also incorporate reloading drills into your training regimen to develop the necessary muscle memory to make that action automatic when it counts.
Carry Two Guns
The practice of switching to a secondary firearm when your primary weapon is empty is called a “New York reload.”
Carrying another handgun can serve as a supplement to carrying additional magazines.
If your handgun is damaged or malfunctions in a fight, and you’re unable to clear it, having a backup gun can be lifesaving. As with reloading, you’ll need to practice this technique for the best results.
How to Select a Magazine Carrier
Whether you carry OWB (outside the waistband) or IWB (inside the waistband), you should select the type of magazine carrier that corresponds to your choice of holster. For concealed carry, an IWB mag carrier is the most discreet option, but there are several points that you should consider when searching for:
As with the holster for your sidearm, your mag carrier should provide sufficient retention to hold your magazine securely until you need to retrieve it. Open-top passive-retention mag carriers that use friction are simple and easy to use.
Unlike a firearm holster, there’s less risk of a criminal trying to steal your magazines in a fight, so a locking mechanism isn’t as necessary. When you attempt to retrieve a spare magazine to reload your weapon, having to open a fastener can complicate the process.
For the most comfortable fit, your mag carrier should be adjustable in several ways. First, there’s retention adjustment. Do you want to loosen or tighten the fit between the carrier and the magazine? Turn the retention screws until you find the right level for you. Second, there’s cant — the angle at which you carry the pouch on your belt.
You may need to adjust the cant for both accessibility and concealment, experimenting with different positions.
Kydex is one of the most common materials used in the construction of mag carriers because it’s lightweight, resistant to abrasion and moisture, rigid, and retains its shape. Holster manufacturers mold Kydex mag carriers to fit specific magazines snugly.
Your magazine holster should be as concealable as your gun holster. It should not add unnecessary bulk to the weapon or cause printing. A thin, contoured design should minimize exposure while preserving the function of the pouch.
We Carry the Best Magazine and Firearm Holsters
We manufacture mag carriers for both single and double-stack magazines in several major makes and models. Check out our products, proudly made in Las Vegas, United States, to find the best mag carrier and holster for your self-defense needs.