Gun magazines are available in both single stack and double stack. The difference between a single stack magazine and a double stack magazine is the size of the magazine itself and the number of bullets the magazine carries. Single stack mags typically have ammo loaded in a single line and double stack mags typically have the ammo tightly packed in a zigzag two-line pattern.
Choosing a single stack or a double stack mag is partially based on the preference - is a smaller firearm more important or is a higher ammo count more important? Additionally, taking into account concealability, weight, size, ammo count, etc., deciding between a single stack vs a double stack mag is not exactly straightforward.
Magazine vs. Clip
One thing to note - “magazines” are frequently confused with “clips”, but there is a difference in the terms mags vs. clips. A magazine has a spring action that automatically moves a new cartridge into the gun’s chamber with each shot fired. A clip, however, does not have a spring action. It cannot feed cartridges into the chamber of the weapon; it can, however, feed the mag.
Single Stack Pros
If you are looking for a compact concealed carry weapon (CCW), the slimmer design on a single stack mag would allow you to choose a smaller gun. A slim, compact gun is ideal for those carrying in a handbag or carrying in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. The smaller the gun, the less chance there will be printing, which is when the gun’s outline is visible through clothing.
Less likely to jam
Not surprisingly, a straight line of cartridges leaves less room for error when feeding the chamber. Single stack mag users report fewer issues with jamming than when they use double-stack mags.
More customization options
A thin grip is easily accessible for smaller hands, but it can also be sized up with attachments for larger hands.
Single Stack Cons
Fewer cartridges per mag
Getting to the obvious – a single stack inevitably means you cannot carry as many rounds as a double stack. Single stack mags typically hold 6 to 10 rounds whereas their double stack counterparts typically carry nearly double that amount. Every second counts in a defensive encounter. Having to reload with a new mag is suboptimal, to say the least.
Statistically, however, home encounters are over almost as soon as they begin. They happen at close range, and (most) will not require a reload.
Pistols with single stack mags are known to have a stronger recoil, making the gun hoppy and compromising accuracy. One thing to consider is how different calibers affect recoil. The Glock 43 (a single stack 9mm) and the M&P Shield (a single stack available in both 9mm and .40 caliber) are both popular concealed carry options. The .40 caliber will undoubtedly have a bigger recoil. Higher caliber bullets have more mass and require more gunpowder to fire, causing a bigger explosion.
Double Stack Pros
More cartridges per mag
Since a double stack mag has more cartridges, some feel it is unnecessary to carry an extra mag for reloading. Others still carry a spare just in case the first has a catastrophic failure, keeping in line with the mantra that ‘one is none, and two is one’. Double stack mags typically hold 10 to 20 rounds. Whether you carry the extra mag or not, you will still have double the ammo of a single stack. A double stack grants you the time advantage of avoiding or prolonging the need for a reload.
From a structural standpoint, double stack mags have more matter and density to absorb recoil With less recoil, the aim is typically improved as well.
Double Stack Cons
A double-stack requires a slightly wider and heavier gun. For a concealed carriers, this increases the chance of printing. It could also be less comfortable for the person wearing the holster, particularly if they prefer to appendix carry. Appendix carry is when a holster is positioned on the front of the wearer near the appendix. The reason for appendix carry is that it’s easy to reach, even when seated.
The concealability factor could be a non-issue for those wearing loose, baggy clothing. Additionally, if you’re using a holster claw, potential printing would be significantly lessened.
Higher potential for jamming
More moving parts leave more room for error. With two diagonal rows of cartridges resting against an angled follower, though infrequent, jamming is much more common on a double-stack magazine vs. a single-stack magazine.
The wide grip of a double stack cannot be reduced for comfort or ease of use. Polymer frames, however, do not require a large outer grip, which partially alleviates this issue.
The Right Fit for You
If you have average or small hands and want to pocket carry, opt for a slim single stack like the S&W M&P Bodyguard. At a dainty 0.75” wide and 12.3 oz (unloaded), its 6 + 1 capacity would suffice in most self-defense situations. Perhaps concealment is not an issue, and your hands are on the larger side. The sky is the limit. You could carry 30 rounds in a double stack mag with the Kel-Tech PMR 30™ at a width of 1.3” and a loaded weight of 19.3 oz.
Ask several questions to help narrow down your needs:
- Am I looking for a firearm for occasional personal use, frequent personal use, or professional use?
- Will I open carry or concealed carry, and what are the laws in my state?
- Will I carry this gun inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband (OWB)?
- Will a gun with this mag have ammo and/or accessories compatible with my other firearms?
- What kind of attire will I be wearing, and does it change seasonally?
Making a Decision
Deciding between a single stack mag or double stack mag involves a combination of factors. If your unique needs are not jumping off the page yet, you may be looking for the best of both worlds, something versatile and compact with higher capacity. A Glock 26 has a double stack mag. It holds 10 + 1 at just 1.26” wide and 25.75 oz loaded weight. Another popular compromise is the SIG Sauer P365, also with a double stack mag. It is a micro-compact that holds 10 + 1 at 1.06” wide and 23.6 oz loaded weight.
If possible, always hold the gun and try it out at the range before deciding to purchase it. When doing your research to compare guns and mags, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. This means factoring in whether the mag is empty or loaded in weight comparisons. The best fit for you is one that is both comfortable and practical in your life.
At We The People Holsters, we know how important it is to have the right to a solid self-defense weapon and we fully support your Second Amendment rights. Check out our extensive line of American-made holsters and mag carriers to compliment your gun choice - whether it ends up being a single stack or a double stack.