Phone, keys, wallet, and hopefully your pistol… right? If we are dedicated to everyday carry (EDC), we have a list of items we never leave home without. A flashlight and knife are common additions with much utility. One item I would encourage more people to carry is a spare magazine.
Of course, this is only useful if you carry a semi-auto pistol. If you carry a revolver, speedstrips, speedloaders, and moon clips can provide similar benefits, but I’ll cover those in a separate article.
Carrying a Spare Mag
The most obvious reason for carrying a spare mag is for the extra ammo. Depending on the type of pistol you carry, this may be more or less of an incentive, but it is always advantageous. If you carry a mouse gun with around 6 rounds in the mag, this may be a requirement. If you carry a full-size, double-stack 9mm with upwards of 15+1 rounds on hand, you may feel like you’re already covered. Likely you are, but there are other reasons it’s good to carry a spare magazine.
Having a spare magazine is also great should you suffer a firearm malfunction. General malfunctions such as a double-feed or failure to eject can be quickly and easily cleared by dropping your mag and racking the slide. Unless you work to hold and maintain the magazine while manipulating your pistol, which requires more time and coordination, this leaves your mag on the ground. It’s much faster to simply eject, clear, and reinsert a fresh magazine. However, I will say there is a lot of value in retaining your original mag (and rounds) in case you need it later. It’s up to you to train and determine your proficiency level.
Additionally, your original magazine may incur some damage that causes it to no longer function. Whether it breaks while dropped or binds up with grit, this leaves you out of luck if you don’t carry a spare magazine. I’m reminded of the phrase: “Two is one, one is none.”
The major obstacle to carrying a spare magazine is balancing comfort and access. As we add more and more to our EDC loadout, things get heavier and tend to get left at home. Single-stack magazines tend to be easier to carry than double-stack mags because they are slimmer and lighter (all that ammunition adds up).
The simplest method of carrying a spare mag is just dropping it in your bag or pocket. However, this does not provide you with rapid access in the event of an emergency. You’ll likely be fishing around trying to retrieve your spare.
The solution is a magazine carrier. These are available in Kydex, leather, and synthetic materials with different clip and attachment options. One model features a sleeve with a pocket clip, similar to what’s found on many common folding knives. This is perfect for the pocket and keeps the magazine held in the same place for a repeatable draw. Other options ride on the belt, either inside or outside the waistband. These will feature a more sturdy belt clip or belt loops to hold them in place. Paddle style holders slide under the belt and are held in place by tension.
You can also select a holster with a built-in spare magazine carrier. This is common on appendix carry holsters and shoulder rigs. This makes it harder to forget and keeps everything contained into a single unit. Unfortunately, these tend to be a bit less discrete and may print more than other options, depending on your body type and wardrobe.
Factory vs. Aftermarket Mags
The type of magazines you buy also matters. Not all mags are the same, so don’t cheap out when it comes to choosing your mags. Perhaps you could if the mags were reserved for range use/malfunction training. Even then, I stick mainly to quality OEM or reputable manufacturers such as Magpul, MecGar, and Glock. MecGar makes OEM mags for Beretta, SIG, and many others. They’re just as good as most factory options, sometimes better when they have more capacity.
You may also choose to carry an extended mag as your backup. This will hold more ammunition but may be more cumbersome. If you can take the extra weight and bulk, this is a good option. Don’t get carried away, this can quickly become excessive with long stick mags and drum options. You’ll just end up leaving these at home, which defeats the point.
Magazines aren’t 100% disposable, but they are expendable — especially when you use them. A good magazine is designed to be used, maintained, and eventually replaced. It is important to get yourself on a replacement schedule to prevent malfunctions. They’re not the most fun thing to buy, but it’s like getting batteries for your devices, it’s a necessity.
There are differing thoughts around spring wear and what wears out magazines the most. From what I have seen and experienced, the most wear will come from the loading/unloading process while shooting. You may also get some wear when the magazine sits loaded with the spring compressed for a long period of time, but less so.
Shooters should have multiple magazines for their firearm. When considering a new purchase or looking through your current inventory, consider which firearms use the same magazines. This can save you money and allows you to use your mags across a number of different firearms. Glock mags are the most popular example of this, but there are a number of carbines that accept different pistol magazines. The KelTec SUB2000, S&W FPC, Ruger PC Carbine, and Kriss Vector are all great examples. This can provide you with a more comprehensive weapon system.
Whether you need it or not, carrying a spare mag is good insurance. In many ways, it echoes the reasons we carry a firearm in the first place. It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. And with all of these reasons to pack a spare load, why not?