Concealed Carry

Why You Should EDC a Spare Magazine… or Two!

SIG P226 and Bag Filled with Magazines

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. 

S&W Shield Plus Magazines
You can often get different size magazines for the same pistol. Some will hold more, but will also print more.

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.” 

Carry Methods

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. 

Alien Gear Cloak Mag Carrier
The Alien Gear Cloak Mag Carrier is a great way to carry a spare.

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.  

S&W Shield Plus and 340PD on table
Instead of opting to carry a spare mag, you may decide to carry a spare gun. The New York reload.

Replacement Schedule

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. 

DeSantis Hidden Truth Appendix Holster
This DeSantis Hidden Truth appendix holster incorporates a section to carry a spare mag.

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. 

Final Thoughts

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? 

Do you carry a spare magazine? How/where? Let us know in the Comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (18)

  1. @Bo… yeah. I agree. A very good friend and my personal lawyer has been banned from the courthouse for carrying and pulling on a person that was mad at him and tried assaulting him. The Liberal DA and ADA and judge were appalled that he had a firearm.
    Seriously… WTF…. I worked as an LEO for years, was part of an attatchment of the 101st AB… I get that firefights happen… and they do indeed suck.
    But my friend/lawyer getting banned… nucking futs.
    I go hunting with this guy, trust him with no question… but him getting banned for pulling his weapon because the balliffs didn’t do their job?

    And yes, at one time I worked for this particular Sheriff’s Office… I left for a reason.

  2. @Bill, I have been telling what happen in a firefight for years, around 50 some, actually going all the way back to my overseas Army days, playing against people who were not very accepting of our presence in inhospitable places out in the boonies. Nobody want to hear the truth on that. So, let me ask; how many times have you been fired upon? How many times have you actually drawn a weapon to fire at another human being? Me, BT, DT a number of times. How many firefights have you been in as a police officer? When I was in the Army, a lot of things did happen, but I don’t remember anyone dropping anything but empty magazines, just saying. But, it has been a long time, I guess.

    Another thing, have you noticed how some DA’s in some parts of the country will go after seemingly law abiding citizens, who hold legal permits to carry when they are involved in a shooting? There have been cases where the DA will barely pay attention to known criminals accused of various crimes but will try to make an example of people who have crossed all the t’s, dotted all the I’s, but when they are involved in a shooting, the DA becomes tough on crime. It is not insulting to one’s intelligence to think there are people like that out there, it is called paying attention.

    Remember the recent NYC subway case? They are going after a veteran who was protecting other citizens after a bad guy was assaulting and threatening other people and the bad guy ended up dying. (Cue the tears) There were NYPD officers who were angry that the vet was charged. They had tried to get the bad guy off the street but the DA couldn’t be bothered until the bad guy died.

    Are you saying only idiots think that there are anti-gun DA’s who are looking for an excuse to nail a legally carrying citizen? That veteran was NOT carrying a weapon and he is being prosecuted while real criminals are being released back on the streets before the arresting officers are even finishing their paperwork. And there have been a number of others over the years in NYC where citizens who were legal found themselves facing charges by DA’s and losing almost everything in spite of being found not guilty by a jury of their peers. And the DA then claims to be anti-crime.

    Your statement shows a naiveté that is troublesome to think about in a peace officer with 20 years experience. I would guess you haven’t had a chance to see those kinds of scenarios, have you? Do you ever read the newspaper or look online for situations like that? Those things are happening all over the country, albeit mostly in the more gun-intolerant metro areas, but it happens too frequently

  3. When I was preparing to start carrying I researched all aspects of defensive shooting and determined that my minimum articulatable, comfortable, round count should be 12. I used this number when shopping for a carry gun and with my EDC. When I’m spending a lot time around home, like during covid, I carried a 6 rd. revolver and one speed loader. While I always will carry a gun, sometimes I’ll be going places where I feel I need extra protection. So, even though my CZ P-01 holds 14+1, that’s when I’ll add an extra mag in a horizontal mag carrier.
    I didn’t like the way vertical mag carriers fit my body, as most are made this way. So, I had horizontal mag carriers made by my holster maker for the guns that I might carry, so I always have the option. And I always train with the extra mag or speed loaders and do malfunction drills both with live fire and dry firing. I find this arrangement to work for me and pass legal muster, should I ever have to use my firearm.

  4. I always have spare mag I Carrie 1911 A1 in 45acp hope to never have to use it like that but I want it if I need it regardless of what some people say they are bad people out there I shoot everyday I shouldn’t need spare mag I don’t usually miss and it’s a 45 and the Government lets any body in this country now nobody know how many Bad people are hear now better safe the sorry

  5. I carry a Kimber Micro 9 with a six round mag, a spare mag is a necessity. So I carry an additional seven round mag.

  6. I think what a lot of you are missing here is the fact that in a firefight a lot can happen. Like accidentally dropping your magazine in the middle of the fight. If you don’t have at least one spare you’re out of the fight and most likely dead. One thing people seem to not understand is what happens to you if you are in such a situation. You lose all fine motor control and it’s easy to do things you would never do in a normal practice situation. Like accidentally dropping your magazine. Like the author stated if you have a malfunction and have to clear the gun you may very well need that spare magazine. In the dark, it may be impossible to locate it immediately if dropped to the ground. No one is suggesting here that you should be looking for a fight and that carrying an extra magazine makes it look like you’re looking for a fight. Only idiots think that carrying an extra magazine makes you look like you’re looking for a fight. And frankly, I find that supposition insulting. Having been a Peace Officer for 20 years I’ve seen a lot happen. And having at least one extra magazine is just common sense.

  7. I was a Boy Scout and believe in the motto: Be Prepared… However… at some point there’s overkill.

    Personally, I don’t carry a spare mag if I’m carrying my Shield Plus with 13 round mag of 9mm, or if I’ve got my SD40VE that holds 14 rounds of .40 S&W… and if I happen to be carrying my 6 shot snubby in .38 Spl… I feel that’s enough. I figure if that’s NOT enough then I really need to ask myself what dumba** thing did I do to get myself THIS screwed? De-escilation skills, people. The best fight you can be in is the one you can avoid.

    Play it cool… like Steve McQueen did as Josh Randal in Wanted:Dead or Alive… he’d avoid a fight if he could. Don’t blame him, either. Being shot and shooting someone are not fun things.
    If you can avoid it, you’re better off.

  8. I carry a double magazine holster which attaches in between my belt and my pants on my weak side. It is made by a company called Sticky Holsters available at Midway or Brownells. I have the double magazine holster. It is great because it holds both single and double stack magazines and because it’s held close to my body it doesn’t have a problem with printing as long as you are wearing a cover garment. Even with a loose fitting T-shirt or a shirt worn without tucking it into your pants it still doesn’t print very much or print at all.

  9. I’d like to see nationwide stats of how many rounds were used in a typical defensive situation. I just don’t know, but guessing one mag is enough in most situations. I get the whole, “better to have than not need it” statement, but how far you take that is completely subjective. I know some who think pistol carry/small caliber is limited and go for rifle rounds. More likely than not, the situation you encounter, if any at all, will not match what your imagination originally drummed up.

  10. Every pistol should have a minimum of THREE magazines that have been function tested (i.e. – Taken to the range and used several times) before being used as your EDC magazines. Good news is that current crop of magazines are superior to those made in the 70’s thru the 90’s. Likewise, one needs to clean their magazines often. So called “BAD” magazines also are great for range use, when practicing malfunction drills. Even had “BAD” magazines start working properly after using them at the range, and then giving them a good cleaning and lube. These were mainly so-called MIL Surplus 1911 magazines but did have factory fresh magazines that needed a good clean and lube as well.

  11. I’m guilty !!
    I carry a S&W 340pd with 2 speed loaders AND a Bond double barrel derringer.
    I live in the country but work nights in a Big city with a high crime rate.
    Very good article Alex !!

  12. If I lived in an area filled with vibrant diversity I would carry several spare mags and a full size hi-cap semiautomatic pistol.

  13. I strongly disagree with the author’s premise. If one researches the majority of civilian shootings that take place over the entire US, one will find that it is RARE that more than 6 rounds are fired by any of the involved individuals. That fact alone should give one pause to carry beyond what is in their weapon. Statistically speaking, in the US, there is no justification to carry multiple magazines while out in public, unless you are in law enforcement.

    Fifty years or so ago, when I was overseas, we were expected to carry multiple magazines when wandering in places where our reception might be less than cordial. But, in the US, for those expecting a protracted firefight with an assailant (or multiple assailants), I would caution you against that. Expecting to draw a weapon when one goes out, leads to poor decision making. I am bothered by those who almost lust for this kind of engagement. It is not as cool as you think it is, trust me. There needs to be as much planning to avoid a confrontation as there is planning for such an event.

    In some jurisdictions, charges can be filed if shots are fired because a DA could see someone carrying multiple magazines as looking for a fight. Even if you are found not guilty, the costs of navigating the legal system could cause you to lose everything, not to mention what will you do if the other party, or their survivors seeks legal redress in litigation.

    A case in point, for the doubters; in July of this year, Mark Kottka, 62, of Norman, Oklahoma had a conflict with another motorist and they both pulled over to discuss it. Mr. Kottka drew his weapon, shot, and killed the man. A witness saw the shooting, but didn’t see the other man strike Mr. Kottka as he has alleged. Mr. Kottka, presenting himself as the victim in this situation, freely admitted to police that he shot the other man ‘in self-defense’ after the other man struck him.

    He was arrested and is in jail with a multi-million dollar bail. He faces first degree murder charges because, rather than calling the police about an alleged infraction, he left his vehicle, while armed, to confront the other individual. He did NOTHING to de-escalate the situation! This should NOT have happened!

    Mr. Kottka had two active full-time Peace Officer licenses for almost 27 years, and an active firearms permit. He had been employed by Okla DOC since 1992. In Oklahoma, a Peace Officer can be a police officer, but doesn’t necessarily mean they are a member of a police force.

    It appears that Mr. Kottka left his vehicle to confront the other man about an alleged offense. When tempers flared, he killed the other man. His ego took over; he killed a man, and is now facing life in prison. The first course of action in any public conflict should always be de-escalation. Only when ALL other avenues have failed should lethal force be employed. Mr. Kottka should have known that and has no excuse for what he did.. I hold sympathy for his victim’s wife and children, but not for him.

  14. You should always carry a spare mag. If you don’t, when the ammunition in one mag is gone, so is your ability to defend yourself if you didn’t eliminate he threat with what ammunition you had in your only mag. Like the Boy Scouts – Be Prepared.

  15. Another good article. “Single-stack magazines tend to be easier to carry than double-stack mags because they are slimmer and lighter (all that ammunition adds up).” So true, and yet another point for 1911 fans. LOL. Not that I am advocating using a .22 for EDC, but just an FYI, PRO-Mag makes a 25 round for the Glock 44, that actually functions better than the Glock OEM, only negative is the last 5 rounds are hard on the finger tips on the magazine built in loading buttons being much smaller than the Glock OEM..

  16. I carry a Sig P938 and 2 spare mags, 1 in each front pocket. I practice at least once a week and use these 2 mags and keep them reloaded with fresh ammo to be sure no lent from my pocket gets in them that could cause a malfunction. I have been doing this for the last 12 years and have never had a malfunction. Enjoy your articles, keep up the good work. Bill

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