How to Carry an Extra Magazine

— William LawsonCADRE Dispatch

If you carry a firearm for self-defense, chances are you’ve at least considered carrying an extra magazine or two. Carrying an extra mag can be as simple as slipping it in your pocket, or you could have dedicated mag carriers.

Truthfully, choosing how to carry a spare mag, or whether to carry one at all, is a lot like choosing how to carry your handgun. So, here’s a look at the various possibilities, along with some gear, to help you choose.

Safariland shoulder holster magazine carrier
This Safariland shoulder holster has built-in mag carriers. (Author’s Photo)

Why Carry an Extra Magazine?

The easy answer to that question is that an extra mag gives you more available ammo if something bad goes down. Statistics tell us that the average gunfight won’t require a mag change, but you never know whether your situation will be average until you’re neck-deep in it. So, more ammo is never a bad idea.

Another reason for an extra mag is that mechanical objects sometimes fail. Firearms and magazines are more reliable today than ever before. But they can still fail.

The magazine is the most common failure point. Unlike quality firearms, magazines are commodities that eventually wear out. Springs and feed lips are especially vulnerable to wear and being knocked around. I always use newer mags in my carry guns, but even so, mags sometimes go down. A backup can save the day in a bad situation.

How to Carry an Extra Magazine

Magazine carry options break down into three broad categories: your pocket, in a holster or carrier, or off-body in a purse, pack, or even your vehicle. Let’s talk about each in turn.

extra magazine holster
Always insert your mags so the base plate faces up. (Author’s Photo)

Pocket Carry

Carrying a extra magazine in your pocket is the least ideal, yet perhaps most common method. I do it myself more than I like to admit. Pocket carry is better than nothing at all, but your deployment will be slow and inconsistent.

But I get it. I don’t really like carrying a spare mag on my belt. I recently discovered a company called NeoMag, which offers low-profile magnetic clips that hold your pocket-carried mag in place. I’ll be grabbing some.

Always do a couple of things, no matter how you pocket carry. First, I never have anything else in that pocket. I tried the flashlight and mag together, but it was too much. I couldn’t reliably grasp the mag without the light being in the way. My light does have a clip, so when I get the NeoMag clips that may work. We’ll see. If not, the mag will take priority.

Second, insert the mag rounds down and baseplate up. It’s easier to grasp and you can index it properly. Speaking of indexing, decide whether you want rounds facing the front or rear. You’ll see people tell you that one way or the other is the only way. Not true.

The best way is the one you train for and works best for you. But pick one, train for it, and do it. I go with rear-facing rounds because that conforms better to my natural motions, and how I run rifle and pistol mags from my battle belt.

extra magazine holster
Choose which way you want the rounds to face. Then train with it. This shooter has chosen for his rounds to face forward. Mine face the rear. (Author’s Photo)

Mag Carrier or Holster

Using a mag carrier or holster is the surest and most reliable way to carry extra mags. How you deploy those items depends on how you carry your firearm. Appendix carry provides the most flexibility. You can carry a separate mag carrier on your offside belt line. Many appendix holsters also offer an attached magazine caddy that’s easily accessed with your off hand. The Safariland Incog X is one of those.

I’m a bigger boy, so appendix carry is difficult for me. I do, however, sometimes use a bellyband holster with my Ruger Max 9. It has an extra mag carrier right next to the holster itself, so I guess that counts as my appendix carry.

I usually carry inside the waistband at 4 o’clock. That means my mag carrier can either be on the opposite side or the appendix. When I use a mag carrier, it rides at 4’oclock on the left side.

Quality shoulder holsters usually come with an opposite-side mag carrier, but you could also wear one on your belt. Up to you.

The Safariland IncogX holster includes an optional mag caddy.

Off Body Carry

I don’t love off-body carry, but there are times when it’s all you have. I sometimes use the concealed carry compartment in my Vertx Ready Pack for extra mags or even an extra gun, but I always try to view those as backups. I have enough holster options that I can always have a gun on my person if I want one, but staging extra magazines in the pack isn’t a bad idea.

I know ladies who carry their firearms and magazines in their purses. Not ideal, but I get it. Wardrobe restrictions sometimes don’t allow on-body carry. You do what you can.

I strongly suggest you get dedicated mag holsters for your purse or bag, just as you do for your sidearm. You won’t have time to fumble through your bag if you need a quick mag change. Same for you guys who carry European shoulder bags. Not judging or anything.

Vertx Ready Pack with extra magazines
I sometimes stash extra mags in my Vertx Ready Pack’s concealed carry compartment. (Author’s Photo)

Finally, staging extra mags in your vehicle makes a lot of sense. Vehicle carry is a topic for another article, but having some strategically stashed reloads never hurt anyone. These can be especially handy if you retreat to your vehicle in a bad situation.

Extra Mags? It’s Up to You

Only you can decide whether to carry an extra mag or three. It’s not a bad idea if you can do it effectively. Even if it’s just stashed in your pocket, a poorly carried extra magazine is better than no extra mag.

A properly carried magazine can be almost as important as a properly carried firearm. If you anticipate needing that spare mag, you should make the effort to deploy it properly. That includes training. Do yourself a favor and make proper magazine carry part of your system.

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