Why I Carry a Spare Magazine

My standard daily carry.

We’re back in our “Why” series today. This is a topic that I thought of when I first conceived this blog, and it’s been a topic of conversation lately. Between a training exercise a few weeks back and several interactions with friends, it seems carrying a spare magazine is one of those large question marks in the concealed (or open) carry community.

Differing Opinions

I listen to quite a few personal defense and shooting oriented podcasts. It’s always fascinating to me when I hear a well-known trainer or shooter talk about what they carry daily. A surprising number carry compact or sub-compact single stack 9mm guns with no spare magazine. That means they are carrying 6-8 rounds. Their rationale is simple; study the vast majority of civilian self-defense shootings and you see the round count is 3-4. By that metric, they are carrying double the number of rounds that are needed in most self-defense shootings. And I can respect that. This is especially true for highly trained shooters—they are very likely to get rounds on target the quickest, and typically, whoever lands rounds on target first wins.

At this point, you might be wondering why I would differ from that method of carry. After all, I’m not nearly as qualified as most of those guys are. Well, as I’ve stated over and over in these posts, these are my opinions and my methods. I don’t claim them to be better, it is just what I do. What I want to do is offer up my reasoning for carrying more than 6-8 rounds. I have four primary reasons along with several secondary.

Handguns are Poor Fight Stoppers

While it makes great click bait, all the debates, fights and discussions about whether .45 ACP is better than 9mm are really moot. In all actuality, all handgun rounds are at best marginally effective at stopping an attack. When people give up after being shot once, they do so most often because they have decided that being shot is uncomfortable and they’d rather not experience it again. Occasionally, a handgun will deliver an actual one-shot stop—which would be a hit in the central nervous system that shuts off the computer—but most times, it’s a psychological stop, not physiological.

In an old Western movie (the title of which escapes me), a man shows up at a party wearing his sixgun. The host asks him, “I see you’re wearing your sixgun. Are you expecting trouble?” The man answers, “No m’am. If I was expecting trouble, I would have brought my rifle.”  This summarizes why we carry handguns; they’re easier to carry than long guns. If you are expecting to get into a gun fight, bring a rifle and a bunch of extra magazines. And friends with rifles. But for going about your day, which is generally gunfight-free, a handgun works just fine.

Back to the topic of discussion, I carry a 16-round duty-size handgun because I recognize that handguns are poor fight stoppers. I carry a spare mag because I really like redundancy in my life. When I travel, I carry an external battery for my phone, even though I’ve rarely used it. Fully loaded my gun and holster weigh in at 38.6 oz. Adding the mag and carrier only adds 11.9 oz. to my load. It’s not that big a deal. And the OWB mag carrier is not at all uncomfortable—though it does occasionally turn on the flashlight I have in my pocket.

Multiple Attackers

One of the biggest reasons I carry a spare mag is a corollary to the one above—the possibility of multiple attackers. Knowing that a handgun is a poor fight stopper, and knowing that it is conceivable I may face an attack with multiple opponents, I have loaded up on the round count. This point was driven home a few weeks back at my local range’s monthly shoot.

The scenario we were faced with was this: You and your sweetie are going to a party. She’s already inside and you’re parking the car. As you’re walking up, you hear gunshots. Inside the house are multiple threats (I seem to recall there were 6-8 of them), a lot of non-threats and of course, your sweetie. Oh, and you only have 10 rounds. We had to move through the simulated house, using cover and put rounds on threats, while missing non-threats and get a least one headshot on the baddie who was holding our sweetie hostage. Thus, round management became very significant. Why did they set this up? To show us why carrying only 10 rounds may not be enough.

We’ll set aside the debate on whether you should enter a building by yourself when shots are fired for another time. It was interesting to hear the chatter among the shooters as we sized up the scenario. Almost everyone said, “Man, I wish we could use ore than 10 rounds…” And one of the RSO’s said, “That’s why we are doing this! Because most people don’t carry a reload, and we want to make you think about that.”

I of course argued, “But I do carry a spare mag… so can’t I use it?” I lost that one… So yes, 3-4 shots might end the attack—if you’re accosted by one guy. But if you have to fight your way through a house with multiple threats to save a loved one? I want as much ammo as I can get my hands on.

Active Killers

This is one of those hot-button topics. I don’t expect to ever be in an active killer attack situation. I tend to not frequent places and events that make excellent targets for such attacks. Not because I’m fearful, but because I just really don’t like large crowds. It’s not a fear thing, it’s just that I much prefer quiet and small groups. However, as I said in one of my first posts, Why I Carry, it’s not the probabilities, it’s the stakes. Should I ever find myself in an active killer situation, like the scenario above, I want as much ammo as I can carry. I may or may not be in a position to engage the killer(s), and I may or may not elect to do so. Still, if it ever happens, I want the option of extra rounds.

Another reason—and I’ll put it here—is the possibility of an attacker being cranked up on drugs. I watched body cam footage of a police officer shooting where the cop engaged a suspect after the suspect fired on him. The cop fired 36 total rounds at the guy—and not those wimpy 9mm rounds, either, these were the ultimate fight-stopper .45 ACP—and it was round 36 that finally ended the fight. If I recall, 17-18 rounds hit the suspect, and at least a half-dozen of the hits were considered “fatal.” However, because he was jacked up on PCP, he fought through those hits and continued firing on the officer. Round 36 hit the baddie in the head and finally shut him off. Looking down at his slide-locked gun, the officer swore he’d never experience that again. I believe he now carries some 117 rounds on his person. That’s over-kill for a civilian, but the concept remains. You just don’t know who you’re going up against and what condition they are in.

Must Have Balance

I admit that after I heard one of those well-respected trainers talk about carrying their little girlie M&P Shield and nothing more, I questioned my choice of a spare mag. After all, I do occasionally catch the mag carrier on door frames and furniture as I move through my house, maybe I really didn’t need it. 17 Rounds is probably enough, right?

I tried it, and in about 30 minutes, put the mag pouch back on. It was for a very simple, practical reason: Balance. When I had just the gun on my hip, my belt felt unbalanced and uncomfortable. Put the mag back on, and everything felt right with the world. I’ve also grown to like the slight amount of support I feel when I have the gun on one side and the mag on the other, all cinched up snug. You would think the extra weight would be a burden when I’m on my feet for eight hours, but it turns out, that extra support actually means less back pain. There’s an extra side-benefit of packing heat—reduced back pain.

So, there you go. Those are my primary (and some secondary) reasons for why I carry a spare mag. I am not dogmatic about this and don’t expect everyone to do likewise. This is simply what I do, and why. Stay safe out there!

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