Extra Ammo

Some wiseguy said this:

“I still don’t get the fascination for high-capacity mags in a non-military / non-law enforcement scenario. I mean, seriously: if the average gunfight is pretty much over, one way or another after three rounds have been fired, the remaining dozen in your double-stack mag are superfluous.”

That was in response to Tami Keel’s article about the low-capacity drawback of the 1911 as a carry piece.

But lo and behold, she’s just come out with a new piece which agrees with me, sorta:

Let’s get this out in the open: You can count the number of private-citizen defensive gun uses in the U.S. when a rapid reload made the difference between a dead good guy and a live one without taking off both mittens.
Reloading a handgun mid-gunfight, outside of a military or law enforcement context is pretty unlikely. Although he’s talking about carbines rather than pistols, a great quote from trainer Randy Harris springs to mind: “If you empty one 30-round mag in civilian-world USA, you’re going to be on the news … if you empty two, you’re going to be in the encyclopedia …”
Another trainer, Claude Werner, studies the reports of private-citizen defensive gun uses as collected in sources like the NRA’s Armed Citizen column. Over time, he’s found the average number of rounds needed in these encounters is low. One month, May of 2017, the average round count across seven reported gunfights was only 1.43 rounds per incident. That’s not a lot. Unless you find yourself caught up in the middle of an action-movie shootout, you’re highly unlikely to need that reload.

And of course, we both agree that having a spare mag is nevertheless A Good Thing should the one in the gun malfunction: the “drop [the mag], clear [the gun], reload” mantra is repeated endlessly in training, with good reason. (I myself generally carry two spare 8-round 1911 mags, by the way, because terrorist assholes / spree shooter possibilities and for another reason that I’ll discuss below.)

But I love the pic which accompanies her Recoil piece:

I think I saw that guy at the range a couple weeks back.

I know all the arguments for carrying spare mags but there’s only one sound reason I do, and it’s not because I’m likely to face off suddenly with a dozen rabid coyotes or the Plano chapter of MS-13, either; it’s just in case my hitherto-infallible PowerMag becomes suddenly fallible. Everything breaks, sooner or later.

And let’s be honest: the aforementioned terrorism / spree shooter thing is probably even less likely to happen to me than a mag breakdown. Any of these scenarios may be unlikely, but experience also tells me that most of the time, you don’t need a fire extinguisher in your car; but when you do need it, you need it really badly. Ditto ammo, hence my 16 spare rounds. I’m just not going to carry around a hundred spare rounds in ten 10-rounders — it’s heavy and spoils the look of my trousers. (Yeah, that’s me: Mr. Fashion Plate lol.)

Of course, the one qualifier to all this is geography. If your business trip takes you to or through unsavory neighborhoods full of gangs and similar goblins, why then, take as much ammo as doesn’t cause your trousers to fall down, with my blessing. There’s no need to be stupid about this issue, after all.

As with all things, your opinion may differ from mine (and in this case from Tami’s too), and that’s fine. Just don’t think you’re somehow deficient if you’re the only guy at the picnic who’s not bow-legged because of an overloaded ammo belt.


  1. If I were to carry my two pistols at the same time, with all of the magazines I own, the cost of replenishing the ammo after the gunfight would be a serious consideration. “Do I want to kill that guy, or do I want to be able to pay my utilities this month?”

  2. “,,, take as much ammo as doesn’t cause your trousers to fall down…”
    Non-combat suspenders!

  3. One or two magazines carried on you. In the car? 3-4 more. That’s your just in case. Oh, and having a rifle and pistol in the same caliber isn’t bad either.

  4. It all depends on what you are doing and where you are doing it. I normally carry the one magazine full (7 rounds). The chances that I will need more than that in the very low crime areas I frequent are astronomically low. I have two spares I keep in the truck, if I am going to a more iffy area (or fishing, hiking, or some other away from civilization activity) I take them too.

    The thing is, in civilian/non-police land, the mode (AKA the most commonly seen number, regardless of the average/median) number of rounds fired in a defensive situation is zero. True to form, the one time I have grabbed my pistol in a defense situation (in that case home defense) the miscreant fled when he saw me. That is typical.

    Now running around A-stan and such I carried 210 rounds of 5.55 and another 60 rounds of 9mm. But that is a horse of a different color.

    There has been discussions at church of having the ushers armed (or some subset of them). If that comes to pass, I would most likely change my carry piece for that activity to something with a higher capacity and also carry several spare magazines.

    Why? Because even though the chances of needing to use them would be very low, if it did become necessary it would be in an active shooter situation which is very different from dealing with some punk who is looking for an easy mark.

    To avoid a criminal is typically just a matter of not being an easy mark (a negative goal, to put it in Clausewitzen terms), to stop an active shooter requires taking down someone who is already engaged in an activity (a positive goal requiring action to that end). That action is inherently more risky with more variables – therefore one needs to be prepared for more and if the case came to it, to do it.

    1. The day the Rodney King riots started, I was living in Los Angeles, and had spent most of the day at a local range (Angeles Range) which, coincidentally, was not far from where Mr. King had his encounter with LA’s finest.

      Having a GREAT day at the range, with most all of my rifles and shotguns, and all my handguns, I’d spent at least 5 or 6 hours there, had lunch, and pretty well shot up all the ammo I’d brought (I had more at home).

      So, as the sun stared sinking in the west, I packed up and headed home. Turning on the radio, I discovered that most of LA was in flames, undergoing urban renewal and politic discourse.

      And there I was, with a couple of dozen firearms and not a fraking round of ammo.

      Since that day, I’ve carried an ammo box (now a plastic one, they make less noise) filled with an assortment of ammo in the box – rifle, shotgun, pistol, in different calibers that I own. Never again will I be out of ammo… In fact, at any range but the one outside my backyard, I bring enough ammo to reload all my mags, before I go home.

      BTW, in A’stan when I went outside the wire, we had 12 mags on our person (loaded), ammo to reload them in our rucks, and the vehicle floors were loaded with more canned ammo…. Once, we got ambushed and were damned glad of it, too.

      1. Years ago, I read a blog comment detailing basically the same thing. Writer had to cross the whole LA area to get home, with a car full of empty guns. Shooting somewhere in the Angeles forest.

        Since hearing about the MO of the FBI Miami killers (’86?) getting their guns from target shooters that had shot all their ammo, I always keep a reserve of ammo (loaded mag or gun) when target shooting.

        I had a deputy suggest that any time a gun is transported, one should also bring matching ammo along, just in case.

        Bit exciting to draw an auto while running, only to hear the mag hit the pavement. A left-hander is more likely to have the mag release tripped by bumping into objects, as the button is outboard for us. This may not be noticed until the mag is pointed at the ground, and that nasty gravity gets an assist from g-forces. One really appreciates spare mags then!

        On several other occasions, I have discovered the mag release tripped on a holstered gun. Became a habit to check for this, when it could be done discretely.

  5. Umm… surely the reason for a civilian to carry a spare magazine is the same reason you carry a spare SD card for your dashcam? Just because you’ve survived one incident doesn’t mean that there won’t be another five minutes later. So you take out the used magazine / SD card and put in the unused one. With SD cards it means that your video evidence won’t get overwritten so you can surrender it to the police – after having taken a copy.

  6. Our training officer used to quote FIB statistics that something like an average of 2.6 rounds were fired in a shooting. How one fires .6 of a round escapes me but the odds of ever being involved in a shooting was remarkably low and the odds of ever needing the spare magazine even lower…but there were always exceptions. Better to lug the weight around and never use it than need it and not have it.

  7. A long time ago, in CCW License School, the quote was The Law of Two-and-a-Half: “The average gunfight takes place in 2.5 seconds, over 2.5 meters, with 2.5 rounds fired.”

    Me, I carry two spare 12-round mags of 9mm Makarov because the goblin(s) might not be impressed with my caliber choice. Also, I’m of the opinion that the only time you have too much ammunition is when you’re trying to swim with it or your house is on fire.

  8. J frame speedloaders are hardly wider than a standard double-stack mag.

    Even carrying one such, certainly brings that extra bit of assurance that one is properly attired when leaving the house.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  9. Kind of like insurance, you hope you have enough when you need it and you hope you never need it. How much is enough and how much is too much, you will never know until you need it. I tend to have enough and maybe a bit extra and I was out on the local range today talking to a buddy wondering why I have so many magazines and he told me that it is kind of a puzzlement but we might need them someday so we have them. 2nd Amendment, exercising everyday.

  10. For that matter, I don’t think I am ever going to need a gun either. But I carry one in case I am wrong. Same with extra mags. Compared to a pistol the hassle of carrying an extra mag is minimal.

  11. I carry two 17 round M&P mags to help balance out the weight of the full size, X300U light equipped M&P that usually rides on the other side of the belt.

    Yes, having 52 rounds of 9mm on my body can get heavy, but good holster and pouches make it mostly transparent, and one never knows when one will have to suppress by fire so he or she, or one of his wing men, can flank someone.

    It is only a matter of time until Mumbai 2008 comes here.

  12. Redundancy, redundancy, always redundancy.

    PS: Unknownsailor, if anyone asks, just say it’s just part of your weight training program and helps burn off a few calories.

  13. Back in the day (here we go again) when I started out as a deputy I carried a Smith 686 and two speed loader reloads for a total of 18 rounds. I really didn’t feel that I was poorly armed . Today things have changed a bit and my duty pistol is a Springfield XD9 with two spare magazines for a total of 49 rounds (16×3 plus one in the chamber). Will I ever need that many rounds? Probably not but the high sheriff says that I’ll carry two spare magazines. Off duty I carry two reloads for my pistol – either two speed loaders for my snubby wheel gun or two magazines. Not much for my Ruger LCP .380 church gun and maybe a bit more authority for the Kimber Ultra Carry .45. I’ve always done the “two reloads” routine because that was what I was taught.

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