One Magazine is Rarely Enough

posted on October 12, 2018

Some days, I think I’ve been at this too long. And then I get to offer an opinion. Suddenly, life is good again. The question comes up repeatedly, as if it hasn’t’ already been answered: “Should I be carrying a spare magazine?” My first response is usually along the lines of “Does the sun come up in the East?” Of course you should.

The two main objections to spare mags (or reloads for revolvers) are; “It takes up more space/is uncomfortable” and “The average gunfight takes [fill in the blank] rounds.”

The reply to the first one is easy: If you have gone to the trouble of packing a firearm for every-day carry (EDC) then what’s a magazine? You’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. Why not have a spare? And given the nature of modern America, I find it difficult to believe that we have so many people lacking belt space that they can’t find room for a magazine.

As far as the comfort part of the equation is concerned, that is also part of the EDC selection. If you have found a handgun and holster (You are using a holster, aren’t you? If not, consider your “man card” negated, and get a holster before the rest of us find out how manifestly unsafe you have been for far too long.) then finding a comfortable magazine carrier is a snap. In fact, you can easily find a magazine carrier so comfortable that you’ve forgotten you had it on it when the time comes to go into a sterile environment. Do the self-frisking before you step into the courthouse foyer.

Now, about the “average” gunfight. Simple: there is no average. There is simply the fight you find yourself in. Long ago I looked into the shooting incident averages, and I found an interesting bit of info. Now, this was a couple of decades ago, when the New York Police Department still published SOP 9 reports, and you could obtain a copy. The average number of rounds fired per incident included suicides, animal control, accidental discharges, everything. If you sorted out all those, and just used the actual shooting incidents, you’d suddenly find yourself understanding the tactical term of art back then called the “New York Reload” (NYR).

Back at a time before speedloaders, NYPD officers commonly carried a second, third or even fourth revolver. “Reloading” was to simply drop the now-empty revolver, and draw the next one up in order.

Actual shooting incidents often involved a NYR, that is, more than five or six shots.

So, we have to assume that your EDC is not going to include an accidental discharge, animal control or a suicide. Carry a spare magazine.

“But, am I really going to need a reload?” Careful there, sport. If you go using statistics to determine EDC choices, you won’t pack a gun, because you won’t, statistically, need it. You’ve chosen to be responsible, so be responsible.

Then there are malfunctions. If your handgun breaks, well, you are done, unless you have a spare. Magazines, however, fail at a greater rate than handguns do. If your magazine fails, and you have a spare, you are still in charge of your own fate.

A recent nationally reported shooting incident had body cam video where an officer with a rifle comes running up to a position to shoot, and he discovered that his rifle lacked a magazine. Not having a spare magazine for it, he had to ditch the rifle and draw his sidearm. There are a lot of ways your magazine can fail on you, and lacking a spare, your sidearm then becomes a clumsy club. With a spare magazine, you are just a few seconds away from continuing your status as a voting member of your particular emergency situation.

The question isn’t, “Should you have an extra magazine,” but how many?

Which we’ll cover in another column.



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