6 Bad Excuses to Not Carry Spare Ammo

6 Bad Excuses to Not Carry Spare Ammo
Speed strips hold loads flat and are flexible, making them easier to carry in a pocket than a bulky speedloader.
Speed strips hold loads flat and are flexible, making them easier to carry in a pocket than a bulky speedloader.
Speed strips hold loads flat and are flexible, making them easier to carry in a pocket than a bulky speedloader.

Too many shooters who practice concealed carry overlook spare ammo — a critical aspect of effective personal protection. Here Massad Ayoob refutes 6 of the most common objections to carrying more rounds.

When it comes to needing to access spare ammunition quickly, nothing beats a belt-mounted mag pouch. Author photos
When it comes to needing to access spare ammunition quickly, nothing beats a belt-mounted mag pouch. Author photos

An amazing number of people who carry loaded guns carry them without a reload. I’m not going to dump on them here—in my (much) younger days, I used to be among their number. Hell, I had a gun didn’t I? And I was a good shot, right? How much ammo was I likely to need, anyway?

The years taught me the fallacy of those arguments, as well as others that I hear from folks in gun discussions, particularly those on the Internet. Let’s look at some of the excuses not to carry extra ammunition.

#1: Odds are I’m not gonna have to fire this thing at all, let alone run it dry and still be in a gunfight.

True enough. Trouble is, we don’t carry guns because of the odds of needing one, or most of us wouldn’t carry at all. We carry because if, against the odds, we do need one and don’t have it, the cost of being unable to save our own life and the lives of those who count on us to protect them is so catastrophic as to be simply unacceptable. If you are in the uncommon situation where you run the gun dry and the danger is still present, you’re back to not having a loaded gun when you desperately need one.

#2. If I need more than the five shots in my snub-nose 38, I couldn’t have won the fight with more.

No. If you haven’t won the fight with five shots, all it means is, you need more than five shots to win the fight. In the 1970s, the Illinois State Police gave me free rein to poll their troopers and study their gunfights, back when they were the only troopers in the country carrying auto-loading pistols. I was able to identify 13 troopers who almost certainly survived because they had auto-loaders (single-stack 9mm S&W Model 39s) instead of the six-shot revolvers they carried before.

#3. But I’m not a cop!

Doesn’t matter. You’re facing the same scumbags they face. I’ve run across the occasional case where the private citizen has run dry, reloaded and prevailed. I’ve also run into cases where they emptied their gun and the danger was still there. A good friend of mine, Richard Davis, shot it out with three armed robbery suspects in a Detroit alley many years ago. When the last round in his six-shot revolver went off, he had severely wounded one opponent, seriously wounded a second, and slightly wounded a third. With no spare ammo he had nothing to do but run, at which time one of the perps shot him twice. He survived—and learned to carry powerful semi-auto  pistols with spare ammunition.

#4. But those guys had guns all over the place. I’m out and about—I can’t do what they did.

No. And if they’d had just had one gun with no spare ammunition they couldn’t have, either. Which is why I’ve come to recommend that if you carry a gun, it’s an awfully good idea to carry spare ammunition for it. Why do you suppose every uniformed street cop you see has that ammo pouch on the duty belt? Remember, you’re preparing yourself to face, alone, the exact same violent criminals for which society has armed those police officers in anticipation of facing.

#5. I carry an 18-shot auto pistol, so I don’t have to worry about running out of ammunition.

While that’s debatable, you do have to worry about your auto pistol malfunctioning. It happens to the best of them, and any gunsmith or armorer will tell you that assuming you’re using good quality ammunition, the single most common cause of an autoloader’s stoppage is something going wrong with the magazine. Clearing the stoppage and getting back to fighting may require replacing the defective or compromised magazine with a fresh one. Another predictable occurrence is the struggle for the gun. As noted in my study of Illinois troopers, one department alone had several “saves” when the troopers deliberately “killed the guns” by pressing the mag releases during the struggle. Suppose you’ve done that successfully and retained control of the gun—and the bad guy now pulls a knife. With your magazine lost on the ground in the dark, you have, at best, a single-shot pistol with which to defend yourself, and not even that if your gun has the disconnector safety feature.

#6. Well, if my five shots or six shots aren’t enough, I’ll just run away.

An amusing suggestion, but if you could have run away, why didn’t you do so before? The very fact that you’re in a situation that has required you to empty a gun at one or more human beings probably indicates that if you turn and run, you’ll just get a few bullets in the back.


Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.


  1. I guess nobody trains on revolvers anymore…but back in the day..we were always required to shoot 12 rds..thus forcing a quick reload..[and familiarity with speedloaders]….PRACTICE!

  2. I’ve carried legally with permits/credentials for over 50 years and have had a “serious social discussion” or three. Maybe I’m lucky, each was one shot only, all resulted in wounds, no fatalities (I hit what I could SEE), but even when there were three suspects, the one shot and one hit decided the issue. The other two decided, “nope, not me” and gave up.

    Long retired, but I still almost always carry two spare mags (and a spare tire around my middle). Does it sometimes get a little challenging on my belt, yes. Are there times I pack a little lighter (.380ACP, two mags), yes. Are there times I carry a wheel gun (5rd or 6rd), yes and at least two speed strips/loaders. Does the load in my pockets I sometimes make me look like I’m REALLY happy to see someone, yes! But, in the 20 some years since I retired, I have been fortunate enough to not have had to even imply I was armed. As a civilian, ones EYES and EARS are our best “weapons” and keep you out of trouble, but tomorrows plan may be different than ever before!!!

    My only “quibble” with Mr. Ayoob is in reference to using the Illinois SP as an example. Yes, they were about the first major LEO agency to issue/use semi-autos, but the S&W 39 (and 59 that followed) had a magazine safety that rendered the pistol non-functional with no mag. This, in theory, was supposed to give the trooper time to go to “plan B(ackup)”. But, there were about the same number of instances that the trooper had ejected a mag in anticipation of reloading and had one “in the spout”, but COULDN’T shoot during that “pregnant pause” because of that safety.

    And in the many years since then and the greater proliferation of PDs/LEO agencies using semi-autos, most forgo that mag safety. I worked several of my retired years in a local gun shop and we dealt with a lot of former PD/LEO guns and even most of the “heritage” S&W semi-autos were marked with the “This firearm will shoot without the magazine” warning marked on the slide!!! Most cops would prefer that if their gun is disabled, it be due to “out of ammo” than some mechanical issue! Even today, the one local agency that actually allows (I don’t know any the issue) the current S&W M&P models have the ones WITHOUT the mag safety! To paraphrase one of Mr. Ayoob’s contemporaries, Jeff Cooper, the mag safety is a solution in search of a problem. Which I might also point out was Mr. Coopers thinking about DA/SA semi-autos, overall!!!

    Just my .02c worth.

  3. I too teach concealed carry/personal protection. Many times students respond to thie question with a simple answer…only what I have in the gun, 5 or 6 for a revolver and 6 to whatever for a semi. My response is that this is just another way of trusting that the mere presence of a firearm will sustain you. Completely wrong. As many have said…you fight with your head. The firearm and its ammo is just a tool. When I was an auto technician years ago…I never had “enough” tools…’nuff said!

  4. I corresponded with a man who does CCW training in Florida. He has trained over 2500 students
    and 64 of them were involved in self defense situations.” Of the 64 NONE had to do a re load to stay in
    the fight. 4 of them shot until slide lock but no further shooting was necessary at that point.
    These shootings involved 8,11,11 and 12 rounds”*. Carrying extra ammo seems like a solution looking
    for a problem.

    * Per Tom Givens of Rangemaster Firearms Training Center

    • What if those who shot 8,11,11,12 rounds lived in NY allowing only 7 rounds/or revolver(they might have come up short)
      Extrapolating on that thought,anti-self defense people say carrying a gun seems
      like a solution looking for a problem.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.