A gun, holster and belt aren't enough. To be well armed, you also need spare ammo on tap and under wraps.
The spare magazine is relatively flat and, in my experience, is best carried in a belt pouch on the side of the body opposite the holster. Vertical carry is best for concealment and fastest for access, and reloading will be more positive if each magazine is carried with the bullet noses forward. For concealed carry, I don’t see any need at all for a flapped mag pouch. It slows down access, and the extra flap of leather or nylon adds unnecessary bulk and bulge. Just make sure you have a good, friction-tight fit and you’ll have all the security you need, with maximum speed and access.
Most of us carry the mag pouch just behind the left hip if we’re right-handed, vice versa if we’re southpaws. With an open-front concealment garment, such as a vest or a sport coat or an unbuttoned sport shirt, this minimizes the likelihood of the magazine becoming visible. Too, weight on the corresponding point at the opposite side of the body seems to “balance” the weight of the holstered pistol and increase overall body comfort once you are used to the presence of the object.
This principle is one thing that made Richard Gallagher’s concept of the Original Jackass Shoulder System, the forerunner of his Galco brand, so famously popular and so widely imitated. The weight of the gun hung suspended in one armpit, with the weight of the two magazines (and perhaps also handcuffs), under the other. Another advantage, of course, was that the user’s critical gear was all on one harness that he could be quickly throw on if a danger call took him from the Condition White of total relaxation to the brighter colors of “sudden call to arms.”
Best Starter Kit for Concealed Carry:
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A number of the people have gone with the currently popular AIWB (appendix/inside-the-waistband) carry, which places the holstered pistol on the dominant-hand side of their navel. Those who carry the pistol like this will often place the spare magazine pouch at a corresponding point on the other side of the navel. Again, it’s a matter of “balance,” and also keys in a little bit with the hands reaching to corresponding parts of the body during crisis, assuming that practice and training have drilled in the game plan well.
Some people carry their spare magazines in their pockets. I did so when I was very young and discovered that a generic eyeglass case with pocket clip that cost 29 cents at Woolworth’s would hold a 1911 magazine in a trouser pocket without revealing its shape (though I needed a folded-up matchbook cover or two in the bottom of it to get the magazine up high enough in the pouch that I could retrieve it). By the time I hit my twenties, though, decent, concealable magazine pouches were available and I could afford to buy them.
There are a few pocket magazine carriers available, but none are as fast to access as simply reaching under the same garment that concealed the pistol and snatching one out of a belt-mounted pouch. In ordinary clothing, a magazine will make a coat pocket or cardigan sweater pocket sag a bit. Many dedicated gun concealment vests have elastic pockets to hold magazines upright. They conceal the shape well, but they tend to sag a bit. If the elastic is tight, the garment tends to rise with the magazine you’re pulling on, and this also prevents it from coming cleanly away from the pocket in some iterations.
This writer wears BDU pants as default casual wear, and when carrying a mag in a pocket prefers the dedicated “magazine pocket,” also known as “cell phone pocket,” on the non-dominant hand side. With just the magazine in there, it tends to shift around a little bit. However, I discovered that if I put a compact, high-intensity flashlight with a pocket clip in the front of that pocket/pouch and the pistol magazine behind it, it conceals like a charm and the flashlight in front holds the magazine in a vertical position that does not shift appreciably. The BDU-type pants normally have a Velcro-closing pocket flap. I close down the rear portion, which hides the magazine perfectly. One end of the flashlight protrudes visibly upward, and that’s fine; it’s only a flashlight and doesn’t need to be concealed. I find that the flashlight goes unnoticed from supermarkets to banks to airports.
When concealment is the highest priority and the wearer is dressed lightly, as with an un-tucked polo shirt or t-shirt (one size larger than normal, remember, with straight drape instead of waist taper!), an inside-the-waistband magazine carrier will be just as much more concealable as an inside-the-waistband gun holster. Of course, you still have to remember that if the pants were bought to fit just you, now the waistband has to encompass just you and a holstered gun, and a spare magazine and its carrier. This means that you’ll need a larger waistband size than what you would normally wear.
An inside-the-waistband magazine pouch brings some of the same concerns as an inside-the-waistband holster and some of its own. Certain pistol magazines—early Smith & Wessons, early H&K designs, and damn near all the serious-caliber SIGs when they had sheet-metal floorplates—have sharp edges that will dig mercilessly into skin, all the more so if you’re a bit fleshy about the waist. Way back in the ’80s, when I collaborated with Ted Blocker on the LFI Concealment Rig, the original inside-the-waistband mag pouch left the whole floorplate and lower part of the magazine exposed to the reaching hand. It was very fast to reload from. However, some folks with some magazines—myself included, I admit—found sharp-edged protruding floorplates digging into us so uncomfortably we couldn’t wear the darn things. Ted revised the design to incorporate a shield between the entire magazine and the body. This greatly increased comfort, but also somewhat slowed down the speed of getting the magazine out of the pouch. That’s always going to be the tradeoff here.
Outside the waistband, the pouch tends to be more comfortable. You still want it to ride tight to the body for concealment, though. These days, my favorites of that type are the Kydex units produced by Blade-Tech in double pouches, and by Ky-Tac in single-mag pouches. For Glocks (bargain alert here!) I’ve honestly found nothing better than Glock’s own simple, super-cheap magazine pouch, which is also ambidextrous. It comes with little ladder-steps in the belt loops that can be easily cut by the owner to fit narrow or wide belts without flopping or wobbling, and to also ride high or low. I’ve won IDPA matches reloading from these pouches. They are fast, they are tight-to-the-body concealable, they are comfortable, and they are secure. Helluva deal.
How Many Spare Mags to Carry?
It depends. I’ve met cops who carry four double-stack magazines when on duty. My department issues a single-stack .45 auto, and when I’m in uniform I carry three to four spare eight-round magazines on the duty belt. On my own time, I carry two spare magazines for a single-stack pistol and at least one for a double-stack. I also normally carry a backup handgun, and on patrol I have a .223 semi-automatic rifle with multiple magazines and a shotgun with an ample supply of shells on board in the vehicle. Our military personnel in combat zones, of course, carry more—and those who don’t really believe they’ll ever need to fire their defensive firearm, carry less.
Editor's Note: This excerpt is from Massad Ayoob's Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry, 2nd Edition.