Concealed Carry: Is Spare Ammo Necessary?

Concealed Carry: Is Spare Ammo Necessary?
The SnagMag yields a spare Glock magazine from a trouser pocket. At rest, it looks like a pocketknife.

With the opportunity to expand on his previous work in Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry, Massad Ayoob took the opportunity in Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry 2nd Edition to talk about the issue of concealed carry and spare ammo.

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. There seems to be a strange “Interwebz” ethos that says, “If you carry more (or more powerful) guns and ammo than I, you must be a paranoid mall ninja … and if you carry less, you must be a sheeple.” I dunno about that. Let’s look at some of the excuses not to carry extra ammunition.

The SnagMag yields a spare Glock magazine from a trouser pocket. At rest, it looks like a pocketknife.
The SnagMag yields a spare Glock magazine from a trouser pocket. At rest, it looks like a pocketknife.

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.

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. Nine of those were survivors of “snatch the cop’s gun and kill him with it” assaults, and prevailed when they felt themselves losing the struggle for the pistol either because the bad guy couldn’t get the gun off safe, or because the trooper had pressed the magazine release button and activated the disconnector safety that kept the chambered round from firing.

This lady carries Speed Strip in a watch pocket to back up her Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 Special.
This lady carries Speed Strip in a watch pocket to back up her Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 Special.

More germane to the topic at hand, however, four of these officers survived because they had more firepower remaining when they went past five or six shots. Trooper Ken Kaas, with the seventh shot from his 9mm, dropped a shotgun-wielding attacker who was rushing him. (The gunman survived and reportedly told his attorney that he had been counting and was sure the cop had fired “all six” and emptied his service revolver when the perp broke cover and charged the trooper; he didn’t know Illinois troopers carried semi-automatic pistols.) Sargent Glessner Davis shot and killed a shotgun-armed murderer with either the seventh or the eighth shot in his department issue Model 39. Troopers Bob Kolowski and Lloyd Burchette shot it out with a homicidal outlaw biker and both emptied their 9mms, with Kolowski reloading and sustaining fire before the gunman fell dying.

They had fired 20-some rounds between them and hit him 13 times before he was unable to continue the fight. Illinois troopers in uniform today carry Glock 22 pistols loaded with sixteen 40-caliber hollowpoints and backed up with two more 15-round magazines on their duty belts.

concealed_carry_tipsTo read Massad's discussion of more “excuses” for not carrying spare ammo, as well as his pointers on methods for concealing spare ammo, pick up a copy of Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry 2nd Edition from the Gun Digest Store today.

Remember to use promo code INSIDEGDB to get free standard U.S. shipping on your order. (Promo code fine print: Items which ship directly from the manufacturer do not qualify for free shipping.)

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  1. For those interested in the Snagmag, you can find our most current supported models on our facebook fan page. Just search “snagmag”. If you don’t use facebook, just drop us a an email. We hope to have the online store up and running soon. If you’d like to order, please send an inquiry to The MSRP is $39.95 with $1 shipping. We can invoice you to your email. They are right/left hand specific (let us know which hand you shoot with). Thank you.

  2. As an old friend used to say, “you can never have too much ammunition, unless you’re trying to swim or on fire”.

  3. When in public I always carry either a spare magazine or a buck-up gun. Sometimes both. The only time you’ll find me with less is while at home/on our property where there are always extra guns loaded and waiting for use.

    I would like to see Mr Ayoob’s take on back-up guns. It’s not always the magazine that craps out, sometimes it’s the pistol. That being said, if you only carry a quality and well maintained piece, the chance of anything giving up is minimal.

  4. I have had the experience of drawing down on 5 burglars in progress at my home, and was lucky that they all 5 bit the dirt when ordered to do so. VERY lucky. I was holding a P-63 9x18mm, with 7 cartridges, 7 chances! Not good with 5 men. I now CCW a .45cal. 1911 Combat Elite, with 2 magazines, loaded with Hornady “Critical Defense” JHP’s I also carry in condition 2. (one cartridge in battery, and the hammer on the safety shelf.) Never again, my friends. jimsjinx

  5. I believe the fact of the matter is, you can be prepared for only so much, no matter what you choose to carry. It was written that Today you might be under attack by more than one individual. Today? What about the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and all the years up until today? I believe today is no different than yesteryear; you may be under attack anywhere at any given time. One should carry whatever they are comfortable with for the circumstances they believe may arise where they are traveling. If I am going into the backwoods I will carry different than if I am going to the opera. Generally I carry one spare mag no matter what capacity the firearm holds. This provides me with no less than 12 rounds. Often times when carrying a lower capacity weapon of smaller (.380 or less) caliber, I will carry a backup weapon with one mag of 5 or 6; 17 rounds seems like a pretty comfortable number.

  6. Why are they suggesting that civilians carry like a LEO? By the nature of their job they are much more like to find themselves in an extended firefight (firefight at all). The majority of civilian encounter in a gun involved self-defense situations are over in 3 seconds 3 shots at 10 feet or less. I am not saying that you should not carry extra ammo, the unusual does happen. But to only use LEO examples to draw a conclusion is a false argument.

    • Two spare clips is not excessive, LEO’s carry two so that if another Officer needs more ammo, they can supply it. One other reason is that these days, you might find yourself under attack from more than one individual and so just might need that second spare clip to survive. Two clips fit in a back pocket or front pocket nicely, but a lot of my buddies only carry one spare since they have 15 round magazines. I carry two, on my belt opposite the pistol holster, balances out well for me. Any self defense situation is subject to change, being prepared is just good sense. In the last two weeks we have had 7 shootings in my area, of these two were multiple active shooter situations. How prepared you are is of course a personal decision.

  7. Or pucker factor/adrenaline causing poor shot placement(“this ISN’T actually hapening, is it?”), clothing (Winter/Fall aka heavy clothing) etc. For those out there who haven’t been present at an actual shots fired scenario when totally unexpected, we really have no idea whatsoever how we personally will react without actually training for it. (I have. I have personally found out what the headlight on a Crown Victoria tastes like while ducking from six shots in a row while on a car stop in Florida). I also to my chagrin have gotten lazy in picking up and putting on my spare mag holders. I need to correct that.

  8. I wonder how many of those situations needed multiple shots to do the job because the bullets were FMJ or early hollowpoints which were much less effective than the best available today.

    • Any situation requires a minimum of two shots no matter the ammo type. The double tap is or should be the way you practice. Why? because most people still have 10 seconds to shoot back once they are hit, even with a center mass kill shot.


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