Keeping Ammo Handy

The Truth Behind The Clichés
; .

If the gun holds only five rounds, Mas thinks you definitely
want at least five more in a Speed Strip.

If you’re not sure when you’ll need it, it’s best to have it handy …

Earlier this year, in June, I went from the Pin Shoot in Michigan ( to a class in the same state, then another in Indiana, and then to Illinois to spend some time with extended family. It wasn’t until I got home weeks later that I had time to sort out and put away guns and ammo and magazines.

Darn … there were a lot of single stack 1911 mags full of Federal HST 230-grain +P .45 ACP.

Before I reached Illinois, I had downloaded all the 17- to 22-round Springfield XD(m) and 17- to 26-round Springfield Prodigy 9mm magazines and secured them. The state’s current law is 15 rounds max, but out-of-staters traveling to or from matches can (at this writing) have larger capacity so long as they’re empty and under lock and key. I was just glad I didn’t have to go through New York, where even the empty “hi-cap” mags would have been a separate felony per magazine.

For carry on this tour, I was wearing single-stack .45s, mostly all-steel Government Model-size 1911s, legal everywhere I went. When the sciatica kicked in at the right hip, I lightened the load by switching to the Smith & Wesson Shield .45 I had used for the Concealed Carry event at the Pin Shoot: 7+1 of the big +P sluggers in a gun weighing only 21 oz. before the ammo went on board. It resolved the discomfort issue.

I carried one spare mag for the little .45 in a Pitbull pouch on the left hip, another next to the Streamlight Wedge flashlight in the cell phone pocket of my 5.11 pants and was perfectly comfortable. With a double-stack gun I’m happy with one spare magazine, but with a single stack, I want two. I started in police work in the early 1970s, when the standard load-out was a fully-loaded six-shooter and 12 more rounds on the belt. Today the standard remains “loaded duty weapon and two spare magazines” (minimum, some carry more) to protect oneself and the public. I always figured if this was what the justice system had determined I needed to protect the public, it was probably what I needed to protect myself and anyone else I was responsible for — on duty or not.


Mas likes to carry two spare single-stack mags, or one double-stack.

Counting Ammo Reservoirs

Tell ya the truth, when I unpacked those 1911 mags, I lost count of how many there were but during the Pin Shoot, I was glad I had them all. I shot Space Gun, Pin Gun and Stock Gun back to back and although there turned out to be time to refill mags while the pin-setters were putting the targets back up, it was convenient not to have to count on it. When a friend’s .45 went down and he needed to borrow mine, I was able to just hand him the gun bag with the 1911 and more full mags than he’d need already in the attached pouches.

The purpose of a gun is to shoot. This requires ammunition. Depending on what needs to be shot how often and how soon, it is awfully handy to have spare ammo readily at hand. Ask any of the survivors of the April 11, 1986 FBI shootout in Miami. I interviewed some of them. When one of them was later asked “How much ammo should an agent carry?” he answered immediately, “As much as you can carry.”


If Miss Manners didn’t say “You can’t be too thin, too rich, or have too much ammunition,” Mas thinks she should have …

Convenience & Desperation

Most of the time, more ammo is simply convenient. For example, at the Indiana class we had a storm coming in at qualification hour and it saved time for me to simply pull 10 full magazines from my Pin Shoot stash to shoot the “Pace-Setter,” the demonstration of the qualification. We were done just before the torrential rain and the lightning hit. Whew.

Routinely, I’ll have a couple more spare mags for my primary carry in my vehicle, in case of the unlikely event something happens, which might go beyond what I have on my physical person. The ones in the car will usually be in pouches I can quickly clip on the belt. I’ve never needed them, but the vehicle is a sturdy mule and doesn’t mind carrying them for me.

Spare ammunition is like emergency funds, and indeed, like the gun itself. “Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” “No gunfight survivor has ever said ‘Gee, I wish I’d had less ammunition.’” “There’s no such thing as too much ammo unless you’re drowning or on fire.” Insert additional clichés as necessary …

But, you know what? Clichés tend to be truisms. That’s why they came to be uttered so often they became clichés in the first place.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine February 2024 Issue Now!