If you carry a firearm for self-defense, chances are you carry extra ammo for it. While not always strictly necessary extra ammunition is good to have in case of malfunction or loss or if you just have an abundance of bad guys to deal with. Hopefully you don’t need it because you are that bad of a shot!
Whatever kind of firearm you are carrying and whatever caliber, you can save yourself a ton of grief and set yourself up for success by choosing a method of carry that will keep your ammo accessible, protected and concealed. Especially for those who conceal carry regularly paying attention to placement and carry method is essential for maintaining low- or no-visibility.
Don’t let your magazines, speedloaders and spare rounds flop around uselessly in a pocket or bag. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive on the subject of ammunition carry methods so you can keep it handy and ready to feed your chosen gun.
Why Carry Additional Ammo?
The primary reason for keeping additional ammo o your person (and ergo with your gun) is obvious: more ammo means more opportunities to solve your particular problem. If your problem has not gone away, expired or been drastically reduced by the number of shots that your gun holds, your options just got limited.
Before you make some snarky crack about how if you need more than five, six, seven or however many shots your gun holds then you deserve what’s coming to you (a hyuk, a hyuk) keep in mind that misses happen, multiple opponents happen and multiple, good shots are sometimes required on a single assailant to get good effect.
It is most often true that one or two rounds are sufficient to extricate yourself from a typical attack, but outliers do happen.
Also don’t forget that we, and by “we” I mean preppers writ large, are preparing for events that fall on the extreme outlier end of the scale. In short, you’ll want at least a spare reload for your EDC gun.
Other good reasons to carry spare ammunition sources are in case of malfunction or loss of ammo. In case of a malfunction, particularly with a semi-auto, you might decide or determine that the magazine is the culprit and ditch it, replacing it with your fresh spare.
Speaking of magazines, I have caught several fistfuls of people (cops among them) walking around with holstered guns devoid of magazines in their wells.
However it happened, and that is an article for another day, it sure would be nice to simply pop another magazine in there when the deficiency is detected rather than Barney Fife’ing it with one round in the chamber or retracting your steps to find your wayward ammo.
Before you wheelgunners start tittering too hard, you aren’t immune to ammo related mishaps. A tactical reload or simple fumble when handling your revolver could see the good rounds dumped and lost with the bad.
In the case of the former, a practiced reload with fresh ammo pulled from a reliable location is far better for salvaging the situation than chasing down four or five skittering cartridges.
In the latter case, your live rounds could fall into water, into a crack or crevice, into tall grass, dry leaves or any other obfuscating obstacle. You’ll want spare ammo then, especially considering your gun of choice holds such precious little to begin with.
Proper Carry of Ammunition
No matter what kind of gun, and no matter what kind of ammo or ammo feeding device you carry, you will always achieve better performance when it is time to load and get back to business if you use a purpose designed carrier. Magazine or speedloader, loose rounds or speed strip, a proper carrier makes all the difference.
A carrier will securely hold you ammunition in place through various levels of expected activity depending on its design and also hold the ammo in a particular location on your body in the same way every time.
When carried opposite the gun on your body or in a bag spare ammo also adds ballast which is sometimes required for comfort.
Carriers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, configurations and materials and there are so many good (and not so good) ammo carriers on the market that finding one that fits the bill will be a trivial exercise.
With few exceptions, almost any carrier is better than no carrier if you need extra ammo on tap. We’ll discuss those exceptions in a bit but first let’s take a look at what factors you should consider when choosing a carrier type.
Depending on your anticipated activity level, ammo carriers will have varying levels of retention and accomplish it via different means.
We have all seen the flapped and snapped leather carriers that adorn the belts of police officers and most of us are also familiar with the precisely molded open-topped kydex shingles that are commonly used in competition and for concealed carry.
Of the two, the flapped carrier will keep the ammo in place pretty much no matter what you are doing including rolling around on the ground in a tussle while the open-topped carrier, though smaller, affords less security but is faster to draw from. Like all things in self-defense and in prepperdom, it is a trade-off of sometimes mutually exclusive perks.
Ammo carriers will be designed to typically ride on your body or attached to a pack in one way, though a few are configurable for different modes of carry. Some attach to the belt externally (OWB, as with a pistol holster) and others attach to the belt and ride behind the waistline (IWB, same thing).
Some are designed to clip or ride inside the pocket of your pants holding the ammo ready and upright. No matter what type you choose, all afford far more consistency than simply letting your ammo roll to and fro in a pocket or pouch on your bag.
This consistency is what will allow you to quickly acquire a grip on it, draw it and get it moving up to and then in the gun at speeds approaching sleight of hand. Consistency breeds good, trained-in performance.
While not the worst thing in the world, dropping ammo into a pocket and heading out, although the height of convenience, is not ideal. This mode of carry is made even worse if you are sloppy and keep other items in the same pocket, banging around in a mixture with your spare and potentially life-saving ammo.
The Concealment Problem
This might be hard to believe if you aren’t a dedicated concealed carry practitioner, but your spare ammo for a semi –auto or a revolver can often be harder to conceal than the gun itself. True story. If concealing the gun is already tough enough, why make your life even harder by carrying something even harder to hide! Jeez!
Well, we carry in the first place so we can be here for a long time, not have a good time, so stop your bellyaching. Second, a little forethought into your typical mode of dress along with you usual environment will make this a piece of cake.
Of course, having good gear helps a bunch as usual, too. Of your two most common feeding devices for spare ammunition, pistol magazines and revolver speedloaders, both present their own difficulties.
Pistol magazines are sharply defined boxes, and skinny. These will print with little provocation through most fabrics no matter if they are carried on the belt or in a pocket and don’t really look like much else when viewed this way except perhaps a knife or vape pen, maybe. Possibly. If you squint.
The presence of a loaded magazine will tip your hand to anyone with even a lick of sense about guns, so you should take care to hide it.
Revolver speedloaders are even harder to hide, being oddly shaped drums that do not benefit from a body-hugging profile and are often fitted into equally odd-duck carriers.
While the difficulty of concealing them is perhaps somewhat overblown in most gun media, it is not by much. Speedloaders do even worse in pockets since they have a terrible proclivity to roll and turn every whichaway inside them and are already a fiddly proposition compared to a pistol magazine.
No matter how you slice it, belt-mounted and even some pocket carry solutions for either present added difficulty if you are going for total concealment (and you really should be). Lucky for you I have a fix that offers the best of both worlds. We’ll get to that in the section covering the different carry options for spare ammo.
Of course the most obvious solution for some folks is to get the gun and ammo off the body entirely and into some form of carried luggage. This can be a good one, but one with its own share of flaws and drawbacks.
Off-Body Carry of Ammo
In this context, when I am referring to off-body carry of spare ammo I specifically mean spare ammo for your EDC gun. This is ammo you might potentially have to use in a hurry and carried for that purpose. Extra ammo carried deep in a BOB, in boxes, crates or totes or any other prepper-centric storage or transport solution is not included here on purpose.
For those that carry their guns off-body in a briefcase, specially designed concealed carry bag or pack, or in any other piece of daily accoutrement, it makes a certain amount of sense to keep the ammo with the gun inside whatever is holding it.
Chances are you are carrying in that manner for a reason (sensitive environment or flat out no other viable way to conceal a practical gun) and there may be nothing to be gained from doggedly keeping the ammo on your body while the gun remains compartmented.
At any rate, the ideal situation is one where you can access the gun from whatever luggage it rides in and fight from the bag if needed. Items like your typical concealed carry backpack, messenger bag/satchel or purse are nominal in that regard.
Using baked in mounting points (MOLLE rows, Velcro) or a little ingenuity pouches can be mounted to carry your spare ammo in a way that is easy to access once the gun’s compartment is opened. While rarely if ever as easy, fast and efficient as on-body carry a high degree of proficiency can be attained using these techniques.
What you definitely don’t want to do is carry dedicated spare ammo off-body when you carry your gun on-body. What’s the point of that? You have made the conscious decision to carry an additional life-saving resource but will keep it separate and difficult to access compared to your firearm. Commit to going all-in if this is the case.
Spare Ammo Solutions: Cases, Carriers, Pouches and More
Below are a few of my favorite pieces of kit for the carrying of additional ammunition. Give these a review and see if one of them will work for you or inspire your own solution for keeping your gun well fed.
Raven Concealment Systems Copia Magazine Pouch
RCS’s is a staple of the synthetic holster world, and though they were not the first in making kydex “gunleather” by any stretch much of what we take as standard design protocols today came from and was perfected by them. Their magazine carriers have always been just as nice as their holsters, but their latest version, the Copia, is a new classic.
The Copia (a play on “cornucopia” for the wide array of magazine types and calibers it will fit) is a tension adjustable injection molded affair that is typically carried OWB but can be adapted for IWB carry. RCS’s widely spaced belt loops are on display and they still make for a body-hugging design that is easy to conceal.
Somehow, these guys are even more durable than their vaunted kydex predecessors. The multi-fit nature and adjustability of the unit is just a bonus as far as I am concerned.
If you carry a semi-auto pistol on-body and are just in doubt about your needs, the Copia can serve you well worn concealed or openly and has enough retention to keep your ammo in place when running, crouching or crawling. Anything except a serious snag or major activity will be no problem.
While it is not much to look at on first glance, Dark Star has crafted what is without question one of the most comfortable and adaptable AIWB-specific magazine pouches on the market.
Your first assessment will probably be like mine; this thing is too bulky, too uncomfortable and generally not worth the hassle. That is just your Old Guard genes kicking in because in no time you’ll see the light just like I did.
AIWB positioning solves a lot of problems when it comes to concealing guns and other gear on your body. The natural configuration of the body provides better depth of concealment, superior drape of clothing over the gear and dramatically reduced silhouetting compared to carry anywhere on or near the crest of the hips.
Dark Star put this one over the top by addressing what is, in my experience, the “Goldilocks” factor of AIWB carry: the ride height. A long line of closely spaced holes allow precise minute adjustment of ride height so you can fine tune your Koala carrier for maximum comfort while retaining speed and concealment. A great item.
Front Pocket Innovations NeoMag
The NeoMag is one of the cleverest ammo carry solutions I have seen proffered in years. Let’s face it; plenty of folks never even look into a pouch or carrier for their spare ammo, instead going with the ole trusty standby of dropping their mag into a front pocket of their jeans or slacks and hitting the road.
NeoMag has taken it upon themselves to take that concept to the next level by allowing you to use that location with greater consistency and security.
The NeoMag is simply a thin, skeletonized metal band with a pocket clip on it, designed to wrap around the bottom third or so of a magazine on three sides. Part of the NeoMag is a powerful rare earth magnet that securely holds the magazine in place just below the hem of the pocket. All a passerby can see of the assembled package is the clip of the unit, which appears no different than that of an ordinary folding knife.
Now, I am not a huge fan of magnets for securing guns in most regards, most particularly in vehicles against popular (but idiotic) use, but for this application it works like a charm.
The NeoMag is one of the best ways to breathe new life into pocket carry of a magazine, affording you much better consistency, speed and security than simply dropping the magazine into the pocket per usual.
Raven Concealment Systems Pocket Shield
More a system for maximizing the pocket as a space for carrying all kinds of equipment versus a dedicated ammo carrier, the Pocket Shield is nonetheless an ideal tool for making use of a space that previously was marginal at best for holding ammo.
Made from slotted, flexible plastic RCS’s Pocket Shield functions as its name suggests; it serves as a bulwark between the fabric of your pants and the items carried within the pocket.
This does two things for the carrier, the first being preventing entirely printing that would previously be a dead giveaway as to what you were packing and second allowing items with clips to be securely attached to its belly, keeping them in place and ready for a speedy draw. Items lacking clips can be instead mounted onto pouches which attach per usual to the belly of the Pocket Shield.
While it appears to be a bulky and awkward solution looking for a problem, the Pocket Shield is in reality an ideal way to make best possible use of the cargo room provided by an ample pocket.
No printing and better security and consistency? You can keep your warbelt swarming with pouches all over it like barnacles: for this civilian, I can stay as low profile as possible and still carry plenty of useful gear with no impact on my outward appearance using this nice piece of kit.
Safariland 371(Split Six) Speed Loader Pouch
I didn’t forget about the revolver guys and gals. I too have been known to carry a little snubbie on occasion and my love for the Ruger LCR is well known.
For revolver carry, speedloaders are where it is at when you need to get that wheelgun topped off yesterday. As I mentioned above, the biggest problem with carry of speedloaders is that the damn gadgets are just too bulky and oddly shaped to carry concealed easily and effectively.
At least they were until I ran across this genius piece of kit. The 371 is a leather unit that holds a speedloader both up above and directly over the belt, allowing the speedloader and the cartridges it carries to straddle it, effectively cutting the exposed width of the speedloader in half.
This is a huge boon for concealment, and like much of Safariland’s gear it is made right, fits properly and just flat out works. The flap might be an annoyance for some, but if you don’t mind a little extra security this is one speedloader carrier that will carry the day.
If you decide to carry extra ammo with your EDC gun you should make sure the ammo itself integrates with the rest of your setup. Ammo that is haphazardly stashed will be harder to get to and may compromise concealment.
Ammo that is carried in a proper pouch or other carrier will be much faster to access, less aggravating to carry and easier to conceal. Make sure you are paying as much attention to your ammunition and other gear as you are the gun. Remember, all the components work together as a system.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.