Do you carry a spare magazine? A lot of concealed carriers don’t. They consider it too much of burden, too uncomfortable or too “paranoid.” And yet you can shoot even the highest capacity magazines dry in seconds. Or less. And there’s never been a self-defense shooter who faced down an enemy and said “Wow, I wish I hadn’t brought all these bullets with me!” A spare mag (or two) isn’t just for extended gun fights. It’s also a vital replacement for a damaged magazine. What are the odds? Higher than you’d think. Feed lips get bent, springs weaken, followers jam—the magazine is the semi-automatic firearm’s weakest link. As back-up mags are mission critical, you’ve got to manage your spare resource properly. Here are Seven Rules of Handgun Magazine Management:
1. Make sure the magazine(s) within the mag pouch faces the same direction every time. Without directional consistency, you won’t know which way to load your magazine into your pistol. Checking the mag’s orientation slows the reloading process. While most shooters face the bullets towards the front (as I do) some people prefer to orient them “backwards.” No matter. Consistent orientation is the key to fast and successful reloads.
2. Never place empty mags back into your pouch. When you reach for a magazine, it must always be loaded with bullets. Eject your empty mags onto the ground during reloads. You can pocket partially spent mags, but only full mags should reside in your pouch.
3. Never catch an ejected “empty” magazine. Your job: get your pistol reloaded as fast as possible. So let empty mags fall onto the ground—they won’t do you any good. As this harsh treatment damages mags, it’s best to have two classes of magazines: practice and carry. When I arrive at the range, I remove and secure my carry mags and replace them with my practice mags. When I leave, I replace my carry mags.
4. Shoot your carry magazines at least every six months to ensure all is well. Don’t drop your carry magazines when they’re empty. Keep them as pristine as possible. Change the springs in your carry magazines annually. I put the weaker springs into my practice magazines; they’ll induce failures, creating more opportunities to practice failure drills.
5. Label your magazines. As mags wear and become damaged, you need to know which one is causing you problems. I mark my carry mags C1, C2, C3. I label my practice mags P1, P2, P3… I recommend writing the designation on the bottom of the mag in large letters with a paintpen (found at any hardware store) .
6. Reach for your spare magazine before you jettison the mag in your pistol. In the stress of a fight, it is possible to forget you’ve already reloaded your gun. The magazine may have fallen out during a scuffle or run (we see that a lot in force on force training). You may forgotten to include one in your daily dress. You’re better off keeping a partially loaded magazine, or running away, than trying to load a phantom mag.
7. Carry one spare magazine, two for practice and own eight more. Mags are disposable; they will not function forever. With the threat of anti-gun loons removing our ability to buy full capacity magazines, I recommend that you own at least 10 magazines per gun.