Self Defense Tip: Carry a Spare Magazine

magazine change pistol


A lot of gun owners worry about their gun going “click” instead of “bang” when they really need it. With basic maintenance and using good self-defense (i.e. jacketed hollow-point) ammunition, the vast majority of modern handguns are incredibly reliable. As long as you test fire your gun and ammo combination on a relatively regular basis, you’ll have little cause for concern.

That said, the desire to reduce the odds of a mechanical malfunction is perfectly understandable. The single most likely cause of failure: the ammunition magazine.

The usual justification for carrying a spare ammunition magazine: more rounds! Fair enough, but given that the questionable old maxim that the average gunfight is three rounds in three seconds at three yards, there’s an even more important reason to carry a spare: you need a Plan B if Magazine A fails.

That’s why so many manufacturers spend so much time and money creating reliable magazines. It’s also why the aftermarket for high-quality magazines is so robust. Gun and magazine makers know gun owners don’t ever want to have to use a Plan B. It’s also why many knowledgeable gun buyers examine the sturdiness of a gun’s magazines when making their firearms selection.

9mm ammunition magazine disassembled

By Scoo. – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Yes, it’s that important. Even so, excrement happens. Magazine feed lips (the top of the magazine) can get bent or dinged. Dirt and other foreign substances find their way into magazines. Springs eventually lose their springiness. In short, your ammunition magazine is much more likely to fail than your gun.

magazine feed lips

Dan Z. for TTAG

To hedge against a magazine failure, examine them on a regular basis. Look for foreign substances; make sure your mags are both clean and functional. Check for bent feed lips, or any other damage. If a mag loads and unloads well, the slide locks back when empty and shoots reliably, you should be good to go. But you need to shoot them to know.

It’s worth repeating: the gun range is best place to check your magazine/ammunition combination.

sings double stack magazines

Single and double stack magazines (By Martin Meise – Own work, CC BY 3.0)

If you experience a magazine-related failures, try other similar magazines. If there’s a problem with one mag — where your other, similarly loaded magazines don’t fail — don’t carry the non-operational mag. (Mark it with an X on the bottom with a white Sharpie and set it aside to use for failure drills.) If all of your magazines fail, change your ammo. If that doesn’t solve your problem, consult a gunsmith.

More than that, carry a spare magazine and practice on-the-fly mag changes, including changing mags while you’re moving. You can do that at home with empty magazines and a safety-checked, unloaded firearm. There are magazine holders and clips of various sorts, both for your pocket and your belt. They make carrying a spare easy. Use one.

Bottom line: carry an extra ammunition magazine and train with it. Your life may depend on it.


  1. avatar Debbie W. says:

    There are numerous equipment checks and hurdles to jump before you can use deadly force. God help the SOB once the track meet is over.

    TRUMP/PENCE 2020.

    1. avatar James Campbell says:

      Well said Debbie……..and God help the TDS SOBs once the vote counting is over. 🤣
      Trump/Pence 2020……and slowjoe for prison!

  2. avatar Purity of Essence says:

    Self Defense Tip: Carry a rifle, 7 mags, 2 frags, smoke, a radio and 8 others guys similarly equiped. Shouldn’t run into too much you can’t handle.

    1. avatar James Campbell says:

      Did you happen to notice TTAG put this article in the “Guns for Beginners” section?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I was a beginner the first time I had a frag in my hand.

        It’s a pass/fail moment.

        1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          You passed!

        2. avatar James Campbell says:


        3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          Okay, something’s going wonky at TTAG again. I wrote several comments earlier this morning, and nearly all of them are erased, as well as the related ones from other commenters in the sub-threads. At least two separate articles, and unless I’m going bonkers, we’ve had another instance of an article being posted, receiving comments (including from me), and then being deleted entirely.

          This has happened many times before over the course of 2020. What’s going on?

        4. avatar Montana Actual says:

          That first time. Like slipping the panties to the side for the first time.

        5. avatar James Campbell says:

          “Okay, something’s going wonky at TTAG again…. ”
          It seems TTAG is clearing comment sections where 1st time posters and trolls “jump” a story in the first few minutes.
          I’ve seen several of my post disappear today also.
          Trump/Pence 2020

        6. avatar adverse6 says:

          I put the frag on the ground then ran, I can’t throw worth worth a damn.

        7. avatar MADDMAXX says:

          I was a beginner the first time I had a frag in my hand.

          Yeah, me too, 6 months later I was letting the spoon fly and “cookin” them for two to three seconds to get an airburst over a rice paddy dike… Funny how time works ehhh?

  3. avatar Darkman says:

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve never had a mag failure in many decades of handgun use. I do in fact carry a spare mag. Because you can Never have to much ammo in a SHTF situation.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      Only had trouble with two types of magazines. I have worn out a number of Ruger 10/22 magazines. Also had a batch of magazines from Brownells that tended to mis-feed in my first AR-15, while plenty of other brands worked fine.

      I’m always hearing about bad magazines, but from .22′ pistols to .45’s it just hasn’t been my experience, short of those two.

    2. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

      Darkman – then you are due, carry a spare mag.

  4. avatar enuf says:

    Okay, carry extra ammo. Kind of old advice but at least it’s about gun stuff.

    When I am openly carrying my Ruger SR9 there are two spare magazines on my belt. Why is because it is easy.

    When I am only carrying my .380 pocket gun there’s a spare magazine in another pocket. Because that’s what fits under the circumstances.

  5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Wow! A few days ago it was an article on carrying a light. Now one on a spare magazine. I prefer the term “reload” as it’s important to have one for a revolver also. Again, when I pointed out a absence of a reload in an EDC article you would have thought I questioned the virtue of some readers mother. Of course if don’t want to carry a reload, don’t. Maybe your adversary will grant you a timeout when you discover you need one.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      ^^^___ Yup, this here ___^^^

      I just do not get people thinking what the gun holds is what to leave the house with…….

      1. avatar GunnyGene says:

        Depends on where you’re going, what time of day, the weather, how long you’ll be gone, and other factors. People, consciously or subconsciously, evaluate the rough odds of having to use a gun and or spare mag(s) almost constantly whether they are taking the trash out, getting the mail from the curb, grocery shopping, headed out for a night on the town, or into a bad area of town to pick up some pot. Whatever. Then they make a decision. That’s all there is to it. Everyone makes that decision based on the odds – often described as a “gut feeling”, whether they realize it or not.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Gunny, I understand what you’re saying. I carry the same load out every time. Going to church or a convenience store at 2200 hrs. Not Rambo. Not minimalist either. I will change what I carry depending on circumstances. Overnight travel, natural disaster, civil unrest (one usually follows the other), etc. I don’t reevaluate everytime I walk out the door.

      2. avatar Steve Eisenberg says:

        Same here. Forgetting 2 extra mags is like forgetting my shoes.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      When has a conceal carrier ever needed a reload?

      Is there a single case where a regular, law-abiding American joe left the house to go to the grocery store, got in a gunfight, reloaded, and kept shooting (i.e. actually needed a reload)?

      As you say… carry a reload if you want, or don’t (I vary based on what I’m doing) but I have yet to see any evidence of it being useful.

      1. avatar MADDMAXX says:

        When has a conceal carrier ever needed a reload

        What happens IF/WHEN that concealed carried DOES need to reload and….(“Oh shit, I read somewhere that some guy wrote that concealed carriers NEVER need to reload”)… has no extra mag? Do you carry so much stuff that an extra magazine would over burden you? Concealed Carry is a choice as is whatever stuff you CHOOSE to carry in support of that concealed carry… I would never try to TELL anyone what they NEED (or not) to carry…

        1. avatar James Campbell says:

          So true.
          I was brought up with the one is ZERO, two is one mindset. Lots of time on the water, where self reliance is paramount.
          Some don’t carry a spare mag, whereas I carry a spare gun with two spare mags.
          Those AMT Backups are so small, they even slip into a key fob pocket on jeans.
          Trump/Pence 2020

        2. avatar MADDMAXX says:

          whereas I carry a spare gun with two spare mags.

          Mine is an SCCY 9mm ankle carry… Have an AMT but it’s a .22 automag w/6″ barrel.. not too handy for concealed carry..

      2. avatar Hanzel Gretel says:

        Are you REALLY that stupid?….. please say no and retract your stupid comment…..

  6. avatar LifeSavor says:

    I carry my firearm, my spare mag, and my multi-tool OWB. I am rough on gear; something about the way I move, I guess. Finding mag holsters and multi-tool holsters that work for me has been a challenge. Two leather mag holsters ripped in just a few months of service. I’ve gone through 3 multi-tool holsters in the past 2 years.

    I once purchased a Kydex locking mag holster. One day, while hiking, I realized the spare mag was no longer in its holster. It was definately there when I left the house. Yes, I had adjusted the holster tension for a snug mag fit. It took deliberate force to pull the mag from the holster. That one is sitting in a drawer, now: “bad holster, bad”!

    For the past month I have been using a double taco holster from High-Speed Gear. I am very happy with its rugged design, and the adjustable tension in the tacos. No signs of wear, my mag stays put as does my Leatherman Wave+. I am hoping I finally have found an OWB tool holster that can keep up with me. A few more months will tell.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Same here. I have leather and Kydex holsters for different purposes, but I’ve found that tacos have served me best for the spare mag(s).

  7. avatar Jimmy Beam says:

    … or carry a revolver. Reliable. Powerful. More than enough for self-defense.

    If you’re going into combat, carry a rifle and spare mags.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      It is three accurately fired rounds in three seconds. For most people a revolver won’t meet that requirement.

      1. avatar Jimmy Beam says:

        One or two .357 magnums will do nicely. Practice trumps capacity in self-defense.

      2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        tdiinva, three aimed rounds in three seconds from a revolver is not difficult. In fact it’s borderline slow. I’ve owned three Kahr pistols. Sold all because they were so much slower to shoot than my J-frame.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          I can empty my 1911/10mm at hit an 18 x 24 target with every round (10 rounds) in 5-6 seconds at 10 yards from the draw. I doubt you would put half the rounds on target in the same time period with a J -frame.

        2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          tdiinva, I always scored 100% when I qualified with my agency using which ever 1911 .45 ACP at the time. I also qualified 100% with my back-up/off duty weapon. Every time. A S&W 442. This is the 48 rd. FDLE qualification course. Out to 25 yards. At 15 yards you were required to fire six rounds, mandatory reload and six more rounds in 30 seconds. With my 442 I had to draw from the ankle, fire five rounds, reload, fire five rounds, reload two rounds, so that they would index, and fire them. Those who say a 2″ J-frames are not accurate are not accomplished shooters. BTW I can refer you to my agency/FDLE for release of my qualification records if you’re comfortable giving me your contact information. If not, speak not of which you do not know.

        3. avatar Hand smoocher says:

          Im not giving you my name or address…. AND I don’t believe you…. so THERE! 😛

        4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Smoocher, a lot of people didn’t believe it could be done, by me or anyone else, until they saw it done. You don’t believe me? I think I’ll go out in my front yard and gnash my teeth and rend my clothes. Don’t believe I’ll sleep well tonight either.

      3. avatar Daniel S. says:

        Curious why you say a revolver won’t meet the requirement? My revolvers are more accurate than my semi-auto’s, and I can shoot them faster and more accurately. With a 4″ barrel 38/357 holding 7 rounds, I think it’s going to get the job done.

        1. avatar Dirty criminals says:

          Your automatics are just as accurate as your revolvers…..
          The problem is YOU!

    2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Jimmy, that whole carry a rifle and spare mags thing. It sounds vaguely familiar. LOL I’ve often said if the question is your life, a rifle is the answer.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Jimmy Beam,

      I would certainly carry a rifle and spare rifle magazines if I knew beforehand that I was going into combat.

      The trouble is, sometimes bad actors find you and thrust you into combat when you least expect it. Since we cannot carry a rifle around everywhere we go, we will likely be stuck with our everyday-carry handgun and will have to make the most of it.

      While I agree that a simple revolver is a fine choice for repelling a two-bit thug, there are other, less frequent scenarios where a defender would need a full-size handgun and spare magazine/s.

  8. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    mark s.,

    Sounds like you have a good system that you really thought out.

    I suggest one slight tweak: carry some cash in addition to your two credit cards. I say that because there times when merchants are unable to process credit cards. When that happens, it sure is nice to have cash. I would recommend at least $200 — perhaps two $50 dollar bills and the rest a mix of $20, $10, $5, and $1 dollar bills.

    And if you are traveling away from home, I would up that cash amount to at least $500 in the event that you have to (unexpectedly) stay in a hotel, need a tow-truck, etc.

  9. avatar GunnyGene says:

    @ Gadsden Flag says:
    October 17, 2020 at 12:49

    Much like me. But a member of a nudist colony would likely not carry anything. On the other hand during my VN tour in the mid ’60’s it wasn’t unusual to see a Marine headed to the field shower wearing nothing but boots and a web belt with a 1911 hanging on it. Hell, I had to shoot my way out of a cathouse in Danang once. Different folks, different times, different places.

    Down my way it’s much less likely you’d be accosted in GunTown, MS (yeah it’s a real place, look it up), than in say Southside, Chicago. 🙂 But evaluations and subsequent decisions are sometimes erroneous. Such is life. You pays your money, and you takes your chances. 😉

  10. avatar jwm says:

    People like to argue that a semi is quicker to reload than a revolver. And it is. But only if you have a spare mag.

    If you carry a semi with no spare mag and still argue the semi is better than a revolver you are not functioning in reality.

    1. avatar S.Crock says:

      Micro 9mm pistols carry more than full size “large capacity” revolvers nowadays. Even without a spare mag the semi auto is king.

  11. avatar MADDMAXX says:

    Damn, I wish I’d thought of that… Oh wait, I did in 1967…..

    1. avatar Dan Zimmerman says:

      Good. However we run posts like this because there are always new gun owners coming on looking for information. Especially now. About 6.2 million of them just this year.

      1. avatar James Campbell says:

        Teaching new firearm owners to walk before they can run. 👍

  12. avatar Darkman says:

    How about just utilizing a New York Reload. Covers the need for more ammo as well as a malfunction of your primary. The options are endless for the new or experienced firearms owner. Most importantly Carry a firearm, Practice to proficiency, Employee Situational Awareness and Have the Correct Mindset. When SHTF all of these will help in your and your loved ones survive-ability. Be Safe Out There and Keep Your Powder Dry.

  13. avatar Chris says:

    Aftermarket mags are usually the most unreliable. Who the hell carries a gun and doesn’t carry extra mags?

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      I carry a G19. No Spare mag carried.

      The mag in the Glock has never seen the ground and it only comes out when I need to clear the weapon and it’s rare.

      Springs do not get weak from compression, they get weak from alot of expansion and compression over time.

      As far as I know and excluding the Police, there has never been anyone that has reloaded in a DGU. I’ve posted this multiple times on TTAG. Kyle didn’t reload.

      I’m not saying don’t carry a spare mag. I’m saying what others have said and that’s it’s a personal decision based on existing risk factors.

      My vehicle is a different critter though, it carries spare mags and other interesting things.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Manse, gunfight. “Time out! Time out! I need to run back to my vehicle for a spare mag!” Bad guy, “Sure, go ahead. I’ll wait while you leave cover.” 😆

        1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

          Hey, I get it..really I do.

          But I live in, essentially, Mayberry. Risk factors here are low unless you’re in the drug life or involved in crime. Now, if I lived in Atlanta or Charlotte those risk factors I mentioned would go up and a reevaluation would occur…but I doubt I would change what I carry.

          Look at the recent non-police shootings that have been discussed here. Bear spray guy, Kyle, the others that can be found on video…no reloads…because no time. It’s over that quick. Even store robberies..I have not seen a clerk reload, not even in the diamond/jewelry store videos.

          Like I said, everyone has to eval their own life decisions. I’m just pointing out that carrying a spare mag on your person at all times, in a way, speaks to that persons equipment and how confident they are in said equipment. Think about that for a minute. If you are carrying something that you are not 100% confident in..why are you carrying it?

          Had to run out for bit..sorry for got my train of thought..

        2. avatar George Washington says:

          I have to say, your argument for NOT carrying a spare mag is weak as water….
          Im thinking you might wanna keep BAD advice to yourself….
          You can NEVER PLAN FOR A DGU…… NEVER!

  14. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    If you aren’t super tactical at the range, meaning you don’t fling your mags to the ground, there isn’t any reason to have mag failures.

  15. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    One other thing. The way that guy is holding the magazine in the pic at the beginning of the article is the perfect example of how it’s not done. The base of the mag should be resting on the heel of the hand. Middle to pinky fingers and thumb should have a firm grip on the magazine body. Index finger should be laid along the front of the magazine with the tip of the index finger just below the feed lips. This allows good control of the magazine and indexes the magazine to the mag well without taking your eyes off the threat. Practice is recommended.

  16. avatar Valhalla1776 says:

    Question…if the experts advocate not to carry on an empty chamber because you will not have enough time to draw and chamber a round in the bad guy scenario, how is it you will have time to draw pull the trigger “click not bang”, drop said bad magazine and reload?

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Valhalla, how would you like the same scenario without a spare magazine. Besides, the proper response to a first shot “click” is tap, rack, bang. The answer to a malfunction/empty pistol is a reload.

      1. avatar Valhalla1776 says:

        The thing is when it comes to “tips” about firearm use and specifically concealed carry the only thing one can go on is there own experience/expectations of what might happen. How many on this forum can speak from experience of a defensive gun use? How many can attest to needing a “reload”. I m not speaking in terms of patrolling as a police officer nor are am I speaking of military experience. We are talking about everyday individuals who may need to defend themselves in a bad moment. We can always talk about what can happen and should prepare for our worst case scenario if possible. As current events have just shown a kid deterred a crowd with 3 shots. My whole point was just to show the conflicting “advice” and “tips” coming from the professionals.

        1. avatar Valhalla1776 says:

          Didn’t finish…at the moment a bad situation happens, if you don’t have time to pull a rack your slide you are not going to have time to do a remedial action nor a reload.

  17. avatar Ralph says:

    Most of the time, I carry a spare mag. I also carry an assisted-opening knife, a note pad, a wallet with cash, a phone, spare change, keys, a pen, a can of Skoal purchased from the finest gas station, some gum and probably stuff that I can’t remember right now. It’s quite a load-out.

    When the weather permits — clothing matters y’all — a carry a BUG. I don’t carry a BUG and a spare because I prefer my pants to stay on — weight matters too.

  18. avatar former water walker says:

    Carry an extra mag. Or 2 or 3…it’s 2020 fudd’s. Antifools & BlackLootersMurder are cowards and will use a mass attack. And your local po-leece isn’t likely to help out. Lock n load POTG!

  19. avatar LastOfTheOldOnes says:

    As a design engineer, I know the first rule of machine design, which is simplicity is beauty.
    The second rule, if it’s heavy it’s OK, but if too heavy it’s just right…

    As a result of seeing many complicated machines crapping out at inopportune moments, my mindset tends to favor revolvers. I have many revolvers and semi autos, but my most bigly favorite is the S&W Model 60, 2 1/8″ barrel.

    It feels molded to my hands when in use, the 357’s come out like the wrath of God, and the extra powder in that short barrel comes out with the sound of a thunderclap, with bright lightning illuminating everything.
    I get goosebumps…. 🙂

    It is my reward from God for leading a good life and believing….

    1. avatar James Campbell says:

      Well said.
      One of the best TTAG posts today.

  20. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Former, Fuds’R’Us. Most of the firearms I own are hunting related. After the 12″ of rain during Hurricane Sally a lot of the overgrown cat tails and other vegetation was blown out in Casey’s pond. The ducks are now pouring in. If all you know are ARs and plastic pistols, I’m sorry for your luck. The United States of America is a beautiful country. Look at some of it through your sights when you’re not on a range.

  21. avatar Grumpy Old Guy says:

    If you carry a spare mag because you are worried about mag failure, you have selected your carry gun poorly. Mags fail when they are abused and ignored. If you have to use your gun in a fight, the deciding factor most of the time is who gets the first shot on target. Having a smooth draw and a gun you can shoot well and regular practice is much more important when what kind of kit you carry. Spare ammo is always nice, but needs to be kept in perspective.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      “…..”the deciding factor most of the time is who gets the first shot on target.”……

      This can not be overstated! Or similar to an old Army Truism…”Get there firstest with the mostest”..

  22. avatar Montana Actual says:

    And don’t carry it the same side in front or behind your pistol! If you are AIWB that is another story and it should be canted slightly on the weak hand side like most AIWB holster combos already have. But for you new carriers I see it all the time in FUDDS too… the spare 1911 mag right behind the holster or in front of it. Pointless and reckless. Always weak hand side concealed or OWB. Get a good mag pouch too. Some can even be found on amazon that are pretty decent. You want the same retention your holster has and the same goes for the belt clip/loop. Don’t even bother with that nylon crap that has a strap over the top. Do it right.

  23. avatar strych9 says:

    Based on the image:

    Tip #1: Carry a reload.

    Advanced User’s Tip: Ensure reload actually includes ammunition.

    Pro Tip: Ensure that your reload contains ammunition suited to the gun you’re carrying.

  24. avatar Jimmy James says:

    That is why I like my shoulder rig in cool/cold weather. 1 mag in the gun and 2 in the pouch.

  25. avatar Salvatore C. says:

    What pistol is that in the main photo?… Looks like an older SIG.

  26. avatar Joseph says:

    You can tell the folks who have never been in a gunfight and came close to running out of ammo in their pistol. They’re the ones who poopoo carrying a second mag. Be careful getting advise that costs nothing. It’s usually worth what you paid for it.

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