With millions of Americans buying guns for the first time in 2020, many of them are wondering how many ammunition magazines they need. Some of these new gun owners (or even older gun owners) might think that if you need more than one or two magazines, manufacturers would include them. Not so, Kimosabe.
You need ammo and a good holster for your pistol, not to mention a sling for your rifle, but manufacturers don’t include those. So as firearm owner, how many magazines do you need for your gun(s)?
From twenty-some years as a firearms and tactics instructor and a student of the gun at courses from dozens of regional and nationally-known firearms instructors, I’ve seen a lot of answers to this question.
Many people don’t realize that magazines degrade with use. Feed lips become bent and springs don’t last through an infinite number of load/unload cycles. To give you an idea, the military considers their standard-issue aluminum AR-style magazines to have a 4000-round service life. That’s roughly 130 loadings. After that, the military considers them expended and you should, too.
After all, other than ammunition issues, the most common cause for malfunctions in semi-automatic firearms is a defective magazine. You’ll see that experienced shooters number their magazines. They do this so that if they notice malfunctions with a certain magazine, they can easily ID it and take it out of service.
You can still use that defective magazine as a training tool, but you should mark it prominently. Or destroy it. Just make sure it doesn’t stay among your working gear that you depend upon for personal defense or serious competition.
Unlike ammunition, you can still find magazines widely available on dealers’ shelves and online. For now. That won’t last forever. Act now to make sure you have enough.
So how many magazines do you really need?
Semi-auto firearm owners should have at least three magazines for each firearm. That’s the minimum. Three allows the gun to be loaded for self-defense with two reloads. Three magazines also makes a nice complement for recreational shooting as well. If you aren’t going to shoot more than occasionally (or every five years for a qualification), that’s likely enough.
For those of you who you shoot regularly or train even occasionally, you should buy three brand new replacement magazines in addition to your three working mags. These should also be factory magazines or come from a reputable after-market manufacturer like Magpul. These will replace any of your initial magazines that fail over time from use or abuse.
For the revolver shooters out there, you should have “magazines” too – otherwise known as “speed loaders.”
Revolver owners should have at least two speed loaders for reloads. The good news is that speed loaders are less prone to failure with use. Also, for deep cover, speed strips are also available, but they are much slower on the reload.
For AR-15s and Modern Sporting Rifles
Owners of America’s favorite rifle, the AR-15, or other semi-automatic rifles should have a bare minimum of three working magazines. Six would be mo’ better.
Complement that with another three (or six) brand new spares.
Should the government enact some sort of ban on the manufacture of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, milspec AR magazines or other semi-auto modern sporting rifle mags will become very pricey. Buy your spare magazines now while they remain affordable and widely available. Don’t wait. Buy them yesterday.
What about bolt-action rifle owners?
If your bolt-action rifle uses removable box magazines, make sure you have at least three of them. Thankfully, bolt gun magazines are unlikely to face legal sale or ownership restrictions anytime soon.
Can you have too many magazines?
No, no you can’t. Just number them with a white or silver Sharpie and be sure to function test them with your defensive ammunition before you rely on them to save your life.
Just make sure you have at least three magazines, bare minimum, for every mag-fed gun you own. Buy some spares, too. You’ll thank yourself in ten or twenty years. Maybe sooner than that.