Carrying a Reload: Concealability vs. Accessibility

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Carrying a Reload: Concealability vs. Accessibility

Many concealed carriers don’t bother packing a reload for their handgun. Statistically it is exceedingly rare for a citizen to reload in a use-of-force situation so there is an argument for not bothering with a reload at all. However, I believe there is a convincing argument for being prepared for even the outliers.

Personally, I always carry a reload for the gun I am carrying. The reload does pose further complications, however, concerning concealment, and here I wish to share some suggestions for carry options for a reload and balancing concealment with accessibility.

The reload is far less likely to be needed than even your concealed carry gun, which in itself is unlikely to be used on any given day, but should we need our gun we will probably need it RIGHT NOW. This general principle may apply to our ability to reload the gun as well. Striking a balance between concealment and accessibility is the challenge.

Extra Magazine On/In the Waistband

Carrying any sort of weaponry or support gear on the waistband is usually a great solution concerning accessibility, but concealability can be problematic. I have found that concealing a magazine on the waistband can be just as difficult as concealing the gun itself. If you carry a magazine so that it is oriented vertically with the base pad facing up you may find that the sharp angle of that base pad prints through most shirts. On-the-waistband mag holders do this especially, although I find even inside-the-waistband pouches can print quite noticeably as well. Everyone’s body type is different and the best location for carry will vary.

I carry my reload for my autoloader on the support-side appendix position. If you carry your gun in the appendix position you may find that keeping your magazine also in the appendix position, but on the support side, works good for you. The appendix position tends to conceal well for many and this seems to help in the carry of a spare magazine as well. I actually carry my handgun strong-side hip, not appendix, but I carry the reload appendix. I know people that do the opposite and carry the gun appendix and the reload support-side hip. You need to experiment to find the most workable combination. Another possible solution is to carry the magazine so that it is horizontal on the hip. There are a number of magazine carriers made to do this, so that the magazine lays in line with the belt. Some people find that this aids in concealment. Similar to determining how to carrying the gun itself, experimentation is needed.

Revolver reloads can also be carried on or in the waistband. Speedloaders can be rather difficult to conceal and there are less options for belt-worn pouches for speedloaders than there are for magazines. I find that I am able to wear a speedloader pouch in the appendix position rather well but the bulge of the wide and round speedloader is very noticeable if worn on the support-side hip. Again, this will take experimentation to determine the best solution for your body type and mode of carry. The pouches that are designed to “split” the cartridges over the belt tend to hold the speedloader tighter to the body and conceal better.

Extra Magazine Carried In the Pocket

While we would all admit that a magazine carried on the waistband is ideal in terms of speed and accessibility there are circumstances in which our reload may be pocket-bound. While not ideal I think it is clear that a reload carried in your pocket is better than carrying no reload. Carrying a magazine for an autoloader or a speedloader or speed strip for a revolver in the pocket proves to be quite convenient and can also provide good concealment. There are several downsides to this carry method, however. Consider the following:

A spare magazine carried in the pocket can often pick up lint and debris that can actually interfere with the function of the magazine. I have found my pocket carried magazine packed full of debris so much so that it may induce a malfunction if loaded into the gun. A workaround or this is to carry a magazine in a dedicated pocket mag pouch of some type. A number of manufacturers make these pouches. These dedicated pocket pouches also keep the magazine oriented in a consistent way, making for faster access.

A magazine in your pocket can tumble around and end up in unpredictable locations, like laying flat at the bottom of the pocket, or turning around so as to be facing the wrong direction. A pocket magazine pouch can resolve this. Another issue with pocket carry, however, is the undeniable fact that it is slower to access than from your waistband. This, however, may be a compromise worth making for concealment purposes. Be sure to practice accessing the reload from the pocket if that is indeed how you carry it. A lot of people practice reloads from a belt pouch, but only carry a spare magazine in their pocket. Practice the way you carry. Finally, a reload in the pocket will realistically be accessible only to that single hand. In the event of needing to reload while injured a belt-worn reload will provide better access to either hand.

Alternative Carry Methods

Just as there are many ways in which to carry your gun there are many ways to carry a reload. Waistband and pocket are the most common, but a reload can also be carried in other ways such as on the ankle, in a shoulder rig, or off-body. Accessing a reload from the ankle can be a challenge similar to accessing a gun on the ankle. You must reach down to the lower extremity of your body to retrieve the reload. Also, anything worn on the ankle is difficult to access if in motion. Off-body carry is often a good option but anything not attached to you can quickly become unavailable when bad things happen. However, for women especially, carrying a reload in a purse can often prove the best available solution.

These are some ideas to think about concerning carrying a reload for your handgun. Some experimentation is in order, but carrying a reload can turn out to be a good decision if you face an outlier event. You may find that the fastest carry mode may simply prove impractical, so compromise may be in order. The most important part of this topic: practice reloading your gun from which ever carry position you actually use.

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  • LTC (Retired) LD

    I carry a spare magazine in a black ballistic nylon case for a folding knife. Such a case is a fairly common site in my part of Texas, so its presence on my belt doesn’t raise even an eyebrow. Basically, hidden in place sight. My EDC M&P Shield is carried in an AlienGear 3.0, strong side, behind the hip and covered by either an untucked button up shirt (often a Hawaiian style shirt) in the summer or a tucked long sleeve in winter.

  • TimOzzyCzernik

    I recently bought 4 pair of shorts with the “CARGO” type design, has a opening to slide a mag down in, while below waist, it’s NOT too difficult to get to. PRACTICE = SPEED.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    After all, we are all in combat on the street . . . every city is not Chicago or Baltimore and even then, the odds of being shot are still low in reality. I carry spare(s) all the time. My first impulse will be to seek cover (or escape) once gunfire has taken place. It may take more than a couple seconds to access my spare, and reload, but under cover it should be of no consequence. Seriously, we talk about all these needed rounds and speed as if we are all walking into a dark alley in the worst neighborhood known to man and there will be a half dozen people with guns coming after us. In that case, you better have a full-auto with a minimum 30 round magazine.

  • McLovin’s back.
    Then there is the NY reload. Just carry a LCP II. Probably doesn’t weigh much more if it does than that a full magazine.

    • G50AE

      Do they even let you carry firearms in NY?

      • Not me. I haven’t lived there in 15 years.

  • G50AE

    You can always use a shoulder holster system that allows you to carry your chosen sidearm and two spare magazines. Some designs also include a “tactical” badge fob that you can use for your CCW Badge.

  • Fred Miller

    I carry 1-2 extra mags in a little pouch I bought at Herb Philipson’s for about $7 (’cause nobody sells just pouches anymore). It looks like I have a multitool or small flashlight on my belt, and nobody would guess it’s handgun ammunition. Fits my mags for my LCP, LC9s or Sig P938 perfectly. I never I’ll probably (hopefully) never need it, but it’s there if I ever do.

  • xrmeav8r

    I think we get too paranoid about the fact that our gear prints, although I understand it in areas where it would be tanamount to “brandishing”, because the normal person on the street doesn’t even pay attention to others. I have open carried (as an experiment) and watched other people to see if they notice. The only ones that do are like minded sheepdogs, we tend to be more aware of our surroundings so are more aware if our gear prints.

  • Mikial

    I always carry a reload.

  • Big Mike

    The base issue is not really do you carry a reload, the question you need to ask yourself is “How many rounds total do I fell the need to carry?”

    Compare for example a person carrying a Single stack 9mm, so he has 6 or 7 in mag and 1 in pipe, second mag has another 6/7 – so he has 13 to 15 rounds with him.

    Another person decides that he wants basically the same number of rounds and gets a double stack that hold 13 and 1 in the pipe.

    Carrier one – 13/15 rounds and reload required
    Carrier two – 14 rounds no reload required.

    So if you are comfortable with the single stack and 1 reload and but you carry a double stack that gives you virtually the same number of rounds why worry about where to carry a reload.

    So ask yourself first how many rounds do I need, then how many magazines/reloads do I need to achieve that count.

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