If there’s one bit of universal wisdom regarding concealed carry, it’s always to carry a spare magazine. Obviously, this applies to people carrying semi-automatics; having one won’t do you any good with a revolver. That’d be plenty awkward!
That said, there are a few different ways to go about it, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. If you’re going to carry a backup magazine, these are the ways to do it.
Magazine Carriers and Magazine Holsters
The most logical way to carry a spare magazine is to use a magazine carrier or magazine holster. Just like concealed carry holsters, they are usually made of leather, hard plastics like Boltaron, Kydex or injection-molded plastic; they can be a hybrid design of the two…the choices vary by maker.
Some are meant for IWB carry, others for OWB carry. Some holster makers add a single holster caddy to the gun holster itself. Concealment can be relatively easy (depending on the design) but, again depending on design, may not be. It all depends on the model.
Some people even create improvised mag carriers for their spare magazine. Many challenging more accessible (and also full-size 1911 magazines) can be held in a tool pouch that fits on the belt. And they work great.
Fairly obvious, really, but there are a few potential drawbacks. First, just like picking a gun holster, there are some you’ll find comfortable enough to carry all the time, and others only work on range day. Your mileage will vary, of course, so you may need to try a few out.
One thing you’ll want to look for beyond comfort is good retention, as a mag carrier should keep the magazine in place while carrying. However, that may have to be balanced against a smooth draw.
These are the easiest to use in a critical situation, especially if located on the weak side. Holsters with mag caddies are convenient, to be sure, but drawing from the strong-side – which will be a cross-draw, can be a bit awkward.
A spare magazine in a pocket is undoubtedly the lowest-tech method of toting a reload. Doesn’t it seem simple? It indeed can be, but you should be aware of a few things.
First, the magazine that you carry may make carrying in this method impractical, if not impossible. A 1911 magazine probably isn’t going to be a problem; a smallish compact double-stack magazine (think Glock 26/M&P9C) won’t likely be too much of a problem either. Cargo pockets will afford a bit more room but can be a bit difficult to access in the heat of the moment.
However, once you get the larger of the compacts and certainly the full-size double-stack magazines (say a Glock 19 magazine or larger), it’s just not going to be very practical. You could get away with one in the back pocket, but the front pocket is going to be out.
Second, you need to keep that pocket devoid of anything besides the magazine. Clutter will interfere with drawing the magazine. You might also get a round or two worked out if the top round snags in the pocket.
In the heat of the moment, a magazine may be challenging to retrieve quickly from a pocket. Some people make this more accessible with a magazine sleeve that helps orient the magazine and makes drawing easier.
The New York Reload
Another strategy is to take your spare magazine or spare ammunition and wrap it in a backup gun.
This practice is as old as the hills. Cavalry officers were known to carry multiple revolvers within years of the revolver’s invention, as were some infantry. Frank Pape, the legendary (some might say infamous) Chicago police officer was known to carry multiple Police Positive revolvers at all times by having longer pockets sewn into his trousers and coat. Officers in New York City were also recognized for carrying numerous revolvers at one time, which is why it’s called a “New York reload.”
Today’s tactical instructors that advocate carrying multiple Glocks at all times aren’t doing anything new.
That said, carrying multiple guns and multiple holsters is a pain, and that’s a lot of equipment to buy. There’s some logic to it, though; cuts down on reload time, you have alternatives in case your primary weapon malfunctions, and in case of a REAL bad situation (say a mass shooter) you could ostensibly arm someone to help you take down a bad person.
Then again, do you want to walk around with two to three guns at all times? Not everyone does.