I have developed a couple of pet peeves over the years. Perhaps the biggest one is people who choose not to carry a reload.

I have heard many “reasons”: “How many bad guys are going to attack me?” “I have 19 rounds in the gun—how many times do you expect me to miss?” “It’s too cumbersome.” “I only carry a reload if I’m expecting trouble.”

I find that last “reason” very disturbing. If you expect trouble and knew when and where the next gunfight was going to be, you’d be someplace else. And if you had to be there, you’d have a rifle—and bring all your friends with rifles.

I carry a reload for the same reason I carry a spare tire and insurance: I don’t plan on using it, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Some people believe the fastest reload is a second gun and going to it and finishing the fight. I have no problem with that, but when I’m at work in uniform, a backup gun would be slower from an ankle holster or a vest holster. I prefer to fix the gun in my hand.

Let’s look at some of the different ways to carry a reload.

Wide variety of single magazine carriers is available.

Table of Contents


A pistol magazine is not an accessory—it is the primary feed source for that blaster. Some of the most common malfunctions with semi-autos are magazine related—feed lips bend or spread apart, base plates break, springs go bad, etc. That alone is a good reason to carry a reload.

The first and simplest—though least desirable— method of carrying a spare magazine is simply to drop one in a pocket. I say least desirable because there’s a greater possibility of the magazine becoming damaged or fouled with a foreign object.

Spare magazine holders come in all kinds of designs and materials, including leather, nylon, Kydex®, plastic, spring steel, and even cloth. Being somewhat of a traditionalist, I prefer leather. It lasts well and looks good.

Nylon and Kydex hold up very well and are almost maintenance free.

Single Mag Pouches

As for magazine pouches, there’s more to them than who makes them or what they’re made of. To me, carrying a single magazine pouch is the absolute minimum for a semi-auto. As a single pouch is worn mostly for CCW or plainclothes, there is little need for a retention strap over the top.

Double magazine pouches are common and useful.

For magazines that hold ten or more rounds, a single pouch will likely suffice.

Double Mag Pouches

Double magazine pouches are standard for duty wear, usually with a flap that closes with a snap, although hook-andloop material is occasionally used. Most modern designs allow a double to be worn either vertically or horizontally.

The upside of the double mag pouch is being able to carry two reloads. The downside—especially for the average CCW or plainclothes officer—is the additional weight if a good stiff belt is not worn.

Variants include the ability to carry a magazine or other gear. Clockwise from upper left: Andrews Custom Leather magazine/light pouch made from hippopotamus, Galco MFP COP Mag Flashlight combo, and Hansen custom pouch holding magazine, light, and multi-tool.


A variant on the double magazine pouch is using the space taken up by the second magazine to hold a flashlight, pair of handcuffs, or multi-tool.

Two variants I often use are Galco’s MFP COP Mag Flashlight combo when carrying my .45 XD, and an Andrews Custom Leather pouch made from hippopotamus when carrying my Kimber TLE/RL.

When I worked as a bailiff, a judge might order me to take someone into custody, so I often wore a Bianchi mag/ handcuff combo.

My Dad is good at working with leather, and made a custom one-off pouch that suits his needs. The pouch holds a flashlight, magazine and SOG multi-tool.


Revolvers are a little more limited when it comes to carrying reloads, right? Wrong. There are a lot of ways to carry reloads for the revolver.

Loose Rounds

Reload options for revolvers include full-moon clips, QuickStrips, speed loaders, loose rounds, and even using a pistol magazine to reload a .45 ACP revolver.

As with the semi-auto, carrying loose rounds is less than optimal, but not as critical because there is little possibility of their becoming damaged.


One of my favorite ways to carry extra ammunition is simply to drop a couple of Tuff Products QuickStrips™ into my pocket. The strips lie very flat in a vest or pants pocket and will generally not print.

QuickStrips are available for all common and even some not-so-common calibers. For .38 Special/.357 Magnum, they are available in five-, six-, sevenand eight-round versions. With practice, one can reload a revolver quite quickly with QuickStrips.

Galco 2X2X2 pouch (left) and Simply Rugged Holsters Most Versatile Ammo Pouch are variations on the old belt slide carrier.

As an aside, Tuff Products also makes a pocket holster called the Pocket-Roo, which fits J-frame size revolvers and many small autos and has a pocket for a QuickStrip. When wearing shorts, I often carry my Ruger LCR with a Quick- Strip in the Pocket-Roo.

Shell Loops And Pouches

Once common on duty belts of peace officers nationwide, belt slide cartridge carriers are not nearly as common today. Takeoffs on the belt slide carrier include the Galco 2X2X2 Pouch and Simply Rugged Holsters Most Versatile Ammo Pouch.

Pouches for speed loaders can be had in either single or double styles. Left to right: Galco Belt Speedloader Carrier, old double pouch of unknown manufacture, and Andrews Custom Leather single speedloader pouch made from hippo hide.

As the name implies, the 2X2X2 Pouch holds two rounds per pocket, for a total of six rounds. Grasping two cartridges at a time is very good for fully reloading or for a revolver tactical reload (only replacing shells that have been fired).

The Most Versatile Ammo Pouch can be used to carry either rounds loaded into QuickStrips or loose rounds. One advantage of both these pouches is that they employ a flap to keep the rounds clean and secure. If worn with a matching belt, they are very discreet and could be mistaken for a cell phone case.

Speed Loaders

Although bulkier than QuickStrips, speed loaders are a very fast way to fully load a revolver. But perhaps even a bit quicker are full-moon clips, as there is no motion necessary other than to drop the entire unit into the cylinder and close it.

The only possible downside to moon clips and speed loaders is that it’s not possible to perform a tactical reload— it’s all or nothing. If that matters to you, carry a QuickStrip in addition to the speed loader.

If you carry a revolver chambered for .45 ACP, you might opt to carry a 1911 magazine. The rounds can be stripped out of the magazine directly into the cylinder’s chambers.

Long gun ammo carriers include 12-gauge QuickStrips, leather mag pouch, and two-round shotshell carrier.
Best option for having a reload available for long guns is keeping ammo on the gun.


Although we don’t walk around carrying a long gun, many people have one in their vehicle. Ammo carriers that can be worn on the belt are available and take up only a small amount of real estate.

Another and perhaps better option is to carry spare ammo on the long gun itself. For shotguns, either SpeedFeed stock or SideSaddles are very good options. For rifles, there are butt cuffs with loops or a pouch for a magazine. If your trunk gun is an AR, you might want to attach a Redi-Mag with an extra magazine for a quick reload.


If you’ve made the conscious decision to carry a firearm to protect yourself and your family, make the right choice and carry a reload.

With many options available, there really is no excuse not to. That’s right, those “reasons” people give for not carrying a reload aren’t reasons at all— they’re excuses.

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