How many magazines should you carry?
What is the correct number of Magazines you should carry? This is a common question, and depending on whom you ask you will get different answers. Some may suggest, as many as you can carry. While others will suggest one or two and say it’s all about shot placement. In either opinion they are not wrong or right, you need to ask yourself what are you going to be doing and what kinds of threats or needs you will have. My view point has been shaped by my service in the Army and my current employment as a Law Enforcement Officer in Southern Arizona. Factors to consider are weight of ammunition/magazines/gear, placement and carrying capacity, situation and potential threats, and caliber effectiveness.
In the Army I was deployed to Iraq as a gun truck driver for supply convoy security for the first 4.5 months of my deployment [8000 miles in 4.5 months]. While deployed to Iraq we were issued seven magazines and 28 rounds for each magazine. Which is based on the Army’s standard battle load of seven 30 round magazines with only 28 rounds in each to reduce "spring fatigue" [Debatable topic for another day]. Soldiers are generally taught in combat more is better when it comes to certain things, such as “Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids”. I was able to acquire some extra rounds and increased my personal battle load to ten magazines of 28rds each. You have to weigh your options of capacity, firepower, and weight. With that in mind you have to also evaluate the environment you will be conducting you mission in relation to cover and concealment [cover being able to stop bullets and concealment being it masks you presence]. You have to evaluate if you will be better off with more lead to throw down range or better off with less weight so you can get to cover or injured squad mates faster. You can also go by the often heard quote..."There's no such thing as too much ammo, unless your swimming or on fire."
As a Patrol Officer we are only issued three magazines with 14rds in two magazines carried on our duty belt and 15rds loaded into our duty weapon [14 in the mag and one in the chamber]. Because of my military training I would like to have extra magazines, but as a Patrol Officer, I have to weigh the option of weight more than I did as a Soldier. As a Patrol Officer, I have to be able to pursue suspects in a foot chase, which includes straight running, running through dry creek beds [washes], or over fences and walls. So if I were to add too many extra magazines, it would slow me down. We already wear a Kevlar vest [5lbs] and a duty belt with a duty weapon [Glock 22], two mags, flashlight, radio, handcuffs, OC spray, Tazer, and baton [totaling approximately 15-20lbs]. That being said, I would also need to figure out where to carry any additonal magazines with the limited space of a duty belt.
For off duty or conceal carry, you will be generally using it is to stop an imminent threat to yourself or another, or to stop an active shooter; it is not for an all out fire fight. I am not a fan of Glock personnaly, but I have carried a polymer lower off duty firearm, the XD 45 Compact, which has a 10rd capacity in the compact magazine, which can be extended to 13rds by putting in a full size magazine in. Others love the Glock, and it all comes down to preference and what feels right in your hand [see Jon Boyd's "Which pistol is right for you?"]
I have changed my off duty carry to a full size standard frame 1911 initially, then changed to a full size 1911 with a Surefire 300 Ultra. With that change I usually carry extra magazines, because the standard frame and standard magazine is only seven to eight rounds [depending on the model-mine is 7rds]. With the reduced magazine capacity I want to have at least on extra magazine.
For hiking, backpacking, camping, and outdoor activities, I am conditioning myself to carry a plate carrier, on top of a battle belt set up with additional magazines [belt has been in use for several years now]. I have been working up my endurance for the plates [AR500] that I wear in my Ares Armor Aspis plate carrier. I have switched to HSGI's Taco pouches to carry 1911 magazines as well as AK magazines. I currently carry six AK magazines and three 1911 magazines on my plate carrier. On my belt I also us the Tacos and carry three 10rd 1911 magazines and two AK magazines. The reason I choose to carry so much extra during my outdoor activities is because of the varied threats I may encounter. In the mountains of Arizona, there is potential to come into contact with mountain lions and black bears, which could become a fight for your life if they decide you are a possible food source. There is also the issue of running into drug smugglers and/or human smugglers who are usually heavily armed, and may shoot at you on sight.
I went to Tony Nester’s Complete Survivor and Bushcraft courses in August 2010 for ten days, and wore an old belt set up during the course. The class helped me make adjustments to how and where I placed my pouches to allow me to move in the bush and perform skills associated to survival and bushcraft. These adjustments had to be balanced with practical use for tactics and defense as well. The old and new belt setups used a padded battle belt ["War Belt" or "Battle Belt"] and a thigh holster. For holsters you need to pick one based on your preference, usablility to you, and practicallity. If you are going to conceal carry you will not want to choose a battle belt or thigh holster. For conceal carry, I generally use a Bravo Concealment Kydex holster. They also make a single and double magazine "pouch".
In addition to plate carriers and belts, you can add a bag or pack. If you have [and in my opinion you should] a bug out/emergency bag you can add pouches or sections to store additional ammunition; again you have to consider the weight factor. Before you add 20 pouches and tons of magazines or boxes of ammunition to your pack, you should pack it with the gear you need/want for a bug out or emergency first. You still need to be able to carry the bag. For example, your bag and gear weighs 50lbs and you are only conditioned to carry 55lbs you cannot add more than 5lbs of ammunition. If you wish to increase the number of magazines in your pack, you should slowly add magazines or boxes of ammo until you are conditioned enough to carry the amount of ammunition you want. Remember you need to add and account for food and water in your pack’s weight before you add tons of ammunition. Currently for smaller outtings I have been using the Ares Armor Combat XII pack which is set up to add magazines to the top in open pouches disgined for magazines. The pack also can be carried as a backpack or can be integrated to my plate carrier.
In closing there are lots of factors you need to look at when you choose how many magazines you need/want to carry. You need to look at the weight you may already be carrying or need to carry, placement and carrying capacity, situation and potential threats. Most importantly you need to test and adjust your gear to fit you, be effectively usable by you, and fit it your individual needs.
Plate Carrier: http://aresarmor.com/store/Item/AA-ASP-PC Combat XII Pack: http://aresarmor.com/store/Item/AA-CXIIP