I recently taught an intermediate-level class in which, when asked, not a single student said that they normally carry any spare ammunition for the defensive handgun they carry daily. These were all intelligent, well-meaning people who were trying to take responsibility for their own personal safety as well as the safety of their families. They had all been carrying on their CCW permits for several years, all of them claimed that they shot at least somewhat regularly, and all of them had taken the responsible step of seeking out additional, non-mandated training. Yet it had never crossed their minds that they might, at some point, need more ammunition than the normal payload that their firearms carried. Additionally, none of them had ever thought about the fact that it might not be additional ammunition they would need, rather, it could be a spare, properly functioning magazine they were in need of. Luckily, after just a bit of discussion, logic prevailed and all of them agreed that from this day forward, they would always carry at least one spare loaded magazine on their person anytime they were carrying their handguns.
With this in mind, it stands to reason that the next logical question might be, “how much spare ammunition is enough”? It seems that there are always plenty of varying opinions on carrying spare ammunition. Some people say that, since the “average” defensive shooting usually consists of 3 or less shots being fired, the ammunition in their 5 or 6 shot revolver, or the ammunition in their 7 to 17 round semi-auto, is more than enough. Others insist that you can never have too much ammunition available on your person and they’ll slide a spare magazine or speedloader into every available pocket.
While it’s true that most defensive shootings involve 3 or less shots being fired, in today’s complex tactical environment, we are seeing more and more cases where criminals attack in groups of 2, 3, or more, and in some cases, the criminals are dressed in some type of body armor or improvised body armor. We can ill afford to rely on statistical probability alone as the determining factor for how much ammunition we may, or may not need. Something I’ve said to my students before, and I’ll repeat here; unless you are going swimming, there is really no such thing as “too much” ammunition. On the other hand, the concept of “too little” ammunition is easily quantifiable.
Like nearly every other piece of equipment we select for personal daily carry, choosing how much spare ammunition to carry, and in what manner, is a matter of balancing practicality with plausibility. I’d suggest that the primary reason a person might carry at least one spare, fully-loaded magazine for his/her semi-auto is because the gun itself implicitly relies on a properly functioning magazine in order to operate correctly, never mind the fact that having the extra 7 – 17 rounds of ammunition on your person is never a bad thing. On the other hand, the person who chooses to carry a 5 or 6 shot revolver would be well advised to consider whether or not those initial 5 or 6 rounds will be enough in the event of a worse case scenario situation.
Whatever type or caliber gun you choose to carry, be sure to put some serious thought into your possible spare ammunition needs. Additionally, make sure your practice sessions include performing reloads and malfunction clearing exercises while accessing your spare magazine(s) or speedloader(s) from the exact location and carry mode that you will carry them as you go about your normal day-to-day business. Remember, the middle of a gunfight is not the time or place to be wishing you would have grabbed that spare speedloader or magazine on your way out the door for the evening. Make it a habit, and you will never be without when or if you are in need.
~ CTS ~