One is Just Right, Two is Too Many, Three is Not Enough

Does the title of this article ring a bell? I first heard it my Freshman year in college in reference to alcoholic beverages, and it rang true! This article, however, has nothing to do with college (or beer).

Visit any of the “gun” web forums and you will sooner or later run across threads with topics like, “How much ammo is too much?” or, “How many of you carry a reload for your CCW?” As with most topics, some of the answers people provide are fairly well-thought out, while others border on the inane. I thought I would take a moment to address this topic in a (hopefully) short blog article.

Ground rules

First, let us set the background. We are not talking about storming the Bastille, chestrigs for AR magazines, or anything else of that ilk. The focus of this article–and most of this blog–is on the civilian practicing concealed carry. With that out of the way…

No Right Answer

It is my belief that there is no right answer to the question of how much spare ammunition a person should carry. However, I do believe that there is a WRONG answer, and that is to carry NO spare ammunition.

In reading some of the forum responses to the aforementioned questions, it amazed me how many of the respondents carry no spare ammunition for their concealed firearm. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it either; people with J frames seemed just as likely to carry no reloads as people who carry Glock 19s. So capacity didn’t seem to be the issue. Some arguments I read against a reload included: “If I need more than (X number of rounds), I should have stayed home.”, or, “I carry so much stuff in my pockets already.”, or, “I guess maybe I should get an ammo pouch or something.”, or, “The chance of me needing to shoot someone is so low, why bother?” Get the gist? Wow.

Here’s the deal. Yes, the chances of you needing to defend yourself with your firearm are remote, and the chances of you needing to reload are, obviously, even more remote. I’ll spare you the “it’s not the odds, it’s the stakes” comments. But I’m going to guess that those civilians who have had to defend themselves did not say afterwards: “boy, I wish I’d carried less ammo!”

Most people today who carry a concealed firearm choose a semi-automatic handgun. An excellent choice, but there is the very real possibility that such a handgun may malfunction. True, the reliability of the modern semi-auto tends to be excellent, especially when sticking with the big-name brands. Nevertheless, most malfunctions that do occur are magazine-related, and the best procedures you can follow to remediate these issues involve changing the magazine. THIS is the main reason why you should carry a reload.

Even if you regularly carry this....
Even if you regularly carry this…. should still carry this, too!
…you should still carry this, too!

With revolvers, remedial action of malfunctions with a reload doesn’t make as much sense. In the case of revolvers, capacity is the major issue. When I briefly carried a J Frame, I made sure to always have at least one reload on me (usually a speed strip, since it sat flatter in the pocket than a speedloader). Five shots of .38 Special out of a 2 inch barrel didn’t engender my confidence very much.

Smith and Wesson 442 w/Crimson Trace laser grips, HKS speedloader, and a speedstrip.
Smith and Wesson 442 w/Crimson Trace laser grips, HKS speedloader, and a speedstrip.

My Philosophy

If I am going to carry a firearm, I am going to carry at least one reload. If I have an LCP in my pocket while mowing the lawn, I have a spare 7 round mag in my other pocket. If I have a Glock worn in an appendix holster, I have at least one spare magazine on my belt, and probably at least one more in the slingbag that I carry almost everywhere. My feeling is that I always have a spare to help with malfunctions, and bad guys tend to do their work in groups. I am under no illusions about “one-shot stops”; I assume it WILL take more than one round to solve each problem.  I also fully realize that, while I’m shooting bad guy A, bad guy C could have the drop on me, but I like to at least have the theoretical ability to shoot back, even if I don’t actually get the time. To borrow from the one-armed deputy in the movie “Unforgiven”: “I just don’t want to be killed for lack of shooting back.”

My other “rule” is that, if I’m carrying a pistol in a holster, then the spare magazine is in a magazine pouch. If I’m pocket carrying, then the spare mag will go in the opposite pocket.

Glock 17 magazine in my modified Raven Concealment magazine pouch.
Glock 17 magazine in my modified Raven Concealment magazine pouch.

Back to the Title

Eventually, everyone reaches that threshold of “if I need THAT much ammo, I should have stayed home”. That threshold, however, is different for everyone. It could depend on body type/size, what type of clothes you wear, what else you carry with you (like a bag), what type of gun you carry, etc. So, if we go back to the title…

One spare is kind of “just right”.

Carry two spares, and people ask you if you are expecting Mumbai.

Carry three and, well, if you need them, then something really bad has happened, and it’s probably not enough.

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3 thoughts on “One is Just Right, Two is Too Many, Three is Not Enough

  1. I just found ya’lls blog and have really enjoyed the articles so far. Thanks for investing your time for the articles. Greg

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Greg,

    Thanks for the comment! If you’re liking what we have to say, spread the word to your friends, or share links to our articles on other blogs/forums you visit. We are enjoying this project so far, and it’s nice to get some positive feedback. Stay tuned for more thoughtful articles from us!



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