To Spare or Not To Spare

I am a long term consumer of Greg Ellifritz's Weekend Knowledge Dump as having an aggregated "stuff you should know" is a heck of a lot less time consuming than looking for it hit or miss. Let me start by saying if you aren't following Ellifritz, you really should.

In the most recent issue he linked a video from Tessa Booth on the subject of carrying a spare magazine.

Find the video here.

I'm not always game for the pronouncements of "influencers" but Tessa Booth is way above influencer. She has done, and does the work, and she puts a lot of thought and analysis, in context, into what she says. In short, I give what she has to say a listen. Her content has proven to me generally that she has a good basis in knowledge for her opinions.

She starts the video by disclaiming that it is likely going to rustle jimmies. Given by some of the photos I've seen over the years of the various kit that people say there are carrying every day, I have to think she is probably right. The subject she pokes in the video is whether or not to carry a spare magazine, and she takes the position based on considerable, if not nuanced, analysis, that for her use cases and purposes that a spare magazine is not necessary. In his commentary on his own page, Ellifritz admits to being less dogmatic as a private person than he was as a cop about carrying a spare. He also makes a point about not feeling less than well armed carrying a J frame revolver while somehow feeling less than well armed with a full sized double stack and no spare magazine.

When I was a working cop back in the revolver days I carried four speed loaders on my duty belt where most guys carried two, or even one. After transitioning to semi-autos I carried two extra magazines on the belt for double stack guns, four for single stack. Since that part of my life ended and I pursue the life of a retired gentleman, and not that of a hunter of felons doing felonious things in the dark of night, I have scaled back considerably. But, it is worth noting that back in the day when off duty or working in soft clothes I always had one reload with me when ever I was carrying. that practice has carried forward to today and I still stick with it for reasons noted below. I'll keep doing it, at least for the time being, even though Tessa makes some very cogent points.

The main reason I always carry a spare magazine when I am carrying a semi-auto pistol, is because of Murphy. Anyone who has spent time in gunfights, in high value training or who has studied the subject in any kind of depth understands that Murphy's Laws are always in play and that Murphy himself always lurks. Murphy's first law is, of course, that anything which can go wrong will go wrong. His second law, which has bitten me in the ass a time or two, is that which can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time. And what worse time could there be than in the middle of your gunfight, however unlikely it might be that you find yourself in one.

While it's exceptionally rare that a private person gun fight results in an empty gun reload, so rare that it is beyond statistically significant, it's been my experience that the weakest link, in many cases, of the semi-auto handgun is its magazines. I am pretty anal about care and maintenance of them, always have been, but I've still had them fail on me unexpectedly over the years. That, to be honest, has always been my rationale behind carrying a spare mag. I trust that my gun is going to go bang when I need it, but my brain tells me that a magazine can shit the bed any time, so it makes sense to me to be able to fix that if I have to in some unfortunate moment.

As Pat Rogers famously noted, mission drives the gear train. When I lived in a heavily populated part of Northern Nevada where street crime was a very real risk my every day carry looked like the photo on the left.... a compact single or double stack auto, a spare magazine, a knife, OC, creds and an ankle med kit. If I was going to be out at night a small flashlight got included. Now that I live in a rural corner of Wyoming where the risk of street crime is significantly lower, I am most often carrying a small revolver such as on the right, with at least one extra gun load in either a strip or a speed loader, a knife, a smaller OC and creds. The med kit, more minimalist, goes into a cargo pocket in shorts season, or a coat pocket in the cooler months. A flashlight if time of day warrants and good to go. Having a few extra rounds to top off a revolver when the situation allows, given the more limited amount of ammo on board feels like cheap insurance that is worth the weight and space.

So, to spare or not to spare? And the even better, first, question... have you run your choices through a risk / reward decision tree based on your use cases and contexts? Tessa did, I have, and you should too.

Tools1.JPGLCR and kit.jpg
For me and the guns I carry a spare is so unobtrusive and easy to include in the day's kit that I do it even though the odds against its use are so long.

I carry a reload for my 442 on a Speed Strip not because I'm under any illusions that I'll need to or even be able to perform a speed strip revolver reload in a citizen-involved gunfight, but in case that gunfight is part of a larger situation that may require another encounter before I can get home to something more suitable. I realize that the odds of that are astronomical, but again, a speed strip or two is so easy to carry around that the potential utility outweighs the size and weight costs. Especially with a five shot revolver.
I carry a reload often but the spare is also one of the first things to get left behind if I need to trim down. The primary philosophy for me is the reload is there to top off my gun in case anyone's friends show up while I'm waiting for the authorities or getting home, whatever the situation dictactes. I am more likely to ditch a spare magazine than a speed strip because of the increased size of a magazine. I am toying with the idea of getting a 2x2x2 pouch for my revolver reloading to get one more thing out of my pocket.

Greg "Sully" Sullivan

Too Established
If you find it necessary to carry a firearm, then you should carry spare ammunition, which includes the feeding device (The magazine).

Your firearm is only as good as it's feeding device, in the case of a semi-auto it relies on the magazine. Hopefully you won't need all the ammunition, but you might, as gun fights can be prolonged, misses (especially under stress, adrenaline, and distance), but take into account the possibility of multiple bad guys. I have seen Officers empty their handguns very quickly, and go through their spare magazines in the first minute or two of a gunfight when pinned down and receiving incoming fire, where they ran out of the 40-50rds they had on them. I have also seen prolonged gunfights (Take the North Hollywood Bank Robbery into account). How about a terrorist incident like a Mumbai, or even an October 7th attack on Israel, if caught in one of these situations you may wish to have more ammunition or spare magazines.

Also consider that the magazine may malfunction or get lost or damaged. I have seen Officers under stress press the magazine release button and have the magazine fall out. When we do force on force training with marking rounds (Simunitions, UTM's, Force on Force), we often see hits to the hands and firearm, this we attribute to people focusing on the threat of the firearm being pointed at them, we have also had Officers get shot in the hands and arms during gun fights, along with our Officers hitting the bad guys in the hands, arms, and even shots on the bad guys gun during shoot outs. So a hit to the grip or magazine may render the magazine out of commission, so having a spare may become necessary.

Just my $.02

Greg Sullivan "Sully"
SLR15 Rifles

(763) 712-0123


Regular Member
I like the stuff Gorrillafritz writes (I should get back to reading more from him)........and I went and watched a couple of videos from that young lady.
These days I'm more likely to be carrying a .38 LCR.......sometimes a G19........neither with a spare or a reload. I used to grab a reload and a small med kit every time I concealed carry. I wish I could say it was a conscious decision to stop carrying a reload..via cost/benefit or a risk/reward decision tree. Truth be told.........I don't carry a reload or medical kit is because I'm more lazy than I used to be...... and that's not a good thing.
The good news is that this is something I can correct today, and get back to carrying the way I should be.


Depends what I plan on doing and where I plan on going. Sometimes the gun is for Murphy, and sometimes the ammo is for Murphy based off where I'm going, how long I plan on being there, and what other types I should expect around said area.