Some will claim you can never have enough magazines, there is some truth to the statement. However, there is a popular sense of unjustified hoarding that comes with a healthy dose criticism of those who have decided not to invest their life savings into a magazine stockpile. While there are those who will continue to buy dozens of magazines for their handgun, it becomes a numbers game, and a question of why not invest it better sights, ammunition, storage, extra parts, or other essentials? Invest in the handgun itself, invest in training, and don’t try to validate your lethality by an excessive number of magazines – that’s an amateur move. Yes, we’re talking about those who are going to turn their shed into the next Alamo. For the rest of us who think in more practical terms, let’s discuss handgun magazine numbers in reality.
How many handgun magazines do you need?
That depends on an initial first set of questions. First, how many handguns do you have? Second, which are used for open or concealed ‘everyday carry’ (EDC)? Most handguns are shipped from the manufacturer with as many as four magazines. As a rule, most handguns on the market are served best by using factory magazines, one exception would be 1911 variants. For those who have semiautomatic handguns that they do not use for EDC – those handguns relegated to range trips or collector’s investment; it makes sense to have a minimum of three magazines per handgun. However, if a handgun is rare, or of import manufacture, it may be wise to double that number to six magazines leaving three sealed for investment purposes. For those looking how many magazines are needed for EDC, we’ll go into that below.
In an effort to add a systematic approach to the issue, we’ve established four categories of magazine use. The first category is one for EDC magazines, which consists of one magazine in the handgun and if possible two more magazines at the ready in a magazine pouch. This category is the most critical as these three magazines would be the freshest (new), and with no controllable risk of failure when needed. Carry these magazines for 180 days, rotating the loaded magazine every 30 days, or as you see fit. The second category is for ‘range’ magazines, ideally three magazines would suffice when doing targets, tables, and speed reloads. These magazines should never be mixed among those used during EDC, rather the EDC magazines cycled in once they have run the 180 cycle. In order to maintain proficiency, it is important to have an initial batch of EDC magazines and range magazines from the start. After about a year of range use, these magazines should be cycled into a ‘used reserve’ batch where they should be disassembled, inspected, and lubricated. They can be cycled back into the EDC or range categories if springs and floor plates are replaced, and after ensuring the feed lips, follower, and chassis are without flaws – basically a near perfect magazine. If a magazines component has catastrophic damage or wear should be discarded. The last category is the ‘sealed reserve’ which applies for those who are building an additional allotment of magazines beyond the prescribed amount. Ideally, this category can be used to cycle in new EDC magazines after the first 180 days and at the year mark.
To make sense of it all, we recommend you initially field six magazines to start. The first six allow for EDC and range magazines (remember no to mix them). After 180 days another three magazines are recommended for EDC, and another three again at one year – for a total of twelve magazines after a little more than a year. This allows for a phased effort of fielding magazines, and in doing so it allows for additional magazines to be stocked in the used reserve and sealed reserve categories. In reality, after a couple of years the number of magazines for the handgun will increase, thus providing a decent number of magazines in the ‘used reserve’ category. Tracking, numbering and maintaining magazines can prove to be financially beneficial undertaking with minimal effort. Rebuilding a magazine is easier than one may think; it involves obtaining a few key components that should be added to the parts kit for the handgun.
While budgets and options vary, one thing that remains is the expectation we have of our handgun while carrying. We want it to work perfectly and part of that is giving it the best magazines we can. Magazines are not always made equal, and this plays into the common firearms logic that you get what you pay for. Some magazines are expensive because they fit rare models or are imported from foreign manufacturers - this is something to consider before buying a handgun.