Single Stack or Double Stack Magazines for Concealed Carry

single stack or double stack magazines

Emergency situations are exactly that – potentially dangerous, unplanned events. It's the reason why concealed carry is such an important thing! Being able to react to a hostile situation is having the power to survive. The downside to emergency situations is not knowing when the danger will go away.

This is one of the central pieces to a question that keeps getting pushed forward.

is it better to have a single stack or a double stack magazine for a concealed carry weapon?

Case in Point: Glock 19 vs. SW M&P SHIELD

Let's take a Glock 19 – which ideally holds 15 rounds in a double stack magazine. Now, let's compare with the similarly sized Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. Spoiler alert – they're both great pistols to have as a concealed carry weapon. The biggest difference? One is a double stack with twice the ammunition capacity in the magazine.

Both fit extremely well into the compact category ideal for an IWB holster ( inside the waistband ). Both have a sterling reputation in terms of reliability.

How does this single stack versus double stack issue affect the concealed carrier?

It doesn't.

The two basic points of having a firearm in an OWB holster ( outside the waistband ) or IWB holster ( inside the waistband ) relates to familiarity with the firearm through training – to which there is no substitute – and personal choice.

In an emergency, does it feel better to know there are 15 rounds available or 7 to 8? For those who don't travel with an additional magazine, having a double stack magazine is the equivalent of having two magazines for a single stack. That's an incredible difference.

Double Stack Versus Single Stack – Sustained Conflict or Immediate Resolution?

In the case of one pharmacist in Benton Township Michigan, he saved the lives of customers and fellow employees when he fired upon an attacker. In this case, the assailant was merely feet away and it took only three well placed rounds to put him down.

If he had been firing a single stack concealed carry pistol, he used half a magazine worth of ammunition. In a double stack magazine, he'd likely have two thirds to three quarters of a full magazine left.

With the case of individual assailants where the concealed carrier has the drop on the attacker, few rounds are required. In an event where the assailant sees and responds to the concealed carrier – it's doubtful that three or four rounds are going to make a difference.

This is the central point of single stack versus double stack. Where the carrier trains to hide his pistol properly in an inside the waistband concealed carry holster, withdraw only when he has identified the attacker, and put in a smooth, effective shot grouping – single stack seems very reasonable.

If the conflict is projected to last any longer than that initial volley, however, a double stack is a life-saver. The way around this for those with a favorite concealed carry pistol that uses a single stack magazine is to train to quickly unload and reload between firing volleys.

This is accurate for two reasons:

No matter how many bullets are in a magazine, there is a good probability that the shooter will need to change magazines at some point in the encounter. It is also smart to have a quality mag holster to smoothly transition between reloads.

Muscle memory is necessary to calmly and quickly transition between magazines.

Here's a really good video that discusses some of the principles covered in this article. What may work for one person may not necessarily work for another – especially when an emergency, hostile situation occurs. That's why it's important that regardless of whether or not there's a double stack magazine or single stack magazine loaded, always train for concealed carry situations and always maintain situational awareness.

Do you carry a single stack or double stack magazine in your concealed carry pistol? Tell us why in the comments section below.


About The Author

James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.