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gun magazine holster

A Guide To Magazine Holsters and Mag Carriers

Why Use A Mag Carrier? How Many Magazines Should You Carry?
Types of Mag Carriers OWB and IWB Magazine Holster Designs
Soft-Sided Vs Hard-Sided Magazine Carriers Which Type Of Mag Carrier Should You Use?
How To Adjust A Mag Carrier For Concealed Carry Magazine Pouches
Why Carry A Spare Magazine? How To Carry A Spare Magazine
Start Training: Reload Drills To Run With Your Magazine Holster What You Should Look For In A Magazine Carrier

Aside from a gun, holster and gun belt, one of the most popular accessories for concealed carry are magazine carriers. Being able to carry additional magazines can be invaluable, should the need arise for more bullets.

Some choose not to carry spare ammunition, some carry every round that they possibly can.

In this guide, we'll go over just about everything you'll need to know about magazine carriers, magazine holsters, magazine pouches and any other implement of carrying more rounds upon your person, how it's done and the reasons why you want to.

A Magazine Holster For Any Purpose

Why Use A Mag Carrier?

There are two primary reasons to use a mag carrier instead of putting spare magazines in a pocket.

First is for security.

Unless secured in a carrier or pouch, the magazine is going to be bouncing around in the pocket...unless you happen to have particularly tight pants. If you happen to stand up and sit down or kneel frequently, the magazine could fall out.

The other issue is that of access.

One of the reasons why you need a holster for concealed carry - or open carry, for that matter - is so the gun is in the place you put it. Not only in terms of retention but also location.

If the stakes are real, you don't want to have to search for your carry gun or for your reload. You want to be able to reach for it and find it.

In other words, having a mag carrier creates repeatability. It's in the same spot where you put it, which is important for training AND is important on the street. Repeatability is what gives you reliability, and that's what you need for any life-saving tool.

How Many Magazines Should You Carry?

If you're going to carry any spare ammunition, it's a good idea to carry at least one if not two spare magazines.

The idea is that you can double the amount of ammunition that you keep on you, or - in case of a malfunction - can keep your gun at full capacity in case you have to use it.

Granted, the needs of the armed civilian - if you read up on defensive shootings involving civilians as opposed to officer-involved shootings - are different than those of a police officer or a soldier, as the nature of conflicts are very different.

Bear in mind, carrying two double-stack magazines for a typical service or compact pistol adds a lot of extra stuff to your everyday carry, so many people who carry a Glock 19 or similar pistol will only carry one extra but will carry two with a single-stack pistol.

And then some people only use their mag carrier at the range, and stick with whatever's in their gun on the street.

So ultimately, it's all up to you; you decide for yourself what your needs are. But if you're going to carry a spare, make sure to have at least one.

Types Of Magazine Carriers

magazine holster options

Magazine carriers tend to come in several formats, just as holsters do. Each has their own features, benefits and drawbacks. It's up to the individual to decide which is to their liking.

Just like with holsters, some people have dedicated mag carriers for certain purposes - some are for the range only and some are for daily carry.

OWB and IWB Magazine Holster Designs

inside and outside the waistband mag carrier

There are OWB and IWB magazine holster models out there, not dissimilar to gun holsters and share many things in common regarding the design.

A number of holster companies also make magazine carriers a part or optional component of a holster. These can range from custom-molded holsters that precisely fit the firearm and magazine to simply an extra compartment sewn on a generic pouch holster. These are available on IWB and OWB holsters alike.

Many magazine holsters are designed for wear on or about the waist, and are designed to be worn inside or outside the waistband.

Common materials include leather as well as modern materials like Kydex or injection-molded polymers, and even some hybrid designs with a hard-molded magazine holster shell and a soft backer for more comfortable IWB carry. There are also pancake-style magazine holsters made of alternate materials such as hard neoprene fabric.

mag carrier

Quality magazine carriers are made to fit a specific magazine size, rather than being a general "mag carrier" that purports to be one-size-fits-all. Just as with pistol holsters, the more precise the fit, the better the retention and function.

There are also a number of magazine pouches that are made from a "sticky" fabric, which adhere to clothing via a high friction surface. Essentially, one sticks the magazine into the holder and tuck it into the waistband. Tension from one's body, waistband and gun belt help hold it in place. A number of gun holsters use a similar design, though they don't provide the best retention, nor the best fit and re-holstering is basically impossible. The same will be true for such magazine carriers.

Some are better suited to open carry than concealment.

Soft-Sided Vs Hard-Sided Magazine Carriers

mag carrier
mag carrier

You might wonder if you should get a hard-sided or soft-sided magazine carrier. Both have their uses and purposes, of course, and like choosing between any products that perform a similar function - albeit differently - there are pros and cons to each.

A hard-sided mag carrier, like our Cloak Mag Carriers, is durable and secure, so there's no question about retention. However, it's also the case that they are less comfortable to carry inside the waistband, even if a protective pad is added to the magazine bucket. While you can carry them everyday, and plenty of people do, they're perfect for range use and competition and that's how some people prefer to use them.


A soft-sided mag carrier, like our Grip Tuck Mag Carriers, are certainly more comfortable for daily carry. The Grip Tuck Mag Carrier slips inside the waistband, and can be used with or without the included IWB clip to secure it on the belt. Some people use belt tension alone to hold the magazine and carrier in place, and some people use one Grip Tuck carrier on the belt and put another one in a pocket. If you don't want to have your spare magazine riding outside the belt, and prefer the utmost in comfort, they're perfect.


Again, it really depends on you and your intended use. Plenty of our customers have purchased both, using the Grip Tuck for daily carry and keeping their Cloak Mag Carrier for range days and competition.

Right or Left-Handed, Vertical, Horizontal, or Customizable


As the materials used and overall designs vary for magazine carriers, so does their orientation. Just as with holsters, one can select right-handed or left-handed orientation for the preferred draw.

Most magazine holsters, pouches or carriers are vertically oriented, though there are also a number of horizontally-oriented magazine carriers. Horizontal orientation can be useful in deep concealment, as it barely prints and can be undetectable under an untucked shirt.

Some magazine holsters can be had with adjustable cant, for those who prefer a spare magazine to sit at a forward or rearward leading angle. Some magazine holsters are adjustable for multiple carrying configurations.

Which Type Of Mag Carrier Should You Use?

concealed carry magazine

But which type should you get for a concealed carry magazine?

An IWB magazine carrier is easier to conceal and easier on the person wearing it in other regards, but most people find them to be less comfortable than OWB carriers.

OWB magazine carriers can be more comfortable to wear for obvious reasons, but present some difficulties in terms of concealment as well as practical issues of just going about your day. They're also a little more versatile in that you can use the same mag carriers when carrying normally or in training sessions or competition.

So here's what that means.

When you're carrying an IWB magazine carrier, the magazine is in the carrier bucket, inside the waistband and sticking up a certain amount. The magazine will press into your side to a degree, though how much depends on you and where you wear it.

Concealment is usually simple as you just drape over it with your shirt, but you might notice the mag carrier prints in some areas. You many need to adjust the carry position or ride height to get rid of any imprinting.

Additionally, hard-sided magazine buckets - those made of a high-impact polymer, for instance - are going to be felt. Just as with a hard-sided holster in your waistband, you're compressing a hard material against you with a belt.

You can mitigate the discomfort one of two ways. Get a soft-sided magazine carrier, one of durable cloth construction, or you can carry the magazine outside the waistband.

However, OWB magazine carry comes with its own challenges.

First, you have a Thing where once there was No Thing.

Concealment is easy; you just drape your shirt over it like normal, whether covering with a loose button-up or an untucked shirt.

However, that's not what you have to worry about.

This is an aspect of concealed carry that doesn't usually get discussed much, but it becomes a lot more relevant when it comes to magazine carriers.

As you walk around with that additional dongle on your waist, you're going to come close to some solid objects. Doorways. Your car. Desk chairs. Kitchen counters. And so on and so forth.

What that means, of course, is that you might hit your magazine carrier on said surface.

An OWB magazine carrier can be easier to bonk into things and if you hit it hard enough, you can damage the magazine or possibly break the mag carrier.

So, with that in mind, what's the best way to wear a concealed carry magazine?

How To Adjust A Mag Carrier For Concealed Carry

If you're going to carry a magazine holster as part of your concealed carry gear, and it's a good idea to do so, you need to dial it in by experimentation first and at the training range second.

In other words, figure out how it's most comfortable to wear and easiest to conceal for you. Then, hit the range and run some reloading drills with your concealed carry pistol, concealed carry holster, and mag carrier.

First you need to figure out placement on the body. You need to find a spot on your waistband where the magazine carrier is comfortable to wear, easy to conceal and also - and this is key - doesn't impede access.

If the magazine is carried too far back, you'll impinge the shoulder when you go to draw, which will make access difficult under stress.

Similarly, the magazine carrier has to be at a ride height that likewise doesn't impede access and enables a clean draw of the magazine.

Just as with your carry gun, you need to be able to get a good grasp of the magazine and draw it out of the carrier without having to readjust your grip.

Here's what to look for:

The proper technique for a reload is to use the index finger to guide the magazine into the pistol grip. The index finger should be on the front face of the magazine, with the nose of the top cartridge facing the tip of the index finger.

You should be able to grasp the magazine and draw it from the magazine holster with the proper grip as described without adjusting your grip on the magazine. If you can't, then you're more likely to fumble the reload under stress.

Therefore, it's better to err on the side of a taller ride height.

As far as the cant angle of your magazine carrier, you want the minimal amount of contortion in the wrist. The less you have to flex and bend, the better.

Remember, with a concealed carry magazine carrier, you need to clear your cover garment and THEN draw the spare magazine out. It's a more complex task than pulling one from a range rig.

Just like with carrying a pistol with a holster, carrying a magazine holster concealed requires the balancing of comfort, concealability, and functionality. You can bend a little in one direction or another, but you can't neglect any of them or else you'll get into trouble.

So, once you get that sorted out, it's time to start training with your magazine carrier. How to do that?

Magazine Pouches

magazine pouch

There are also magazine pouches, which aren't necessarily the best suited to concealment...though there are some improvised magazine pouches that conceal the contents quite well.

Many magazine pouches are pouches made of some sort of cloth. This can range from canvas web, leather and other cloth materials, which are often enough equipped with a flap and snap enclosure, so it can be closed.

Unlike magazine holsters that are designed to carry a specific make and model of magazine, magazine pouches aren't designed for that custom fit. Basically, you put a magazine or two in, close it up and carry on.

They can be worn on a belt, sling or anything of that nature.

Some are suited for concealment but some aren't, though an untucked shirt easily covers anything worn on the beltline. A good number of magazine pouches are more suited to open carry and in truth are really more for tactical use by law enforcement or military personnel - though that isn't to say that civvies can't make use of them!

A number of clever persons have also come up with some improvised magazine carriers. One very popular method of carrying a backup magazine is to obtain a belt pouch for a knife or multitool (such as a Leatherman) and conceal a magazine inside. These can be leather, nylon or some other type of cloth, but so long as the the pouch can be sealed - many have a snap closure - no one will be the wiser.

Why Carry A Spare Magazine?

Why carry a spare magazine? Many people reckon that most defensive encounters are going to be over very quickly and with very few shots fired, and there's a lot of evidence to suggest that has an element of truth to it. Thus, many feel the magazine in their gun is likely going to be all they'll need.

However, there is also a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise. Many shooting incidents over the years, including both gun battles between criminals and police and private citizens defending themselves, have resulted in entire magazines emptied into assailants with little discernible effect. What happens if for some reason one's magazine drops? Some holsters have been known to trigger the magazine release. That leaves a person with a single shot, and potentially no time to reload.

Granted, the odds that a person will ever have to draw a gun in self-defense is very low, much less that a person will have to fire it in self-defense. FBI data indicates only a few hundred justifiable homicides per year, contrasted with the number of annual defensive gun uses, estimated to number in the mid-tens of the thousands to several million per year.

It isn't known what figures are accurate - and in truth may be impossible to know to a certainty. After all, many studies are based on results from surveys and the fact is that people lie.

It's also difficult to know how many rounds is likely to fire if a mortal contest is necessary. Many defensive shootings have been over with only a few rounds expended, but plenty have not.

As for police, some data exists.

The Police Policy Studies Council (PDF) reports the NYPD, between 1990 and 2000, averaged 5.2 shots per officer in actual gun fights (where someone shot at them) with a low of 3.6 shots and high of 6.9 shots, and average hit rate of 15 percent. Shooting incidents - where an officer discharged a weapon, which includes officer suicides, shooting dangerous animals and accidental discharges - between 1988 and 2001 showed an average of 2.86 shots per officer. This includes incidents where multiple police fired during the incident;

The Miami-Dade Police Department (formerly Metro-Dade PD) averaged a mean of 2.5 shots fired from revolvers and 3.2 shots fired with semi-automatics during the period of 1988 to 1994. During that time, they fired 1300 rounds - without differentiating between the type of shootings - of which around 1100 missed, for a hit rate of 15.4 percent.

Los Angeles County police reported an average of 3.59 shots fired in officer-involved shootings involving one officer, 4.98 shots in incidents involving 2 officers and 6.48 shots per incident involving more than 2 officers. Their hit rates were 51%, 23% and 9%, respectively.

Granted, the NYPD appears to have improved. According to the New York Times, the hit ratio has gone up from an average of 15 percent for 1990 to 2000 to 36 percent for 1996 to 2006.

As you can see, these examples show that on average, a gunfight involving police is resolved in fairly few shots. However, that doesn't mean that it will necessarily happen that way. For every incident resolved with one or two shots, there are outliers that required many more shots to be fired to conclude the encounter. For instance, agents involved in the FBI Miami shootout of 1986 fired more than 80 rounds. The North Hollywood shootout of 1997 resulted in officers firing 650 or more rounds.

Granted, these are some of the worst criminal incidents in American history, and the likelihood the average citizen will be anywhere close to such an incident...is so remote that it's pointless to try to quantify it. Also, police HAVE to brave the line of fire - it's their duty. We have the option to seek egress or otherwise flee.

One can safely assume that while the odds are that a few shots is likely to resolve the matter...that might not be enough. One magazine might not be enough. An entire gun store might not be enough. You might not be enough; the North Hollywood and Miami perpetrators engaged dozens of officers - including a SWAT team - in the former instance and almost ten officers in the latter. In this case it may not be a bad idea to carry a double magazine carrier.

How To Carry A Magazine Holster

iwb magazine holster

Most people carry their magazine holster, pouch or spare magazine stored in a pocket (which some do) on their weak side. The gun goes on the dominant side. This way, spare ammunition can be retrieved with the weak hand and brought to the gun, which is the most efficient method to reload.

Some holsters have a spare magazine compartment - whether an IWB or OWB holster - and are thus carried in the same location as one's pistol. This requires one to switch one's pistol to the non-dominant hand to reload or retrieve the spare magazine by means of a crossdraw. While not impossible to achieve with proficiency, it is more awkward than drawing from one's weak side and bringing the spare magazine to one's pistol.

Concealing a spare magazine (or spare magazines) is not difficult; IWB magazine carriers merely need a shirt be pulled over them. OWB carriers, depending on the design, may require as little concealment as IWB carriers. In the case of improvised magazine carriers, such as a multi-tool pouch repurposed into a magazine carrier, no concealment may be needed - the spare magazine is hiding in plain sight.

Additionally, some magazine carriers feature a clip not dissimilar to that of a pen or a pocket knife. These are normally quite slim, making for easy concealment.

However, pocket carrying a spare magazine is in many respects like pocket carrying a pistol - it shouldn't be done unless the proper parts of the magazine (or gun, in case of pocket carried pistols) are covered by a holster or pouch of some sort. Should the top be uncovered, pocket carrying can easily result in the top-most round snagging in the pocket and coming out of the magazine. Likewise, pocket carrying a pistol can result in the trigger being snagged and an accidental discharge can follow.

In either case, pocket carry should be avoided unless it isn't possible to carry in any other fashion.

Then again, some people prefer to carry a backup magazine inside a backup pistol.

Start Training: Reload Drills To Run With Your Magazine Holster


Once you get your gear dialed in, you'll want to wear your magazine holster to the range and practice some reload drills, specifically shooting drills that require a reload. There are many, of course, but we're going to go over a couple of excellent examples.

As with any shooting drill, be safe on the range. You want to develop efficiency, as efficiency is what eventually results in speed. Use a timer to set a baseline, and then work on beating it.

A good starter is often just called "The Reload Drill." There are a number of iterations of it, but the gist is you fire one or two shots, reload, then fire one or two more. This can also be used to train clearing malfunctions, but reloading is what we'll concentrate on for now.

For this drill, you don't need a silhouette target; any old paper target will do. Why not print a few for free instead of paying for them? Get some FREE printable shooting targets from us!

You shoot it from any distance you want, just as long as you can score a clean hit. The drill is shot from the ready position, starting with a magazine with only one round in the gun, and a full magazine in your mag carrier.

Using a timer, present and fire one shot from the beep, putting the gun at slide lock. Drop the empty magazine, and draw the full magazine from the holster. Insert it into the pistol, chamber a round and fire one shot.

After the second shot, drop the full magazine and insert the empty. You'll have only one shot until slide lock.

Another excellent example is the original reload drill, the El Presidente.

"El Prez" was designed by Col. Jeff Cooper, the founder of the Modern Technique of pistol shooting and of the Gunsite training school. He designed the drill as a comprehensive exercise for a Central American secret service detail, and it is in many ways an excellent exercise.

The drill is shot at 10 yards, with three silhouette targets spaced three yards (or meters) apart, with your back to the target and 6 rounds in the magazine. At the beep, turn and fire controlled pairs in each target going left to right or right to left.

After the last controlled pair, your slide will lock. Change the magazine, and then fire three more controlled pairs in the same order.

The drill was designed for revolvers, as the people Cooper made it for carried .38 Special service guns. It's a bit out of date today; most carry guns hold more than 6 rounds in the modern era.

The genius of El Prez lies in its comprehensivity. It covers almost every shooting skill, including the draw, presentation, recoil control, target transition and the reload. Good shooters can run the drill in 10 to 12 seconds with A zone hits, under 10 seconds is really cooking.

If you want to make it even more challenging, change to the Vice Presidente drill, which replaces the second round of controlled pairs with head shots.

These drills cover both the sheer act of reloading, and then a (somewhat) more practical reloading drill. There are more out there, but these are excellent places to start when it comes to training to use your magazine carrier.

What You Should Look For In A Magazine Carrier

What a person should look for in a magazine carrier is firstly and foremostly that it's made for the specific make and model of magazine one intends to carry. This is to ensure adequate retention.

Just like with a gun holster, the magazine carrier should securely hold the magazine once holstered. Likewise, the carrier should be able to easily draw the magazine if need be, though the latter can be more affected by practicing defensive shooting at the range, especially any drills involving a tactical reload.

Also, just like a gun holster, a person should consider what the purpose of the magazine carrier is going to be. Is this for the range only? Is it for everyday carry? Both? Magazine carriers taking on multiple roles have to be able to excel in all roles, which may be a large task and one will only know after testing to see if a mag holster is up to the task.

If one is wearing an IWB magazine holster, it should be comfortable enough to wear daily. It is also good if the magazine holster is adjustable, so that it can be made more comfortable and/or concealable if need be. An OWB magazine holster should likewise be concealable - if one is aiming to conceal the spare magazine or magazines - comfortable enough to wear daily for extended periods and offer adequate retention.

If one desires to carry vertically or horizontally - or both if one likes variety - the magazine carrier should be able to accommodate both, or one should purchase magazine carriers for each orientation.

If a person wants to be able to convert between OWB and IWB, a magazine carrier should have that capability.

If nothing else, if a magazine carrier does the job it's tasked with, that's a good magazine carrier.

Mag Carriers For Concealed Carry, Range Days Or Competition
best mag carrier
Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.