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single stack vs double stack magazines

Double Stack vs Single Stack For Concealed Carry?

When choosing what gun to carry on a daily basis, one of the attributes that divides opinion is whether to carry a double stack or single stack pistol. It is worth thinking about, as that directly impacts the number of rounds that you have in your carry gun.

After all, you want to pick the right tools for everyday carry including the right gun, belt and gun holster.

Double Stack Offers More Capacity...But Do You Need It?

single vs double stack mag

The reason why the double stack magazine was invented in the first place is fairly obvious: carrying capacity. In point of fact, the double stack magazine was invented by one Dieudonne Saive, a Belgian in the employ of Fabrique Nationale, now FNH. Saive was working on a new gun for the French, and they specified 10 or more rounds in capacity.

The guy who designed much of the rest of the gun was one John Moses Browning, and the pistol in question was the Browning Hi Power. Browning passed away before it was completed, and Saive finished the work. Plenty of people have carried one for service or protection purposes in a Hi Power holster ever since, as it is an enduring pistol design.

Since the double-stack magazine staggers more rounds, it naturally offers more firepower to the person carrying it. But do you actually need it?

This is the sticky wicket. The average defensive shooting takes place at very close range, with very few shots fired into a single assailant and is over very quickly. You don't need 13 to 15 rounds for that; 5 or 6 is likely twice the number of rounds you need.

Unless you need more than that. There are accounts of people emptying an entire revolver into intruders/bad guys at near point blank range and barely slowing them down. Police officers have put entire magazines into suspects with almost no discernible effect.

How do you know what's going to happen if you get into a self-defense scenario? You don't. You can't. So it is literally the case that if you ever have to use your gun, chances are you won't have to fire more than a few shots...but you may have to fire a lot of them.

Single Stack Is Very Popular For Concealment

single stack magazine

The single-stack subcompact auto is, without question, the concealed carry pistol of the modern era. The snubbie has given way to the plastic striker pistol (which some believe is a crying shame) with a 6- to 8-shot capacity.

Granted, there was the Commander and Officer frame 1911 pistols before the first Baby Glock hit the scene as well as the Walther PPK and others, but one digresses.

Why are small single-stack guns so popular? Easy concealing. It's not that a double-stack pistol can't be concealed; they can. It's just that a single-stack gun, many of which come in at 1 inch or less in width, hug to the body closer than a gun that's 1.2 inches or wider does.

Granted, a person's body type comes into play. A person with a larger frame and broad shoulders and perhaps a few extra pounds will be able to conceal a double-stack compact with few issues. A person closer to average (the typical American male is around 5'9" and isn't too beefy) is going to have so much printing with a double-stack gun that he has to change his name to Gutenberg.

Weight is another factor; a few extra ounces doesn't seem like much but when you're carrying the gun around all day...it makes a difference. Especially if you also carry a spare magazine or two


Should I Get A Single-Stack or Double-Stack Magazine Pistol For CCW?

best pistol mag

The truth is that there's no perfect CCW pistol, whether it uses a single-stack or double-stack magazine. There is however, a really good CCW gun for YOU out there.

It's up to you to decide for yourself what kind of gun you want to carry. Do you prefer a striker gun? Or would you rather have a DA/SA pistol? Do you want a dozen or more rounds of 9x19 Para or are you comfortable with 6 rounds of .45 ACP? Or, for that matter, 6 rounds of 9mm? Or are you good with 5 or 6 of .38 Special +P?

Also, consider...well, you, and how you want to carry. Are you short and stocky? Short and skinny? Tall and lanky? Tall and carrying a few extra pounds? Or are you so swole that you have to buy 4X T-shirts to fit your barrel chest, bowling ball delts and 24-inch pythons?

Point being that body shape is going to impact how easy some guns conceal. If you're a bit on the small side, a slimmer, shorter pistol (which would naturally be a single stack) will be a bit easier to conceal.

How you carry also comes into play. A big, bulky double-stack (Sig, we're looking at you!) is not the easiest to conceal inside the waistband, unless you're the size of an NFL offensive lineman. However, outside the waistband in a high-ride OWB under a jacket...a bit easier. A compact single-stack is easy and rather comfortable to carry in an IWB holster. Granted, plenty of compact double-stacks do as well.

So, which is better for concealed carry? They're both great, depending on what you need or want from a pistol and what sort of gun you are going to be able to conceal well, carry comfortably but also - and this is important - shoot well.

All of this doesn't matter if you can't hit the broadside of a barn with your gun. If you're trying to nail down a carry gun, get out there and shoot some. Find a concealable pistol you can shoot decently, and then worry about the rest. If it happens to be a small single-stack, awesome. If it's a compact double-stack, that's great too. If it's a 1911, even better that's good too.

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.