It’s easy to answer flippantly, with something like “More!” or “No such thing!” but the question itself is worth some consideration.
In most self-loading firearms, the magazine is the proverbial weakest link. For starters, there is generally a button somewhere on the gun that will launch it right at the ground. Once there, they get kicked, stepped on, lost, and mixed up with other people’s magazines at the range.
While some are more rugged than others, most magazines are fairly fragile, at least compared to the rest of the gun. The feed lips can get bent or distorted and turn what was a reliable pistol five minutes ago into a frustrating jam-o-matic. On some models, if a full magazine is dropped, the base plate has a disturbing tendency to pop loose, causing the spring, follower, and whatever ammunition was in there to scatter hither and yon.
More than the possibility of being attacked by swarms of ninjas, these are excellent reasons to carry a spare magazine; and if you’ve got one in the gun and one in pouch, pocket, or purse, how many do you have back home? Because if you lose or break the spare, then you’re only one magazine away from having a gun-shaped paperweight.
Another good idea is to mark your magazines. I number mine with a paint marker on the base pad in my distinctive chicken-scratch scrawl.
This is, incidentally, one of the factors that militates against making a fashion statement by carrying some rare, discontinued sidearm for which magazines are difficult or impossible to find. I once bought a Beretta AR-70 rifle and found it was really hard to have a good time with a gun for which spare magazines cost $160 (except at the time there weren’t any for sale anywhere at any price).
I wound up selling it; having a rifle with only one 30-round magazine is like getting to drive Dad’s Ferrari up and down the driveway. If the magazines are made of compressed unicorn tears and need to be special ordered from a warehouse in Tibet, it’s probably better left in the gun safe rather than on your hip.
It’s fairly safe to say that “three” should be a rock-bottom minimum number when answering our opening question, and that answer is based on the assumption that, should you lose or break one, getting it replaced is a matter of giving the guy at the corner gun store a few bucks on your way home from work, and not writing to Santa or praying for one to show up at next month’s gun show.
Another good idea is to mark your magazines. I number mine with a paint marker on the base pad in my distinctive chicken-scratch scrawl. That way, if I start to have issues, I can note if they’re all caused by the same magazine or not.
Also, remember the bit about “mixed up with other people’s magazines at the range”? Sure as God made little green apples, if I go to gun school, I’ll find myself shooting next to somebody who’s also using an M&P 9, or Wilson 47Ds in their 1911, and it’s nice to be able to tell our magazines apart when they’re scattered all over the deck after a drill.
[ Tamara Keel has been shooting guns as a hobby since she was eighteen. She has worked in the firearms business since the early 1990s. Her pastimes include collecting old guns, writing, and being bossed around by house cats. ]
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