How Many Spare Magazines Do I Need?

Ever asked a woman how many pairs of shoes she needs?  Or a guy how many guns he needs?  Both will probably earn you sour looks of derision.  Edging close to that forbidden ground: How many magazines do I need for my gun(s)?

Why You Should Have a Spare Magazine for Your Gun

Everyone will have an opinion on this, but I’ll give mine as a 22-year firearms and tactics instructor and student of a long list of nationally known firearms trainers. I won’t play hide the ball, but first let’s talk about magazines.

Magazines, unlike firearms, degrade with use. To give you an idea, the military considers their standard-issue aluminum AR-style magazines to have a 4,000-round service life. That’s about 130 loadings. After that, the military considers them expended and you should, too.

Why do magazines eventually fail with use? Primarily, because their feed lips are delicate. They can become deformed or even broken with use over time. Especially with hard use in training. Springs eventually weaken from loading/unloading cycles — but not so much from “taking a set.” They can remain fully loaded for years at a time.

One of the most common causes of malfunctions in semi-automatic firearms is a defective magazine. This is why you should use a Sharpie marker to number your magazines. That way, while practicing, if you start experiencing malfunctions from your magazine #13, you can put that one aside.

If you suffer multiple malfunctions from any magazine, mark it prominently, say with orange paint, and use it only as a malfunction clearing drill training aid. Or destroy it. Just make sure it doesn’t stay among the working gear you depend on for personal defense or serious competition.

We know that the vast majority of America’s gun owners don’t practice as much as they would like to. Fewer still train aggressively. In fact, many gun owners might not shoot more than a box or two each year. For the average gun owner, they don’t need to buy magazines by the case or even in 10-packs. However, in good times, that option remains available.

For Handguns

Semi-auto handgun owners should have at least three magazines for each semi-auto handgun. That allows your handgun to be loaded for self-defense and give you two spare reloads. Three magazines also makes a nice complement for recreational shooting as well.
Additionally, if you shoot regularly or train even occasionally, you should buy three additional new replacement magazines. These will replace any of your initial magazines that fail over time from use or abuse.

What if my magazines are “high capacity”?

Given the political climate from a potential administration change, firearm magazines may face unprecedented taxes.  That goes double if the capacity is more than 10 rounds. No one is sure when new gun control legislation is coming, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Back in the late 1990s, when new magazine capacity was limited, standard capacity “pre-ban” Glock magazines sold for well over $100. Today you can buy yours, regardless of the make and manufacturer, while they remain relatively plentiful and affordable. It isn’t like they will go bad in the back of your closet or gun safe.

For the revolver shooters out there, you too should have “magazines” – otherwise known as speed loaders in the revolver world.  Like semi-auto pistol owners, revolver owners should own at least two speedloaders.  The good news is that speedloaders are less prone to failure with use.  For deep cover and less obtrusive carry, speed strips are available, but they are slower to use and reload your wheel gun.

For AR-15s and Modern Sporting Rifles

Owners of America’s favorite rifle, the AR-15, or other semi-automatic rifles should have at least three working magazines, along with three spares for a total of six magazines. Frankly, for those who will train or compete with their semi-auto firearms, a dozen or more would serve better in the long run.

Again, follow the US military’s 4000-round life expectancy for AR mags.  You can still use them for range practice or drills if you run them through 130 loading cycles.  Or you can sell them to someone else as practice magazines and then replenish your own stock.

Should the government enact some sort of magazine capacity ban on magazines over 10 rounds, milspec AR magazines or other semi-auto modern sporting rifle mags will become very pricey.

What about the bolt-action rifle owners?  As above, make sure you have at least three magazines.  If your bolt gun sees a lot of action, have three spares as well. The good news on bolt gun magazines is that they are unlikely to face restrictions anytime soon.

How Many Magazines Is Too Many?

I don’t know that anyone can really own too many magazines. Plenty of women would probably say the same out shoes or maybe purses. Heaven knows most men would say the same thing about guns.

Just make sure you have at least a couple of spares – bare minimum – for every magazine-fed gun you own.  You’ll thank yourself in ten or twenty years. And maybe sooner.

Shop The Mag Shack for Spare Magazines

When you need to order some spare magazines for your firearm, The Mag Shack is your go-to destination. We offer rifle magazines, shotgun magazines and pistol magazines for various models of guns, including 9mm and AR-15 magazines. You won’t find a better selection elsewhere. Order these products individually or in bulk at the lowest prices today!


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