Concealed carriers have to make a lot of important decisions, including which gun, how to carry, how to dress for concealment and ammunition choices, each of which is an important consideration. Then there’s a question I’m frequently asked: How much ammunition should I carry?
While you’re likely to finish the fight with the ammunition in the gun, there’s always that worst case scenario. We see extended shootouts in military and police circumstances, but is this something you, an armed citizen, should be prepared for? At the very least, I think you should carry one reload.
Why? For a couple of reasons. You have no idea what’s going to happen after a shooting so I think you should reload the gun as soon as you can safely do so. Ever had a failure to fire, a double feed or the magazine fall out of your pistol? You might need spare ammunition to fix these issues and stay in the fight.
A friend was involved in a shooting when a gang of bad guys drove up as he was standing at an ATM. My friend, a well-trained, off-duty officer armed with a .45-caliber 1911 pistol and two spare magazines suddenly found himself the victim of an armed carload of bad guys and the gunfight was on. When it was over my friend was wounded and down to a few rounds left in his third pistol magazine. The bad guys were all neutralized.
But the point is, even though he was shooting a .45 with excellent defensive ammunition, most of his attackers did not cease after a single shot. If not for spare ammunition and the ability to reload quickly my friend wouldn’t have lived to tell me the story.
Sadly, as much as we debate the topic, there is no perfect handgun ammunition, and if Mr. Murphy shows up you may need lots of it. Or as I like to remind my students, shoot until the threat is stopped. That’s another way of saying shoot until you end the threat or shoot until they stop doing whatever they were doing that forced you to respond with deadly force.
Some folks advise you should carry multiple firearms, med kits, several knives and a lot of spare ammunition. I’m OK with that if you don't mind the extra bulk and weight, but it might not be necessary if you live anywhere there's not an active war zone. Each of us needs to make a thoughtful assessment of our environment and threat level before deciding what to carry and how much of it we might need.
I’ve never known anyone who lived through a gunfight and wished they had carried less ammunition. You might want to keep that in mind. And finally, a cheerful note: You can only have too much ammunition if you’re on fire or drowning [editor's note: or moving...].