The Case for Carrying Extra Ammo

spy_packing_some_heat_800_clrIn the world of firearms and personal protection, there are few topics that garner more enthusiastic debate than the debate over which caliber is best.  Despite all the studies that have been conducted on the topic, to include a recent one by the FBI which has concluded that the 9mm in 115 grain is the best round for personal protection, the debate will no doubt rage on.

I was surprised to find out, however, that there is debate surround ammunition that has nothing to do with caliber, but which can often garner just as much spirited debate.  I’m talking about the debate over ammunition capacity, and whether or not to carry extra ammo.

In the pages of this site, when I speak of firearms, I do so as it pertains to the civilian side of personal protection, but from a perspective that comes from the law enforcement side.  More often times than not, the end game of an armed encounter will be very different between the two.  As a peace officer, the mission is to not only stop the threat against oneself, but also to stop the threat against innocent citizens, which often times means engaging a threat longer than would be advisable for a civilian.  As a civilian, you should be trying to stay out of trouble; a law enforcement officer often times must put himself in harm’s way.  And if you find yourself in the thick of it as a civilian, you need to be finding an expeditious way to get out trouble.  Cops, well, cops can’t run and hide, they have to stay in the fight and go toe to toe with badguys because it’s what they have sworn an oath to do.

Okay, I’ve gotten myself a little off track, but I do have a point.  It is expected that law enforcement officer are going to carry extra ammunition, and often times even more than one gun.  But when it comes to concealed carry for civilians, the idea of carrying more ammunition and extra magazines usually is met with some skepticism, thus the spirited debate I mentioned earlier.

During my classes to civilians, especially my concealed carry class which is often given to novices, I always encourage the addition of an extra magazine to the list of accessories that should accompany the firearm.   My reasons, I believe, are well thought out and come from basis of solid facts based on circumstances that civilians have found themselves in for which I have personal knowledge of.

As it relates to semi-automatic handguns, the single most prevalent equipment malfunction is magazine related.  (Dirty guns, bad ammunition and operator error no doubt account for more malfunctions, but we are strictly speaking about malfunctions related to equipment.)  Given this fact, it makes sense to carry a backup magazine that can easily be substituted for the malfunctioning magazine.

Next, it is important to understand that in most cases, badguys will work in teams of 2 or 3, meaning you may have to shoot multiple times, even if the first shot eliminates the target because there will still be 1 or 2 other guys.  And don’t think that just because you shot one badguy, that the others will run off.  Shooting their buddy sometimes just pisses them off more.

Lastly, I’m tired of hearing people say that if you can’t take care of business with one shot, then you need to practice more at the range.  In the vast majority of shootings, numerous rounds are fired by the good guys.  There are two reasons for this;  first, statistics say that during an armed encounter, because of the high level of stress, you will miss the target three quarters of the time.  You may be able to punch holes in a paper target with ease, but let the paper target shot back, well that’s a completely different game.  If you empty a ten round magazine, statistics say you will miss your target completely 7 times.  I don’t mean that you will hit low or wide, I mean you will completely miss the target.  (Incidentally, this is why one of the cardinal rules of firearms safety is knowing your target, and what’s beyond it.)

Now, let’s assume that you have determined that you need to use deadly force, and that you are justified under the law in doing so, (A standard that must be met no matter who you are, civilian or law man.) and you fire a good and accurate shot at the badguy.  You aim center mass and your bullet strikes the badguys chest, pierces the skin, and navigates the rib cage and impacts said badguys heart.  You have delivered a lethal shot, but is the fight over?  Again, I rely on those pesky things known as facts.  Even if shot in the heart, a motivated person can continue to function for 15 seconds before the necessary blood has left their system causing his body to shut down.  During this 15 second period, are you going to stand there and hope that this motivated bad guy misses all his shots?  Ah, no, you are probably going to continue shooting, in fact, you aren’t even going to know that you have delivered a fatal shot, you just know that said badguy is still in the fight.  And so you should be as well.

For the reasons I have described above, I always carry extra ammunition, and I always recommend others do so as well.  Even if you carry a revolver for personal protection, you should consider carrying more ammo in the form of a speed loader.  I don’t have any delusions that this settles the debate on carrying extra ammunition, but it’s at least food for thought.


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

Which is The Right Caliber for You?

Ford or Chevy?  Coke or Pepsi?  9mm or 45?  We have all heard people debating these issues before, in fact, if you are like me, you have had some pretty heated arguments in the past involving those questions.  (Okay, perhaps the Coke and Pepsi debate isn’t so much of a hot button issue, but come on, who hasn’t gone nose to nose over the issue of Ford vs. Chevy?)

If you carry a firearm for self-protection, be it as a concealed weapon or open carry, you undoubtedly have heard the arguments over which caliber is the best.  Ive  been there myself and at one time had very strong opinions on the issue as I’m sure many of you have.  Well, I don’t know if I will be able to persuade you either way in this short post, but I hope to at least offer some suggestions when it comes to choosing the right handgun caliber to carry, be it concealed carry or open carry.

First let me say that I for many years have carried a concealed weapon.  I made the choice a long time ago to be an active participant in my safety and security along with the safety and security of my family.  Let me also say that I have been a big proponent of the 45 ACP, but have almost always carried a 9mm concealed.  I always thought that 45 ACP was a better round for taking down a bad guy, but that 9mm afforded my the ability to carry a smaller gun with more ammunition.  I never really gave it much thought beyond that.  That was until recently.

It seems that recently I have been getting a lot of questions from my students during the concealed carry class that I teach about which round was best.  I really didn’t have any scientific answer to give them, so my default answer was to carry what ever firearm, in what ever caliber, makes you comfortable.  Since that answer didn’t seem to sit well with many who were hungry for answers, I decided to do some research on the topic.

Drum roll please!  The answer I have come up with after months of looking into which caliber is best, is the answer that I was already giving.  Pick the weapon in the caliber that works best for you.  Same answer, but with an explanation.

When you look at the two rounds, 9mm and 45 ACP, you will see that when you compare their size to that of the human body, there really isn’t that much of a difference.  The 45 is bigger than the 9, but not so much that it make that big a difference when it impacts a 200 pound man.  So in this instance, size really doesn’t matter.

When we discuss the topic of which caliber has the best stopping power, we need go no further in our research than to look at what has happened in the past when a person gets shot.  But not just the average Joe, we need to be looking at a well motivated attacker who, when he demands your wallet or your purse, won’t take no for an answer.  I general, a well motivated attack keeps attacking after being shot, no mater which caliber round he is shot will.  In fact, even when shot in the heart, a person can still function for 15 seconds before going down.  And even then, once on the ground, a person can still function well enough to be able to pull a trigger should they be armed themselves.

So the term stopping power is really nothing more than a myth, with the exception of two instances.  One, you shot them with a rifle, or two, you shot them in the spine, thus taking out their central nervous system.  Well, for the purposes of concealed carry, forget about a rifle, and to be realistic, shooting a person in an area that takes out their central nervous system is extremely difficult and not really even worth taking about here.

So given the myth of stopping power, what happens most in the real world is that you will have to shoot a bad guy multiple times, you must wait for them to bleed out, which could take awhile depending on where you shoot them.  So instead of stopping power, it is more accurate to take about the lethality of the round, meaning, which round is the best at killing a bad guy.

To answer that question, we go to the experts in the field of ballistics testing in terms of bullet lethality, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The FBI is the premier organization in the world when it comes to ballistics testing.

According to the agent in charge of their ballistics unit, when it comes the lethality ammunition, there is no difference between the 9mm, the 40 cal or the 45.  In fact, the FBI is saying that the 9mm is actually a better handgun round when it comes to killing a bad guy.

(Note:  In the above comparison of the 9, the 40 and the 45, we are talking about hollow point ammunition designed for self-defense, not ball ammo for target shooting.)

Now, keep in mind that there are many different 9mm rounds made by many different manufactures and coming in different weights, so this isn’t the place to discuss all those different bullet nuances.  For purposes of this article, when we say 9mm, we are talking about 147 grain hollow point bullets.

So, if there is no difference as far as killing a bad guy between 9mm and 45, we have to look at some of the other considerations.  In the case of concealed carry, those considerations are the size of the weapon, the capacity of the weapon and the recoil.  Lets forget about the size of the weapon because the ability of a person to conceal a particular size weapon depends on that persons size.  What works for a 210 pound man wont work for a 110 pound women.

So that leaves ammunition capacity and recoil.  For the most part, a 9mm semi-auto has a greater ammunition capacity than does a 45.  I have a compact 45 cal Glock and a compact 9mm Glock.  The 9mm holds 5 more rounds and is for the most part the same size.  If I carry an extra magazine, which I do, that give me 10 more rounds in the same amount of space.  So from a standpoint of ammunition capacity, the 9mm wins.

Lastly we look at recoil.  Again, the 9mm wins as the recoil is less than it is with a 45.  And less recoil allows the shooter to get the sights back on the target.  And since we know that we are most likely going to have to shot a bad guy multiple times, this is extremely important.

To conclude, the FBI says that through their testing, they determined that there isn’t any difference in the lethality of the 9mm compared with the 45.  In fact, 9mm might be even a little better.  The 9mm affords you the ability to carry more rounds, and, the recoil is more manageable.  In my humble opinion, that makes the 9mm a better concealed carry round.

With all that said, I still believe that you can’t go wrong if you went with a 45 over a 9 or even with the 40.  To me, your life is on the line, so do what makes you comfortable.  Me, I’m sticking with my 9.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Note:  In the below videos, both bad guys are shot, and shot, and shot again and continue to fight proving that a well motivated bad guy isn’t going to let a bullet hole or two stop him from staying in the fight.