Whether you are training, carrying for self-defense, or working, people who employ firearms often tote along additional ammunition. Some folks toss a magazine in a pocket, but the majority place their spare magazines in a holster specially designed for this purpose.
We should get a few things squared away before I go any further:
1) the proper term in most cases is “magazine,” not a “clip.” A clip is a metal clasp that holds spare ammunition, like on an M1 Garand.
2) The object that holds additional magazines is called a carrier or holder if has an open top, or a pouch if it has a flap. Searching for a “magazine holster” won’t net many results.
3) A single-stack magazine means that the ammunition is loaded one round on top of the other, in a single column. Most 1911 magazines are this way, as well as my Kel-Tec PF-9. A double-stack magazine means that the ammunition is loaded at an off-set in two columns, sort of like stacking firewood. All XD and most Glock magazines are double-stacks. Double stack magazines allow for more ammunition at the same length as a single-stack but at the expense of added thickness.
Okay, on with my review of the Blackhawk CQC Double Stack single magazine carrier, the El Paso Saddlery LEG-535 Double Stack double magazine carrier, a nylon double stack double magazine pouch provided by Cheaper Than Dirt when purchasing KCI aftermarket Glock magazines, and a horizontally-oriented double stack single magazine carrier by Parlusk.
Focus dictates function, function dictates form
Right away you need to decide if you want to conceal your magazine carrier. Magazine carriers that are easily accessible are often difficult to conceal. Vertically-oriented magazine carriers (the most typical orientation) can get snagged on stuff depending on where you mount them on your belt.
I am going to review these in order of less-concealable to more-concealable.
Blackhawk CQC Double Stack single magazine carrier – about $20USD
The most accessible magazine carrier out of this bunch is also the most difficult to conceal. The Blackhawk carrier is made out of polymer and is very very sturdy. The clip that holds the carrier to the belt is extremely strong and durable. I have no doubt that this carrier would stand up to abuse associated with use in an active duty environment.
However, its robustness is also its downfall. It is very thick, and the big clip adds to an already fat profile. It prints worse than my Glock 19 or 27 when worn on the outside of my body.
If you don’t need to worry about concealment, the Blackhawk may be for you. I may use this on future training classes, but for now it sits in my Holster Box of Shame™.
Nylon double stack magazine pouch — free with purchase of two KCI Glock magazines
This generic nylon pouch is just as thick as the Blackhawk, but the soft nylon helps shape it to your body and clothing. It also looks like any number of multi-tool or mobile phone pouches on the off chance that you reveal it by accident.
It also has the best magazine retention out of the bunch, thanks to the flap and plastic clips.
I use these to store my practice magazines. I ran through a bunch of these during a recent training course, and they kept my magazines safe from dirt and grit. However, I use them more as a “storage container.” I find the flaps hard to manipulate under the stresses of training. The soft nylon walls collapse a little once a magazine is removed, which makes it hard to put the magazine back in without looking.
I like these because they are free and keep my practice magazines from rattling around loose. However, I wouldn’t use them for any practical application.
El Paso Saddlery Double Stack double magazine carrier – about $20USD
If you’re looking for an attractive, durable double mag carrier, the El Paso Saddlery LEG-535 is a great choice. It is a blatant rip-off (I meant, clone) of a Galco design at about half the price.
The leather used in the LEG-535 is thick enough to suggest durability but thin enough to encourage concealment. It can still print depending on your choice of attire, but it is better than the Blackhawk or the nylon pouch.
The openings in the carrier are large enough to allow easy removal and re-insertion of magazines. There is a single retention screw that keeps your mags safe and secure inside. I like this design a lot, as it helps retain the magazines once they are fully in the carrier, but not so tight that it’s hard to insert the magazines under stress.
The downside to this holster is that the vertical orientation can cause some problems during daily activities. I routinely bumped the bottom of the carrier against stuff as I sat down, or knocked the tops of my magazines as I stood up. This isn’t a fault of the El Paso Saddlery product as much as it is a problem with vertical mag carriers in general.
I used this carrier extensively during a recent training session. I probably did 600+ magazine manipulations in a two day period, including inserting the “front” magazine into my pistol then transitioning the “rear” magazine to the front position and then the original pistol magazine from my pocket to the rear position while moving and shooting. If there was an opportunity for me to fumble a mag manipulation, it would have been here. However, the LEG-535′s design made it easy to do all of this without looking.
This carrier is great for training, and may be concealable enough during colder months when you can wear more covering garments.
Horizontal Magazine Holder by Parlux – about $19USD shipped
If you’ve read Gibberish for awhile, you know I love simple designs that work very well. The kydex horizontal magazine holder made Parlux represents the pinnacle of simplistic, functional design.
The holder is made out of one piece of .93″ thick kydex. The thicker .93″ kydex is harder to work with, but is more durable than the thinner kydex other companies typically use. The single piece design means there are no rivets or fasteners that could cause cracking under prolonged, strained usage. The clip that attaches the carrier to the belt is nice and sturdy.
The magazine carrier is horizontal in orientation, which means that the mag sits along the same plane as your belt. This makes concealment a breeze, and also greatly reduces the “knocks and bumps” associated with a vertical carrier.
The one design downside is that the carrier has an “open” design. Meaning that debris could enter the pouch and possibly affect the operation of the magazine feed plate. I don’t think this is a concern if you concealed carry, as your cover garment(s) will keep all of that stuff away from your mag. However if you are wearing this “open” in a working or training environment you may have to keep an eye out for dirt and grit.
My magazine carrier was very tight when I first purchased it. If I inserted the magazine fully it was very hard to remove. I mitigated this by only inserting the magazine about 3/4ths of the way in. This did the trick as far as retention and retrieval, but every once and awhile I would fully seat the magazine and I’d have to use both hands to remove it.
I emailed the Parlusk about my issue and got a response back in about six minutes. Parlusk put up video on how to loosen your horizontal magazine carrier with a hair dryer. Every magazine is a little different, and Parlusk decided to err on the side of “too tight” than “too loose.” Some of you may not have the issue I did, but if you do it’s an easy fix.
A last obvious critique of horizontal mag holders in general: capacity. You can only store one magazine this way. You could get multiple horizontal mag holders I suppose, but you’d have to stagger them on your belt or put them on opposite sides of your body.
Every holder is hand-made by the shop’s owner. The product and customer service are top notch. The fact that this carrier is about 1/2 the price of comparable models is just an added bonus. If you carry concealed, I recommend this holder hands down compared to the others covered here.
You can get the carrier from Parlux and the El Paso Saddlery delivered for about the same price as a single “big brand” carrier that won’t be any better. I recommend that you buy both of these carriers. If you can only get one, I’d buy the one from Parlux first. The EPS is really good for training, but you probably will carry concealed more than you train.