How Many Magazines is Enough?, by Cowboy

It’s nice to know how many guns you have to share amongst those mags, or better yet how many magazines do you have to share amongst multiple like model rifles or pistols for that matter. That’s how I count them to see if I feel like I have enough or not. Plus, I like to count in the possibility of adding another gun or two into that particular category at a later date since buying extra mags is always cheaper than adding a new gun. If nothing else, extra mags are a great investment for later sale or barter especially if the current snake oil salesman in charge signs a new assault weapons ban into law.

As an example, I got caught with just a couple of AK and AR mags when the Assault weapons Ban (AWB) took effect in 1994. This was before the “preparedness mindset” for me which came later in 1996 when I found JWR’s novel draft “The Gray Nineties” [–an early draft edition of “Patriots” ]. I was not nearly so gun market savvy as I am today. I was the typical gun owner/collector with one each of several guns without any thought to caliber consolidation or commonality of magazines for logistics purposes. In the same vein I may have had a couple 20 round boxes of 223 or 762×39 ammo laying around with really no thought of having anymore than what I needed to go to the range one time for about an hour’s worth of shooting. In hindsight it was absolutely shameful–like 99% of the sleeping gun owning public.

Then the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was signed into law and there was a run on certain guns, ammunition, and magazines–much like we are seeing now–that swept the country overnight. Back then, I was way behind the curve on that and I got caught off guard. At the time $6 for a nice but used USGI M16 magazine was common and a new mag might set you back $10. Overnight if you could even find some for sale you had to pay double or triple that. Same with Glock magazines as another example. They went from +/- $15 for a new one to $40-$45. [JWR Adds: In 1999, I saw gun show dealers asking and getting $75 each for 13 round Glock 21 magazines, and $150 each for 33 round Glock 17/18/19 magazines!] This market environment went on for the 10 year life span of the AWB until it “sunsetted” in 2004. Prices went down and availability went back to normal until just before the 2008 election. Since 2004 I have been eagerly buying all the magazines I needed, or thought I might ever need in a lifetime. I learned my lesson. In anticipation of the election I was counting on the ignorance and gullibility of the general populace so I made a last bulk purchase of magazines. Good thing too! Just this past summer (2008), I bought a little over $1,000 worth of various magazines, and in particular Glock 17 magazines from my favorite place. At that time they were $16.99 all day long. The election came and now they are $24.99 from the same place, and even so they are still the cheapest I can find among my many regular sources. More recently, SIG magazines for have gone up at most places for instance. Pre-election they usually went for right at $30. One of my regular places has gone up a little bit to $33, but I’ve seen that most other places have jacked them up to $40. It was and is the old “short supply and high demand” syndrome, due in part to all the panic buying that could have been avoided if done a little bit at a time like I’ve done over the past five years.

As bad as the prices got then, what’s going on now is far worse in terms of availability. Having lived and financially suffered through the ’94 AWB, I still can say I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is easily twice as bad as the ’94 AWB, and no legislation is even close to being signed into law yet. I lived and paid dearly through the ’94 AWB and I feel like I can speak on the topic of what’s happening in the gun market right now with some authority. In other words if you find a deal where they haven’t gouged the prices, then I recommend buying extra beyond your immediate needs. Knowing what you know about your arsenal of freedom, I’d say stop buying guns and concentrate on ammunition and a few more magazines as a priority. You can’t drive a Corvette if you can’t afford the gas, so to speak. The mistake they made in 1994 was not going after the ammunition and they realize that now. If the majority of gun owning America is still anything like I was back in 1994, any possible self defense in a civil unrest situation would be short lived without adequate ammunition supplies already in place. And who’s got time to reload the one or two magazines they got with the rifle in the middle of a fire fight? When it comes to magazines, more is better. I suspect this mood has improved among gun owners in general and that the lesson of the ’94 AWB still smells fresh to some. As evidenced by my coworkers who come to me for ‘gun advise”, I still believe the majority are gun rich, but magazine and ammunition poor so to speak.

Now that I’ve gone on entirely too long you should have noticed the theme: Buy more magazines where you need them and even if you don’t as long as the prices aren’t gouge level. Buy more ammunition for your major battle rifle caliber at every opportunity because it certainly isn’t getting any cheaper and availability is scarce. Look at and They are just plain out of all the common caliber ammunition. That is very telling, but it also concerns me the most. In case you feel overwhelmed at the very expense of it all, I give the example of a co-worker who recently got on the same page via my Christmas gift of JWR’s novel “Patriots” .. On pay day this coworker without fail goes to the local Horse Tack & Gun Shop and buys two or three twenty round boxes of commercial .223. Whatever he can afford that pay day. Although he was quite behind the 8 Ball in the beginning, he has over 500 rounds now and he just picked up three extra M16 magazines. His little bit at a time strategy is working nicely, and I have seen his overall mood improve as his supply grows along with his confidence. He has also has been using the “copy can” method at the grocery store and his progression in that department has really improved his state as well.

As a general recommendation I advise the following with the caveat that you add the same minimum amount of used generic (cheaper) magazines for range use. I know it’s extra money but you can’t go wrong by then adding a second batch of new factory magazines as you can locate and afford them until you’ve doubled that original minimum. I can assure you they will make a nice investment later down the road. Keep those brand new magazines back in the “break glass in case of emergency” box. That will be your long term storage box that you don’t touch until TSHTF. Buy .50 caliber ammo cans for a safe place to store magazines, with a bag of desiccant thrown in for good measure. I’ve actually vacuum packed mine for long term rust free storage. Keep the used but reliable generic mags about for immediate availability and for range use. [Some snipped, for brevity.]

As a absolute minimum I recommend the following. Hopefully you are in or can get into a position to consolidate caliber and like model firearms if for nothing other than a logistics standpoint. Having to find, purchase, and store several different calibers, and multiple types of magazines can make an already expensive proposition downright discouraging.

(10) Ten brand new magazines per main battle rifle (This under most circumstances should equate to basic load + spares)
(7) Seven brand new magazines per pistol (This also under most circumstances should equate to basic load + spares)


(1) Main Battle Rifle per adult or responsible teenager
(1) Main Sidearm per adult or responsible teenager

And of course, in my opinion one of the most often neglected items: professional training, and appropriate web gear to carry those magazines and your sidearm.