My Ankle Ammo Rig, by Spotlight

It may sound crazy but I can routinely carry over 50 rounds of ammunition on my person at all times without it being obvious, uncomfortable or hampering my normal activities. After more than two decades of law enforcement work and now nearly seven years of a combination of private investigation (PI), private security work, and consulting, I have come full circle. I started out in the late 1980s as a small town cop and was issued a Ruger Security Six .357 Magnum revolver. As with most law enforcement agencies, we went through a series of semi-autos starting in the early 1990s. First, in 1991 we went to a S&W 9mm (the model number escapes me). We carried those from 1991 until around 2009 when we switched to S&W M&P .40s. Just after I retired in the early 2010s, my old agency switched to Smith & Wesson .45s. Basically, we followed the trend of most of the agencies in our area and in particular the state police.

Once I retired, I carried what had been until that point my standard off-duty gun, a Smith & Wesson 3946 9mm single stack semi-auto that holds 7-8 rounds depending on which magazine you have. I always called this my “wedding gun” because shortly before my wife and I were married, she commented to me that when we got married money would probably be a bit tight for awhile so if there was something I wanted I should probably buy it before the wedding, hence the 3946!

To be honest, I had never really shot that gun that well. I could pass the required course with it to carry off duty but I don’t have a lot of confidence with it beyond 10 yards or so. Like most cops I don’t consider myself a “gun guy”. I am very familiar with the guns I carry and never leave home without one, but I couldn’t talk very long about ballistics, the differences between various grains of ammunition, etc. I enjoy shooting as far as preparing to defend my family, or myself but it’s not a hobby for me, just a necessity for my chosen field of work. On the job I carried the ammo they gave me. Now that I’m retired I did some research on the best self defense rounds and stick with those.

A year or so after I retired, I started looking around for a different carry gun. Being a PI means I am usually out on my own. I occasionally find myself in situations that we never would have handled solo at the PD, but that’s how it is when you work for yourself. My lack of confidence in my 3946 was bothering me and I had always said at the PD that if they had let me, I would have stuck with my Ruger, just like I stuck with the standard long wooden baton instead of one of those plasticy expando-batons. (That nightstick always got people’s attention and I used to tell the new guys, “real men carry wood, son.”) I just always shot revolvers better than semi-autos. So, with all that in mind, for a new everday carry (EDC) gun I went back to what I had started with: a good, sturdy revolver. I purchased a Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum with a 3” barrel. I have carried this gun for the last six years or so, full time. It is a big, heavy gun but I have no problem dressing around it. It probably helps that my fashion style is middle-aged American slob!

Speed Strips

Bianchi Speed StripWhen it came time to consider how I was going to carry back up ammo, I knew speed loaders would not be a great option. Before the aforementioned wedding gun came along, I carried a Smith & Wesson Model 649 Bodyguard in .38 as my back up gun on duty and as my off duty gun. As a result, I had tried carrying speed loaders off duty and it was a hassle. Then as now, if I’m not working, I’m probably wearing cargo pants and a t-shirt. For three years after I retired I was the facilities/security manager of a very large Catholic parish. I wore a polo shirt (tucked in) and Dickie’s Industrial Cargo Pants (which are great pants, by the way). Carrying speed loaders in any of those outfits is not easy. If they’re in the cargo pockets, good luck fishing them out in a hurry. Anywhere else and they stick out like crazy and are uncomfortable. So I was limited to speed strips. I realize some of you youngsters out there may not be familiar with speed strips so I have included a photo. Granted, they are much slower than speed loaders to load your wheel gun with, but they are nice and flat and can fit easily and unobtrusively in a pocket. By the way, I don’t have any financial interest in any of the products I’m mentioning. I’m just a satisfied customer.

I wanted some way to carry a significant amount of ammo without having to stash speed strips all over my body and try to dig around and find them in the heat of the moment. I came up with an ankle rig that works beautifully. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand reading a review of something, anything, and the reviewer gives it 5 stars without a real period of ownership. Amazon reviews along the lines of, “I just opened it 5 minutes ago and it looks awesome, 5 stars!!!”, don’t do anyone much good. So, in that regard I can tell you I have carried this ankle rig for well over four years now with no issues. No pouches falling open and dumping speed strips onto the ground (awkward!), no Velcro giving way and dumping the entire rig onto the ground (more awkward!), no noise from speed strips clanking together, etc. I haven’t had any problems at all.

Spotlight Ammo Rig 2Within a few days, I got very comfortable with the whole feel, and I don’t even notice it’s there now. I frequently wear ankle length boots when I’m working so it sits up a bit on my leg, but I’ve also worn pretty boy shoes on occasion for church or other events without any issues. Only once has anyone noticed it and it was a good priest friend of mine who I was sitting and chatting with. My pants had ridden up just enough for him to see it and he excitedly asked if it was ankle weights as he is heavy into fitness and had been considering them! I told him what it was but he also gave me a perfect answer if someone were to ask in the future! I’ve worn it with jeans and sneakers as well, again no problems. So, what does this wonder rig consist of? Not much, read on and find out.

Materials List:

Total cost (sans ammo): About $114

That’s all you need. I cut the Velcro to length, to go around my ankle with a bit of overlap to make sure it doesn’t flop around. Load up the pouches with your speed strips and tuck the Velcro straps behind the section that holds the speed strips, then close the flap over and you’re done. As one of my old cop buddies used to stay before we headed out on patrol, “strap it on and let’s go!”

When I first made this rig I was concerned that once I undid the flap and removed a speed strip, the weight of the other speed strip would make the pouch dump outwards away from my ankle, because the Velcro strap is behind the part of the pouch that actually holds the strips. It doesn’t. Even if I don’t flip the flap back over the pouch, it stays tight enough against my ankle to keep the second speed strip in place.

Spotlight Ammo Rig 3Now to be honest, I don’t actually carry these on both ankles. I wear one on my right ankle and either nothing on my left or my back up gun on that side. Normally my back up gun (the S&W Bodyguard), sits in the right side front pocket of my cargo pants in a Bianchi pocket holster. It’s not too bulky to be obvious and if I’m in a sketchy area I can keep my hand in my pocket gripping the Bodyguard and no one is any the wiser. If I’m going to be seated for a long time, such as on a surveillance, I’ll sometimes wear the Bodyguard on my left ankle, as I’ve found it’s faster to get at that than my Ruger if I’m seated since my primary gun is at 4 o’clock or sometimes in a belly band type holster if I’m feeling stylish and actually have my shirt tucked in.

Plenty of Rounds

So, between the two guns and one of my Ankle Ammo Rigs, I have 35 rounds. Both guns can fire the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain .38 +P ammo that I carry in the GP100 and the ankle rig. The Bodyguard would probably not be too happy firing that +P stuff but if I get to the point where I’ve either suffered a malfunction in the Ruger or lost it, and fired all the rounds in the Bodyguard and now have to reload the Bodyguard, things have gotten bad enough that I won’t care at that point!

Ankle Rig DetailI did try carrying speed loaders in a pouch on my ankle just to see how it was, since they obviously load a lot faster than the speed strips. I didn’t like it. First of all, they tended to work themselves sideways in the pouch somehow no matter how tight I pulled the strap, so they would be tough to deploy under stress. Second, I could only get a set of two on each ankle max, putting four on there made even my cargo pants tight at the ankle. Finally, there was a distinctive clicking sound when I walked just from the movement of my leg. Although it sounded kind of like spurs that jingle jangle jingle, and that was cool and all, it was too obvious that something was going on down around my feet. Plus the noise hindered the Ninja stealth walking techniques I’ve worked so hard at!

So there you have it. If you carry two sets of the ankle ammo rigs you’ll have 48 rounds, plus 5 or 6 in your gun and thus you’ve got more than a 50-round box of ammo on your person. I’m still using my original rig with no decrease in the grip of the Velcro strap.

I‘ve never tried this with semi-auto magazines, but I suspect it would work given the right magazine carrier. Just think how many rounds you could carry then!




27 Comments

  1. Interesting . Never knew they made a pouch for speed strips. Great article . Not sure about a full size revolver, but got me thinking about one of those small lightweight five shots now 🙂

    1. sirlancelot-thanks for your comment, I went back and forth for awhile between the Ruger SP-101 and the GP-100 before I bough the GP. The 101 just felt like a back up gun to me and I already have the S&W Bodyguard, but the GP is a heavy gun!

  2. That ankle rig is a good idea. I has sparked a an idea on a solution I’ve been looking for. I need something secure while traveling for work. Not to carry ammo, but ID, cash and cards. Sometimes I am in some rough areas and have been toying with keeping a decoy wallet with expired cards and some cash, with my real stuff somewhere else. And ankle pouch might do it. As for ammo – that’s why I like some of today’s semiautos. A glock 19 plus an extra mag gives you a substantial ammo reserve.

  3. My only concern is the ankle rig. Can you run with all that weight? I can’t stand to even put my phone in a cargo pocket. It chafes when I walk, much less than run. (Not that I run that much at my age, 65)

    1. TexasScout-I can run with all that stuff on. I carry a lot of crap around in general. Fully dressed and with one of the ankle pouches on and all my other stuff-including the GP100-it is about 10 lbs total. When I was a cop I could run with a full duty rig on, granted I was in my 20s but I’m still in pretty good shape for being in my early 50s. And fortunately, like you, I don’t need to run much anymore! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Good ideas. I’ve tried to figure out a way to carry loaded full moon clips (S&W 1917 .45ACP) on my person in an inconspicuous manner, but have yet to find a way. Some of the fabric ‘speed loader’ revolver pouches are deep enough to carry a pair of stacked full moons – two pouches, 24 rounds. Full moon clips are a faster load than speed loaders (more economy of motion).

    One pair of pouches on either side of belt is nearly a box distributed on your person. But not very hidden unless you make a habit of carrying your shirt untucked. Black pouches on a black belt are hard to spot unless you are looking for them. The location blends in with ‘mobile phone holster’.

    The deal breaker – finding a way to carry a 1917 hidden. THAT takes some doing !

  5. Excellent article! I don’t own a wheel gun (budget concerns and all) but I can see a similar setup working for my semi and I don’t have to ALWAYS have a ‘cover garment’ for a mag carrier on my belt.

    1. Their policy is no policy lol. They’ve never addressed it. Where I live there are a lot of cops from a large metropolitan area living here and although we are in a very restrictive state in this area people are gun friendly. The previous pastor wholeheartedly encouraged people to carry. I do a fair amount of church security consulting and I always encourage the pastors to encourage those who can carry to do so.

  6. Rain? Puddles?(Wet ammo?) Running? Jumping? (One leg heavier than the other.) Sitting down, pants rise? Bending down, all the way down, to retrieve vital ammo?(Ankle holsters aren’t worn much any more because of the difficulty of this movement.) Knee pain ( Ankle weights are out because of knee pain/damage. 50 rounds of .357 weighs how much?) Nice pouches. Put one on your belt. You’ll never load 50 rounds from speed strips in a gunfight. (50 rounds from a revolver with speed strips is along gunfight with lots of down time in which your opponent must also take a break from both fire and maneuver, that’s why we carry semi-autos and a belt pouch that holds 2 mags. Revolvers are GREAT farm/homestead guns, I carry one almost every day. Snake shot, garden/livestock defense (ground hogs to coyotes), bear defense all possible with the same revolver. But for a fight? In town? Glock. Can’t shoot a Glock? Yes you can. Watch the front sight (keep it on the target) and pull the trigger STRAIGHT BACK with just the pad of your trigger finger.

    1. Duncan-thanks for commenting. i usually use one of the pouches on my belt in the summer-those ankle rigs look weird with shorts on lol. And I agree, it’s highly unlikely I would need that much ammo, particularly as a an armed citizen now as opposed to when i was a cop. It was more of a neat idea of carrying a whole box of ammo at one time. Also, I can shoot a Glock or other semi-auto, just not as well as a revolver.

  7. I am not saying to violate any laws!
    But; I have found that in non permissive areas the rent-a-cops at the doors with the hand held metal detectors wanding people, NEVER bend down and check your ankles.
    “Forgetting” a heavy metal pen in a pocket (don’t say tactical! 😮 ) usually distracts enough, slows things down enough that they want to get rid of you and keep things moving, and send you on your way.
    I may have gotten past these checks with my ankle rig on more than one occasion 😉

    1. rick-Agreed, I’ve seen the security guys offer excuses for literally everyone who went through the metal detector and set it off: “That’s your belt”, “that’s your watch”, “that’s your earrings (!)”. I guess he didn’t feel like wanding anyone that day!

  8. I know many people will say the only way to go is a semi-auto, but when you reach your mid+ 60s and getting carpal tunnel and are not able to rack the semi, then the wheel gun is the way to go. Now will be looking for the speed strip pouches.

  9. Good for you for carrying two guns that share the same ammo.

    I have tried quite a few different brands of cargo and tactical pants and recommend the Tru-Spec 24-7 lightweight tactical pants which have two pockets inside their primary Cargo pockets. Designed to hold an AR magazine, I can stack two speedloaders in this inside pocket and if you use the one on the outside, it does not print or show. I use only the speed loaders that you have to twist, not the ones that require a push, and only about once a month do I remove the speedloaders at night and find that the bottom one has released its rounds.

    I generally carry my revolved in a Kramer leather pocket holster on the weak side main pocket. It also hides well as these pockets are quite deep.

    I should also note that a compact single stack 9mm like the Ruger LC9 will fit in the cargo pocket quite well and these interior pouches work like a holster to keep it upright rather than bouncing around. I often do that when I am driving because the gun is very accessible while seated.

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