To me there are a few situations for someone to carry magazine pouches and holders – competitive and weekend shooters, law enforcement, and military. The needs of each group are a little different. But what’s the greatest AR-15 mag pouch for your situation?
Who needs magazine pouches and holders?
Competitive and weekend shooters
Competitive shooters aren’t usually shooting with a plate carrier. They’ll usually use a magazine pouches attached to their belt. These are usually kydex or leather magazine holders. They provide easy access and quick magazine changes during their competition. While they might run from target to target, their biggest concern isn’t necessarily magazine retention.
Weekend shooters or the recreational high speed gear users might use a plate carrier or opt for a belt based magazine retention system. I personally use a battle belt and my mag pouch system attaches to that. It is worn outside the belt as more of a cummerbund than anything else.
A police officer might not even carry a magazine holder on him. Most police officers do not “duty carry” a rifle. The rifle is usually brought out from their vehicle – whereas a pistol is worn at all times. In these cases, the police officer will always have pistol mag pouches or holders on them.
This means the police officer might have a “quick attach” mag pouch system. Their vehicle might also have magazine pouches somewhere in their vehicle. This piece of tactical gear comes in handy when they face big potential threats and need to defend themselves or people around them in violent situations.
Another common place a police officer might keep a spare rifle mag is on the buttstock of their AR-15 rifle.
The kydex magazine pouches don’t usually hold more than two AR-15 magazines. While some gunfights are long, it doesn’t seem like law enforcement feel the need to carry 6 or more magazines. I’d guess they would typically carry one in the rifle + one to two more on their side.
While in the Marines (non-combat MOS), we were issued two double magazine pouches. In Iraq, we carried one loaded rifle mag and pouch on our the buttstock. We carried additional rifle mags but they weren’t loaded.
According to a recent blog, the Marine Corps standard issue infantryman’s magazine count is seven magazines. That’s either 2 magazine pouches (if a triple mag pouch) + 1 in the rifle or three double magazine pouches + 1 in the rifle.
Why carry a mag pouch?
Depending on your need and use case, you probably need magazine pouches and holders. How many or what type depends on your situation.
Types of mag pouches
As with many firearm accessories, you are not limited to your options. There are different materials, fasteners, and color combinations available.
You’ll find a few common types of magazine pouches. There’s the bungeed nylon, kydex, and nylon.
These magazines usually have a plastic or nylon shell for the front and back, with plastic hugging the sides of the magazines. The bungee pushes the plastic sides tightly against the magazine and that’s how the magazine stays in place.
The inside shell will sometimes have a “frictiony” material that helps magazine retention. If this material isn’t in the pouch, the magazine will come out more easily.
However, the bungee and side plastic pieces keep magazines in very well. We would not recommend using these magazines while hanging upside down, but they do the trick.
The most common example of these magazine pouches is the High Speed Gear Taco.
Kydex Magazine Holders
These magazine holders are often worn by competitive shooters and concealed carriers. These holsters are great for holding a magazine secure but we wouldn’t recommend doing summersaults with them.
You may also find police officers using them. Sometimes, these are just a winged like a holster, and can be easily thrown onto a belt or the hip.
Fastener options – bungee cord, snaps, velcro
So in order to secure your magazines, your holders and pouches will use bungee cord, snaps, and/or velcro.
The magazine holder below runs entirely on a bungee system. It doesn’t depend on plastic walls on the sides of the pouch. It relies on a bungee strap that goes over the magazine to retain it.
These are less common in rifle mag pouches and more in pistol mag pouches.
Much like the NcStar pictured below, these pouches have a flap that covers the magazines. In a stealth or tactical situation, these might be too loud to access your magazines. They will usually attach to MOLLE webbing.
Typical colors for magazine pouches and holders
You can find a mag pouch for just about any camouflage pattern or standard color uniform. OD green, FDE, tan, multicam, etc. It’s all available.
Military mag pouches in use today
Eagle industries holds the contract for the M4 single mag pouch and double mag pouches.
Law enforcement magazine holders
As mentioned before – there are car mounted options for holding multiple magazines. DSG Arms has one called the Ranger Rack. It holds multiple magazines from different firearm platforms.
An officer could easily keep this in his car for when he switches from pistol to rifle.
How to choose the right type of magazine pouch for you
Refactor Tactical’s blog lists their rating criteria. It’s a great resource to find what’s best for you.
Garand Thumb also rated multiple magazine pouch options based on retention strength, noise, and ease of magazine change.