Options for toting extra ammo for rifles, shotguns, handguns
Photos & Report
by John Markwell
Most everyone I know who is involved in hunting or the shooting sports has, at one time or another, gone looking for the Holy Grail of some piece of gear. Whether searching for the perfect rifle, hunting knife, or the most comfortable pair of boots, this quest can be a lifelong endeavor. This obsessive searching is one of the reasons we all end up with a box full of holsters, too many knives, lots of rifles and handguns, and all that other stuff we all love.
One of my more prolonged quests has led me to accumulate a rather large collection of cartridge carriers for both rifle and handgun rounds, some good and some not so good. I even made one myself for use with a Dakota #10 single-shot I had for a while. I haven’t found the perfect unit yet but I’ve come pretty close for some applications.
I hadn’t thought much about this for quite a while until I had a visit from a young local fellow, a bear hunter, who wanted to talk about a holster for his new handgun. During our discussion the subject of ammo carriers came up and hence the idea for this article.
Rifle ammo on the belt
As is often the case, one of my all time favorite rifle cartridge carriers is no longer available. Established in 1857, the George Lawrence Company of Portland, OR, closed their doors quite a few years ago. Their leather gear was heavily oiled and their products built to last for generations. The Lawrence Model 25, flap covered, 10-round cartridge carriers were wonderful, but a bit on the long side for me to comfortably carry on my belt when my waist was in the 32-inch range. They were, and are in my opinion, the finest available. I find I carry these in my pack most of the time, when I use them.
I discovered Ringler Custom Leather pretty much by accident at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Cody, WY, probably in 2004. I was working at a hunting camp in the Wyoming Range at the time and had made a run up to Cody between hunts to go to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Needless to say, seeing a gun shop necessitated an extra stop. I wasn’t even thinking about ammo carriers until I saw the Ringler Leather inconspicuously displayed along with a lot of other hunting accessories. After one look at the five-round Cartridge Case, with its snap-close flap and the unique (at least to me) individual shell compartments, I thought “This is it! The quest is over.” The Ringler 5-shot Cartridge Case is built from heavy premium leather. The stitching on the three carriers I currently have is nicely done and the snaps securing the flap covers are large and stout. The nicest feature of these carriers is the simple way the cartridges are separated with individual holes in the leather pouch, allowing quick and convenient access to each. Also, the belt loop (which will fit 2-inch belts) is a separate piece of leather that is integrally stitched to the rest of case. No belt slots just cut into the pouch as an afterthought on these cases. The Ringler 5 shot Cartridge Case is available in sizes to fit most rifle ammunition. Sizes are stamped on the back. I have two stamped small (that I use for ..250 Savage and 22-250) and one stamped STD (for .270 Win.). These cartridge carriers are small enough to be comfortably carried on the belt and their flap covers offer good protection of the ammo from the elements. Considering the quality of these cartridge carriers (they are as good as the old Lawrence #25s), and the fact that they should last more than a lifetime, makes the $31.25 price more than reasonable.
Looped cartridge slides
Although I like cartridge holders with protective flaps, there are times when the flaps are not all that desirable. Hunting hogs in the swamps of South Carolina with a big bore carbine or a handgun qualifies as one of those times. The simple looped belt slide gives one the ability to quickly top off a carbine’s magazine or to do a partial revolver reload without having to fumble around with the protective flap. The folks at Milt Sparks Leather have made several belt slides for me over the years to fit rifle cartridges from .223 up to .45-70. El Paso Saddlery has also been a source for several looped belt slides for assorted revolver cartridges and I have one for .44 Magnum from Ringler Leather. All of the above have either a five or six round capacity, are of quality leather, and the workmanship is impeccable. At a price of $36.50 the Ringler Shell Slide for revolver ammo is about average for an ammo carrier of this type and quality. El Paso’s 6-rounder is $30.
Although usually carried on the pants belt, I have two looped cartridge slides mounted on the shoulder straps of a pair of El Paso 1942 Tanker model holsters; one for .357 Magnum and one for 44. Mounted in this manner, and secured in place with Chicago screws, these cartridge slides insure that extra ammo is always with the holster rig.
Not quite a looped cartridge slide, the DeSantis 2x2x2 pouch is a unique one-piece leather affair that wraps around the belt and is held closed with a snap. The cartridges are held by twos in oblong slots. A one-of-a-kind unit, the DeSantis 2x2x2 pouch is a very discreet and low profile way to carry six extra revolver rounds. Retail on the 2x2x2 is $44.95.
Jeff Cooper was a big fan of rifle-mounted spare ammunition. His Wild West Guns’ takedown .45-70, which he dubbed the “Arctocrat,” had a leather butt cuff type ammo carrier and the Scout rifle of his design from Steyr had a stock-mounted spare magazine.
Following Cooper’s lead, I’ve equipped two lever action carbines with butt-mounted ammunition carriers. Several years ago I talked the folks at Milt Sparks Holsters into making me a couple of cartridge holders in .44 Magnum (one I gave to my buddy Ken Hackathorne). These were nothing more than a flat piece of leather with loops sewn on; much like a section of a western gun belt. The unique part of the deal was that I had them put brass grommets into the corners and center of the back piece so that the carrier could be attached to the stock with six brass wood screws. This is a simple, secure, light weight, and low profile way to hold spare ammunition on the butt stock. This is not a cataloged item from Milt Sparks and you’ll have to make your own arrangements if you’d like one.
Recently I asked Von Ringler to make up one of his Stock Boots for me for the .45-70 cartridge. I specified a four-rounder, instead of his normal six, thinking this would balance better on my cut-down Marlin Guide Gun. With its subdued western scallops, this is a very attractive and functional addition to my number one hog hunting/bear country carbine. Held securely in place when the leather lacing is pulled good and tight, the Stock Boot doesn’t move at all under the .45-70’s recoil and provides “on-the-gun” spare ammo for instant topping off of the magazine. If used as a camp gun in bear country, the Guide Gun can be taken into action with spare ammo attached. To quote from a 1996 letter from Col. Cooper on this subject: “There is a conceptual difference between a butt-cuff and a belt carrier. In emergency situations you may have to grab the gun and run, with or without your britches. With a butt-cuff the ammunition comes along with you, whereas with a belt carrier you have to put the belt on…” Hopefully, I’ll never need “to grab the gun and run.” But should I, the Ringler Stock Boot on the Guide Gun will provide easily accessible extra ammunition that can’t be left behind. The Stock Boot sells for $49.25.
A simple pouch
Ringler Leather has a simple and very handy item aptly called the Ammo Pouch which comes in two sizes. The small, which I have, holds eight .300 Winchester Magnum cartridges or 120 .22 long rifles, and the large will accommodate 15 .300 Win Mags or 200 of the .22LRs. Constructed from a single piece of leather, this is truly just a simple open-topped envelope that is carried on the belt. The top is held closed with both hook and loop pile and a dot snap to prevent loosing the contents. There is a large belt loop on the back that will fit two inch belts.
When this pouch is opened up, the ammunition carried in it is easily accessible through the generous top opening. I have used the Ammo Pouch mainly for plinking with .22LR revolvers and find it much more convenient to access ammo in the pouch on my belt than trying to dig it out of a pocket or dealing with a box which will almost always eject its contents on the ground. Even with my arthritic fingers, access to 22LR cartridges carried in the Ammo Pouch is easy and when closed up, even with just the Velcro, the cartridges are protected against spillage. For a day of plinking, the Ringler Custom Leather Ammo Pouch has become a regular companion to my .22 revolvers. Either size Ammo Pouch, large or small, is priced at $33.50 from Ringler Custom Leather or select dealers.
The above is just a sampling of the better cartridge carriers I’ve accumulated over the years. I use all of the above items regularly, depending on circumstances and the firearms being employed. Although a simple accessory, a spare ammunition carrier can enhance a firearm’s effectiveness and convenience of use dramatically. I’m pretty satisfied with the above assortment and find that combined, they satisfy most of my spare ammunition storage needs. And yet, “the Quest” continues.
DeSantis Holster and Leather Goods Co.
431 Bayview Ave., Dept. GWK
Amityville, NY 1701, phone: 800-424-1236;
online: desantis holster.com.
El Paso Saddlery Co.
2025 E. Yandell, Dept. GWK
El Paso, TX 79903;
Milt Sparks Holsters, Inc.
605 E 44th St., #2, Dept. GWK,
Boise, ID 83714; phone: 208-377-5577;
Ringler Custom Leather
31 Shining Mountain Rd., Dept. GWK,
Powell, WY 82435; phone: 307-645-3255;
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