On shotgun ammo carriers

Chances are, if you’re ever going to be involved in a home defense situation with a shotgun, you’ll be in your birthday-suit.  So unless you’ve got ammunition Velcro’d to your ass, all the extra ammunition you’ll have will be on the gun.

– Greg Hamilton, Insights Training Center (courtesy of Joe Huffman)

In light of my recent participation in Rangemaster’s Defensive Shotgun course, I had an opportunity to try out some different modes of carrying shotgun ammo. I had a few thoughts, and here they are. This isn’t gospel, just my opinion, which is well subject to change.

Since a shotgun doesn’t hold much ammo, you really need a supporting mechanism for carrying more ammo. Two of the most popular choices are side-saddles and butt cuffs.

TacStar makes a SideSaddle product for many shotguns, in 4 and 6 shell configurations. These put shells directly on the side of your receiver. Butt cuffs are sleeves or similar contraptions that fit over the buttstock and hold shells there, and there are many many vendors and configurations of these out there.

Tom Givens was saying he’s not a fan of the SideSaddle for a few reasons (but in the end, Tom doesn’t care what you use). I don’t recall them all off the top of my head, but a couple are that it throws off the balance of the gun (it does made it “side heavy”), and it can come loose and rattle. Certainly it could get in the way of things… certain models can’t work with particular forends, and a host of other possible issues.

I actually like the SideSaddle. We always talk about economy of motion, so why traverse all the distance to the buttstock and back to the loading ports, when a SideSaddle is right there on the receiver and it’s minimal movement to get a new shell and put it into the gun? As well, the saddle is in my field of vision, so I can see what I’m doing instead of having to feel around or take my eyes off the threat. Plus, if you orient the shells in different ways (up or down), it’s easier to remove them from the SideSaddle than trying to do the same from the butt cuff (especially shell brass up). I also find it cleaner/easier to remove the shell from the SideSaddle, whereas the elastic and movement of the butt cuff can make it difficult to withdraw a shell. Granted, a good solution here is to just screw the cuff down to the stock so it doesn’t move.

But really, the biggest win for me is the speed of reloading and how the ammo being right there, positioned in a well-defined way, really helps the loading process. If the point of the class I took was all about those manipulations, then pick the ammo solution that’s going to best lend to that. For me, it’s a side-saddle.

That said, I also have a butt cuff on my shotgun. Why? Slugs. The magazine is full of buckshot, the SideSaddle has buckshot too. But just in case a slug is needed it’d be good to have one. So, I put them in the butt cuff. It allows me to have them, but it’s unlikely I’ll need one. It’s more likely for me to need buckshot and to keep that fed into the gun. As well, when you’re working fast and under pressure, you might not remember that “these are buckshot, these are slugs” if you have them mixed on your carrier. Some solve that by putting the buckshot all facing one way and the slugs all facing another. I can’t do that since I prefer 2 brass up in the saddle for the quick ejection port reload, and then 4 down in the saddle for the slower loading port. But it’s well-defined to me to have buck in the saddle and slugs in the cuff; highly unlikely I’ll confuse the two when under pressure.

Granted, there are many other ways to carry more ammo — like a magazine extension. 🙂  But these are two of the most popular. I’m happy to use both and so far seem to have a strategy that works for me. Find what works for you.

6 thoughts on “On shotgun ammo carriers

  1. Have you seen my setup? I don’t like butt-cuffs because 1, their sloppy and move around and 2, they are constantly ending up against my cheek. I love the side saddle idea and have not only a conventional side saddle but my two shell holder at the ejection port. You want economy of motion, that is it, port open because the gun ran dry? Sweep a single shell in the ejection port and crank away. Need a slug RFN? Sweep the slug into the ejection port and fire away.

    • Yes, that sort of holder right there in front of the ejection port is great for speed… even faster.

      One additional thing on the butt cuff. The reason I have Mossberg shotguns is because they are more ambi-friendly and I’m in a household that needs to be friendly to both lefties and righties. There’s one shotgun primarily set for Wife, and that has a buttcuff with the shells on the left… which is annoying for me since that puts the shells on my cheek (but in a pinch, I’ll manage). So, that’s another plus for the side-saddle BUT… it’s so hard finding accessories for anything but popular 12 gauge shotguns. I need to sit down and jury rig something one of these days…. but for now, the setup works.

      Anyways, point is that this is one benefit of a sidesaddle approach, it keeps things off the buttstock so it doesn’t get in the way of your cheek. If the gun is all yours, doesn’t matter so much, but if you might have to share in a situation like I have, it’s a factor. Of course, sidesaddles are going to be generally biased towards the left side of the receiver, tho a solution like in your picture can somewhat address that.

  2. I agree with all of the above, but would also add that a tactical vest fully stocked with needed shells is also nice to have. I keep one with baton, flashlights (2), cuffs, extra mags, shells, and anything else that might come in handy. We live on a ranch in south Texas and I have had to use it on two occasions. Thankfully, nobody got hurt, but it felt good to know that I had the right equipment with me roaming outside in the dark.

    • I agree! Having such items, like a vest or a “go bag” that have such items is certainly good. The downside is that it’s an extra thing… will you have time/ability to get it? Maybe, maybe not, so plan accordingly for the “maybe not” case. But if you can get it, yes it’s good because it brings a whole lot more stuff to the party.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I have both my wife and I practice with the tac-vest (finding flashlights, clips, cuffs, etc.) and without. I have a 870 that has been highly modified with pistol grips, shortened barrel, sidesaddle spares and flashlight. It takes some getting used to and my wife and I practice with that (shooting and speed loading).

    On a side note, We make sure our kids are with us (7 and 4 years old). Its a great time to let them shoot the .22 and teach them about gun safety.

    • Ultimately that’s the thing: whatever your strategy, practice! If you discover in practice things aren’t working out, you adjust and refine… then practice more. 🙂

      And taking the kiddos out… what better way to teach them respect and knowledge of firearms. That’s what is going to keep them safe. Good for you!

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