Where Should Characters Store Ammunition When They’re Not Using Their Guns?

Where should these go when a character isn't using them? (Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski via sxc.hu)

Where should these go when a character isn’t using them? (Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski via sxc.hu)

Apparently, there’s some confusion out there about characters storing ammunition when they’re not using their firearms. Over at my guest post at Jane Friedman’s place, Writing About Guns: 10 Errors to Avoid in Your Novel, user marcydyer670919403 (whew) commented on an instance “when a character sticks the bullets in her pocket instead of loading the gun because it might shoot her” in something she read.

Hrmmm, I say. Hrmmm.

That’s…a new one.

I get where this idea is coming from. The firearm is no longer in use, so the author portrays the character unloading the gun. That’s a solid idea that reflects sound firearm safety. Great.

But what’s this business about the firearm going off accidentally? I’m a little stumped by that one. Is the character putting the firearm away for a long period of time? Or is the idea that the ammunition would only be loaded once the character is ready to pull the trigger?

(By the way, bullets are a component of ammunition, but not the whole thing. So “cartridges,” “ammunition,” “shells” or “rounds” are the better terms.)

Is It OK for a Character to Carry a Loaded Gun and Not Anticipate Using It in the Immediate Future?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, on the condition that the firearm’s various mechanical functions prevent it from firing, such as the safety. Leave a comment below if you have any questions about that, as the nuances are too varied to skim over here.

But that’s beside the point. Simply put, if a character can’t carry around a loaded firearm without worrying it will go off accidentally (although most gun folks will tell you there are no accidental discharges, only negligent ones), then the character shouldn’t have a firearm at all.

How About Storing Ammunition in a Pocket?

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with a character keeping ammunition in a pocket (or even firing a gun from inside a pocket). It’s not ideal, though, since there are better ways to do it that make loading easier than fumbling around with loose rounds. These include the following.

Ways to Carry or Store Ammunition

A spare magazine (not clip) clipped to the pocket with a product like the Snagmag:

(Photo via Gun Digest Store)

(Photo via Gun Digest Store)

Magazine pouches:

Ammo pouch Safariland

(Photo via Safariland)

A speedloader attached to a holder fixed to a belt (for revolvers):

Speedloader Holder Cabela's

(Photo via Cabela’s)

Speed strips (also for revolvers):

(Photo via Safariland)

(Photo via Safariland)

A bandolier:

Bandolier Cabelas

(Photo via Cabela’s)

Various shell holders that slip onto a firearm’s stock (for rifles and shotguns):

Shotshell band Cabelas

(Photo via Cabela’s)

(Photo via Cabela's)

(Photo via Cabela’s)

On a belt:

(Photo via Cabela's)

(Photo via Cabela’s)

In a dry box:

Ammunition Dry Box Cabelas

(Photo via Cabela’s)

Last, but certainly not least, a gun safe:

Gun Safe Cabelas

(Photo via Cabela’s)

And if you’re looking for something a bit more nimble, Gun Digest features a top 10 list of fast-access gun safes here.

Those are just a few of many options out there, and they offer pros and cons depending on your character’s needs.

How Do Your Characters Store Ammunition?

Leave a comment below. And, please, no orifice references unless you can pull off a delicious pun to match.

Get the Book

The Writers Guide to WeaponsThe Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers:

9 thoughts on “Where Should Characters Store Ammunition When They’re Not Using Their Guns?

  1. Hello, dear Ben!

    While I know the hammer fires bullet and shoots toes-off (from old revolvers) due Call of Cthulhu Roleplay, 1st edition, by Chaosium; What you do here is much more compelling than the question which started it alone!

    Who feels comfortable with a knife (at least stiletto sized) attached to the lower arm? Can ANY character quick-draw it, or smile evilly while unsheathing it slowly..?

    On handuns I remember the notion that revolvers do not spit-out their bullets. Aka ammunition or catridges. That ‘term’ stems from the German word for it, in street-slang, being literally translated as bullet. Hence the saying aka proverb ‘Sich selbst die Kugel geben!’ which literally is ‘To give oneself the bullet’ (and means committing suicide by shooting your own head). Still you are, as usual, right about ammunition or catridges being the better and more correct way to put it!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve mentioned ‘Eden Green’ here before — a young woman using a shotgun to fight needle monsters. In the beginning, she has to keep shells in her pockets because she’s a self-taught amateur and doesn’t own any special storage (just the box the shells came in). When things start getting real a few chapters in, she kits herself out and buys a stock shell holder (I believe it held 13 rounds).

    She regularly unloads her gun if she thinks she won’t need to use it in the near future. This is due in part to her being an amateur, but I also wanted to show that she really does worry about everything too much. So despite my initial worry, I think her unnecessarily fastidious behavior is a net gain for the plot.

    In the book I’m working on now, though, one of the main characters is a former cop who carries a sidearm. Since he’s stuck without special equipment, he’ll probably have to keep his spare magazine in a pocket. Given his expertise, if he’s out in the field, would he leave it loaded (with the safety on), and only unload it when he’s sure he won’t need it for a while?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Fiona! Again, I think it’s awesome what you’re doing with your character’s interaction with firearms. How she approaches them reveals something about the character. And to your question, yes, that character would leave it loaded.

      Liked by 1 person

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