Early in my lifetime as a hunter I learned the hard way about the importance of having an ammo management device. By that I mean a tool or piece of gear to carry your ammo in a way that’s comfortable, convenient and easy to access in a hurry.
Loose rounds in your pocket can get damaged, they rattle when you walk, and sometimes it’s not that easy to dig them out quickly. You might get into a situation where you’ve nearly depleted or completely run out of ammo in your gun before you’ve managed to put down the critter. Having extra ammo close at hand is always a good idea. If you hunt with a gun, you need an ammo management device.
Whether you call them ammo carriers or holders, these devices essentially come in two forms. One mounts to the belt, and the other attaches to the rifle. Belt-mounted devices are convenient to use and do not add weight to the rifle. However, in cold weather they may be under your coat and difficult to access. Ammo management devices mounted to a buttstock do add a bit of weight to the gun, but they place the ammo with the rifle or shotgun where it is easiest to access.
These devices are also used for two distinctly different purposes. They can be used to store your field load, holding the cartridges you will load in your rifle when you head out on a hunt and providing a place for those rounds when you unload your rifle at the end of a hunt. An ammo management device attached to a rifle allows you to store the rifle in an unloaded condition, but with ammunition on board so you can grab it and go. The other way they are used is for carrying extra ammunition—in addition to what is loaded in the rifle—while hunting.
A style of ammo management device that has become popular on precision or long-range hunting rifles is the nylon or canvas “sleeve” that straps around the buttstock. In addition to providing loops for extra rounds, it often has a zippered compartment, sometimes large enough to contain a laser rangefinder. This type of device usually incorporates a cheek pad to raise the comb of the stock so the shooter’s eye is properly aligned behind the riflescope. If you need the additional comb height, this is probably the way to go. On the other hand, this style of ammo management device is bulky and heavy.
The old strap-on leather butt-cuff, which is often seen on lever-action rifles, makes for an attractive ammo management device and adds a bit of custom flare to your rifle. However, they, too, add a good deal of weight and can be difficult to remove from the rifle. Another type of butt-cuff is the elastic sleeve that slips over the stock. These are affordable but tend to move around. Over time they become loose and will fail to hold your cartridges securely. I avoid the elastic contraptions at all costs.
For belt carry there are many options, too. You can find a variety of leather pouches with a flap closure, such as the Stalker Cartridge Wallet from Galco. This is a high-quality ammo carrier that holds cartridges securely, but the flap can slow access. There are also full cartridge belts that hold more than a box of ammunition. These belts can be rigged to carry other items, but unless you are part of a culling operation or going on a hunt that involves high-volume shooting, carrying 20 or more rounds of ammo is a bit extreme.
The best solution I’ve found is the Versacarry Ammo Caddy. This ingenious leather cartridge holder attaches to the buttstock of your rifle with an adhesive Velcro pad. Depending on the size of your cartridge, it can hold four to eight rounds of ammunition for a rifle or shotgun. Though you might think the adhesive pad (which will not damage your stock’s finish) combined with the Velcro attachment would not be sturdy enough, I’ve yet to have one come off a buttstock unless I purposefully removed it.
The other thing that makes the Ammo Caddy so practical is it comes with a leather belt attachment, which is also faced with Velcro. This allows you to move the Ammo Caddy from the rifle stock to the belt, or vice-versa, as need dictates by simply pulling it from one Velcro surface and attaching it to the other. And of course you can carry multiple Ammo Caddys—one on your rifle, one on your belt and even one in your pocket—and place each one where you want it according to the number (or type) of rounds remaining in the holders. You can even order extra adhesive pads and attach them to the dashboard of your truck, ATV, duck boat or hunting blind. The Ammo Caddy might be the best accessory costing less than $50 that you can buy for your rifle.
Think about ammunition management before you go afield. Having a device that securely stores ammo on your gun or person, and immediately makes these rounds available when you need them, can get you out of a tricky situation. It might just save your hunt.