What’s the Best Survival Handgun?

glock 19 3rd gen

There is no better way to start a fight on the internet than by declaring something the best at something. This truth is so prevalent it might as well be a law of nature. One can’t-lose topic among preppers is the subject of guns, specifically guns for long term survival.

Survival means many things to many different preppers, and so I’m going to offer up my take on the very best choice of an all around survival handgun, and my reasoning for it. So roll up your sleeves and put up your dukes, cause this article is about to kick off!

Foreword and Clarification

Like I said, declaring a pistol the best for “survival” does not mean anything, because it is such a nebulous term. Surviving what? A home invasion? A mugging? Zombies? Foreign invasion? The scenario, more specifically the context of the situation means an entirely new set of criteria when it comes to selection.

For a low-intensity, brief-duration event, like a mugging or home-invasion, damn near any gun will do so long as it functions and you know how to shoot it well.

We can argue the qualities, flaws and other salient minutiae of makes and models till the sky falls, but statistically almost any gun will do so long as it is reliable and brought into the fight. The considerations for selection are far different for guns that must endure a prolonged period of use, abuse and periodic overhaul.

In the interests of clarity and heading off the worst of the flames in the comments section, the survival scenario I am referring to for the purposes of our article is a long to indefinite term societal breakdown or even end-of-society/continuity of government situation.

The “how” does not really matter; it could have resulted from a massive EMP event, massive meteor impact or massive civil war. All that matters is there is in all probability no cavalry coming, and you are on your own for the foreseeable future. Well, you and whoever is in your survival group.

Sure, even with this parameter the variables are enormous: are my group members known, and familiar to me, or are they just allies of convenience, i.e. neighbors, acquaintances, etc.?

Are these people who are acquainted with prepping? Why are they not bringing their own guns if that is the case? What are the ages and experience levels? Any injured or infirm potential shooters I should account for?

All valid questions and ones that I will not necessarily be answering for you, even for the purposes of our discussion. That is with cause, as a certain amount of uncertainty will always remain when it comes to coping with a major crisis, and you will have to decide over preparing “broadly” or “deeply”, as most folks cannot afford to spend the time or resources to do both equally well.

If you prepare broadly, in this case meaning prepare for as many variables, curveballs and contingencies as possible, you will often have to sacrifice extensive development or preparation in one specific area.

Conversely, if you prepare deeply you will pour resources into one solution that will hopefully solve your problem in the most elegant way possible. Both are ultimately viable as is a blend of the two. This will become relevant when I explain my reasoning for my handgun recommendation later.

Ultimately, you will need to assess all potential handguns with a newly critical eye, as you will not just be shopping for your preferences; you will be dabbling in the responsibilities of a purchasing authority responsible for outfitting a group of people with sidearm. You will now be juggling logistical concerns against the needs and wants of your user group. A task far easier said than done.

Practical Concerns

Most preppers will choose a handgun on the basis that it will be used for self-defense against primarily humans, not animals. For many, defense against dangerous wildlife may well take priority but that is not the presupposition for this article, and so we will not be factoring in any outstanding features that would make for an ideal hunting weapon, so no big ol’ magnums, enormous barrels and so on.

For those of you who demand your end-of-the-world sidearm be a capable game-getter, please bear in mind that any handgun suitable for dispatching a human being is entirely adequate for most medium game under nominal conditions and distances with proper shot placement, and very few animals cannot be felled by a well-placed shot to head or neck even from an “inadequate” caliber.

So that being the case, all standard criteria for choosing a defensive handgun apply. We will not delve too deeply into all of that here as I have written about that precise topic here on TSB and elsewhere.

Suffice it to say that our chosen handguns must be chambered in a round that is adequately capable against a human opponent, be of reasonable size, and be highly reliable.

Significant perks include things like plentiful capacity, easy to find ammo, and an abundance of spare parts and support gear. Important too is the serviceability of the gun, i.e. how easy or how hard the gun is to repair, troubleshoot or otherwise fix. Believe me, this will be an issue when a gun must endure the Long Road.

Some designs, mostly newer, more modern pistols, are far better about this last point than older, more venerable guns. Do not think that long-term care and upkeep of gun is as simple as cleaning it and changing the recoil spring.

Sure, that is a factor, but swapping out critical fire control components, barrels and the like may very well require fitting, and even among modern designs interchangeability among guns or when installing replacement parts is far from consistent.

Older designs like the 1911 and Browning Hi-Power are much beloved, and well-maintained are both accurate, hard running pistols, but both suffer from a much higher standard of care, and drastically more intensive maintenance requirements, especially when swapping or replacing parts.

There is a reason modern mass-production is seen as a huge leap forward over older, craftsman-tooled and fitted designs, even if the new steel and plastic roscoes lack “soul.”

Do not forget someone (that’s you…) has to learn how to fix these guns in the long haul. Choosing a modern design will ensure you can, most times, swap out or install a part with a minimum of hassle and fitting.

Learning the moans and groans of hand fitting and tuning extractors on older autoloaders or timing a revolver will require commensurately more education and refinement of your craft to ensure optimum function. How much is your time worth?

Another major practical hurdle is cost. If you are buying for 2 or 20 costs will grow exponentially with each gun you add to the brace; if you are smart, ensuring ammunition and component compatibility across these guns will help you keep costs down.

What is the Best Survival Handgun?

The Glock 19, Gen. 3

Boo! Hiss! Again?! Really?!

Yes, really, but I will spell out my reasoning below, beyond the usual and erroneous “they never jam” tripe.

If I were kitting out my survival stash with multiple handguns for long-term or indefinite term survival, and was anticipating or actively planning arming a group of fellow survivors I would be buying Glock 19s left and right, specifically Gen. 3s, a whole bunch of magazines and spare parts.

Why? Why this most ubiquitous, boring and generic of pistols? Check out my reasons below:

Extremely Reliable: While far from the infallible, God-like blasters that their most ardent fans would have you believe they are, Glocks are by and large extraordinarily reliable guns, and the most tested and issued pistol in the modern era.

This goes double for the 19. Aside from extreme mechanical reliability, the gun is also preternaturally durable, and borderline impervious to corrosion. Excellent traits for a gun that has to go the distance.

All-purpose Size: The Glock 19 does everything pretty well- it shoots as well or better than its fullsize cousin the 17, is easily concealed in hot weather or cold, and is often remarked on as “just right” in both grip circumference and balance by a huge cross-section of shooters.

The grip allows a flush fit magazine of 15 rounds to be inserted or longer magazines as wanted or appropriate for greater capacity. Do not discount the ability to conceal a gun even after The End: the element of surprise is powerful indeed.

Easy to Shoot Well: Though we live in the age of super hot-rodded Instagram custom guns, even a box-stock Glock is more than adequate for 90% shooters’ needs.

The manual of arms is simple, as is loading and unloading. This makes it a short, sweet affair to get most users of average intelligence up and shooting one with some proficiency in minimal time. Even “non-gun” people will have an easy time with the Glock.

Bountiful Parts and Accessories: More than any other pistols, Glocks have the most aftermarket and OEM support imaginable, especially the Gen. 3 guns, which were the standard for far longer than the newer Gens. 4 and 5 have been out.

Comes with the territory when a gun is so widely issued and used. This means you will not suffer any shortage on availability when stocking components and magazines for spares and repairs, and also will not have much trouble scavenging spares or “donor guns” in the wild, should the situation come to that.

Just as important, quality holsters will be easy to find and generally affordable. You definitely don’t want to be kitting up with a gun that forces you into a cheap-ass universal holster to go with it.

Easy to Work On: With a single punch, you can completely detail strip a Glock. Sure, a couple other tools are nice to have, like needle-nose pliers, but not necessary. The small parts count, straightforward disassembly and assembly, and forgiving tolerances make working on Glocks very simple compared to many other designs.

Now, you cannot go crazy when installing parts from various manufacturers and expect everything to play nice 100% of the time, but if you are sticking with Glock factory parts you will rarely have any issues beyond install and function check to get a recalcitrant pistol shooting again.

Affordable: Glocks are middle of the road on pricing, new, and downright bargains when bought used or as a police trade-in, which are still plentiful today. For the cost of a decent quality 1911 or classic Sig P-series pistol you can have two Glock 19s with extra magazines.

Buying used as mentioned will save you even more money and thanks to the 19’s supremely robust nature and simple maintenance protocols, you can buy even a worn looking 19 with confidence that not only will it function, but it will probably run well. On the off chance it does not, you will have an easy time diagnosing the issue and fixing it yourself if you are so inclined.

The Bad News

All roses have their thorns, and all guns have their flaws, even one so sublimely suited to its purpose as the humble Glock 19. While they are comparatively minor compared to its perks, you should be aware of them, and I would be in error no include them here.

Very Fragile Stock Sights: At least on the Gen. 3 and earlier guns. Pistol sights should always be steel, but the 19’s being made of soft, easily deformed plastic, the basic Glock factory sights are vulnerable to being broken off the gun at the first contact more violent than a gentle landing back in the holster.

Essentially, you must treat them as a mandatory replacement and that cost should be factored into the purchase. Consider updating to factory night sights, or aftermarket standard sights at your preference. If you are unwilling to do so, be prepared to replace them often after real-world field handling.

Unforgiving of Poor Handling: You could paint broadly here and say that all guns are intolerant of mishap and poor handling, and you’d be correct, but nothing happens in a vacuum and the Glock (and other, similar striker-fired guns) do not suffer the ministrations of the careless for long before a negligent discharge occurs.

A combination of manual safety and absence of a long, heavy trigger press means a loaded Glock and wandering trigger finger (or any digit) will soon mean a smoking hole appearing in something.

Additionally, Glocks are notorious for their disassembly procedure mandating the trigger be pulled to remove the slide, a “feature” which has meant no end of consternation for ill-trained and careless users for the reasons cited above.

Slippery When Wet: Compared to the nice frame textures of the newer crop of Glocks and competing guns, the Gen.3 and earlier Glocks are likely to skid in the hand when very wet, be it from sweat, water or, worse, blood.

To be fair, this is a complaint you can level at lots of guns, but it is a good idea to have a plan for dealing with it, even if it is just DIY stick on grip tape or a purpose-made die-cut grip decal. More involved options include DIY or aftermarket stippling, but this will handily gobble up any savings you might have garnered from choosing a Glock over a more expensive offering.

Airing of Grievances

Everyone has their druthers, and preppers are no different. Below are some of the most common complaints and gripes leveled at the Glock 19 (all Glocks, really) by preppers that just do not hold water. Don’t fall victim to them.

“Glocks aren’t that accurate.” Compared to what? While competitors pistols may tout and brag about their superior out-of-the-box accuracy and it might be true, Glocks are plenty accurate enough out to 50 yards in virtually every incarnation.

While aftermarket barrels are so prevalent today you’d be forgiven for assuming they are a mandatory upgrade, the facts are that very, very few shooters will able to summon on demand all the accuracy that their chosen pistol can muster. If you are one of them, carry on, either upgrade the barrel or choose a different gun for your purposes.

“I don’t like the way it fits my hand.”

Spare me. A skilled shooter will fit their hand to the gun and get to work. Your hands must monstrously huge or elfishly tiny to be truly incompatible with a 9mm Glock frame.

Sure, it may not be the most comfortable. Fine, you like brand X, Y or Z better. So do I. Fact is that none of those other guns offer the same combination of benefits to suit the task at hand like the Glock does. While emphasizing a good, intuitively nice fit in the hand is fine for beginners perusing a shop for their first pistol, it is overemphasized as having merit for strong shooters.

“Glocks are unsafe. My cousin/brother/neighbor/coworker/dog had a Glock and the thing blew a hole in their sofa, honest.”

No, they aren’t, and I hate to break this to you, but your relative pressed the damn trigger when they didn’t want a “bang,” simple as that. Glocks simply do not tolerate poorly trained or careless shooters as I detailed above.

While you can make your case on other guns being more difficult to negligently fire, and you could say that other guns are more forgiving or even better suited to an untrained user, you cannot lay a negligent discharge at the feet of the gun with anything less than a part breaking resulting in a shot.

“Polymer guns won’t last as long after TEOTWAWKI.”

It will last longer than your steel 1911 or whatever-gun will, unless you are leaving it in a fire or dunking it in a powerful solvent. Spoiler Warning: that will destroy a steel or alloy gun, too.

Accept it: steel guns have more soul, but polymer guns have longer service lives and better wear characteristics that make them superior guns for long-term use or hardcore firing schedules.

“Glocks just suck.”

Whatever. You can hardly say the most dominant and one of the most paradigm-changing semi-auto handguns of all time sucks. If it sucked, thousands of master shooters from all walks of life and disciplines would not rely on them day in and day out.

You may not prefer it (I don’t), you may even have excellent, valid reasons why another gun is, in point of fact, superior for you or your purposes, but you cannot even put the Glock 19 in the same zip code as “sucks.”

“A revolver would be better.”

Under what circumstances? Yes, a revolver is far easier to teach to a complete novice, and its long, heavy trigger is more forgiving of misplaced trigger fingers, but they are distinctly 2nd place when it comes to actually shooting them well at speed under pressure.

Add to this their greater logistical concerns (much harder to service and maintain, action more delicate, less reliable in dirty and inclement conditions) and they take a clear backseat to a good semi like the Glock when discussing a long-term survival situation where the gun is definitely going to get abused.


For a no-shit, hard-running all-purpose, all-weather fighting handgun that won’t break the bank and will ease your logistics train, the Glock 19 is the hands-down winner. No other gun on the market offers its unique combination of attributes that make it so suited to keeping you and yours safe after the End of the World.

Inexpensive, ubiquitous, ultra-robust, minimal upkeep requirements and possessed of a long service life and excellent shooting and handling characteristics, the Glock 19 should be your No.1 choice if you are serious about ensuring your group is well-heeled when the time comes. Accept no substitutes.

If you are a lone survivor in a short or medium term crisis, any gun will do if you can. But if you are worried about a truly long-term society ending event, your priorities for firearm selection will be far different, especially if you have taken the responsibility of outfitting a small or large group.

In this latter scenario, logistical concerns are just as important as raw shooting and handling characteristic. While the Glock is not the only gun in its category worth buying anymore, it is still the clear winner for those who are looking to buy reliable sidearms cheap and stack mags, parts and ammo deep.

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Charles Yor

About Charles Yor

Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.
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15 thoughts on “What’s the Best Survival Handgun?

  1. Without reading the article, my answer to the title question is: The gun you have on your person, loaded, and know how to correctly use.

    1. Prepared Grammy,
      It’s good to see other posters here also, since often I feel like I’m the only one reading some of these posts. I’ll comment further in the AM, since I just noticed this (no email announcement) and I need some sleep.

      1. I take the time to read most articles here and on a few other sites, but I don’t find it necessary to comment on all of them. I’m busy living my life, and there are only twenty-four hours in a day. Something has to give, and my opinion on each article isn’t important.

  2. well, I read your article it makes sense in the logistics you are spot on. I like revolvers myself they are easy to clean and conceal though they do not have the ammunition capacity as a Glock or a 92 Barretta. But when the surprise is of the utmost revolver are there. Now if you are arming a group what you are saying makes perfect sense as well. I Liked it, It makes food for thought

  3. Handgun selection tends to be a personal thing. I prefer my Sig P-228 that I have used for a long time, both as a police gun and an EDC gun. Mr Yor is correct in that Glocks do not suffer fools gladly. I always recommend people have a New York trigger installed on their Glocks to increase the trigger pull weight to at least eight pounds.

    However, one thing I was always taught (and taught in return) is that pistols are emergency fight stoppers. A rifle is a fight starter.

  4. First of all, and to Zulu 3-6’s point, we need to remember that in a true SHTF situation, the primary purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to the rifle.
    For your scenario I think I have a good selection of firearms, which include semi-auto shotguns, handguns and rifles (who said I had to stick to only one) as well as cingle shot versions of each; but, my primary concern with long term use is enough ammunition, so in my situation I have limited the cartridge types so I can have as much ammunition as I can afford. I have a rifle that can use the same 9mm as two of my handguns, and a pair of Savage model 42’s that allow use of .22 RF & .22 WMR as well as .410 bore and 20 gage shells, with other long guns and handguns for those calibers and gauges. The most versatile is probably the TC Contender with numerous barrels allowing everything from squirrels to deer to be taken.

    Sure, even with this parameter the variables are enormous: are my group members known, and familiar to me, or are they just allies of convenience, i.e. neighbors, acquaintances, etc.?

    In my case they are well known and we often train together, all with their own firearms and ammunition, much of which are interchangeable with each other. This is yet one additional great thing about rural living, where the gang comes over and you can barbeque and shoots the same afternoon in the same back yard.

    Ultimately, you will need to assess all potential handguns with a newly critical eye, as you will not just be shopping for your preferences; you will be dabbling in the responsibilities of a purchasing authority responsible for outfitting a group of people

    Actually, it’s pretty much every man (and woman) for themselves, and each invited “guest” will bring their own, with the only exception possibly being coordination and sharing of ammunition.

    There is a reason modern mass-production is seen as a huge leap forward over older, craftsman-tooled and fitted designs, even if the new steel and plastic roscoes lack “soul.”

    This is the easiest one to justify for firearms or vehicles: precision replacement parts. You purchase the part for the model of the tool and it most likely just fits.

    A combination of manual safety and absence of a long, heavy trigger press means a loaded Glock and wandering trigger finger (or any digit) will soon mean a smoking hole appearing in something.

    To this I will add a stray piece of leather or twig, since most of the ND’s I know of happened when carelessly holstering the loaded gun and getting something stuck in the trigger guard.

    “I don’t like the way it fits my hand.”

    I only have one gun that fits this description, a Ruger Blackhawk in .357 magnum with the original plow handle grip. My single six has that same grip; but, that little .22 has no recoil to tear up your hand; however, a Pachmayr grip easily took care of the problem on the big gun.

    No, they aren’t, and I hate to break this to you, but your relative pressed the damn trigger when they didn’t want a “bang,” simple as that. Glocks simply do not tolerate poorly trained or careless shooters as I detailed above.

    As I detailed above, you don’t need a finger on the trigger to go bang; but, knowing that, one needs to be a bit more careful, ‘nuff said.

    “Polymer guns won’t last as long after TEOTWAWKI.”

    If that’s the case then we’re all in trouble unless you have only really old guns, since even the metal ones often use polymers for internal components, especially on some rotating or bearing surfaces.

  5. No Glock for me, my right thumb is cover with scars from the Glock 17 I used to own. My FNS 9 is much kinder to my hand and is functionally the same. My only complaint is the effort needed to rack the slide. Not that it is unusually stiff it is that my left hand is now partially paralyzed. I compensate by holding the gun in my left hand and using my still functional right hand to cock it and then switch hands to fire it.

    1. Daddio7,

      No Glock for me, my right thumb is cover with scars from the Glock 17 I used to own.

      Ouch. You need to get a grip, what I mean is perhaps a better grip on the gun, unless of course you have huge hands. I’ve been bitten a few times over the years; but, can generally compensate.

      My FNS 9 is much kinder to my hand and is functionally the same. My only complaint is the effort needed to rack the slide. Not that it is unusually stiff it is that my left hand is now partially paralyzed. I compensate by holding the gun in my left hand and using my still functional right hand to cock it and then switch hands to fire it.

      I had an FNP-9 that I sold, since it was too large for my hands, even with the thinnest of the removable grip plates (back straps) installed.
      It sounds like you are left handed and I have a suggestion. Instead of trying to grip the slide and pull it back to cock, hold the slide steady in one position against your body at belt level, and use the other arm to push the gun forward using the whole arm. If it has an exposed hammer as mine does, cock the hammer first to relieve some of the spring tension and pressure required to move the slide.
      Over the years I have successfully trained people with disabilities like yours as well as small frame people with little arm strength to successfully run their gun using this method.

  6. I like and own the Glock 19 as well as other pistols. Each has their good and bad points, some are easy to conceal some have high magazine capacity some are more reliable than others some leave bigger wound channels and some fit hand sizes better than others. Just like the old saying “beauty is in he eye of the beholder” the same applies to handguns.

  7. I once owned a Block 19 for a year. Practised with it regularly, every three weeks, 100 rounds of 115grn ball ammo.
    I sold it for a little less than I bought it.

    On the other hand, I’ve owned a WW II 1911A1 for the past 33 years.
    ‘Nuff said.

    My outdoor firearm is my Taurus Model 66 SS 4″ .357 Magnum revolver I bought in 1987. I have reliably harvested several species of large four legged mammals with it. This is my choice for a survival weapon.

  8. Okay, can’t read all the comments but here goes:
    Best Survival Handgun
    #1 – one you can use… as in physically handle. My wife can’t easily hold a standard sized Glock 22… but shoots a 23 easily and quite well.. . and it shoots my Mags as well (see below if you dare)

    #2 – one you can use… as in PRACTICE WITH. Many have said a pistol is what you have to fight back to your rifle. It is not and never was intended to be a full on, stand you ground, hold your position, battle weapon… so practice, practice, practice… the practice with a rifle twice as much.
    As an aside, my wife enjoys the John Wick movies- as do I, I’m a retired basic and tactical firearms instructor myself… Mr. Wick does it very, very well and all his alter-ego training and practice shows. Enough that she wants to practice transitioning from long to short guns like I do.

    #3 – If you can treat a gun like you treat your lawn mower… it’s a keeper. It don’t matter if it’s pretty, or slippery, of plastic… if it goes bang whenever you need it too…. all the rest you can train yourself on.

    #4 – finally, my EDC is a Glock 22. 40S&W is the duty weapon of 80% of local LE and I can reload, so ammo is there. BUT, I have a 357 SIG I drop in and shoot using the same Mags. I also have a 9mm barrel I drop in and shoot 9MM -altho- using 9mm mags in this case. And finally I have 22LR slide and mags which makes an incredibly stable and solid shooting 22LR. Oh, and the company stands by everything I’ve done as far as “It’ll work fine, we stand behind it.”

    BTW- you can do the same thing with the M16/M4 platform lower… One basic weapon shooting multiple calibers… seems a survivor kind’a thing to me.

  9. What I do not like about the Glock’s is that they are idiot’s pistols in this vein: any fool or small child that can pull the trigger, or if the trigger gets snagged somehow, it will fire. Jeff Cooper was the Grand Daddy of all these modern handgun shooting sports , and being old school, I’ll stay with my Gov’t model .45 ACP. The Glock does not have the performance history of the 1911 and if it still works and does the job after over 100 years of use, I see no need to replace it. The model 80 has 4 safeties built into it, two of which are manual – not just some little lever waiting to be depressed. And it has significant weight – enough to make a slap to the side of the head a memorable occasion. On the other had, it is not really as amenable to caliber change as the author’s choice, and does lose points there. However, it obviates the need for a supply of different cartridges. If the pistol is jus tightened up to “combat standards” as done by Cylinder & Slide, it will still take government NSN parts or almost anything from any manufacturer and keep running. A dedicated .22LR auto such as my 200th year bull barrel Ruger will probably last for ever, and shoot with rifle=like accuracy. Many a squirrel and rabbit has joined the dumplings in the pot over the last 45 years as a result of getting in the way of this very serviceable pistol. Both cartridges can be found at almost any hick hardware or “general grocery” in the country. The 9mm joins that rank, but the .357 Sig is an esoteric round to the rubes countryside life. Not that countryside is bad – wish to God we’d have bought my grandpa’s farm of 120 acres on the south edge of Mitchell County, Iowa for the $30,000 it hammered down for 30 some years ago. Today that land is pushing $7k to $9k and acre and is as productive as any land on God’s Green Earth. If it won’t grow there, it probably won’t grow anywhere, climatological conditions aside. The monk Roger Occam said in the 13th century: “The simplest solution is usually the best solution”. It’s been boiled down to this : Keep it simple, stupid. KISS. Same goes for the AR. Doctor it up with all the goodies that make sense and voila – you’re just about in SEAL league. Have your partner carry and know how to use your .300 Win Mag. That will reach out and touch someone to 1500 yards or more with the right ammo and scope. And has enough power to bring down anything in the western Hemisphere. A 250 grain handload will ruin the day of the biggest bear on Kodiak Island. The combination of a mercury recoil tube in the buttstock along with a 2 spring recoil absorber device mounted ahead of a Decelerator butt pad will soften the recoil a whole lot. My wife is 68 and shoots it well, knowing better than to crawl up on the scope and get that infamous partial ring cut into the forehead known as “scope eye”. Her PCR .22 Magnum carries 30 rounds and I don’t know any one who wants to be shot full of nasty little holes, especially the heart or forehead areas. The damned thing doesn’t weigh much at all, and you can carry a lot of loaded magazines without difficulty.

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