Before you choose a semi-automatic handgun, it’s important to decide whether you want a single stack vs double stack magazine. Even though the mag is only one small component of a handgun, its design will significantly impact its weight, capacity, reliability and performance.

We’re going to briefly explain the difference between single stack and double stack mags, and then outline the unique advantages either one offers.

What’s the Difference Between Single Stack and Double Stack?

The two major types of mags are appropriately named. A single stack mag holds ammunition in a straight column, one round on top of the other. In contrast, a double stack mag stores ammunition in two columns. Because the columns are staggered, a double stack mag alternately feeds their top rounds into the chamber.

Single Stack Magazine Advantages

A single stack 9mm 1911 magazine

  • Slimmer profile. A single stack mag lets a handgun to have a slimmer grip because it holds only one column of ammo. If you have smaller hands you will probably have an easier time handling a single stack pistol. You may also prefer your handgun to have a slimmer profile if you will use it for concealed carry. It’s easier to comfortably carry a single stack vs double stack firearm.
  • Lighter weight. A loaded single stack mag is lighter by sheer virtue of holding fewer rounds. Granted, you could simply load fewer rounds in a double stack mag, but in general a single stack handgun is also lighter overall.
  • More reliable. The rounds stored in a single stack mag have less chance of binding together. This is not to suggest that binding is a very common problem in double stack mags, but single stacks do feed ammo into the chamber with slightly greater reliability.

Double Stack Magazine Advantages

A double stack 9mm gun magazine with ammo

  • Thicker profile. Just like a single stack pistol suits small hands, people with larger hands may find a double stack pistol more comfortable to grip. You’ll definitely want to try handling both types of pistol, but if you’ve ever played professional basketball we can guess which one you’ll prefer handling.
  • Heavier weight. Greater heft is not necessarily a drawback when it comes to handguns. The heavier a firearm becomes, the less recoil it will generate when fired. Reduced recoil makes it easier to fire rapidly and accurately. (A heavier handgun also makes a better weapon when it has run out of ammo.)
  • Greater capacity. This is the key benefit of a double stack mag vs a single stack magazine. A double stack mag can easily store twice as many rounds as a single stack mag – or more. In the photos above, the single stack magazine holds just 10 rounds of 9mm ammo. The double stack holds 16 rounds. No one ever draws their firearm without wishing they had more ammo in it. You could always carry a spare mag to compensate for a single stack’s lower capacity, but reloading during a fight is far from convenient.