Speedy Shotgun Reloads on a Budget

In the world of multigun shooting, the real race in most shotgun segments is the reload. It is by far the slowest reloading you do on the clock most matches, and as such, there is much to gain by having a fast shotgun reload. The world of shotgun loading accessories can be rather daunting to a new multigun shooter, and also very expensive. A full kit of a couple caddies or a load2 system can easily run well over $100. As a new shooter, breaking the bank on a set of kit is the last thing you want to do, especially if you’re unsure about the sport. Thankfully, there are a number of inexpensive or free options available, though they are typically slower than a full set of fancy kit.

The first, and slowest option, is the tried and true pants pocket. Cargo pockets can hold quite a few shells, but will be the slowest, as well as the most difficult. Shells will be all over the place, and they are a pain to get out of a pocket, but it gets shells onto your body and accessible for free.

Another option is a pouch on the belt. I’ve used this several times at matches in the past, and have seen many other new action shotgun shooters do the same. It can be anything from a Maxpedition Roly-Poly, to even an old fanny pack, for that hipster-chic 90’s look. This will be faster than a pocket, and a lot of people have something that can be serviceable in this role. Shells will still be loose and come out of the pouch in all sorts of orientations, but it will be faster and easier than using a pocket.

Taking the belt carried option as far as you can go on a tight budget is the use of a shell carrier pouch. These will have elastic loops in them to hold the shells in a consistent orientation, allowing you to get rounds out of the pouch faster and more consistently. I’ve got a nylon shell carrier made by Condor that serves well enough for my skill level for about 15 dollars from a local army/navy shop. MOLLE pouches, like this one, can be used on the belt without too much grief. This will still limit you to pulling only one shell from the pouch at a time, but it is the fastest option so far, and can be learned without much time spent practicing. MOLLE pouches on a molle carrier, like a chest rig or plate carrier is also an option, but it can quickly become more expensive than a more optimal setup.

Reloading from a shell carrier pouch

Moving on to gun-mounted ammo, the first and probably most common choice is a side saddle. These mount to the receiver of your gun via various means, and can hold anywhere from 4 to 8 shells, or sometimes even more. These can be pretty quick to reload from with practice, and are relatively common gear. Most shotguns, even less popular ones, should have a saddle available for them. Another option to add another shell or two on an autoloader’s forend are 2-shell caddies that are mounted directly to the forend. A lot of competitors like these to use if they have run out on a stage and only need one or two more shells, as they can grab and load them quickly from a firing-side mounted caddy on the forend.

A slightly cheaper option for gun-mounted ammo is a universal nylon stock saddle. This stretches around the buttstock of the shotgun, holding a number of shells in loops much like the MOLLE pouch. These aren’t that good for getting shells to the action in a hurry, as they are awkwardly placed and hold the shells rather tightly. They can also interfere with cheek weld while support-side shooting, which some courses of fire will require.

For a cheap alternative to expensive shotgun caddies, my personal recommendations are to look into side saddles if you would like to carry ammo on your gun. If you want to carry ammo on your body somehow, a belt-mounted or MOLLE mounted elastic-loop pouch worn on the belt is the next-best thing to expensive caddies.

Nathan B

Nathan B is a software engineer living in Maryland. He graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a BS in Information Sciences and Technology. He has been shooting for most of his life, is a sucker for a good .22 rifle, and shoots competitively in IDPA and local 3-gun matches.


  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Good, well-written recommendations for new and experienced shotgunners alike, without getting into more sophisticated and expensive specialized caddy systems. You did leave out one more common option — the buttstock-mounted ( hard ) side-saddle, usually made of semi-rigid polymer. This is usually associated with adjustable / retractable shotgun stocks such as the Knoxx Axiom ( shock-absorbing and non-shock absorbing versions ) or Phoenix Technologies Kicklite equivalent. On the other hand, the practical deployment of shotshells from this type of side saddle is fairly similar to that from a strap-on universal nylon buttstock pouch, so I suppose you’ve actually got it covered in a sense. However, the greater rigidity of the polymer buttstock-mounted side saddle also means fractionally quicker, easier and more precise and positive shotshell removal since there is no give or flexion in the individual shell holders.

    in the end, the final choice of what type of reload system to use probably depends more on what one is most comfortable with than anything else, allowing for the specific configuration of one’s shotgun and preferred shooting stance.

  • Tuulos

    The cheapest way for load2 method is making the rig yourself. Usually they are made of weight-lifting belt (because they are wide enough) and snap-to cable holder attached to it.

    • Luke

      Do you have a link to the clips you are referring to? I’d like to make my own load2 system, but I haven’t come up with the right clips.

      • Premek Marek

        Just go to some hardware stores and check them out to see which fit the shells (for 12 gauge, you need 20mm holders and file them down a bit so they do not hold the shell too firmly). I recommend using some really strong leather belts (wide enough) or possibly a plastic plate (the kind of plastic that you can form with heat gun so it can be rounded to fit your torso)

  • Julio

    A useful introduction the the available options, but I’d advise spending no money to start with, taking some time to look at works for others, and seeking opportunities to try their setups. Then spend what it takes to get the setup that works best for you. It’s all too easy to fritter money away on cheap but imperfect stop-gap “solutions”. and find down the line that it would have been more economical to have bought the best at the start, not to mention more beneficial to your training process.

  • Luke

    You can make your own caddies with Kydex for super cheap too. Here’s a tutorial: http://bit.ly/169HkD5

    • Nathan B

      Very nice! Thanks for posting the link, I may have to give those a try.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Oh cool, another “gamer” method and gear that would get you killed if you used the shotgun in a defensive situation.

    Caddies and methods that take your eyes off the target are A BIG NO.

    See Velcro cards on the side of the gun. See Raven’s moduloader card system. This video titled with “polish” in it is unintentionally funny.

    I wish competition nonsense would get in line with real world a little more. You just can not sit down and stare at your gun while loading if there is a person or animal threat.

    • Zius Patagus

      Really? Reloading will get you killed? Yeah, because we all know that people get in long drawn out gun battles with shotguns all the time. Seriously, if competition was real world you would go to a class every weekend for 20 years and never fire a shot and if you did it would be one or two shots, once. I doubt having extra ammo with you will get you killed no matter where you carry it. And yeah, fast reloading is gaming but that’s what the post was about, cheap way to do 3 gun.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Sure… let’s focus on the wrong thing to do because it works in “gaming”. Whether it’s shotgun, handgun, carbine, rifle, knive, fist, whatever fighting, you don’t take your eyes off the target for any more than an instant.

        Any method or gear that requires you to drop your gaze away from the field is a bad one.

        • Adam

          Yet again another arm-chair warrior preaching the gospel of combat. Have you ever even seen most of the weapons that actually get used in war? An M4,pistol, or possibly a shotgun, yeah you could probably practice reloading without looking and have decent odds of not screwing up your reload when it really mattered. How about all the other weapons that arguably account for more kills? I sure would love to see you try to bring an M240 or M2 back into the fight without looking.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Because I don’t consider an M240 a defensive weapon that applies to citizens, use in animal control, or competition that means I don’t know what I’m talking about huh? and BULL if you’re going to claim you’ve hauled either an M240 or an M2 off a tripod at all anywhere anytime. Your comparison to personal defensive weapons is beyond apples and elephants.

            I compete, I keep an M1 or an 870 in my truck, I carry it in grizzly country. In NONE of those applications is it a good idea to stare down at your gun while loading it. No gear or practice that encourages that is the good stuff. End of story.

            Yea… but please explain more about how the action you’ve seen in OIF/OEF applies to shotgun loading.. I’ve heard it all. Interestingly enough, most of the people that talk the loudest, have MSOs that involve logistics. The others, they don’t usually berate people they don’t know on blogs.

          • Adam

            Now you’re just splitting hairs. As for hauling an M240 off a tripod, clearly you’ve never heard of this: http://www.fnhusa.com/l/products/military/machine-guns/mk-48-46-series/mk-48-mod1/
            or a weapon mount breaking. Obviously no one carries a .50, that wasn’t my point. You’re one of these “NEVER EVER LOOK AWAY FROM THE THREAT OR YOU’LL DIE!” kind of people, and I happen to find that unreasonable. You staring an enemy down will not scare them into submission or deflect their bullets, it just makes more sense to do what you need to do to bring a weapon back into a useful condition.
            Your last paragraph simply irritates me. If you want to talk shit about veterans, especially combat veterans, it shows you’ve never had the courage to walk that road.

        • vereceleritas

          Serious question. What’s your philosophy on clearing a stoppage? Keep your eyes on the target while you attempt the clear the stoppage without looking at it? And why do you believe that taking your eyes off the target is a big no? You’ve made you position clear. I’m just curious about your reasoning behind it.

          • Nicks87

            You clear a stoppage by keeping the weapon in your line-of-sight and focusing on the action/chamber while conducting your immediate action. The threat will be blurry (out of focus) but still visible. In an ideal situation you will move behind cover to clear the stoppage.
            Eyes—>weapon—>threat. If that makes sense.
            Reloading a shotgun is just mainly for competitions. I wouldnt do it in an actual combat situation unless it is absolutely necessary. Like if it’s your only weapon and you have no other weapon to transition to.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Serious answer. If you are far enough to clear a stoppage, do it. If you aren’t, that’s when you go to a pistol. When I’m hiking in bear/moose/lion/wolf country, if it were to jam and I don’t have a handgun, then yea, do whatever it takes. It would just depend on the immediacy of danger, if you have time or not, if you have other options or not.

      • Michael

        Only a fool reloads his weapon. The cool guys just throw away their guns and use a different one. That’s how Neo completely rocked the house. Jason Bourne just grabs a new, loaded weapon off the bodies of the bad guys.

        Way faster, dude.

    • RocketScientist

      I think your confusion is in thinking that people compete in 3-gun competitions as a way to prepare/practice for real-life firefights. I cannot speak for all competitive shooters, but for me and everyone that I know, we compete because it is fun, challenging and satisfying. I do not consider it practice for defensive firearms use. I have LEO friends who shoot 3-gun, and they do not view it as a replacement for tactical engagements training, just as my friends in the military do not view it (or CoD-type video games) as a replacement for combat training. It is a way to have fun and shoot while keeping score, which is more exciting and dynamic than putting holes in paper from a benchrest (in our opinion). Relax and take it easy.

  • Jason

    Arm carriers are very reasonably priced and place your shells very close by. I think this is one of the best low-cost options. http://3gungear.corecommerce.com/Shotgungear/Arm-Carriers-c29/

  • Asdf

    I can’t tell you how many matches I have ran with the trusty cargo pants as a holder. If someone actual developed a holder to orient the shells properly in a cargo pocket, they would have a nice little sell-able product.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      I’m a velcro card fan, but I often practice pocket reloads on an empty chamber. I kind of like the idea that when you pull one out it’s going to be oriented either way. As long as it’s brass up you drop it over the top, brass down you get it in from underneath.

  • Jesse Welling
  • Danno

    I used a simple canteen pouch for the Gunsite 260 course. It held ~35 rounds, kept them from falling out even when running while letting me grab them effortlessly. You won’t look high speed/low drag, but it works for about $3 invested.