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Best Shotgun Ammo Carriers: Side Saddle, Pouches, & Bandoliers

For a weapon that is so much fun, the shotgun can be a significant pain when it comes to ammo. Shotgun ammo is big, heavy, and bulky.

On top of that, shotguns are equipped with relatively low capacity. 

Sexy, ain’t it?

Finding the right equipment to keep your shotgun fed is critical. The good news is there are lots of pieces of gear out there that want to help you feed your shotgun. There is a problem, though. 

Shotgun kit is difficult.

this is the worst
But it doesn’t have to be!

The main problem with designing kit for shotguns is acknowledging you have to deal with single rounds of ammunition. That ammunition is also bulky and needs to be loaded two shots at a time at most.

Like any tactical situation, you need quick and easy access to your ammunition. 

Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

The other tricky part is separating the crap from the good stuff. I own piles of shotguns and shotgun gear, so I have a bit of experience with it. I’ve gathered my personal favorite items, as well as a few well-reputed items I’ve seen in use by other shotgunners. 

As it turns out, Goodwill doesn’t want the crappy shotgun kit you bought because you didn’t read this article first.

Best Shotgun Ammunition Carriers

1. 5.11 All Mission Plate Carrier 

As you’d expect in 2020, some of this gear is designed to be mounted on a MOLLE platform of some kind. My platform of choice is the 5.11 All Mission Plate Carrier. It’s a modular vest that can transform between slick low-vis, to standard, and then heavy. 

AMP Plate carrier with all the good guy stuff we’re going to talk about below.

The most unique feature of this plate carrier is the accessory attachment system. It’s called Hexgrid, and instead of traditional MOLLE or PALS webbing, we have a series of Hexagons. The point of these Hexagons is that it allows you to mount accessories at various different angles. 

The two 5 Shot bandoliers I have mounted on mine are designed to run vertically on a platform, but the Hexgrid allows me to install them horizontally instead. 

The 5.11 All Missions Plate Carrier, or AMP, is a very comfortable vest, and when fully geared up, the plate carrier can tote quite a bit of gear. It deserves a full review, and hopefully, we’ll get to that soon. 

2. 5.11 5 Shot Bandoliers 

These little 5 Shot Bandoliers are made by everybody, but I’ve found 5.11’s to be robust. The key to these device’s success is the elastic bands. If they loosen too fast, they start to fail. They can also fray and rip. 

5.11 makes extremely strong and durable bandoliers that hold 5 rounds, and there is a more significant 12 round option out there as well. These bandoliers are quite robust, and they can be used over and over and over. 

5.11 Shotgun holder
5.11 Shotgun holder

The 5 shot bandoliers use the slick stick MOLLE bands. These stiff bands are easy to weave in and out of standard MOLLE webbing. While they typically run vertically the All Missions Plate Carrier and the Hexgrid system allows them to run any direction I wish. 

That sweet, sweet Hexgrid versatility.

After a little practice and a lot of reloading, I orientated them in an odd, but easy to access way for me to reload rapidly. As far as reloading the shotgun goes, these 5 Shot bandoliers are the fastest means to reload a shotgun form the plate carrier. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

3. 5.11 Shotgun Viking Tactical Shotgun Ammo Pouch 

Carrying ammo for a shotgun is often done in the 5 round bandoliers we talked about above. The Viking Tactical shotgun ammo pouch is a pouch designed to accommodate a big 25 round box of shotshells. 

That’s a lot of shells.

It does so while giving you access to these shells, and providing a high level of retention to the ammo. The top of the ammo pouch has two layers of elastic material that lie on top of each other. Both are open-but-closed until peeled away as you grab ammunition. 

The elastic lips that protect your ammo.

This layer of retention does mean accessing the ammo is a little slower than an open bandolier. As you can see, I combine a bit of both. I use the Viking Tactical Shotgun Ammo Pouch as a means to reload my bandolier if I run them dry. 

Because it’s a little slower and the bandoliers are a little faster, I can reload the shotgun from the bandolier in a hurry and then reload the bandoliers from this pouch if things have gotten a little slower. 

VTAC Shell pouch
VTAC Shell pouch

This pouch is ultra-tough and supports 25 rounds of buckshot exceptionally well. The pouch doesn’t sag at all. It only gets hard to use when the ammo gets low. The last five to ten rounds can be difficult to reach with your fingers through the slot. 

Handy dandy zippers make your ammo easier to access.

In this situation, you have to unzip the pouch and reach in and remove the last few rounds. This little square pouch is well made, easy to use, and perfect for high volume shotgun loads. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. AmmoPal 

You guys remember the AmmoPal, right? I talked about it a long time ago. It’s like a Pez dispenser for 12 gauge shotgun shells. 

My well-loved AmmoPal

It’s a big box magazine that doesn’t go in your gun. Instead, it attaches to your belt of gear and feeds your shells as you need them. With my All Missions Plate Carrier and its unique Hexgrid system, I mounted the AmmoPal horizontally under my offside arm. 

On a plate carrier, and when ran horizontally, it works wonderfully. It’s easy to reach the shells and easy to load your gun from. The AmmoPal also protects all but 1 round from the elements. 


The AmmoPal seems to be a reliable piece of gear for my use. I’ve left it loaded for over a year, and it still works perfectly fine. The AmmoPal feels a bit fragile if I was to start clearing rooms and looking at going to Fallujah and back, but somehow the device hasn’t failed yet. 

The AmmoPal is an excellent device for sporting use, and maybe after a little extra testing, it will be cleared hot for tactical use. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Condor MOLLE MA12 Shotgun Shell Pouch

The military has basically been using the same shotgun ammo pouch forever. The differences in design are primarily the addition of MOLLE and modern materials. The Condor is a bit of a mixture between old and new. 

Condor Shotgun Shell Pouch
Condor Shotgun Shell Pouch

It looks somewhat like a WW2 era shotgun pouch, but it has MOLLE attachment straps. To be honest with this piece of kit, I’d much rather have a belt attachment. On a battle belt, this would be perfect. On a plate carrier, it’s okay. It does do a few things really well. 

One, it holds the ammo securely not only in a pouch, but it’s secured by inner loops for even higher retention. Those loops hold the shells rim up for easy extraction. There are also four MOLLE straps that hold the pouch securely, and it keeps the pouch from sagging on your gear. 

Condor Shotgun Shell Pouch Open
Condor Shotgun Shell Pouch Open

The MA12 pouch holds 12 rounds of 12 gauge and does so quite securely. The pouch is a little deep, and that means it can be a little clumsy to reach the rounds and draw them. The MA12 pouch is secured by hook and loop, and the inside loops are elastic. 

It’s simple, and also very cheap. It’s perfect for carrying shotgun ammo on a budget and seems to be made well. I’ve had mine for two years and some change now, and it still works wonderfully.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. TacStar Side Saddle

Side saddles are one of those must-haves on tactical shotguns.

They give you anywhere from 4 to 6 rounds of ammunition on your gun in a ready to use state. They are well suited for military and police use and are perfect for home defense. 

The TacStar Sidesaddle

If you are defending your home from a threat, you might be in nothing more than your underwear. I actually prefer to fight in my underwear for psychological purposes. In this case, it’s best to have ammo on the gun and ready to load if things get hairy. 

Army specialist Zachary Boyd gets it.
Army Specialist Zachary Boyd gets it.

(Ed. note: This is why our moms always told us to wear clean underwear, we guess.)

There are lots and lots of different side saddles out there. There are lots of great ones too. Mesa Tactical makes some cool ones for sure, but TacStar makes good working side saddles, and they make them affordably.

TacStar Sidesaddle
TacStar Sidesaddle

They also make them for quite a few shotguns, we have the 500/590, the 930, the Remington 870, 1187, 1100, the Winchester 1200, the Benelli M2, Benelli SuperNova, and I can keep going. 

I keep one on my 930 and have for years. It comfortably retains the ammunition and makes it easy to access for emergency reloads and loading the tube. It’s easy to install, lightweight, and you can arrange your ammo brass up or down for. However, you wish to load your weapon. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on side saddles?

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7. Safariland 2 Shell Belt Carrier 

Small, convenient, and extremely affordable are the best way to describe the Safariland 2 Shell belt carrier. This little guy may only hold two rounds, but it offers a much smaller footprint than other ammo carriers. All it needs is a standard belt too. 

Small but mighty!

2 rounds aren’t much, but that’s the limitation of a small, polymer, belt-mounted shotgun ammo carrier. Anything larger would be unwieldy due to the width and shape of shotgun ammo. Nothing is saying that you can’t buy and carry multiple 2 shot belt carriers. 

They are small and cheap enough to make it affordable to purchase 3 to 5 of them for extra ammo on the belt. The Safariland 2 shot belt carriers are open top, but they are still quite tight and hold the ammo down and in place. 

Safariland Shotgun 2 Shell Holder
Safariland Shotgun 2 Shell Holder

They also make it easy to retrieve the ammunition and reload your weapon on the fly. This is one of my favorite tools, and the fact all I need is a belt to carry it means it’s low profile all the way around. I’m gonna grab several more and might build them onto a dedicated battle belt platform. 

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Old School Bandolier 

The bandolier or belt covered in shotshell elastic bands is likely the oldest and cheapest means to carry anywhere from 20 to 25 shotshells. The downside is they mostly suck. They are rarely thick enough to support the shells fully. They also are very cheaply made and tend to fray and break. 

One Bandolier Friday
One Bandolier Friday

One 12 gauge belt that does work is far from cheap and comes from a company called Wilderness Tactical. Their Heavy-Duty Shell Belt is reportedly one of the best shotshell belts out there. 

I have yet to get my hands on one, but the excellent fellas at Primary and Secondary have spoken about them at length, and they enjoy an outstanding reputation. While they aren’t 7 bucks at Walmart cheap, they are still affordable enough at only 50 dollars for a 20 or 25 shotshell carrier. 

at Wilderness Tactical

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

8. Gadsden Dynamics Underground Partisan Shotshell Rig 

This super lightweight, small, and compact chest rig holds 24 rounds of shotgun ammunition. The Underground Partisan chest rig is designed to be superbly small and lightweight. 

The Underground Partisan chest rig by Gadsden Dynamics

You can hide it over a lightweight button-down if you so choose. I’ll keep it short since they aren’t made anymore. This is an excellent rig if you want a non-armored chest rig dedicated to shotguns. 

The Gadsden Dynamics Underground Partisan chest rig is available for ARs, and they have a build your own app. They are a small company, but they make sweet gear. Give them a look. 

at Gadsden Dynamics

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

9. Blackhawk Sling 

I don’t want to be mean and pick on a company, but this sling is terrible. As a sling its completely fine. It’s quite broad and robust. A wide sling displaces weight and keeps the sling from digging into your shoulder if you are carrying the weapon in an admin carry. 

The Blackhawk sling

That’s cool, the issue lies in the fact that this shotgun sling has 15 loops to accommodate 15 shells of 12 gauge ammo. Those 15 slots are orientated to front of the sling. The problem this creates all revolves around weight. 

15 rounds of twelve gauge hanging beneath your barrel make your shotgun unbalanced, and it gets heavy quick. Which is bad enough, but the biggest downside is the swinging. 

Blackhawk sling moving
Blackhawk sling moving

If you bring a gun up on target quickly and 15 rounds of ammo are hanging from it, then the sling is going to be swinging and moving. That will cause your aim to pivot and move as well. The Blackhawk shotgun sling is unfortunately not a great option for being both a sling and ammo carrier.

But if that’s your thing, we guess you could do worse.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing


Shooting shotguns are a ton of fun, and keeping them running is a challenge. There is a lot more to most shotguns than shoving a magazine in place. To me, that is what makes a shotgun fun. 

Shotgun Kit
Building a shotgun kit that works for you makes life a whole lot easier.

The recoil, the boom, and the challenge of effectively running one is the fun stuff. The shotgun is a tricky beast, but with the right gear, you can navigate the boomstick effectively. 

This leads me to ask you what gear do you use for shotguns? And why?Tell us in the comments below! Looking for a boomstick of your own? Check out the Best Shotguns for Home Defense and Best Shotgun Ammo.

12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

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16 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Johnathan Priest

    Imagine using the worst side saddle still in 2020.

    September 14, 2021 5:26 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    The ammopal item is trash. Bought it on this article's recommendation. Doesn't work at all as expected. The tear off hook and loop ammo cards seem to be the best option for every day use. IMHO.

    March 16, 2021 5:54 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I am a left handed shotgun guy, and am currently running a KSG. I am in the process of figuring out the entire ‘system’:
    Slings, carrier, amount and method of ammo carry. I am currently running the full High-Tech upgrade package, including the ammo rail.
    Stay tuned as this evolves....TG

    July 5, 2020 9:57 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Now if only there was an option for the short shells.

    June 3, 2020 3:49 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim Hovater

    Now that I'm older (60-ish), I've gravitated to 20ga shotguns for 'social applications'. I wish the firearms industry would support 20ga owners like they do for the 12ga.

    April 10, 2020 4:42 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    "I actually prefer to fight in my underwear for psychological purposes." What psychological purposes might those be ??? Great review and some good options. Except for the Speedfeed stock, I hate carrying extra shells on the shotgun because it changes the balance and makes the shotgun heavy and unwieldy. These are some great choices to keep extra shells handy without cluttering the shotgun. I hate shotgun sidesaddles. My personal belief is that shotguns are so slow to reload that if you cannot finish the fight with what is in the magazine, you had better transition to your underwear pistol.

    February 24, 2020 10:05 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Why don’t you use IPSC / three gun caddy’s. There plenty that are up to the job and allow you to take two or four rounds at a time. Tacom and gunner solutions are mission ready and most others will do a great job if your not in the field for extended periods. Anyone can load two rounds easily and it’s as quick as loading one - four takes no time at all.

    February 23, 2020 12:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim Hovater

    Why doesn't anyone make a DEDICATED tactical shotgun vest? The market is WIDE OPEN.

    February 21, 2020 6:00 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Matt G

    Ok I could use a little help here. I would really like to get the tacstar side saddle but I fortunately I'm a lefty and have a mossberg 590 lefty. I havent been able to locate a lefty version of any side saddle. Any help, please. Also this article was helpful.. .

    February 21, 2020 11:25 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jim Hovater

      Get one of the 6-8 rd shotgun shell carriers from Amazon and use automotive Velcro to attach it to your gun's receiver.

      February 21, 2020 6:03 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike Hammer

      High strength Velcro will solve all your problems and allow you to remove excess bulk if the situation dictates.

      March 29, 2020 9:16 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Thanks for the article, very informative! I enjoy the bandoliers that hold 56 rounds.

    February 21, 2020 6:16 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I mounted 3x Ares Tactical shot shell caddies (each holding 6 shells) on AR500 plate carrier. Looks great and is also very practical.

    February 20, 2020 9:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I bought a SKO shorty ,it came with a 5 round mag , but I purchased two 10 rounders for extra protection on my farm . I can quickly change these and have 25 rounds ready to rock .

    February 20, 2020 4:23 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    That Blackhawk sling is ridiculous...and of course I own one.

    February 20, 2020 11:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Single point that sling and balance issues disappear.

      March 4, 2020 2:09 am