Shotgun Side Saddles – The Best, Worst, and How To

Your typical tube-fed shotgun doesn’t hold a whole ton of rounds. A tube-fed shotgun that holds nine rounds of 2.75-inch shells is about as good as it gets without getting into absurd magazine tube lengths. With a low capacity, it’s wise to have a reload on hand. What’s the best reload to have on hand? Well, if you ask me, it’s a side saddle. Side saddles mount to the weapon and provide an on-the-gun solution to your reload.

Today, I want to talk about the best side saddles and my personal favorites that have come out of my years of shooting shotguns. I certainly have opinions, but I also have the experience to back those opinions up. Let’s saddle up and ride out; we got shotguns to talk about.

Why a Side Saddle?

As we’ve established, a shotgun has low capacity; therefore, having extra ammo on hand is a nice touch. The inherent low capacity is the main reason why you need ammo, but side saddles aren’t the only way to skin a cat. There are a number of devices vying for your hard-earned dollars, from pouches to shotgun shell Pez dispensers, you have a bit of competition.

For serious home defense use, you have to look at what you can carry on the gun. Who is grabbing a plate carrier when their door gets kicked in? We can keep ammo on the shotgun in a few ways.

reloading shotgun in kneeling position
Reloading is a skill you have to master with the gauge.

Slings – Just say no. The rounds are tough to draw and access and tend to move around as you move the gun. A few are fine if you’re hunting, but not for home defense.

Butt Cuffs – Butt cuffs are nylon sleeves that fit around the stock of your weapon. They are okay but somewhat challenging to draw from quickly and easily.

Then we get to the side saddle, which places ammo right in front of your hands and right beside the loading port, and near the ejection port for quick reloads. It’s the most ergonomic, easy-to-access option for spare ammo.

What Makes a Good Side Saddle

This is the million-dollar question, right? I can tell you the best, and I will, but I will give you the tools to find your own favorite side saddle. Or at least give you a thing or two to think about. Here are the considerations I make when choosing a side saddle.


How many rounds do you need it to hold? This is entirely subjective, and I tend to prefer four or so rounds. Four rounds keep it pretty light and are a substantial amount of ammo for a reload. I prefer four, but that doesn’t mean less ammo is better. It’s just a consideration you need to make.


Retention relates to how well it holds the rounds in the side saddle. This can go in two directions. It can be too loose, and it can also be too tight. If it’s too loose, the rounds will shift if kept brass up and potentially falls out of the side saddle if kept brass down. You want to find a good in-between. This is a big factor for me.

Travis Pike reloading shotgun

To make it even more complicated, plastic shotgun shells aren’t necessarily all the exact same width. Really well-made shotgun rounds are typically a little thinner than cheaply-made shotguns. For example, Federal Flitecontrol ammo is a bit thinner than most, and even a fractional difference can throw things off.

Attachment Design

How does the side saddle attach to your gun? I prefer the Velcro and 3M sticky style. The old-school way to mount side saddles is to use bolts through the receiver. I personally stay away from this setup. It can inhibit the reliability of your weapon if those bolts are too tight. If they are too loose, the bolts rattle around a fair bit.

Plus, they will eventually loosen due to the violent recoil of a shotgun. Even Loc Tite can’t solve everything. Velcro side saddles and side saddles that use a sticky attachment method are easier and can be more reliable. Also, with these side saddles, you don’t have to worry about finding a firearm-specific option. They are typically universal and easy to attach.

My Favorite Side Saddles

So now you know what I consider when shopping for a shotgun side saddle, let’s look at three of my favorite side saddles.

Vang Comp Side Saddle

Vang Comp are shotgun gurus and always have been. They are well known for their gunsmithing and custom work but have expanded into their categories. This includes side saddles. The Vang Comp side saddle is an elastic side saddle that attaches to your receiver via Velcro. Velcro side saddles are easy to attach and remove, and you can even ‘reload’ your side saddle.

VCS Side saddle
The Vang Comp Side saddle is one of the best

For home defense, this isn’t necessary, but nice for competition, training, and maybe even duty use. The Vang Comp side saddle is heavily reinforced and doesn’t bend like most elastic side saddles. Historically they produced these side saddles in just six-round capacities, but they recently released a five-rounder. The elastic is great and provides a good bit of retention that’s not over the top.

Esstac Shot Cards

Esstac was the first company I know of to produce shotgun side saddle cards. These are elastic loops on a stiff backing. The Esstac Shotgun Cards come in a ton of different capacities. They produced four rounders up to seven rounders last time I checked. On top of that, they have a built-in loop that makes them easy to remove and pull out of mag pouches for reloading my side saddle.

Holosun 507C V2 mounted on a Benelli M4 Shotgun.
The Esstac side saddles are the OG

Their elastic is excellent, and the rounds stay put, and because they stretch, they accommodate every round I’ve put through it and keep them in place.

Aridus Industries Q-DC

The Aridus Industries Q-DC is the most overengineered side saddle ever made. It’s a six-shot, metal side saddle that comes in a universal configuration that attaches to any shotgun you can stick it to. It’s a two-part system that has a carrier and saddle. The saddle can be removed on the fly and reloaded with a second saddle.

Side saddle on a shotgun
Extra ammo is a must-have, but so is a means to carry it.

The side saddle features great retention, and a retention tool allows you to customize the retention for your preferred load. From the factory, it’s set up for Federal Flitecontrol. The Aridus Industries Q-DC is very well-made and admittedly expensive, but for a shotgun nerd, it’s not too big of an investment.

Side Saddles and You

A good side saddle can be a wonderful inclusion and tool to add to your firearm. A bad side saddle…well, it’s a hindrance, and you’re better off with what you have in the tube only. Side saddles are a handy piece of gear, but don’t cheap out and assume one is as good as another. Shop smart.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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