Magazine Capacity Hysteria

| Better Shooting |

By Dave Anderson

When is it an advantage to have a high-capacity magazine? Let’s turn the question around: when is it an advantage to run out of ammunition? When would you choose to defend your life or your family’s lives, with an empty gun — rather than a loaded one? Regrettably the issue of magazine capacity is primarily political. The latest murders have cast the hysterical spotlight on this very topic, and at the time I write this, the ball is still in the air regarding what is going to happen.

There are a couple of viewpoints in the gun rights issue I find equally tiresome. One is the viewpoint of rabid antigunners whose goal is to ban something — anything. They’ll rail against small concealable guns, large powerful guns, short barrels, “sniper scopes” or whatever they can demonize.

The other tiresome viewpoint is the ostensible progunner willing to give up something, not from any principled or reasoned approach, but simply to appease the anti side. Generally what they are willing to give up is something they personally don’t use.

It’s a waste of time arguing with fanatics. All you can do is defeat them politically. And an ally who is willing to toss overboard my Detective Special, or my Glock magazines, just so he gets to keep his gun a little longer is an ally I don’t want.

Still, some reasonable people may sincerely believe there’s a benefit in magazine capacity limits. The only time they even hear about such things is when the media report a tragedy; either a mass shooting by a psychopath, or a police shooting where three officers fire 45 shots at a suspect, hitting him 10 times and wounding five bystanders. They read the psycho’s gun had a 20-shot magazine, and he shot eight people. Logically if he only had a 10-shot magazine he’d have shot only four people. Or if the three police officers had six-shot revolvers they’d have fired only 18 shots. Deduct the ten hits and there would only be eight stray bullets flying around instead of 35.

better 1

Mr. Goudy: “What kind of hand gun?” Mr. Cogburn: “A forty-four forty Colt’s revolver.”
Mr. Goudy: “Loaded and cocked?” Mr. Cogburn: “If it ain’t loaded and cocked it will
not shoot.” From True Grit, by CharlesPortis. This Colt .44-40 is still an effective
handgun today, but only if it’s loaded. Otherwise it won’t shoot. This is pretty basic stuff.


In a way I can’t blame the non-shooter for this “logic.” Generally all he knows about guns is from TV and movies. Here every private citizen is a panicky, incompetent bumbler whose shooting technique is to point the gun in the direction of the threat, yank the trigger as quickly as possible until the gun stops firing, look at it in disbelief, and then throw it away. In their mind, every police officer, on the other hand, is a world-class sharpshooter who can skillfully shoot to disable, hit the bad guy on a crowded street without endangering a single bystander, or take out a gang of assailants with one accurate shot per customer.

Since you and I don’t live in TV’s fantasy world, we know better. We know psychopaths ignore laws; guns can be reloaded; hitting under stress is hard. If high-caps were illegal, the psycho would just bring extra magazines, extra guns, or even choose other weapons such as explosives, poisons or fire. He might even ignore the law and use a high-cap magazine, of which many millions exist.

If those three officers only had 18 shots available they might not hit the suspect ten times. They might not hit him at all, in which case they might be the ones killed. No, I don’t want bystanders shot, nor do the police. But I do want the good guys to win every confrontation. The solution to stray shots is better training, not taking away ammunition.

better 3

Ten rounds, 13 rounds or 20 rounds for these
high-power mags — does it really matter? Dave thinks so.


Antigun types like to turn it around and make us prove why we need high-cap mags. I’ve already stated the reason; because an empty gun is of no value. If an officer or citizen survives a lethal attack by firing just two rounds, leaving 14 unfired rounds in the gun, there’s no harm done. If he’s left trying to resist lethal attackers with an empty gun, he might not survive.

It’s interesting even the antigunners exempt police from high-cap bans. They recognize there is a benefit in having ammunition available. But just for interest’s sake, let’s look at the issue of need. The officer on-duty has his pistol, two spare magazines, a shotgun or rifle in the patrol car, often a partner. If necessary he can key his lapel mike, say “Officer needs assistance!” and help is on the way, fast.

The citizen may be in bed sleeping when home invaders kick in his door. He doesn’t have time to do more than grab a pistol from the nightstand. Assistance, even if he has time to call, is at best several minutes away. He doesn’t wear a duty belt over his pajamas, or body armor either. He’s going to live or die with the rounds in the pistol. Logically if police need a sufficient supply of ammunition — and they do — the private citizen needs it just as badly, if not more. Logic has no effect on fanatic antigunners but it does on reasonable people. My hope, and belief, is there are still more reasonable people than fanatics. But I still worry; especially the way things are going at the moment.

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