It used to really piss me off, but now I find it amusing. Whenever a TV “gun expert” blathers on about “high-capacity magazine clips” that were the cause of so much carnage in some random shooting. Like most pop-culture gun terms, “high-capacity magazine” is a completely made up term that has no meaning at all. It’s designed to sound scary and gin up support for more gun control among the ignorant. The term gets parroted around so much that most politicians, TV commentators and much of the general public have no idea what they are, only that they are bad.
Some states have enacted bans on “high-capacity” magazines (and yes, I’m going to keep putting quotes around that phrase, because it’s made up), which they typically define as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Except for the People’s Republic of New York where 10 is considered way too dangerous. They limit it to 7. However, since most down-limit magazines are 10 rounds, the comrades demand you only load 7 rounds into your 10-round magazines. You know, because criminals will do that, too.
Why More Than Ten?
Now, some genuinely curious people may ask, “Why would you want more than 10 rounds in your gun at one time anyway?” Excellent question, Greta! I’ll answer this from the point of the normal, law-abiding citizen who doesn’t hunt bad guys for a living first. If we study FBI data citizen-involved shootings, we find that for the most part, when a good guy deploys a firearm against a bad guy, it’s over in 3-5 rounds. So it would seem that having 10 would be double the normal maximum, right? That’s true. However, there are outliers.
I’ve watched body-cam footage from a cop that shot at a bad guy 37 times before the bad guy finally went down. If I remember right, he hit in the high 20s. And the cop was shooting a .45 ACP, considered a real fight-stopper by some. It should be noted that last round the cop had on him was the one that finally ended the fight. At that point the slide locked back and he was done. Thankfully, the bad guy finally expired. But, had he fought on, the officer would have had to club the guy to death. Also, if I remember right, that officer now carries 128 rounds on his person at all times.
Again, I’m not a guy who goes chasing after cracked-up meth heads. However, what’s to say I won’t be assaulted by one? Worse, what if I’m assaulted by two or three of them? It might take 9-10 rounds each to bring them down. Maybe more. Do I want to be limited to 10? Hell no! Yes, most citizen shootings require 3-5 rounds. But I’m not going to be my life on that. That’s way I always carry 30+ at all times.
But Those Deadly Assault Weapons!
Again, like “high capacity magazine,” “assault weapon” is a made-up term. Assault Rifle actually means something; a rifle, firing an intermediate cartridge, that can shoot in semi-automatic, burst or fully-automatic mode. The most popular rifle in the US is that AR-15 platform. It is not an assault rifle. The .223/5.56mm cartridge is not intermediate, (or high power), and all ARs made now and ever are semi-automatic only. Now that we have that out of the way…
The AR-15 was derived from the M16 (as an aside, this is the same way in which a Winchester Model 70 bolt-action hunting rifle was derived from a Mauser M98 military rifle…). In it’s original configuration, the M16 carried a 20-round magazine. That was back in 1964. In 1969, it was revised to become the M16A1, and it came with a 30-round magazine.
The AR-15 was introduced by Colt in 1964 as a civilian version (that is, a semi-automatic, not fully-automatic) version of the M16. It came with, wait for it, a 20-round magazine. When the M16A1 came out, AR-15s began shipping with, wait for it, 30-round magazines. So, you could say that a 30-round magazine is a standard capacity mag. A truly “high-capacity” magazine would be 60 rounds, for example.
Now, opportunistic politicians like to parrot that the “AR-15 with it’s high-capacity magazine is designed to kill as many people, as quickly as possible.” That, of course, is complete bullshit. The AR-15 is no more lethal than any other gun, despite it’s 30-round capacity. The .223 round is rather small by caliber standards—some states won’t even let you hunt deer with it. In fact, our troops often complain about the less-than-optimal battle effectiveness of the 5.56 round. BTW, in case you don’t know, .223 and 5.56mm are more or less the same thing; there are some differences, but for this discussion, they are interchangeable.
So again, Greta asks, “Why would you want 30-rounds in your AR-15?” Well, two reasons. First, the AR has become immensely popular in competition shooting. Being able to hold 30 rounds is crucial to clearing stages quickly. Also, when you go out to the range, you go to shoot, not to load magazines. If you have five standard capacity (30-round) magazines, you could load up 150 rounds before you leave the house and have a great time on the range shooting without ever loading. If your ammo budget it low, that is…but I digress.
Second, for the same reason I carry 30+ rounds on me at all times for my handgun, my home defense AR has a 30-round magazine in it. It is extremely unlikely I’ll ever need it in the first place, and even more unlikely I’ll ever empty it. But one thing we have never in the history of gunfights ever heard someone say is, “I wish I hadn’t brought so much ammo.”
I guess a third reason is that this is America and I’m free to load my rifle with however many rounds I want to.
But Mass Shootings!
Ok, deep breath. First off, very few mass shootings involve an AR-15. There have been some, but not many. Moreover, very rarely is an AR used in a run of the mill crime. That’s because it’s rather hard to conceal an AR under your t-shirt, and criminals like to be able to conceal their guns.
So now, I’m going to blow your mind. Hopefully when I’m done, you’ll see the complete idiocy of magazine count limitations.
I shoot IDPA competitions quite regularly. Since IDPA events happen all over the country, including the non-American states of Calizuala, New York and such where magazines of greater than 10 rounds are illegal, IDPA rules limit maximum loading to 10 rounds so it’s fair across the board. Now, most stages we shoot require more than 10 rounds. Some go as high as 20 or more in a local match, and from what I hear, they are even higher in larger matches. But what does one do when we’re limited to 10 rounds and we need 20? We carry extra magazines.
The purpose of a magazine is to hold cartridges together for rapid loading. Because I shoot matches regularly, I practice magazine changes a lot. I’m down to about 2 1/4 seconds for a change. That’s not particularly fast, the top shooters are half that time. I’m probably a lot faster than the average Joe, but I’ve seen novices at matches make mag changes in under 5-6 seconds pretty regularly.
Statistics tell us most “mass shootings” (again, another made up term with no agreed upon definition, but designed to scare people) last 8-10 minutes, how much time is 5 seconds? Not much. Even if psychopaths were limited to 10 (or 7) rounds—which they are not—all they have to do is bring more magazines. And if you limit the round count of magazines, you limit the ability of law-abiding people to fight back against a large-scale attack. Double lose.
If you’re not a gun person, this might not make sense to you. So let me try something that might make more sense.
Ban High-Capacity Beer Holders!
Most beer in the US is sold in six-packs. We know from science that for the average 180-200 pound guy, having 3 beers in an hour is going to put him at or over the legal limit for driving drunk. Drunk drivers killed 10,265 people in 2015, significantly more than the number killed by accidental shootings, by the way. We all know drunk driving is bad. And since it seems that 6-packs directly contribute to people driving drunk—a 6-pack is double what most need to be over the limit—we obviously need to ban high-capacity beer holders.
What we need are common sense beer laws! There’s absolutely no reason why anyone would need more than 3 beers at any one given time, and more than that makes them a deadly weapon when they get behind the wheel. From now on, we need a maximum 3-pack for all beer.
Hopefully you can see the irony in that, not to mention the idiocy of it. There are plenty of reasons why someone would want more than 3 beers (a party, perhaps), and even if we did limit the maximum number of beers in a holder to 3, if someone wanted to drink 6 what would they do? Buy two 3-packs!
So Why Not Capacity Limits?
Greta is back with another good question: “If all you need are more magazines, what’s the problem with banning magazines over 10 rounds?” First of all, why 10? Why not 12? Why not 9? Limiting them to 10 is completely arbitrary based on nothing. Second, if I’m limited to 10-round magazines, and I like to carry 30+ all the time, that means I have to carry two spare magazines instead of one. That’s a pain, especially when my gun is designed for 16-round magazines. Why should we arbitrarily limit it to 10?
For recreational and competition shooting, loading three 30-round mags is easier and faster than loading nine 10-round mags, they take up less space and are easier to carry for a match.
Ultimately magazine capacity bans accomplish nothing, other than to inconvenience law-abiding citizens. As I’ve said repeatedly, criminals don’t follow the law. I can guarantee you with 100% certainty that not a single criminal in New York—who is committing a felony by carrying a gun in the first place—and is intent on robbing or killing people, also felonies, is down-loading his magazines to 7 rounds to comply with the idiotic law. All they have done is limit the law-abiding citizen’s ability to protect himself and family.
Magazine capacity bans are what happen when you have people who are completely ignorant of how guns function writing laws in order to appease lobbying groups. I once heard a Colorado state legislator explain that they had to ban “high-capacity magazines because once they were used, they wouldn’t work any more and so after a while there won’t be any more on the street.” This is complete lunacy. Magazines, by definition, are designed to be loaded, shot, re-loaded and shot. They’ll last a long time if you replace the springs once in a while. All she did with that statement was demonstrate her complete ignorance of the subject. And by the way, there’s not excuse for ignorance in this day and age. Take 10 minutes and do a Google search on how magazines work before you propose a law.
Hopefully that explains the complete fallacy of magazine capacity limits. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some magazines to clean and some springs to replace.