Copyright by John T. Reed

I posted a comment about the New Town-inspired political attack on firearm magazine size on facebook. It provoked a lively discussion but started veering off into stopping tyranny by the U.S. government and hunting is the only reason to have a gun and all that.

I will now summarize my position here instead of an facebook so all sorts of crazy comments do not materialize.

Firearms and magazines are tools. When I was a kid they were sold in hardware stores along with other tools, a large percentage of which were dangerous and caused accidents and were used in murders.

As with any tool, what is appropriate depends on the situation in which they are used, the skill of the user, and technology.

The purpose of guns that is controversial is self-defense. That is, defense against wild animals and criminals.

Liberals and others today make claims along the line of

No law-abiding citizen needs a weapon that shoots more than one round before reloading.

1. When you are confronted by a wild animal or criminal, you cannot have too much ammunition, back-up guns, or too many loaded magazines nearby. Obviously, however, massive private arsenals are unnecessary because they assume attacks by criminals on a scale that almost never happens. If you truly need such a massive arsenal, you need to find a new place to live or work.

2. Your ability to shoot as often as needed during the fight is crucial to your survival. Trying to defend yourself against a guy with a semi-automatic handgun with a ten-round magazine when you only have a six-shooter revolver and neither of you has additional ammo is not likely to end well for you.

3. You need as much fire power as a police officer during the period between when the attack on you begins and when the police arrive.

4. How rapidly you can fire a given weapon is limited by its design and most firearms overheat and seize up if fired too many times per minute.

5. Magazine size alone determine little because the participants in the gun fight can and do supplement the gun and magazine with additional firearms and magazines.

6. The greater the capacity of a magazine, the more likely the weapon is to jam because of greater compression of the magazine spring and therefore greater force exerted by the spring to push the early bullets into the firing chamber.

7. Experienced and practiced gun users can acquire great skill at rapidly changing magazines, or using speed loaders to reload revolvers, to the point where magazine capacity becomes almost irrelevant.

8. The capacity of the magazines offers a trade-off in that the larger the capacity the greater the probability of a jam and the harder it is to change the magazine when it is empty on the one hand and the more often you have to change the magazine and the easier it is to change on the other.

9. Experienced and practiced gun users can acquire great skill at rapidly clearing jams in automatic and semi-automatic firearms but no matter your skill you do not want a jammed gun in a fire fight so experienced gun fighters like military personnel are leery of large-capacity magazines. For example, in Vietnam, soldiers generally would not put more than 18 rounds into their 20-round M-16 magazines. The potential for jams is also a reason why experienced gun fighters like soldiers often carry more than one firearm.

The fact that a number of deranged bad guys have applied the above principles, not to defending themselves against criminals, but to committing mass murder of unarmed civilians, is irrelevant to deciding what are appropriate policies regarding the ability of law-abiding citizens to acquire the tools—firearms, magazines, and ammunition—to defend themselves. The fact that such mass murderers attack schools and malls and theaters rather than police stations or gun shops shows that the ability of the intended victims to defend themselves deters even the deranged.

Banning large-capacity magazines is almost identical in logic and probable effectiveness to banning 32-ounce soft drinks by prohibiting those that are more than 16 ounces. If you limit magazines to ten rounds, those who want to be able to shoot 20 rounds will get two-ten round magazines.

I’ll tell the networks and cable stations what would be good TV. Go to Front Sight weapons school in Nevada and film one of their best instructors firing a Glock with a ten-round magazine. Ask him to show how many rounds he can put into a bunch of human silhouette targets in 30 seconds only using ten-round magazines. It will take your breath away how fast he can fire those shots and how fast he can change those 10-round magazines. Here is a YouTube of a guy firing a Glock, changing mags, then firing some more. He does not appear to be in much of a hurry or look as fast as our Front Sight instructors. He seems to be emphasizing marksmanship not speed. He does not appear to be availing himself of the extreme firing speed of the hair trigger reset action of a semi-automatic. Imagine if he were in a crowd and only needed to hit human torsos instead of a grapefruit-sized bullseye.

Then do the same with one of their students at the end of the fourth day of the four-day hand-gun self-defense course my wife and I took. That will not be quite as fast, but will also take your breath away.

A skilled guy with a double-action revolver and speed loaders would probably be a little slower but still breath-taking. Here’s a video of a guy firing a revolver and using a speed loader to reload.

You could have two guys side-by side one with 10-round mags and a Glock pistol and the other with 20s and a semi-automatic civilian assault rifle. The guy with the 20s would fire a few more rounds—he still has to change mags at 20—but I think the audience would laugh at the notion that they would be much safer if they faced the guy with the Glock and 10-round mags. Put the camera just above the target to get the vicitm’s eyeview of the “safety” Dianne Feinstein wants to provide you with. I expect such a video would kill that proposed law overnight.

Indeed, I predict that if a TV channel did film that, they would not put it on TV because it would make a mockery of the magazine capacity law proposers and also scare the daylights out of the public about the mere existence of multi-shot weapons that have been around since the civil war. Cartridge revolvers—e.g., the Colt .45 six-shooter—were invented before the Civil War and semi-automatic pistols were invented just before the turn of the century. The semi-automatic M1911 pistol I wore as an officer in Vietnam was called the 1911 because that was the year it was designed.

What is the difference between the semi-automatic handgun and the assault rifle? Nothing worth discussing. Military ones have a selector switch that enables them to fire on automatic (machine gun). They have a longer barrel so they are probably more accurate than a handgun at greater distances. Liberals are now talking about banning large-capacity magazines and civilian assault rifles which have no selector switch. They are just showing their ignorance of the weapons. In a school or theater or mall, a semi-automatic hand gun and 10-round magazine would have pretty much the same effect as a civilian assault rifle with a 20-round magazine in the hand of a shooter who practiced rapid firing and rapid changing of magazines.

All this talk of reforming gun laws is nothing but symbolism. The problem is in the mind of the shooter, not your local gun shop. Threatening to restrict gun or magazine ownership accomplishes nothing but getting hundreds of thousands of people going to buy affected guns and magazines before the start date of the new law.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed