Is It Better To Have Magazine Capacity Or More Magazines?

Is It Better To Have Magazine Capacity Or More Magazines?

Every day, responsible concealed carriers head out of the house with either their pistol or revolver strapped to their waist.  It’s a conscious decision to take responsibility for your own protection.  And, in the spirit of enabling that decision, let’s discuss combat sustainability.

Always Choose The Pistol That Fits Best

The pistol that fits best for you may be smaller in size.  Single stack or double stack – it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that if you’re caught in a live fire situation, you can respond with a firearm that you feel confident in using.  

Read Also: The Best Handgun for the Situation? A Personal Take

Magazine capacity is important.  A pistol that needs to be reloaded after six shots will be an issue if your attacker is using a firearm with more capacity.  

Why Carrying At Least One Spare Magazine Can Make The Difference

This doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  The solution is simple – carry a back-up magazine.  

For instance, let’s take a look at the Walther PPS.  Chambered in 9mm or .40 S&W, it’s a single stack concealed carry pistol that features magazines ranging in 6 to 8 bullets.  From the factory, it usually ships with the 6 round magazine.  Are you willing to bet your life that you can subdue any threat (or multiple threats) with six rounds?  

Carrying a secondary magazine in either a belt pouch or a pocket can make the difference.  It’s also convenient to store one in the glovebox or center console (provided you are within rights to do so based upon your state and county ordinances).

In the military, it’s common to have three magazines for your sidearm – but that’s usually when you’re stationed in a combat environment and expect trouble.  And the common sidearm issued is the M-9 Beretta (Beretta 92).  That’s a Single Action/Double Action service pistol capable of holding 15 rounds.  It’s a good idea to have at least 12 at the ready with access to more if necessary.  

If you are planning on bringing another magazine, it may make sense to just go ahead and get a magazine pouch for your Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster system.  They’re cheap and it’s a way of incorporating that additional magazine into your routine.  

Drawbacks Of Larger Caliber Concealed Carry Firearms

When using a larger caliber .40 S&W or .45 ACP pistol, there is a sacrifice in magazine capacity.  In a heavy combat environment, this can be a real drag.  Understand that the fewer rounds your pistol holds, the more magazines you should have available for backup.  

Remember: in a firefight, it’s not the number of bullets you put downrange – it’s the number of hits you get with those rounds.  More does not equal better.

Additionally, if you are not going .45 ACP, consider switching out your Full Metal Jacket ammunition with Jacketed Hollow Point or similar.  Check out this post we did covering the different types of common ammunition.  Switching to a more effective ammunition will mean each hit you get will do more to incapacitate your attacker.

In conclusion, there is no “magic number” in terms of how many rounds you should carry on you at any one time.  The only place you don’t want to be caught is out-of-ammunition in a gunfight. 

If you decide to go up in caliber or go down to the micro or sub-compact size, have backup magazines.  If you’re carrying a full-size or compact with 10 rounds or more, a secondary magazine is still important.  So, magazine capacity is not nearly as important as having the ability to reload if you need to.  If you can, incorporate a secondary magazine into your everyday carry habits.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you ever need it.

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  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    “A pistol that needs to be reloaded after six shots will be an issue if your attacker is using a firearm with more capacity.” It all depends on whether or not any of your shots made contact and where they did, and also what caliber or type of ammo you fired. And what if your 5-8 shooter were a pistol? If you shot someone in the face with 410 3″ #4 buckshot from a revolver 5 times, or 5-8 x’s with a 357 in the chest, I highly doubt they are going to be firing anything. There are a lot of what if’s, we could debate then till the end of time . . . and we will : )

    • Sianmink

      The issue is, you might (read ‘will probably’) have to deal with more than one attacker. Magazine capacity always favors the defender.

  • Ed Yost

    What if, after emptying your handgun into one opponent, you find out he has friends. Most LEO’s in a firefight will say after that they only discharged their handgun a few times, when in fact they emptied the magazine. Just ask that unarmed guy they gunned down in New York City, over 40 shots fired, and a little over 20 bullets in target. I carry a Taurus pt92, with 17 +P JHP and 15 in spare mag

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    Like I said, we will debate it till the end of time . . . what if the other guy has a full auto Uzi . . . oh wait, they’re against the law . . . .

    • zippiest

      You’re thinking with logic, common sense and reason. Politicians don’t do that, so extra mags it is?

  • Mikial

    My EDC is a full sized XD .45 and I always carry a spare mag. That gives me 13+1 to start with 13 more in the spare mag. I also carry a PF9 BUG with a spare mag in case of a major malfunction (which hasn’t happened with my XD yet, but anything is possible) which gives me 7+1 and a spare 7 9mm. So all the blather about carry a smaller gun for ammo capacity is just so much hot air.

    • 2ThinkN_Do2

      I typically carry a Kahr MK40 or Sig P938, two spare mags with either for a total round capacity between 18 & 20 on board.

      • Mikial

        That’s a good load-out.

        It always amazes me when people carry a gun with no reloads. Also, one of your other comments was good where you talked about carrying a revolver with 6 shots, and the other guy has more ammo capacity. I agree and wanted to add, even if the attacker doesn’t have a gun but you have not stopped him from closing with a knife or some other hand weapon, you are going to be in trouble.

  • zippiest

    Being in CA, I’m stuck with the 10 rd capacity restriction. Having a G27, well that limits me further. So, extra mags on my person has been the necessity, in and out of state.

    • Mikial

      USPSA runs some great matches that anyone can participate in and really gives you a solid day of moving and shooting to help in your training. The Production Division and Limited-10 Division limit the number of rounds in the mag to 10 rounds, so you really learn how to make fast mag changes under timed pressure. I shoot Production because I mainly do USPSA for the training it gives me so I shoot with the same kind of unmodified gun I use for EDC, so on some stages I would have to carry six extra mags in addition to the one in the gun to start with. Sounds ideal for shooters who choose to live in places like Maryland, Colorado and Kalifornia.

      • Kevin

        Don’t group Colorado in there 😉 The rules are extremely lax, and unenforceable per the Colorado Sherriff’s. I shoot in Limited Minor with 24rd magazines 😀

        • Mikial

          Hoorah,Kevin!

          Go for it. Get out of Colorado, Brother. leave them to their fate.

  • Paladin

    First, let me state that I carry a Springfield XDs 45. I have 5+1, plus a spare mag. That being said, when I go to the range, one of my practice drills is…two to the chest (center mass) and one to the head. And I practice until I can place these three shots where I want them in 1 1/2 seconds. My theory? It’s not how many rounds you can fire, it’s where you place them. And if there a six more? Experience shows that when the first one is dead, the rest run like hell. Just my two cents worth. YMMV

    • Mikial

      That’s a good drill and range time is important, but you have to add some other factors in an actual situation:

      1. Your target may be moving or even shooting back at you.
      2. YOU may be moving to avoid getting shot, stabbed or otherwise injured.
      3. The Adrenalin will be pumping through your system on overdrive.
      4. Conditions may be less than ideal; it could be dark, raining, the ground may be rough and littered with things to trip over, the bad guys may have come at you from more than one direction meaning that you have to move and shoot.
      5. It’s true that many of these guys will run when you drop one of them, but some may not, especially if they are armed with a gun.

      I would humbly suggest you try some drills where you have to move or that are timed with a variety of situations. If you don’t have the opportunity to take some tactical training, USPSA meets are an excellent means of doing this. Another good exercise is getting together with two or three like minded individuals, and doing some Airsoft one-on-one training that provide some realistic simulations.

      Good choice of gun, BTW. Powerful and reliable. Personally, I like the combination of shot placement and good ammo capacity, so my EDC is a full sized XD .45. That way I have 13+1 with a 13 round spare mag.

      • Paladin

        You have some very valid points, but allow me to elucidate. I was speaking for myself, not for anyone else. I have a bit of experience, having survived a number of firefights. I am fully aware of the various factors that can affect a confrontation, which you have stated very succinctly. Another truism is “You fight as you practice”. Unfortunately, I am of an age where my ability to move quickly is lessened. However, I have been intending to look into USPCA, and see how I might take advantage of what they offer. Perhaps this will be the impetus I need. YMMV
        Semper Fi
        Paladin

        • Mikial

          I really enjoyed it, and I think you would too. The other shooters are a great bunch, and they are always ready to offer support and encouragement. One of the guys I shoot with is a retired pro-baseball player, so he had plenty of money for a full tricked out pistol to shoot in the Open Division. But he’s an amazing shot and has helped me a lot by being able to diagnose things i am doing that I need to improve, and always in a friendly and helpful way.

          • Michael Scott

            How much are those classes typically?

  • Jim

    I love my M&P 40 with 15 round mags …..

  • Mighty Fine

    I live in NY where we can only put 7 rounds in our mags. I used to carry a 9mm with 15 rounds. Now I switched to a Bersa .45 with 7+1. If I can only carry 7, better make the hits count. So I always carry 1 extra mag and a box of 230 grain in my glove box.

  • Zach

    I carry 2 spare mags. Would be able to carry the same amount of bullets in 2 mags as I currently do with 3. Kinda hurts to think about that. But you know here in CT it’s about the kids which is how we got these dumb laws. What should happen is whatever the cops can use to “protect and serve” we should be able to use too. If I’m expected to make sue with what little the State says I can have why not them? Oh because they actually might need something a bit more when the crazies show up.

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