Maybe high-capacity IS the problem

Shootings at schools are different. These events are acts of execution, not battles. They are no different from the guillotine, one lined up after another and sent to the next world.

And they are that way for one reason. Capacity.

The above comes from an article “I Am An AR-15 Owner And I’ve Had Enough“, written by Daniel Hayes. It was posted to Facebook by a friend of mine, and he found the article interesting and requested the opinions of gun-owner friends on it. While I commented on his FB posting, I wanted to post and expand upon my comments here.

Apparently, it’s a math problem

Mr. Hayes says “these events are acts of execution, not battles”. I agree. He says it’s because of capacity. I disagree.

He was able to push people away from him with long bursts of gunfire and barely give his victims a chance to take that split second, when he was reloading, to leap on him and tear him apart.

For those who haven’t fired an AR-15, you can’t underestimate the importance of this. Extended magazines are the reason the San Bernardino killers were so brash and confident in the attack they carried out. They knew that no one could get near them, that there would barely be a moment when they would be vulnerable to an unarmed person grabbing them and stopping them.

Give me three 100 round drum magazines and I could hold my whole block hostage for a day. Give me thirty 10 round magazines and someone will be able to stop me.

Mr. Hayes is saying capacity is the problem. If we could just force people to have to reload more often, we could stop these things from happening, because that would give us time.

Here’s a promotional and marketing video from SureFire, a manufacturer of 60-round and 100-round magazines for AR-patterned rifles. In this video, they take a fully automatic rifle (i.e. something highly regulated; that doesn’t get used in “mass shooting” despite media and politician hysterics and misinformation) and perform a demonstration; it’s useful to use a full-auto rifle for this demonstration because it takes the human-performance element out of the equation (no tired fingers). They use standard 30-round magazines and fire 200 rounds — it takes 37.51 seconds. They then use SureFire’s 100-round magazines to fire 200 rounds — it takes 18.50 seconds.

The numbers and performance speaks for itself. And SureFire is flat-out promoting that increased magazine capacity allows one to put more rounds downrange in less time.

One of my mentors and teachers, one of the best defensive handgun instructors in the world, Tom Givens of Rangemaster, stresses that the reason we prefer larger capacity firearms isn’t so we can shoot more – it’s so we can reload less. Why would we want to reload less? Because if you have to reload, that means you are out of the fight for however long it takes you to reload the gun. In a fight for your life, those seconds matter, so the less you have to reload, the less you’re out of the fight.

So, having to reload slows you down and takes you out of the fight – SureFire and Tom Givens both acknowledge it. Kinda sounds like Mr. Hayes has a point, eh?

However, I would assert Mr. Hayes is looking at the problem from one side. I’d further assert he’s failing to properly promote the solution he really seems to be putting forth.


Mr. Hayes states a key factor in capacity is that the killer is able to walk around without fear — with safe knowledge that no one will fight back:

They knew that no one could get near them, that there would barely be a moment when they would be vulnerable to an unarmed person grabbing them and stopping them.

He continues saying the solution is to make these (would-be) killers fear:

There’s a saying that goes “when seconds count the police are only minutes away.” It’s meant to enforce the truism that we are all ultimately responsible for our own defense when the chips are down. But what it really reinforces is the importance of time. Time matters immensely when you’re defending yourself. You need time to do so. You need opportunity. Ban magazines over ten rounds. Give potential victims time and opportunity and in giving them that time we will deter murderers from attempting these mass shootings. They will fear that they won’t be able to kill enough to make their point before they are crushed by their chosen victims. They are cowards. Give them reason to fear.

Emphasis added.

Now let’s look at the whole of what Mr. Hayes is putting forth.

He’s saying if magazines had reduced capacity, that would necessitate more reloads, which would create more time-gaps, and in those time-gaps – people could fight back.

People could fight back.

Fight back.

So really, what Mr. Hayes is saying is fighting back is the best way to stop these things from happening.


Well, it may seem obvious to me (and maybe you) that fighting back is the best solution, but we’ve become a society where “violence is never the answer” and where the response to rape is to pee on your attacker or just teach him not to rape. So there are people out there that cannot fathom fighting as a solution.

But time and time again, it’s been demonstrated that fighting back works – and is THE best solution.

So Mr. Hayes, I’ll agree with you there: we need to enable people to fight back.

Fighting Back

Enabling people to fight back starts by helping people overcome mentalities of helplessness. Thinking that someone else (you know, like a group of guys with guns — probably AR-15’s with 30-round magazines) will be your savior – or worse, that it’s someone else’s responsibility to save you, instead of your own. Because two big things our society suffers from these days are displaced responsibility and learned helplessness.

Mr. Hayes suggests that during a reload, people could jump on the shooter and tear him apart. Well, if you have no mindset of violence, of fighting, of “tearing people apart”; if you have no skills in unarmed combat; if you have no weapons on you or knowledge of how to use them… how in the world are you going to jump on someone and tear them apart? You will not suddenly rise to the occasion with the knowledge and skill of the War Gods; you will descend to your training. If you’ve never had any training, if you’ve never considered fighting, if you think “violence is never the answer” then it will continue to be your answer.

So the first thing we need to do is get people to realize that fighting back is key.

All the time-gaps in the world don’t matter if you don’t have the wherewithal to take advantage of them.

I’ll agree that rushing someone with a rifle could be a losing proposition. What would I prefer? My own tool, that can enable me to stay behind some sort of protection, while still “rushing” the attacker – you know, like my own gun. Ceasing restrictions and prohibitions on where I can carry it. Gun-free zones obviously aren’t; or at least, the only people that heed it are those who obey they law and aren’t a threat to your personal safety. These mass killers prefer gun-free zones because they know people won’t or can’t fight back.

And in fighting back, I want to ensure I can fight maximally. I don’t want to be out of the fight, so I want as much capacity as possible. Capacity works both ways: it helps us good guys too. Keep watching the SureFire video:

Q: Is that something you would have liked to have had on your last deployment?

A: Absolutely. To get that many rounds downrange on target is vital to winning the fight.

Last I looked at Tom Givens’ student incident data set, of the 65 cases there were no reloads, but a couple cases did end with an empty handgun. The range of shots fired goes from 1 to 12. Reducing capacity could have very well cost these innocent people their lives because you can’t fight with an empty gun; or if they could have reloaded it, those 3-4 seconds they were out of the fight for the reload could have been fatal. I mean, if Mr. Hayes thinks a reload is enough time to “leap on him and tear him apart”, again, that can work both ways and enable good people to be “torn apart”.

So you see, increased capacity works for preserving life as well. It very much enables us to stay in the fight, and go home to our loved ones. Just ask the police that you count on to come save you, if they’d prefer a 10-round magazine or a 30-round magazine. You want them to preserve your life, don’t you?

High-capacity magazines are not the problem, and banning or reducing magazine capacity will not solve the problem.

Mr. Hayes suggests we should crush these evil people and give them reason to fear. I would agree – so let us work towards that end. Abridging the law-abiding does not achieve this; enabling the law-abiding does.  Work to enable the law-abiding.

7 thoughts on “Maybe high-capacity IS the problem

  1. Wow. What Mr. Hayes wrote is so full of fail. I agree fully with your points John.

    We have indeed raised a generation of helpless sheep. I’m old, fat and slow. (Low speed. High drag.) But. I will fight back. I may die in the process but I will surely die if I cower in a corner. I will resist to the end. Even if my last wordly act is to bite my attacker on the ankle as I expire.

    And when I am on my way to fight back I want as many rounds as I can carry. Nobody ever bitched about having too much ammo in a fight.

    • (FYI – deleted your duplicate comment)

      Well, it sounds like Mr. Hayes is precisely someone bitching about having too much ammo in a fight. 😉

      But that’s precisely the thing that’s missed — you need at least 2 people to fight. Yes, we all agree that we want to abridge the bad guys, but what is missed is enabling the good guys — and ensuring the good guy in the fight can fight with as much advantage as possible? That’s a winning strategy.

  2. Where are the courses that teach unarmed people under attack to fight back? In addition to allowing someone to carry in gun-free zones, it seems that one has to encourage those that want to fight back an alternative (even if it might be considered less effective) to concealed carry. Think about the student in the Oregon college shooting that fought back and survived. Could he have been more successful if SOMEONE around him had a gun? Certainly. But even without a gun, he could have been more successful if those around him knew what to do with limited resources in that situation. I mean not everyone is willing to carry a Glock with a 32 round mag……

    Self defense response is a continuum and there are more choices than carrying and being properly trained and being clueless and waiting for your turn to be shot.

    • Certainly.

      So where are the courses to teach unarmed people how to fight back? Well, there are lots of martial arts schools out there. More and more are moving away from the McDojo “show up and earn a belt for participation” approach and taking a more realistic approach. They do exist, if one is willing to look for them.

    • Good video.

      I liked the third demonstration with the runner, and the fourth with multiple revolvers and NY Reload. And then how the times still came out about the same.

      Thank you for sharing that.

  3. Pingback: The “Reloading Pause” Fallacy – Notes from KR

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