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Ammo Capacity: How Much is Enough?

This is a discussion on Ammo Capacity: How Much is Enough? within the Gun Tactics forums, part of the Gun Forum category; Ammo Capacity: How Much is Enough? by Gary Evens 7:00AM MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2014 There is an old saying that says, “There is no such ...


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Old 12-30-2014, 08:54 AM   #1
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Ammo Capacity: How Much is Enough?

Ammo Capacity: How Much is Enough?
by Gary Evens
7:00AM MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2014


There is an old saying that says, “There is no such thing as bringing too much ammo to a gunfight!” Those concerned with personal protection and concealed carry seem to have accepted this as fact. Yet, FBI statistics indicate that on average most violent encounters are over within a few seconds and that if gunfire is involved, only 2-3 shots are fired. If this is true, then why is there so much concern about ammunition capacity in firearms used for self-defense in the United States?

Prior to the 1970’s, most American law endorsement agencies carried 6-shot revolvers and even the military carried 7-shot semi-automatic pistols or 6-shot revolvers. In Europe, revolver and pistol capacity was similarly in the 6-8 round range. The standard centerfire revolver cartridge in the U.S. was the .38 S&W Special with some agencies using the .357 S&W Magnum, while the .45 ACP was the predominant centerfire semi-auto pistol cartridge. In Europe, semi-automatic pistols were much more popular than revolvers were. The standard pistol chambering was 9 x 19 mm (aka 9mm Luger or 9mm Parabellum); although in most countries the use of this cartridge was limited to the military. For civilian and law enforcement use, the 7.65mm (.32 ACP) or the 9mm Kurtz/Corto (.380 ACP) were the standard. The high-capacity handgun of the day was the 13+1-round 9mm Browning Hi-Power that came onto the market in the mid-1930’s.

The 1970-1980’s was also the timeframe in which firearms manufacturers were coming out with new 9mm pistols in anticipation of a change in the U.S. military from the 7-shot Colt Model 1911 in .45 ACP to a pistol chambered for the NATO standard 9x19mm cartridge. With several false starts — the decision to change to the 9mm cartridge/pistol combination was not finalized until 1985—the manufacturers turned to the law enforcement and civilian markets to sell their new generation of higher capacity, double-action service pistols. During this timeframe, the most popular of the new generation of 9mm semi-auto pistols were the S&W Model 39 (8-shot) and Model 59 (14-shot), the Beretta Model 92 (15-shot), and the Glock Model 17 (17-shot). Still, acceptance of these new, high-capacity semi-automatic pistols did not really take off until the U.S. military decided to adopt the 9mm Beretta Model 92 as the replacement for the venerable Colt Model 1911 in 1985. Demand for these new pistols took off as the losers in the military pistol competition needed to recoup their R&D costs by selling their products on the civilian market. The high ammunition capacity of these new pistols was one of the primary selling points they used because the public needed a reason to accept the smaller 9mm cartridge as most American firearms experts like Colonel Jeff Cooper believed that the .45 ACP was all anyone needed for self-defense applications.

Still, the market for high-capacity semi-automatic pistols was largely limited to law enforcement and that segment of civilian users that were involved in the new action shooting sports. It was not until states began enacting broader concealed carry laws that the demand really grew. Accepting the premise that high capacity was good, the demand was now for smaller handguns suitable for concealed carry that also had large ammunition capacities. This first manifested itself with the downsizing of full size service pistols to “Commander”-size versions. The Glock Model 19 is probably the primary example of this.

There were still advocates that said the .45 ACP was the only real self-defense cartridge that should be considered, but there was just no way to make small, high capacity .45 pistols that had a grip that a normal person could comfortably hold onto. And, the 9mm’s ability during some high-profile shootouts between law enforcement and criminals was calling that cartridge’s stopping ability into question. One result of this was the development of the 10mm and .40 S&W cartridges. The .40 S&W was especially popular because pistols for this cartridge were the same size as those built to chamber the 9mm cartridge. Glock adapted their Model 19 to .40 S&W. The result was the 13-shot Glock Model 23. Except for caliber, it is exactly the same size as the Model 19.

To correct the perceived deficiencies in the 9mm cartridge, ammunition manufactures focused on improving its performance. New powders and bullet designs resulted in performance that rivals that of much more powerful cartridges. Because of lower costs and less felt recoil, these new 9mm cartridges have been targeted at the civilian market which has largely stayed with that cartridge, while most law enforcement agencies have transitioned to the .40 S&W cartridge.

The demand for higher ammunition capacity was not lost on traditional revolver manufacturers either. Companies like Smith and Wesson have recently come out with wheel guns accommodating 7-8 rounds instead of the traditional 6. However, this results in the cylinder being larger in diameter and thus even more challenging for concealed carry than the 6-shot revolvers are. Other companies like Ruger worked with ammunition manufacturers to develop smaller, more powerful revolver cartridges and designed pistols for them that are the same relative size as the 5-shot S&W J-frame revolvers, but instead hold 6 rounds of ammunition. The primary example of this is the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge which is more powerful than the .38 S&W Special, and approaches the performance of the .357 Magnum, but in a much smaller cartridge.

Even the “Commander”-size pistols were deemed by many to be too large for concealed carry. For a long time the only other viable alternative were the small, S&W J-frame revolvers in .38 Special, .38 Special +P, and .357 Magnum. However, these revolvers typically only accommodate 5 rounds and this was felt to be too few for serious concealed carry use. So the focus more recently has been on the .380 ACP caliber pocket pistols. The somewhat anemic performance of the ammunition held these pistols back from widespread acceptance until ammunition manufacturers once again stepped in to up the round’s performance. The latest .380 rounds rival the performance of the original 9mm cartridges and a plethora of small pocket pistols are now on the market. Perhaps the most popular is Ruger’s LCP and the similar Kel-Tec .380 pocket pistol. These small, light-weight polymer frame pistols typically accommodate 6 rounds of .380 ACP ammunition in their magazines.

So, what is the right answer to the question, “How much is enough?” I guess it all depends. If you think the biggest threat you will face comes from a single assailant, then one of the small .380 caliber pocket pistols or .38 caliber J-frame revolvers is probably adequate. However, if you think you might be confronted by multiple assailants — something that seems to be occurring with increasing frequency, especially in urban areas — then a handgun with a larger ammunition capacity might be more appropriate. Because they tend to be faster to reload, semi-automatic pistols are the preferred option. They are also flatter and thus easier to conceal. Handguns with 10-15 round capacity, yet small enough to be easily carried seem to be the “sweet spot” that the firearms industry is targeting right now. One such model that I’m particularly fond of is Ruger’s 10-shot SR9c 9mm pistol. While larger than their LCP model, this gun is smaller than the “Commander”-size semi-autos. The SR9c will also accommodate the larger 17 round magazines used in the full-size Ruger SR9 pistol.

Gary Evens is an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.


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Old 12-30-2014, 09:07 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malicious Compliance View Post
snip

However, if you think you might be confronted by multiple assailants — something that seems to be occurring with increasing frequency, especially in urban areas — then a handgun with a larger ammunition capacity might be more appropriate

/snip
That should be the whole answer. You plan for the worst case scenario, not the average or best. I hear the 2-3 shots thing bandied around a lot, but I've never gone through the whole methodology of that: do they include murder/suicides in that number? Crimes of passion?

FBI's pretty notorious for torturing the numbers to get the results they want. All I know is when I watch the news and they're reporting a shooting, there aren't just 2 or 3 shell casings on the ground.
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Old 12-30-2014, 09:09 AM   #3
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Excellent read.
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Old 12-30-2014, 11:37 AM   #4
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Very thought-provoking.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12-30-2014, 12:30 PM   #5
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According to Ellifritz's data, it's going to take an average of 2-3 rounds to stop someone, regardless of caliber. Remember, that's just an average. An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power | Buckeye Firearms Association

Then consider that accuracy rates in gunfights are notoriously atrocious, so to get those 2-3 hits who knows how many rounds even the best-trained among us will actually have to fire.

Then consider that you may have to stop multiple assailants.

I'll not argue against lower-capacity single-stacks because sometimes they are the best CCW solution. But it's not hard to carry backup mags, and I can think of no compelling reasons not to.
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Old 12-30-2014, 12:32 PM   #6
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There are only two times that you can have too much ammo. #1 if you are on fire. #2 if you are drowning.
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Old 12-30-2014, 12:38 PM   #7
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so true^^^
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Old 12-04-2016, 07:41 PM   #8
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Whatever I can comfortably carry, being handicapped... Some days more ammo, than not. Depends upon what threat level I perceive the day to be... Situational awareness and threat assessment go hand in hand. My pistol is never beyond arm's reach, at the worst of times... I will not become a victim, so I'm always at Conditon One, Code Red to Black. Always. Especially where I feel relatively safe, in my apartment, I'm always armed... Attacks can come at anytime, from anywhere- always. To not be prepared to survive, is to plan to fail, and maybe, die...

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Old 12-04-2016, 07:55 PM   #9
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The Miami shootout and California bank robbery changed law enforcement tactics forever after each event. They realized bad guys had already caught onto the high capacity idea and had better catch up. And we as civilians followed their lead.

Good post.

Carry the largest gun you can conceal comfortably (if you're not OCing)
Carry the most amount of ammo you can comfortably.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Right now I'm either carrying a 9mm Commander at 10+1 and 2 spare mags on me, or my M11 and 1 spare mag. 31 rounds either way. I go thru that I'll just call time out and surrender.



After a gunfight you'll never here the last guy standing say he brought too much ammo.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:41 PM   #10
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I've read the stuff about your accuracy going to h... under the stress of protecting yourself and your family, etc. The two pistols that are in my EDC rotation both hold 15+1. I figure that if I ever have to use my pistol and 16 rounds is not enough, either my accuracy has totally disappeared and I am likely going to die or I am dealing not with an assault but with a war.
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Old 12-04-2016, 09:34 PM   #11
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I believe that unfortunately this is a question that can only be answered after the fact. If you needed 2-3 rounds to end the threat, then that is ENOUGH.

But we are not talking about that we are basically talking about worst case scenarios, in which case 300 rounds may not be enough.

So back to sensibility, I believe that whatever gun you carry and 1 mag should be ENOUGH, after that maybe you should RUN

Like recently I was discussing some tactics with a young lady, and gave her a scenario, 3 attackers approaching, which one first, after her answer, I mentioned that maybe running might be a better option.
Maybe getting behind cover might be a better option.

What I am saying to everyone here is that tactics will always defeat firepower. Situational awareness will always defeat the attack.

So maybe we should take those other options into consideration, be aware, find cover, assess the situation, do a real world assessment, can I really survive 3 attackers, is escape a better option. Maybe call the cops and try to talk my way out of this, anything to put some time in there while I think of a way out.

Just MHO
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Old 12-05-2016, 05:51 AM   #12
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In the Army, I carried 10 M16 Magazines.

Now I carry two guns and one spare magazine for each, plus Mrs. Flash carries also, but no spare magazine.

You carry what you're comfortable with, no more and no less.
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Old 12-05-2016, 06:06 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DirtDiver69 View Post
I believe that unfortunately this is a question that can only be answered after the fact. If you needed 2-3 rounds to end the threat, then that is ENOUGH.

But we are not talking about that we are basically talking about worst case scenarios, in which case 300 rounds may not be enough.

So back to sensibility, I believe that whatever gun you carry and 1 mag should be ENOUGH, after that maybe you should RUN

Like recently I was discussing some tactics with a young lady, and gave her a scenario, 3 attackers approaching, which one first, after her answer, I mentioned that maybe running might be a better option.
Maybe getting behind cover might be a better option.

What I am saying to everyone here is that tactics will always defeat firepower. Situational awareness will always defeat the attack.

So maybe we should take those other options into consideration, be aware, find cover, assess the situation, do a real world assessment, can I really survive 3 attackers, is escape a better option. Maybe call the cops and try to talk my way out of this, anything to put some time in there while I think of a way out.

Just MHO
I carried a 5 shot sp101 for a few years wayyyyyyy back. Felt fine with it.
But nowadays we got whack jobs AND their wives going into regular anywhere places shooting things up. So I've changed with the times. I do not intend to take on multiples. Do not intend on stopping any suicide bombers or anybody with an Ak.
But you just never know.....so carry more........ammo.
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Old 12-05-2016, 06:39 AM   #14
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nothing less than 15rds of 9mm with a reload.
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Old 12-05-2016, 09:00 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Malicious Compliance View Post
Yet, FBI statistics indicate that on average most violent encounters are over within a few seconds and that if gunfire is involved, only 2-3 shots are fired.
I have to wonder if that is misquoted and should be 2-3 hits; not shots fired...

Statistics on average show only about 20% of rounds fired even hit there intended target. Coincidentally 20% of a commonly used 10 to 15 round mag comes out to 2-3 rounds
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