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People who preach “common sense gun control” argue that limiting ammunition magazine capacity limits a killers’ ability to kill. Ipso facto. Notice I didn’t say “murder.” As John Grisham might say, there’s a time to kill. OK, “stop the threat.” When you or other innocent life are in imminent, credible danger of death or bodily harm you probably don’t want your lethality limited by a capacity-limited ammunition magazine. As the rabbi says, “no one ever finished a gunfight wishing he had less bullets.” As Nick would say, where’s the data? There isn’t any. Well, there is some . . .

Here’s an email from Greg, one of our readers:

“I’ve had a train of thought that the magazine capacity of the weapons used in a mass shooting makes little/no difference in the actual lethality of the event. While I’m no statistician, I started to use open source information to determine how long these maniacs are actively shooting, the number of shots fired and the overall lethality of the shots.

The events I looked into: Columbine, VT, the Wisconsin Sikh Temple, Giffords, Aurora and Sandy Hook. The data is quite interesting and opens up a substantial line of argument against high capacity magazine bans.

Average Time a Shooter is Active: 10.3 Minutes
Average Total Shots Fired: 89.8
Shooting Tempo: 8.7 Rounds/Min
Wound to Kill Ratio: 1 : 2.86

Given that anyone, with minimal practice, can do a magazine change in roughly three seconds, the data indicates that magazine capacity actually has almost no impact on the overall lethality of an active shooter.

Other data points bolster the case; the wounded : killed ratio is far higher than defensive shootings or police shootings, indicative of the fact that active shooters are not rushed and are (unfortunately) in complete control of the situation.

With the exception of the Giffords shooting (which is an exceptional case for a number of reasons, more of an open air political assassination than a typical mass shooting), the ONLY thing that has ever stopped a mass shooter is armed confrontation (more accurately, the notion that armed confrontation is close by).”

If our Sandy Hook Elementary School simulation goes well, we’ll tackle this question in another round of experiments. Meanwhile, what do you think? Do you think a “high cap mag” ban would have any effect on lethality? The bad guys’ or yours?

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    • I prefer the term “youth shooting gallery”. We need to call things what they actually are.

      IT DOESN’T MATTER whether it slows them down, or speeds them up. WHERE THERE IS NO CAPABLE RESISTANCE, they’ll just kill until they’ve had their fill.

    • not true. more ammo does not always = more effective. if that were true, our troops would cary 4 100rd drums. they cary 7 30rd mags because they perform better like that.

      • There is definitely a more measured pace to firing with magazines as opposed to drums. It is also easier to keep track of your ammo usage and inventory.

        Following this logic only leads so far before a line is crossed. After which the utility of having more, smaller capacity mags diminishes combat effectiveness. This is incidentally, why there is a role for SAWs – they bridge a gap in sustainability of fire and suppression. None of which is an issue if you are murdering defenseless children in a gun free zone!

        So NO, magazine capacity is a pointless exercise in trying to limit casualties in a mass shooting.

  1. Would making miniskirts longer and makeup prices higher reduce the likelihood that women become street walkers?

    We learned a while ago in London 7/7. That while discriminating rage and violence is an ugly prospect to cope with, indiscriminate rage and violence is ugly and confusing beyond capability to fully cope with the prospect of.

  2. Does a full tank of gas make a car more lethal than a half tank? They should ban fuel tanks over 10 gallons to prevent people from driving longer and farther. Forces them to stop and fill up more often. It’ll save lives ya know……

    • Techically speaking a half filled fuel tank is more deadly than a full tank because the half tank is filled with highly explosive gasoline vapors.

    • That’s the wrong analogy.

      Instead, you should ask is a care less lethal doing 40mph than it is doing 70mph? Yes it is!, but if I am driving over school children in a gun free zone, I have time to back over the ones that are still squirming.

      And yes, I realize that last bit is in bad taste, but I think it serves to illustrate the point you and I are both trying to make – attempts lethality reduction are ineffective against determined murderers with access to helpless victims.

  3. The spree killer has the knowledge that he’s free to act until the police show up. Gun free zones are his ally. Unfortunately, if you’re a law abiding citizen, every time you enter a gun free zone you play the odds with your life.

    Unfortunately I doubt we’ll ever convince those wishing for “common sense” gun control that they’re part of the problem. There’re simply so many guns in circulation now that stopping a spree killer has gone way past limiting mag capacities or the type of guns people can own.

    • I’ll go one further and state that grabbers are the problem. I blame Biden and his gun free zones for the high body count.

    • We need to have multiple terms for “law abiding citizen”. There are laws of the state, common laws of our society, and other sources of law. Just because someone doesn’t follow state laws of registration, permits, etc. doesn’t mean he isn’t a law abiding citizen, in that he trespasses, rapes, murders, etc.
      I would not consider someone who carries a weapon into, for example a courthouse, to be a criminal based on that act alone. However, based on the consequences, it could be a “stupid” idea. Of course TTAG and I don’t want to get in trouble by suggesting that people break state rules and commit felonies, but I wanted to make the distinction of “law abiding” behaviors. Assuming equal probabilities, it’s better to risk a felony than to risk being attacked unarmed.

      • Let’s say a “lawful” person rather than “legal”. Legal doesn’t equal lawful, so one can most surely be a “lawful” person but not necessarily “legal”.

  4. Good article. The magazine capacity argument is another example of gun controls ignorance of the topic. All emotion, ignorance and little knowledge and intellect.
    (Columbine is CO. Not VT.)

  5. That’s not the question. The question is whether any of the policitians actually believe that larger magazines are more dangerous. My guess — very few. Mag size is a straw man. It’s political sleight of hand. They focus the sheeps’ attention on the evil magazines and the evil ARs, but they’re taking away all the guns.

    Gun control is not now and never has been about the guns. It’s about the control. Confiscation is what this is about.

    • Agreed, Ralph. Control AND power.

      In our society the media has a huge stake in focusing attention on the evil firearms and their owners/users in order to take the spotlight off of themselves and the litany of oversold, ridiculously unrealistic violent programming, movies and gaming media that constantly bombards all of us. And of course the extremely liberal news media jumps aboard the blame game with its lack of facts, omissions and misrepresentations of the in depth context of tragic events involving narcissistic sociopaths or loons. Maybe it’s time to put some restrictions on 1st Amendment rights, too. But do we really want to go down that road?

      Our society should be getting off this liberal “blame game” train and put focus on ALL the causes that foster violent actions in our society. The phrase: “It’s not the guns (or the gun owners), stupid.” should gain some traction, here. And the NRA should abandon its defensive stance and proactively go after some quid pro quo from ALL the media.

      We need some REAL climate change with these issues. We Americans are better than this. We are not the radical fanaticists that fester in many corners of the world and create mayhem and anguish among their victims. And we shouldn’t allow any media types to escape scrutiny for their complicity in these issues.

  6. I really hope you guys get some good data from your school shooting simulation this weekend that supports the numerical data that you’ve compiled here. Document everything you do this weekend, both on video and with written records. If the data collected supports everything that we, as pro gun rights supporters, have been suggesting, it needs to be as solid as possible.

    To answer the question? No, I a standard (or as the anti gunners wanna say, high capacity) magazine ban will not limit the lethality of an active shooter event. Changing magazines is easy, as it was intended to be when modern pistols were designed. With a minimal amount of practice, anyone can perform a magazine swap in seconds. The only people that a ban on “high capacity” magazines will affect are the millions of law abiding citizens that will never commit a violent crime with their firearm in their lifetime.

    • I hope the cops don’t show up and accuse you of planning more “senseless violence”! (Actually, to the shooter, it must make PLENTY GOOD sense, at the time. After their latest hypnosis session, that is.)

  7. After some of the tales out of Aurora, I can see one way that magazine capacity limits could *increase* lethality: By banning the largest, gimmicky magazines (60+ rounds) these monsters may avoid jams and wind up being even more dangerous when using reliable standard capacity magazines. (Don’t forget when discussing hard magazine limits that “standard capacity” goes up to 50 rounds for the FN PS90.)

    • Exactly Mike. If anything, the shooter’s inexpereince at clearing hi-cap mags was a factor in several recent shootings. In Aurora and in Oregon, the guns both jammed. I have no idea if those magazines were maintained, loaded or used properly, but I am going to make some casual observations:

      One could infer that the trouble they had clearing a jam reduced the number of casualties. Less firing = less casualties?

      Unscientifically, my experience with smaller capacity magazines is that they tend to jam less. A weapon that jams less, shoots more? More firing = more casualties?

      If you are forced to change magazines more often when you practice, it stands to reason, over time, you’ll get better at it. Thus, with a little practice taking 3-4 seconds to change a magazie is well within the ability of most humans. Those 3-4 seconds however are well within most people’s OODA reaction, inaction loop. By the time they percive the empty weapon, realize their chance to attack, formulate a crude plan and then decide to act, it’s too late.

    • Exactly, Mike.
      Just another example of our biased and clueless liberal politicians and news media who do not have a working knowledge of operating firearms or of the various realities of these events.

  8. I have seen one guy load a SKS rifle from stripper clips faster that we can change and load AR rifle magazines, and I have seen people who use speed loaders for the Revolvers ,that are faster than a pistol magazine reload, and in the end you can carry extra 10 rounds magazines and get good and fast in reloads with a little workout, so in the end any good shooter can get fast and deadly with any firearm , in WW1 it was the English with the 303 LEE/Enfield bolt rifles and stripper clips that gave the Germans real hell with fast fire power on the battlefield… In the END the SHOOTER is the real danger, not the type of clips, magazines or firearms… We are in a real world of trouble I was reading that the Senate may pass a complete ban on all PISTOLS and all SEMI-Auto RIFLES and all magazines and start gun collections (turn in programs ) in 2013… LOOKS BAD!

  9. Let’s see M-1 Garand uses an 8 round stipper clip inserted into the rifle’s magazine. Rate of aimed fire: 20 rounds a minute. Max rate of fire: 40-50 rounds a minute. I guess it doesn’t make a diference.

    I have emptied a seven round magazine out of my 1911 in about three seconds. Mag change in two seconds, repeat process. That works out to 84 rounds a mad minute although I doubt that I would hit anything.

    I have no experience with a revolver and a speed loader but I bet I could still put out 20-30 rounds a minute if I carried enough.

    • tdiinva, I’ve seen my dad use a single shot shotgun to flush a covey of quail. He fired, reloaded and fired again before the birds got out of range. He got both birds. My old man taught me the drill and tho I haven’t practiced in a while I still remember how it’s done.

      I’m a revolver man myself. And I’ve never felt outgunned.

  10. Look, When using Newtown as an example, the shooter was an adult against 6 separated adults. A single 10 round magazine would have assured the same outcome.

    As to further reloads of subsequent ten round magazines, and or multiple weapons, just how difficult is it to fend off a room full of paralyzed-with-fear children while as many reloads as a killer desired took place? A panicking crowd in a theater? A workplace shooter moving from office to office?

    A ten round limit would only guarantee that when it happened again, with a killer using 10 round magazines, the ten round magazine, and probably the firearms that use them. would come under attack.

    • That’s my concern about this argument, too. After the next shooting they’d want to ban ten-round magazines or ban detachable magazines entirely. It’s not enough to refute the points brought by hoplophobes, you have to think the argument through and consider what argument will come next.

    • I’m the “author” of the work, such as it is.

      I don’t know why, but when I started compiling data, I got it in my head that it should be wounded : killed. Probably should flip that if I take the work any further.

      FYI, the rough numbers for ALL gunshots in the US is roughly 55000 : 10000, so the general wound:kill ratio is 5.5:1.

      Note how all the mass shootings (with the exception of Aurora), are *far* more lethal. These guys are NOT spraying and praying under severe time pressure… they are methodically taking their time and getting lethal hits.

      While a very grim statistic to be working with, I think it continues to point to the fact that magazine capacity has far less influence on the lethality than the general public thinks.

  11. IMO, the debate over high-capacity mags is symbolic of the masses of Americans and their elitist political leaders ignorance and shallowness. The magazine capacity issue focuses on something mostly unimportant since mags can be dropped and reloaded so fast. It is a pathetic symbolic sideshow that distracts people from avoiding to use moral courage and critical thinking skills to address the real roots of the problems we face socially and politically.

  12. Short answer: No!
    As others have said, the ten round magazine limit is just a lie of convenience created to fool the ignorant into thinking the Politicians are “doing something” when, in fact, it is just a doppelganger that appears to be easy to enact into Law. Where will many of those banned large capacity magazines go? Into the hands of criminals, naturally, so Citizens will be even less able to defend themselves successfully. It’s BS of the highest order.

  13. “magazine capacity limit” is an even less accurate term than “gun control”. Guns are relatively primitive (with more advanced technology providing durability, accuracy, comfort), and cannot be “controlled” unless common tools are banned/highly regulated. Complete slavery style dictatorship or removal of most modern tools *might* work.
    On that note, they do know that a “clip” is a box with a spring in it, right?

  14. While I applaud your efforts to prove a “high capacity” magazine ban worthless, what I am afraid you will end up doing is proving to the anti-gunners that even a ten-round magazine is too dangerous to be allowed to exist, resulting in a ban of any firearm carrying or capable of accepting more than a single shot. The anti’s will not stop in their efforts to ban all guns and will just use your own research against you.

  15. The REAL,REAL problem here is not guns and magazines control that is all smoke and tricks… THEY want a NEW WORLD order NOW and total CONTROL, the debate will not be WON on the level of gun control , go to and get report : the latest from “DHS INSIDER” (dated 12/26/2012) you will not sleep tonight, and yes Canada Free Press has a rock strong record of telling the ugly TRUTH!

    • Okay. That article is hard to believe, but very disturbing (a gross understatement) if even some of what is said comes to pass in the near future. Thanks, I think….

    • You know the anwer more than anyone, so I recognize that the question was rhetorical. Still, I’ll answer it: because they are instruments of the state’s power, and the state’s power cannot be restricted.

    • Well, some have gone back to more ‘limited’ magazines to counter the ‘spray and pray’ mentality. Read an article in a magazine a while back claiming that several departments looking into the huge number of rounds fired by their officers and the poor hit ratio laid the blame on ‘high capacity’ mags combined with mindset.

  16. Two words: black market. That will be the destination of millions of “evil” 30 round magazines. Moving standard capacity and high capacity magazines to the black market will only make matters worse. Yes, evil people have access to weapons and gear, but law abiding citizens have access as well.

  17. Magazine capacity limits of 10 rounds will not impact a determined spree killer who has several minutes before encountering armed resistance. Additionally, the victims get as far away from the shooter as possible — as they should — after the first shot. At that point the victims are too far away to charge the attacker during a magazine change. Second, with 15 minutes of practice, a person can change a magazine in about 1 second. Of course a spree killer could simply carry two, three, or even four guns.

    And magazine limits will do nothing to decrease the lethality of a spree killer who chooses to use a car or gasoline as their weapon.

    On the other hand, in most self defense situation which involve an intense engagement for a few seconds, a 1 to 3 second magazine change is often disastrous.

  18. So the good guys will be limited to 10 rounds while the bad guys have normal capacity magazines. Those gun grabbers have blood on their hands for disarming the good guys.

  19. No.

    It’s not a matter of magazine size, it’s a matter of aimed vs un-aimed fire. Police have demonstrated that the current standard capacity magazines can result in simply a lot of misses. A whole group of sheriffs in Southern California managed to fire off an ungodly number of rounds with just a couple of hits.

  20. It’s pretty obvious ALL gun control legislation is meant to make the legislators “feel good” that they did something. Not that it’s effective, but they did “something”. Screwed all innocent gun owners, but they did “something”.

  21. Depends on how good your shooting abilities. Shooting fish in a barrel does not require a lot of skill, which for the most part, is the attraction to high capacity magazines for maniacs with a real bad attitude.

    My ladies shooting league does high speed magazine change out drills, Also very good for practicing malfunctions remedies. Also practice shooting from behind barriers and firing on the move. Just to keep it interesting for the “girls”

  22. If it doesn’t decrease lethality, then why are we fighting it? of course it is slightly more lethal. less reloads means more shooting time, period. Not a super significant difference, but in situations, seconds DO count. The reason we are fighting this is so we are not limited in our ability to defend ourselves against criminals who BREAK THE LAW ANYWAY.

    • I respectfully disagree UcsbKevin. As I stated above, a 2 second magazine change does not reduce the lethality of a spree killer who has several minutes to carry out their plan before facing armed resistance.

      On the other hand, firefights between citizens and criminals are intense engagements that typically lasts only a few seconds. Running out of ammunition and being unable to return fire for two seconds during a four second engagement is not desirable.

      • you are right, but the question was, do magazine limits limit lethality, not do they limit spree killers. but, i’m not an expert and i could very well be wrong in my opinion, and it is just that. Thanks for not being belligerent though 🙂

  23. I agree that the 10 round limit is a feel-good measure by the politicians. I disagree with the notion that a 10 round magazine is the functional equivalent of a magazine with greater capacity, in a mass shooting incident, all other things being equal.

    I also don’t see how the the Gifford’s shooting being an “open air” political assassination attempt changes the impact that the 33 round mag Loughner may have had on the body count.

    I just find a disconnect between asserting that magazine capacity makes negligible difference in body count in mass shootings (again, all other things being equal) while at the same time asserting that more ammo capacity means better ability to defend myself (bad guy body count).

    • Ed, a legitimate citizen going about his business with his legally carried glock 19 is likely to have only one mag, the one that;s in the gun. For him the extra 5-6 shots allowed by hi cap mags may make a big difference in a self defense situation.

      The spree killer, on the other hand is likely to be carrying hundreds of rounds of ammo and probably more than one gun. If he’s limited to 10 rounds per mag he’s more than likely got enough loaded mags on him to make up the difference.

    • Two different scenarios.

      Self defense: a mag change by the Good Guy is a couple of seconds where only the Bad Guy is firing. Advantage: Bad Guy.

      Spree killer: a mag change by the Bad Guy is a couple of seconds where nobody is firing. Advantage: nobody.

  24. The Virginia Tech shooter had only a Glock 19 (with standard 15-round mags) and a .22 pistol. Of course, even that is something they want to ban. (We need to make a point of telling people that it’s not just assault rifles they’re going after, but basic 9mm handguns as well.)

    The Giffords shooter was tackled after his mag ran dry, but that seems to be the exception.

    • He wasn’t only tackled when his mag ran dry- he fumbled and dropped his reload on the ground and kicked it a few feet away from himself.

      He is also the only shooter to have only brought one gun. All the rest had multiple firearms.

      Like I said in the text RF quoted; the Giffords shooting is a significant outlier in the data for a whole host of reasons:

      – Open air compared to enclosed space.
      – Specific target, where all other shooters are inflicting general casualties.
      – One firearm carried.
      – Surrounded by victims (as opposed to them on one end of a room).
      – Stopped by the victims on the fumbled mag change. In all other shootings, the success rate of an unarmed victim against an attacker is exactly ZERO.

  25. “Do you think a “high cap mag” ban would have any effect on lethality?”

    Not at all in your example of a killer of unarmed people.

    However, high capacity magazines are critical for DEFENSE. When, confronted by multiple attackers, a law abiding person is very well served by many rounds in one magazine. That truth is self evident. With miss rates hovering around 50% in a gunfight, a 15 round magazine has an EFFECTIVE capacity for DEFENSE of 7.5 rounds.

  26. Do Magazine Capacity Limits Limit Lethality?
    Don’t know? Never shot for Lethality!
    I do know I bought a Ruger 10/22 years ago. Great rifle but I hated the 10 round mags. Not fast to load and ran out to soon. With the new Ruger BX-25 mags, I have started shooting the 10/22 more! I have more fun shooting than reloading.
    One range I go to charges by the hour. The more time you spend loading mags, the less time you have shooting.
    Thus larger mags are more fun for me, and max my rounds shot in the least time.
    Nobody says much any more about fun?
    All you LEO’s, Hunters, and self defense guys. You talk about this and that.
    I love shooting! Hitting what I aim for. It is like golf to me. Relaxing and fun.
    I put ~28,000 rounds out in the past year. Some high cap mags helped me do it.

    Shooting Tempo: 8.7 Rounds/Min (LOL)
    Army Piece Cal Wt Ln Rng RPM Mag
    Infantry Rifles
    Belg Mauser F.N. 1889 7.65 4.0 1.3 2.0 10-15 5
    Brit Lee-Enfield No 1 7.70 3.3 1.1 2.0 15-20 10
    Fr Lebel M 1886/93 8.00 4.2 1.3 2.0 8-10 8
    Berthier Fusil 1907 8.00 3.8 1.3 2.0 10-15 3
    Ger Mauser M 1898 7.92 4.2 1.2 2.0 10-15 5

    Note anything made for WWI cound keep up this Tempo. The biggest Mag in the field was the Lee-Enfield (10shot).The bigger mag made some difference for the Brit’s being able to put more firepower out. Who know about more deadly. These guys were not shooting for fun!
    A Shooting Tempo: 8.7 Rounds/Min was fast 100 years ago! Slow today.
    Even back in 1914 a lever or pump action could get the cartrigdes out faster.
    Would I be willing to give up something that lessened my fun? Yes, if it saved lives in these Crazy spree killings. But nobody has been able to convice me, that is the case.


  27. If cars only had gas tanks that held 10 gallons would the kids of Sandy Hook still be alive? After all, if the Ritalin junkie had run out of gas before getting to the school no one at the school would have been harmed.

    That is the type of logic the usurpers are expounding.

  28. The mag ban is only the beginning salvo in the banning of all firearms. The libs aint dumb (only insane) and want to remove the semiauto/magazine interface. Bolt rifles (cuz they make great sniper platforms) and revolvers come later.

  29. “Average Time a Shooter is Active: 10.3 Minutes
    Average Total Shots Fired: 89.8
    Shooting Tempo: 8.7 Rounds/Min
    Wound to Kill Ratio: 1 : 2.86”

    Wow just wow…
    9 rounds a minute, that is gawd awful slow…
    Having said that I can believe it, the Okios shooting was done with a CA legal 10 rnd pistol.

  30. Those that would call for magazine cap limits know nothing about firearms. If you take two pined 10 round M-16 magazines and tape them together bannana style with a little duct tape you now have a 20 round magazine. A empty mag can be changed out for a full one in about 2/10 of a second. So how does round limits matter about anything? A determined lunitac can kill just as many unarmed individuals with a sawed off double barrel 10 bore break open breach loading shotgun loaded with buckshot as a lunatic armed with an automatic rifle. Magazine cap has nothing to do with anything. It is just a red herring used by the ignorent anti gun crowd that know nothing about firearms or how to use them. It is these well meaning idiots that try to pass the anti gun bills. It’s like the thing that goes up on the shoulder.

  31. Stockton Scholyard shooting, 1989:
    106 rds fired in 2 min, 1st mag 75 rds followed by reload
    35 people hit – 2/3 of the shots fired missed
    5 dead, 30 wounded. Wounded:Killed ratio 6:1
    What really scares me is what would have happened if the perp had used a SMLE in .303 with hunting ammo. Rather than spraying from the hip, a boltgun encourages accurate aimed fire, and the SMLE is capable of 18-20 rds/min with some practice, but let’s use 15 since the perp was not in the Coldstream Guards. 15/min * 2 min = 30 rds. At close range with no return fire he probably would not have missed more than 2 or 3 times. 27 hits on mostly children with hunting ammo would have yielded (guessing here) 20-25 dead. Seems like despite all the belchings to the contrary, the choice of weapon was actually a limiting factor as to lethality.
    Pump shotgun: 5 rds in the mag with ability to reload without running the gun dry = as many rounds as the shooter is carrying. Think PGO with the barrel cut off at the end of the mag (after all a mass murderer doesn’t care what ATF thinks of his gun) and using #00 or #4 buck. Each shot = at least 8 projectiles. Why use a pistol or carbine at all?

  32. When police take 20 minutes to respond, you could reload 10, 10 Rounders while the unarmed are cowering in a corner. It took 20 minutes at sandy hook………..

  33. From a purely statistical basis you have a point.

    But every time the shooter stops to reload is a time that he can’t shoot and could be overpowered by even unarmed defenders. An olympic sprinter can cover 100 meters in just under 10 seconds. Granted we aren’t all olympic sprinters, but with a little adrenaline and a shorter distance, those three seconds could end the spree. And every time he reloads is another window of opportunity.

    And your point applies to defenders as well. Plus you only have one target, unless there are multiple attackers. But even so, you’re not going to spraying bullets around the place like they are, how many do you need to take them out? If you’re unloading more than a magazine a single shooter… …you’re not helping.

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