“High Capacity Magazines” are all the rage these days as a target for new legislation. The claim is that these magazines make it easier for “spree killers” to injure a larger number of people because the shooter doesn’t have to reload as often. Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be putting some of the supposed benefits of these high capacity magazines to the test. The question today: Can you reload a high capacity magazine as fast as a factory capacity magazine?
When the massacre in Arizona took place many people blamed the high capacity magazines for the death toll. Others noted that the killer was taken down only because he had trouble reloading these magazines, and (based on their experience) were of the opinion that trying to reload “high cap” magazines in fact slowed down the killer and allowed more people to escape. Larger magazines seem harder to feed into a pistol than the standard small ones, but there’s no data out there supporting that assumption. So we generated some data in search of the truth.
Test participants were asked to reload a semiautomatic magazine fed pistol as fast as possible using two different size magazines, one which was of the same dimensions as the magazine issued by the factory (15 rounds) and another which had a 32 round capacity. Participants were issued two magazines of each size, one belt holster for a magazine, and one snap cap dummy round. Participants placed the holster on their belt on the reaction (non-dominant) side of their body, and placed one of the magazines in the holster with the dummy round loaded. The corresponding magazine was placed in the SIG SAUER P226 pistol which they were handed at the start of the test.
Participants were asked to lock the slide on the pistol to the rear with the empty magazine inserted to simulate a pistol which had run out of ammunition, and held it at arms length as if firing. Using an IPSC timer on a random delay, at the sound of the buzzer the participants attempted to reload the pistol as fast as possible using the magazine on their belt. The reload was timed from the buzzer going off to the slide slamming forward on the new magazine. The dummy round was used to relieve the tension on the slide stop normally applied by the follower in an empty magazine.
After recording a sufficient sample of reload times using one size magazine, the other size magazine was substituted and testing resumed. This procedure was followed for multiple participants with varying levels of proficiency.
The IPSC buzzer’s random delay was introduced to try to induce a certain level of stress in the participants. While this level of stress is nowhere near the level present in an active shooter situation, it is assumed that any added stress which would induce the shooter to drop a magazine during a reload would be just as likely with a factory length magazine as a high capacity magazine.
By the end of the testing over two hundred and twenty data points were collected from a number of participants. These numbers were normalized to eliminate the possibility of a single participant skewing the results due to slower reload speeds than the average and plotted in a boxplot.
According to our results and keeping the assumptions in mind, reloading a high capacity magazine does not appear to take longer than reloading a factory capacity magazine. In fact, it may actually be quicker by a fraction of a second.
That’s one question down, but others remain. Does longer periods of uninterrupted firing mean the shooter will get tired faster and miss more than if they needed to reload more often? How reliable are these high capacity magazines? Can you shoot as fast with a high capacity magazine as with a factory capacity magazine? Stay tuned.