In the world of firearms and personal protection, there are few topics that garner more enthusiastic debate than the debate over which caliber is best. Despite all the studies that have been conducted on the topic, to include a recent one by the FBI which has concluded that the 9mm in 115 grain is the best round for personal protection, the debate will no doubt rage on.
I was surprised to find out, however, that there is debate surround ammunition that has nothing to do with caliber, but which can often garner just as much spirited debate. I’m talking about the debate over ammunition capacity, and whether or not to carry extra ammo.
In the pages of this site, when I speak of firearms, I do so as it pertains to the civilian side of personal protection, but from a perspective that comes from the law enforcement side. More often times than not, the end game of an armed encounter will be very different between the two. As a peace officer, the mission is to not only stop the threat against oneself, but also to stop the threat against innocent citizens, which often times means engaging a threat longer than would be advisable for a civilian. As a civilian, you should be trying to stay out of trouble; a law enforcement officer often times must put himself in harm’s way. And if you find yourself in the thick of it as a civilian, you need to be finding an expeditious way to get out trouble. Cops, well, cops can’t run and hide, they have to stay in the fight and go toe to toe with badguys because it’s what they have sworn an oath to do.
Okay, I’ve gotten myself a little off track, but I do have a point. It is expected that law enforcement officer are going to carry extra ammunition, and often times even more than one gun. But when it comes to concealed carry for civilians, the idea of carrying more ammunition and extra magazines usually is met with some skepticism, thus the spirited debate I mentioned earlier.
During my classes to civilians, especially my concealed carry class which is often given to novices, I always encourage the addition of an extra magazine to the list of accessories that should accompany the firearm. My reasons, I believe, are well thought out and come from basis of solid facts based on circumstances that civilians have found themselves in for which I have personal knowledge of.
As it relates to semi-automatic handguns, the single most prevalent equipment malfunction is magazine related. (Dirty guns, bad ammunition and operator error no doubt account for more malfunctions, but we are strictly speaking about malfunctions related to equipment.) Given this fact, it makes sense to carry a backup magazine that can easily be substituted for the malfunctioning magazine.
Next, it is important to understand that in most cases, badguys will work in teams of 2 or 3, meaning you may have to shoot multiple times, even if the first shot eliminates the target because there will still be 1 or 2 other guys. And don’t think that just because you shot one badguy, that the others will run off. Shooting their buddy sometimes just pisses them off more.
Lastly, I’m tired of hearing people say that if you can’t take care of business with one shot, then you need to practice more at the range. In the vast majority of shootings, numerous rounds are fired by the good guys. There are two reasons for this; first, statistics say that during an armed encounter, because of the high level of stress, you will miss the target three quarters of the time. You may be able to punch holes in a paper target with ease, but let the paper target shot back, well that’s a completely different game. If you empty a ten round magazine, statistics say you will miss your target completely 7 times. I don’t mean that you will hit low or wide, I mean you will completely miss the target. (Incidentally, this is why one of the cardinal rules of firearms safety is knowing your target, and what’s beyond it.)
Now, let’s assume that you have determined that you need to use deadly force, and that you are justified under the law in doing so, (A standard that must be met no matter who you are, civilian or law man.) and you fire a good and accurate shot at the badguy. You aim center mass and your bullet strikes the badguys chest, pierces the skin, and navigates the rib cage and impacts said badguys heart. You have delivered a lethal shot, but is the fight over? Again, I rely on those pesky things known as facts. Even if shot in the heart, a motivated person can continue to function for 15 seconds before the necessary blood has left their system causing his body to shut down. During this 15 second period, are you going to stand there and hope that this motivated bad guy misses all his shots? Ah, no, you are probably going to continue shooting, in fact, you aren’t even going to know that you have delivered a fatal shot, you just know that said badguy is still in the fight. And so you should be as well.
For the reasons I have described above, I always carry extra ammunition, and I always recommend others do so as well. Even if you carry a revolver for personal protection, you should consider carrying more ammo in the form of a speed loader. I don’t have any delusions that this settles the debate on carrying extra ammunition, but it’s at least food for thought.
Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.