I know, I know, the title is grammatically incorrect. It should be “fewer” bullets. But I’m no English teacher, so please bear with me.
Here’s the deal: most people I know who carry a handgun daily, whether LEO’s or private citizens, don’t carry enough ammunition. If you’ve followed my blog, or taken one of my classes, or you’ve listened to people who’ve BTDT and carry a boatload of ammo everywhere they go, you should know this. But I haven’t covered this topic in a while, so I’m going to put it out there again for those who might have missed it last time around.
This blog entry was prompted by an article on a police website last week about an Illinois cop who got into a shootout with a “highly motivated” felon who was determined not to go down. The cop hit the felon multiple times with his service handgun, a high-capacity .45 ACP, and according to the ME at least 6 of those hits were fatal wounds. But the guy just kept on coming at him with murderous intent until the cop finally put a bullet in the felon’s brainpan, and finished the fight.
I wish I could say that this was an exceptional case… but it wasn’t, and it isn’t.
The plain truth is this: contrary to internet mythology, a substantial minority of “good” gunfights involve dozens of shots fired, if not scores of shots fired. For example, in the Pennsylvania shoot-out that made internet rounds several years ago (and which I review as core material in my Shooting WIth Xray Vision classes), a total of 107 rounds of ammunition were fired by 3 police officers, while the single felon fired in excess of 30 rounds back at them. The subject was hit 17 times and, yes, he died of his wounds en route to hospital, but he was still fighting the cops when they put the cuffs on him.
My good colleague Chief Jeff Chudwin shows a video in one of his classes in which a lone officer gets into a shootout with a felon and is forced to take cover behind his vehicle with only the ammunition on his person, i.e., one hi-capacity magazine in his service handgun and two more mags on his belt. He ran out of ammunition within 2 minutes, and the only thing that prevented his adversary from stalking him down and murdering him was the arrival of a second officer just as he ran out of bullets.
I could go on, and on, and on. I have literally dozens of similar cases related to me. Not from “a friend of a friend”, but by the involved officers themselves.
Ammunition is dissipated amazingly rapidly in a gunfight. If you don’t put your adversary down, and I mean down, with your first 2 to 5 rounds, you’re almost certainly going to be dealing with incoming fire. Which means you’re going to be moving to cover, and your adversary is going to be moving, too. Hit ratios drop into the low single digits when both fighters are moving, the statistics show. And you know you’re going to be firing while moving to cover, because you want to keep your enemy off-balance so he can’t draw a good bead on you while you do so.
So let’s do the math. Your attacker points his gun, you see a opportunity to fight, so you draw and fire a double tap to his “center of mass”. He acts like you didn’t hit him and fires back. Suddenly you’re both moving to cover and rounds are going both ways. Let’s say your route to cover was 5 yards and you fired rounds as fast as you could while getting there. That’s 2 initial rounds, then another 8 rounds while moving to cover. If you’ve got a hi-cap auto, you’re probably OK now without a tactical reload; if you’re carrying a revolver or a single-stack 1911, you were empty before you got to cover. If your enemy has a hi-cap auto and he heard your hammer going snap-snap-snap he knows he’s got you, and while you’re trying to reload (assuming you have a spare mag or speedloader), he may well close in on you and execute you.
It happened to the California Highway Patrol troopers at Newhall in 1970, kids, and it can just as easily happen to you. Unless you prepare for the worst.
When I was still an active member of my county’s SWAT team in Wisconsin, on my armor vest I carried 9 single-stack magazines for my SIG P220 service handgun (72 rounds), and five 30-round magazines for my M4 carbine (150 rounds). Most of the rest of the guys on the team were similarly kitted-out. We read the reports, we did some training exercises that proved to us how quickly we could run dry with a “standard” load-out, and after that, we all carried a LOT more ammo. Regular patrol deputies initially carried only 2 spare mags for their SIG’s on their duty belts, but most quickly upgraded to a minimum of 4 spare mags in a quad magazine holder.
What about the armed private citizen? I know there are some folks who figure that if they carry a fully-loaded gun, they’re GTG. And honestly, since the chances of getting into a gunfight as a private citizen are miniscule, it’s hard to argue with them. But I do argue with them. They’ve already acknowledged that there is risk out there, which is the reason they carry a gun in the first place. If a person is already carrying a deadly weapon, why not carry a spare magazine as well? The extra weight is too much? It’s inconvenient to add a mag carrier to your concealment rig? Come on!
I strongly recommend the armed citizen should carry at least one fully loaded spare magazine on his person at all times.
I also strongly recommend the armed citizen to select a hi-capacity autoloading handgun as his primary weapon. I used to carry a revolver or a 1911 as my primary weapon, but over time I came to realize the folly of that. I now carry a Glock 19 as my primary weapon, but I’d be equally happy with a Springfield XD, S&W M&P, or SIG 229. I don’t care about caliber, as I have stated before. But I do care about having enough rounds on my person to finish a gunfight, if one should break out.