High-capacity magazines have made the news recently and continue to be vilified by the media. It’s hard to read a news story about a shooting or weapons incident that doesn’t involve the term high-capacity magazine – active shooters like Jared Loughner (Tucson shooting) and Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook shooting) have once again turned the spotlight on high-capacity magazines, with many states and municipalities swiftly moving to ban or severely restrict them.
It’s tough, however, to ban something that doesn’t exist. That’s right – the term high-capacity magazine is a misnomer, a media construct, a term that has been invented for the purpose of vilification by a group of individuals with an agenda. You would think that firearms manufacturers would correctly know how to name the parts that attach to or form their own weapons, right? If anyone knows what to call something that belongs within or on a certain firearm, it should be the factory that makes the part, correct? Does it not stand to reason that the engineer, designer, or manufacturer is capable of applying the correct term for a part they make? These rhetorical questions are designed to prompt introspection for a moment, and to draw attention to the fact that the term “high-capacity magazine” does not originate from within the firearms manufacturing community.
Before we look at where this now ubiquitous term came from, let’s look at how the firearms manufacturing community designs its own weapons, and what parts come on them as standard. A few samples are below:
- Beretta 92FS 9mm pistol – 15-round magazine comes as standard
- Colt LE6920 5.56mm Rifle – 30-round magazine comes as standard
- Izmash AK104 Kalashnikov 7.62×39 rifle – 30-round magazine comes as standard
- Springfield XD 941 9mm pistol – 16-round magazine comes as standard
As we can see from this small sampling of popular firearms, it appears that magazine capacities such as 15 and 30 rounds come with the weapons as standard. Doesn’t that make them standard-capacity magazines? In fact, the term “high-capacity magazine” can’t be found anywhere on the sales websites for any of these weapons. It’s quite a conundrum, really.
Just like the late night infomercial, however – but wait, there’s more! Curiously, most manufacturers sell magazines that are for use in states where the capacity of the magazine has been arbitrarily restricted by law. Most of these magazines feature a 10-round capacity. Notwithstanding all MIT math majors and other geniuses, we think that if the standard magazine that comes with say, a Colt rifle is 30 rounds, and you purchase a 10-round magazine, that you are in fact purchasing a reduced-capacity magazine. Ponder that for a moment; consider the fact that some states have not only arbitrarily reduced the capacity of certain magazines, they have also had the gall to refer to these reduced magazines as the “new normal,” and by extension, are now calling the standard-capacity magazines “high-capacity magazines.” It’s quite a mental shell game, really.
A quick perusal of military field manuals of the US Armed Forces also shows that in fact, the standard-capacity magazine for a Colt-produced M16 rifle or M4 carbine, the standard rifle of all branches of the armed forces, holds 30 rounds. In fact, you will find a curious term embedded in these publications – STANAG Magazine. STANAG is a NATO term that stands for Standardization Agreement, and their regulation number 4179 clearly states that the standard magazine capacity for NATO forces shall be 30 rounds.
In that case, help us understand why NATO, which encompasses most first-world military forces, defines 30 rounds as a standard-capacity magazine, yet when the exact same magazine is purchased by an American civilian, it is somehow magically transformed into a “high-capacity magazine? The answer is simple; the media, in conjunction with certain political elements, has arbitrarily decided that the common American citizen ought not to be armed, and has thus constructed an entire vocabulary of polarizing terms like assault rifle, assault clips, cop-killer bullets, and high-capacity magazines. Again, these terms aren’t found in any military manual or within the firearms community that actually makes these weapons.
Incidentally, in terms of reliability and function, most of the weapons that use 15 and 30 round magazines were designed that way. They are utterly reliable when used with the equipment they were designed with, and changing these basic designs by reducing magazine capacity deviates from what the manufacturer originally intended. Yet another, more nefarious byproduct occurs when magazine capacities are arbitrarily reduced; criminals continue to use the standard-capacity magazines. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo on the reduced capacity, but it only stands to reason that the average American citizen ought to have the same magazine capacity in his weapon as the thug that’s trying to kill him. Apparently the police aren’t on board with the new-normal magazine capacities, as they too have decided to stick with standard-capacity 15- and 30-round magazines. Don’t they realize how dangerous they are?