Every concealed carrier faces a critical question: how many rounds should be on hand for daily defense? While statistics suggest an average, real-world situations are unpredictable. This article navigates the nuanced terrain of ammunition capacity, exploring what truly helps us prepare for a self-defense encounter.
The Average Number Of Rounds Needed Method:
The average number of rounds fired in a defensive gun use (DGU) is a statistic that prompts debate and speculation within the concealed carry community. It's important to approach this figure with a critical eye, recognizing that averages can sometimes mask the wide range of scenarios that may occur. Studies show that the typical defensive gun use involves the discharge of approximately 2 to 3 rounds.
While this figure is informative, let's remember that self-defense situations are unpredictable. They can vary widely, from a single attacker to multiple threats, and from close-quarters encounters to situations requiring accurate, long-range shots. The high-stress nature of DGUs can significantly impact an individual's accuracy and decision-making abilities.
As a result, relying solely on the average number of rounds fired can lead to a false sense of security.
It's my opinion, it's prudent to err on the side of caution and equip oneself with an ample ammunition capacity. This approach ensures that you're adequately prepared for the unexpected and provides a greater margin of safety in any life-threatening situation. It's not about planning for the norm, but preparing for the extraordinary.
I think carrying an EDC handgun with a capacity of at least 10 rounds provides the best opportunity to respond effectively and decisively in an unpredictably violent world. I tend to agree what well respected Massad Ayoob said, prefacing his research into the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies’ switch from 5 to 6 round revolvers to 15 to 18 or 20 round semi-automatics;
“5 to 6 rounds was usually enough, but usually isn’t always.”
While there are many instances of “one shot stops” consider the encounter where Tim Gramins, an on-duty police officer, had to shoot an armed and violent suspect 14 times with his .45 duty sidearm. Six of those shots were considered vital-hits that should have stopped the suspect more quickly. Here is how he described the encounter when we spoke to him on the Concealed Carry Podcast.
Gun Capacity, Size, Weight and Conceal-ability:
I offered the “minimum 10 round capacity” statement as a general guidance, because I find there are many reliable, and concealable semi-auto handgun models that hold at least 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Guns like the Sig Sauer P365, and Springfield Armory Hellcat, hold over ten rounds in a tiny, shootable gun. While the Smith and Wesson Shield Plus, and Glock 48 hold 10 rounds.
For everyday carry (EDC), my recommendation is to carry the gun with the highest capacity that you can conceal and carry comfortably. I typically carry a Glock 19 which holds 15+1 rounds of 9mm self defense ammunition. With the proper holster, I think most people can comfortably conceal a Glock 19-sized firearm with a capacity of 15 rounds. Check out this post called: Consider a Larger Gun for Concealed Carry.
It is true that a larger gun is heavier, and more rounds add more weight. So, in addition to size, the weight plays a role in concealment and comfort.
If you have a well-designed holster and appropriate EDC belt, and still have trouble carrying that size of a gun, consider something even smaller, like the above mentioned Sig Sauer P365. Occasionally, I carry one, and it holds a respectable 12+1 rounds.
There may even be times or circumstances where it's difficult to conceal a gun as small as a Sig P365. For these instances, people can opt for a mico-compact semi-auto handgun like the miniscule .380 Ruger LCP, what holds 6+1 rounds.
Trading Capacity for Caliber:
Some people think that they can stop an attacker with fewer rounds if those rounds are a larger caliber. So, they carry a gun with reduced capacity. I think this is a flawed approach.
Not only does the larger caliber-fewer rounds not always work out on a single attacker, it doesn't take into consideration the most important thing in a gunfight, accurate hits. Not all hits are equal, and in the big scheme of things, we would rather have multiple well-placed shots with a smaller caliber like 9mm, than a few scattered hits from .45 ACP. I explain this in more detail in this post.
You can find some additional info on this topic in this article: An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power.
Concealing a Spare Magazine With Your Every Day Carry Gun:
You may be wondering about carrying a spare magazine if you opt to carry a gun that holds fewer rounds. This is certainly an option, and some people carry a spare magazine regardless of how many rounds their gun holds. Here are a few quick points to think about when considering carrying a spare magazine every day.
Carrying a spare mag increases the number of rounds you have access to, but it doesn't increase the gun's inherent capacity. Someone who practices magazine changes can become quite quick and proficient, but it still takes time and is an additional failure point.
Many people struggle just to carry a firearm, and adding a spare magazine is difficult. Especially if you want to carry things like less lethal pepper spray, a knife or multi-tool, or trauma gear.
Sometimes stoppages in semi-automatics are magazine related. Carrying a spare means you may be able to fix these types of issues, which could save your life. In the end, you need to prioritize what you carry every day.
Semi-Auto Handguns and Revolvers for Concealed Carry:
So far, I haven't mentioned one thing that almost always comes up when talking about how many rounds someone should carry concealed on a daily basis; that is revolvers and semi-autos.
Without controversy, it's safe to say that generally, revolvers offer lower capacity than a similarly sized semi-auto handgun. J-frame type revolvers used primarily for self defense, and typically have a cylinder that holds 5 rounds. This is about half of what I recommend as my minimum for self defense. However, the revolver might be the best EDC gun for certain people and in certain circumstances.
Revolvers are easily concealable, easy to operate and while they don't handle recoil, as well as a semi-auto does, revolvers typically point naturally in the hand and are great guns for confined places or when entangled with the attacker.
There is some confusion on the topic of revolver reliability. While revolvers aren't susceptible to the same stoppages as semi-auto guns, they have their own potential failure points. And some of these failures result in a catastrophic stoppage that you can't fix during the fight.
Some Final Thoughts:
I typically carry a Glock 19 which holds 15+1 rounds of 9mm self defense ammunition. Occasionally, I carry a P365 that holds 12+1 rounds. What do you carry? Why? If you haven't thought about why you carry what you carry, consider checking out this link. What is Your Everyday Carry (EDC) Gun, and Why?
I think the need for increased capacity is even more relevant now as we see more instances of unprovoked attacks by multiple attackers and even sometimes large groups of people. Furthermore, it's appropriate to consider what types of firearms attackers might have, and adjust accordingly.
Focus on finding a gun that you can carry as often as possible. Part of selecting that gun should be its capacity. Like most things, selecting your EDC gun involves give and take.
The question is not how many rounds is enough, because it's impossible to know. For many of us, the answer to that question is zero. We won't ever use our gun, or if we do, we may never fire it.
For others, they will fire the average 1-3 rounds. In these cases, a 5-shot revolver is more than sufficient.
And still others may be in a fight for their life that requires 10 or 15 rounds. In these situations, a revolver wouldn't have won the day.
What you carry and how many rounds you carry is a personal decision that requires careful consideration. I hope this info helped prepare you for that decision.