Drumroll Please: The Case for High-Capacity Magazines

Drumroll Please: The Case for High-Capacity Magazines

Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Ed Combs that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 15, Issue 5 July 2018 under the title, “Drumroll Please.” 

One of the most contentious aspects of our modern and widely diverse “gun culture” is that a certain kind of very well-intentioned individual will select a single gun-rights issue and enthusiastically surrender it to the opposition. He’ll hold it up as cultural capital, as a strong social signal that broadcasts how sensible he is to any anti-gunner within earshot.

See, this fellow is eminently reasonable: He loves his Second Amendment rights, sure, but he’s not some nut job like you see on the internet. It’s not like he believes a guy should be allowed to just hop online and buy a 75-round magazine for his rifle.

Who needs that for hunting?

This technique only serves to hand over proverbial inches that become proverbial miles, and folks who do so can wind up with some pretty ugly names hung around their necks. “Fudd” — a reference to the hapless twill-clad hunter of cartoon fame — is one of the nicer ones.

Apart from hunting having literally nothing to do with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the folks who fall into this trap are fundamentally missing the point when it comes to magazines that hold more than five rounds. When it comes to armed self-defense, rounds on-board is the name of the game, and depending on the situation, a magazine that allows you to fire 30 or more times without reloading can easily mean the difference between security and ruin for you and yours.


Let’s get some definitions down: A “high-capacity” magazine is a magazine that is of higher-than-standard capacity for the platform. As such, a 17-round magazine for a Glock 17 is not a “high-capacity magazine,” nor is a 30-round AR magazine. They’re standard-capacity magazines, as they’re the size of magazine the platform is supposed to use.

Though most true “tommies” are aftermarket models, there are a few OEM (original equipment manufacturer) high-capacity magazines, specifically for the Glock 9mm and .40 S&W pistols. The 9mm version was originally designed for the Glock 18, which is a full-auto version of the Glock 17 designed for very specific military applications.  As far as I can tell, the 22-round .40-cal version was made simply because the 33-round mags for the 18 fit the 17, 19 and 26, and when shooters saw the hi-cap for the 9mm, they wanted one for the .40.

For the private citizen, such magazines can play extremely important roles in the areas of home and vehicle defense. While not necessarily well-suited to in-gun concealed carry, they can quickly turn a compact sidearm into something far more than the simple sum of its parts, with a 30-plus-rounder eliminating a magazine change from a circumstance that calls for lots of shooting. They can also really shine as backup magazines when carried vertically on the belt (if your personal situation calls for that kind of ammo loadout).

Before you scoff and ask why in the world anyone would need or even want such a thing, step back and look at what’s happened in this country over the last 10 years. Step back and ask yourself whether the $35 invested in a 33-round magazine capable of running in your Glock 17, 19 or 26 would be money well-spent. Ask yourself whether such a magazine could make the difference between life and death in a circumstance such as a riot, a mass civil disturbance or some other kind of mob attack that, let’s be honest, is becoming a lot more common than in the past. Securing a high-capacity magazine — or 10 — compatible with your carry gun would be a wise move.

Atop your personal sidearm, let’s not forget the multitude of firearms on the market that are designed around several common pistol mags, including the Glock 17/18/19/26 and the Beretta 92. Kel-Tec’s Sub-2000 series of folding carbines is popular among Americans looking to source discreet, powerful pistol-cal options, and Ruger’s PC Carbine is also an excellent shooter and ships with a Glock magazine adapter. Though any of these will function with standard-capacity magazines, they really shine with true hi-caps.


I caught a little flak by declaring in a past column that shooters should only purchase OEM magazines. I received multiple emails regaling me with tales of how wonderful such-and-such brand magazines are, how flawlessly they function, you name it.

Well, the truth is, for the most part, I agree. In my defense, that advice was directed at those who are new to shooting and carrying concealed and who are often tempted to take the cheapest possible path. For the beginner, it usually is worth sticking to OEM mags. After a shooter’s a little more seasoned, though, it can make a lot of sense to start looking at other options, and other options often mean higher round counts.

A few aftermarket, non-OEM models I’ve assessed and found to be excellent are those from Elite Tactical Systems. They are American-made, extremely durable and proved themselves to be extremely reliable. Equally importantly, they don’t just offer the “normal” and “enormous” sizes like the factory. Though they offer factory-sized models, they also offer mid-range mags as well, such as a 22-rounder for the G17/19/26. They offer extended mags for other sidearms as well, right down to the little ol’ Glock 42 and 43.


Specifically, within the realm of concealed carry, it can seem counterintuitive to look for a longer magazine. It completely throws off the profile of a pistol and makes a gun basically impossible to conceal, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. What the extended magazine offers you is the opportunity to transform that concealed carry pistol into almost more of a battle rifle, at least as far as ammunition capacity is concerned. The good news is that certain pistols lend themselves very well to this. The bad news is that some do not.

The double-stack Glock platform offers compatibility with OEM and aftermarket “big sticks,” while the 1911 is notoriously difficult to get to run with anything above about 10 rounds. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of why this is; I’m just going to tell you that the first person to make an ultimately reliable, nose-dive-free high-capacity 1911 magazine will have a hard time spending or even giving away all the money he’ll make.

Other pistols can be hit-and-miss with aftermarket magazines. Back in the late ’90s, I regularly shot a Ruger P89 that functioned flawlessly with a 33-rounder bought at some long-forgotten gun show, while other units that looked identical weren’t even worth the $11 for which they could be had. This is a perfect example of the most difficult aspect of some aftermarket hi-caps: Some of them will run like champs, and some of them will be actual garbage in your gun.

Like with standard-capacity magazines, the place to start looking is the online community dedicated to your specific model of pistol. If you haven’t found it yet, just search GunsAmerica Digest with the make and model of your gun and you will, in all likelihood, find at least one comm dedicated to it. This will be a good jumping-off point for figuring out which brands and models of “extend-os” have the highest chance of functioning properly in your personal gun.

But what about that rifle you bought for home and self-defense? How do you go about sourcing quality “captains” for that?


Purchasing a quality AR- or AK-pattern rifle is as wise an investment as a private citizen can make, and never forget that magazines are technically considered a “consumable” part of these weapons systems. In short, buy about a zillion standard-capacity magazines for your rifle, because a) those mags wear out, and b) those mags have powerful enemies in high places. Atop your normal-capacity 30-rounders for that AR or AK, you might consider acquiring magazines sufficient to turn that regular old modern sporting rifle into a “sentry gun” of sorts.

Magpul, well known for its standard-capacity magazines, offers selections for the AR platform all the way up to the PMAG D-60, a 60-round drum that allows you to rig your AR almost more like a light machine gun than a carbine. As with high-capacity pistol magazines, removing a reload from the equation when you’re trying to stop an attack can be lifesaving.

On a very different note, SureFire (yes, that SureFire, the flashlight company) manufactures what are known as “casket mags” — 60- and 100-round AR magazines that are only slightly longer than traditional 30-rounders but that are thicker and hold two or three times as many rounds. Either setup is going to be better than a traditional 30-rounder if you find yourself in a high-volume gunfight, and if you think some politicians don’t like 30-round mags, well, let’s just say companies like SureFire don’t get any points for innovation or creativity in Chuck, Nancy or Dianne’s books.

If Kalashnikov-pattern rifles are your idea of a good time, you’ll have almost as many options as your “Stoner” friends. Several Eastern Bloc nations (and South Korea) still produce Cold-War-era-pattern drum magazines like the one pictured above, mostly imported by Century. I’ve had very good luck with these, but I would caution you against the 40- and 60-round units that look like normal AK magazines stretched out to twice their normal length.

In my experience, when it comes to AK mags, it’s safe to go lower than standard capacity without experiencing problems, such as the ubiquitous 20-round “tanker” mags. As soon as you try to jam more than 30 rounds into the rifle without using a specifically engineered drum magazine, though, you’re asking for trouble. Even if the magazine functions properly, as some of the Bulgarian models usually do, bear in mind that significantly longer magazines will make maneuvering the rifle far more difficult, hence the “tanker” designation for the 20-rounders. (When it comes to elbow room, tanks and tracked guns are down there with submarines.) Moreover, firing from a prone position with an extremely long magazine will require that you sharply cant the rifle to one side. If you’re a “friend of Mikhail,” my advice is to stick to the drums if you’re going to stray north of the standard-capacity 30s.


Again, it can be easy for a certain kind of individual to doubt or even mock why someone might ever want magazines that hold more rounds than a human has fingers and toes, but a simple scan of the national headlines should answer any lingering questions. Remember those tens of thousands of communists, anarchists, globalists and other terrorists I mentioned back in my Legally Armed Citizen column? They speak very plainly of their plans to destroy this nation and anyone who gets in their way. If you think they’re going to go easy on you because you were such a kind, agreeable chap when they demanded you divest of firearms and components they find distasteful, you’ll be in for a terrible series of terrible surprises if they ever get to your residence.

A firearm, specifically a firearm that is capable of firing dozens of times between reloads, is the only tool that can empower a single citizen to effectively yet responsibly defend him or herself against a violent mob (which likely has something to do with why specific politicians hate your guns and magazines so much). As violent mobs are a certain political persuasion’s weapon of choice, it seems a no-brainer that anyone who owns a rifle or pistol capable of accepting hi-caps should be looking to procure several if he or she hasn’t already.

In a nation beset by enemies foreign and domestic, it escapes me why some responsibly armed Americans would be opposed to the right tools in the right hands. We’re all at least supposedly in this together as Second Amendment advocates, so let’s start acting like it.


Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.

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  • Dan June 10, 2019, 9:05 pm

    What nonsense fear mongering. My bet is you couldn’t find a single case of non-police using anywhere near 30 rounds for self-defense. If you do you need to spend more time at the range.

  • Irish-7 June 8, 2019, 1:09 am

    Although the 1992 LA Riots were so long ago, I am still haunted by that video of Reginald Denny being pulled from his truck and pummeled by those Satanic minions. I don’t know why I hold on to those horrible images?! I was nowhere near when the riots kicked off. I don’t know anyone attacked there. Regardless, I consider that type of situation in planning the defense of those in my vehicle. Consequently, I have multiple reloads for my EDC weapons (S&W 457 or Ruger P345), plus several more loaded magazines and a .45 LC/.410 GA revolver in my SUV. I have NOT had any luck with after-market magazines from ProMag and Butler Creek,

    • E June 23, 2019, 12:34 am

      I was working at a major bank’s central headquarters about 20 miles away from the riots. It was pretty scary thought those days because I overheard one woman say that riots were about to break out further east in another area far away from L.A. At that time guns or self defense weren’t even on my mind. But when I saw Korean store owners on the roofs of their businesses with all kinds of guns in old videos a few years ago, that did it for me. And when I had one of the three recent attempted home invasions turned out to be one of the scariest events in my life, I was glad that I invested in the proper tools and training. Unfortunately, I can’t be fully prepared outside of my home or in a car because…Commiefornia.

  • R E Lee June 7, 2019, 4:41 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up! Hard to think of all the crap all the time… I have as nice factory 33 for the Glock 17 I carry daily but have neglected to provide for the rest of the children… will be getting some hi-caps for the ar’s as options are the name of the game…

  • JoeUSooner June 7, 2019, 1:06 pm

    Bruno, it is true that defense against tyranny is the single most-important aspect of the 2nd Amendment. But in the Federalist Papers, the Founders declared that they did not consider it the only aspect. The Founders were adamant that citizens were to be armed against all dangers and attacks (by common criminals, rioting mobs, foreign invasion, tyranny, etc.).

  • Bob June 7, 2019, 10:42 am

    I beg to disagree. Hi cap magazines could be very useful in defense of a home invasion situation involving multiple threats. 10 rounds may not prove adequate against 3 or 4 armed intruders. However, 30 rounds may help.

  • joefoam June 7, 2019, 9:39 am

    Are those the same ‘high capacity’ magazines that LEOs carry on a daily basis. If you are to believe the basis for a ban then they should carry a one shot magazine.

  • brno21 June 7, 2019, 9:16 am

    There’s only one legitimate reason, in terms of the 2nd Amendment, for high capacity mags and that’s to keep citizens competitive if, God forbid, it ever came to a showdown with a tyrannical regime. Home defense, hunting etc etc have nothing to do with the issue.

  • Jason Coffey June 7, 2019, 9:14 am

    I run into many otherwise smart and liberty loving Americans on social media very often! Who feel morally obligated to help “fix society” each time another radical leftist or mentally ill person does a mass shooting. Never do I hear them hollar for helping mental illness.

  • Dwane June 7, 2019, 7:36 am

    A recent gunfight between a Brevard Co. Deputy and a perp brought all the afore mentioned to the forefront. The perp’s weapon was a rifle. The deputy’s a glock. The deputy had to change magazines. The perp died.

  • deanbob June 7, 2019, 6:36 am

    If the number of rounds brought to any potential firefight were not important, why have almost every police agencies around the world adopted various caliber semi-auto’s as their official handgun. And in spite of their training and range policies, what are their accuracy rates under fire? Is any sane or honest person gong to say that the average non-LEO gun owner going to be more accurate under similar fire? Obviously, on average, IMHO, no. So, what does that say about the motive of the average person who wants to limit any mag capacity?

    • Methadras June 7, 2019, 5:21 pm

      That reason alone justifies high cap magazines. If you, under stressful fire conditions, can’t put fire on the target with 10 rounds, having the ability readjust with more than that has value. Limiting rounds in a magazine for anti-2a/anti-gun leftists is another end run for them. It has to be stopped.

      My ultimate reason for having a high-cap magazine? Because I can and it’s none of your business what I use it for.

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