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Weapons

Should You Use a 20-Round Magazine With Your Carbine?

Focus your efforts on accuracy rather than capacity.

May 19, 2010  |  by Ronnie Frigulti - Also by this author


A 20-round (front) magazine can be preferable to 30-round magazines (rear) for a patrol carbine to achieve more accuracy when shooting from the prone position. Photo by Paul Clinton.

I must confess that my opposition to carbine or rifle magazines with larger than a 20-round capacity stems from my combat experience as a Marine Corps infantryman during the Vietnam War.

When you're taking incoming fire, and you can't get to cover other than the ground in front of you, you must make yourself as small and low a target as possible.

Magazines larger than 20 rounds place your prone position too high unless you turn your carbine or rifle horizontal when firing. I don't like that position for accuracy either.

In law enforcement, there's usually not a need to lay down a barrage of fire for cover or movement. If the officer can't engage his target with 20 rounds accurately, I doubt that 200 rounds would do him much good. The Marine Corps has defined firepower as the number of hits per minute, not the number of rounds fired per minute.

In addition, the longer you make the spring and curve in the magazine's body, the greater the chance for failure due to the spring or follower hanging up in the body. This is no longer as much of a problem with good quality magazines.

What capacity of magazine does your department issue? What do you prefer? Let us know by submitting a comment below. We'd love to hear your perspective.

Tags: Weapon Accessories, Ammunition


Comments (13)

Displaying 1 - 13 of 13

PatrickBush @ 5/20/2010 7:18 PM

this is stupid....

you have body armor. use that....

look for cover to hide behind....

rounds skip acrss the ground...

10 rounds is more important that however few inches you save here.

seriously, outdated advice....

garywilson @ 5/21/2010 12:00 AM

I have no opposition to any good magazine. Some are more convenient than others.

My department issues 30 round mags.

I carry a 20 round in the weapon and use the 30s for spares, including one in a stock pouch.

The shorter mag is easier to maneuver in the car (and elsewhere), less likely to hang up on steering wheel, door, etc.

traceyfolds @ 5/21/2010 5:53 AM

I agree, outdated.

pierreLET @ 5/21/2010 9:01 AM

I too spent a couple of years on a senior trip to VN. I agree with the author that huge magazines---especially when you see two taped or clamped together---are a bit foolish. The contention that "you have body armor" is not really reassuring when the bad guy(s) is using rifle fire. Cover is not always easy to acquire, especially outside the urban environment and if you think you won't want to hug the ground, you may not fully appreciate the situation. Berating the opinion of someone with real world experience reminds me of those who ridicule the comment that there are no athiests in a foxhole but have never been in a foxhole themselves. If you are that concerned about the extra ten rounds, carry a couple extra spare mags and practice reloading in every concievable position. Unfortunately, too many people feel that tricking out their basic rifle and bristling with ammunition is going to make them more successful. In truth, the competent person with a simple and reliable rifle is going to win in the end.

tlolley @ 5/21/2010 4:52 PM

As in all tactical situations, one must consider the terrain on which he is operating. In an urban environment, I would prefer a moving fight over going to the ground. There are multiple reasons, but here is my main one. Operations on urban terrain are characterized by paved streets. I would stay off the ground for the same reason I stay away from walls. When bullets impact a hard surface short of a target, their fragments or debris will hug the surface and still impact the target. Even if it isn't a lethal hit, it will still diminish or incapacitate the target making follow on shots easier. Moving targets are harder to hit than static ones. Therefore, I would prefer to keep moving until I reached cover, or if necessary fire from a hasty kneeling position using my shin as cover (hovever minimal that may be, it is preferable to nothing) and keep my vital organs (head, neck, upper torso) out of the path of skipfired rounds. Of course, i'm no expert, this is just my opinion.

texas45 @ 5/22/2010 7:50 AM

My department issues two 20's with each Colt rifle. We teach with the twentys. I have no problem carrying twentys. And yes we teach the prone, kneeling, sitting and moving. Moving is better, but you never know when you need to make that long shot. Prone is the way to go.

jayirk @ 6/29/2010 3:19 AM

WE ARE A VERY RURAL DEPARTMENT AND WE USE 30 ROUND MAG, JUST BECAUSE WE LIKE TO HAVE ALL THE FIRE POWER WE CAN GET. MORE THAN ONE DEPARTMENT AROUND THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN CAUGHT SHORT AND IN SOME CASES IN A TRAP. I USE TO WORK WITH A COUNTY SHERIFF WHO ALWAYS SAID HE WAS THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE. HE SAID HE WAS BECAUSE HE FIGURED IF HE NEEDED HIS GUN, HE TOOK IT OUT OF THE HOLSTER WHEN HE LEFT

THE HOUSE. I DO SOME SMALL ARMS TRAINING AND I ALWAYS LIKE TO HAVE THE MOST AMMO AVAILABLE.

scpdblue @ 1/31/2011 8:22 AM

I like the 20 rd mags.. I have one in my AR and I use a bandoleer that held 20rds on stripper clips.After loading my mags to 18rds I place the 20rd mags in the bandoleer pouches.Now if I had to grab my AR,all I have to do is grab the bandoleer throw it over my shoulder and go.They fit perfect. I modified the pouches by adding a piece of Velcro to the top part so that is secures the mag in the pouch.works great,they wont fall out when i run.

Donn Kraemer @ 1/31/2011 1:35 PM

Already well-rehashed by those commenting. I agree with the author (and others) for use of 20-round mags. If the user needs extra ammo, then carry extra 20's. The 30-round (and bigger) mags add unneeded weight to the rifle; increase its vertical signature (prone nonwithstanding, it's something bigger to manuever around); and are yet another red flag to true riflemen who go to work with a clean gun without all the gadgets and phasers/lasers/bipods/gimmicks that many cops hang all over their weapon. I think that it must be some sort of "compensating behavior" -- more equipment on the rifle obviously means that they are better shooters/tacticians/etc.

Practice with 20's, reload with 20's, do your malfunction drills and positional training with 20's, and leave the belt-fed mega-magazine carriers to Hollywood.

Chuck @ 1/31/2011 6:03 PM

I use and carry 30 round mags in my AR. I have had no issues with going to prone with the 30s, and in fact they make a decent mono-pod for more stability if I have to make a longer range shot.

As has been said, prone in an urban environment is problematic.

jellisusm @ 2/1/2011 4:22 AM

I have found that using a 30 round magazine in the prone position I can't get low as I want. A 20 round works just fine and I carry a spare 20 on my belt.

Adam624 @ 2/21/2011 7:31 AM

My issue with the the 20 round mags is that the gear that is issued to hold the mags is based on 30 rounders and the reason for using 20's is and I quote " 30 round mags are too scary." That is directly from my admin, I train with 30's aand 20's and agree that if you are putting that many rounds down range there is probably a serious issue that you and 1 rifle can't fix. on the other hand I find that 30;s seem to be more practial for me and feel that I can function just as well in any position with those as I can with the 20's.

Bashar Assad @ 8/16/2012 11:43 AM

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7d1_1263173545

A lot of you cops are lightly-trained vaginas.

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