A few weeks ago, on Twitter, I again shared a link to the first post I wrote that discusses the never ending debate of caliber versus capacity. Even though I wasn’t looking to get into the debate again, I figured there was probably a newer reader or two that could benefit from reading the post. Or perhaps I am simply a glutton for pain. Regardless, a very interesting question was posted by a reader. They asked, “Zo, hypothetically, IF you were limited to a 10-round Mag, would it change your calculus?” Very interesting question indeed. Let’s look at it.
Before getting into the weeds, I suggest folks take a look at the most recent post I wrote on this topic to understand that I no longer see it as a binary choice. Rather, I see there are far more important factors to consider and concern ourselves with when choosing a pistol that caliber or capacity. That’s not to say that caliber and capacity aren’t important because they are. Again, I’ll refer folks to the prior posts for a deeper discussion on the topic. From here on I’ll remain focused on the question at hand. Given a ten round capacity limit, do my caliber considerations change?
Short answer is no. My calculus remains the same. Let me explain why.
First and foremost, cartridge selection should be driven by application as the application dictates certain requirements. For example, for armed self defense against two-legged predators handgun cartridges as small as 9mm and larger are generally considered adequate (some will say .380 Auto is also suitable but there is some debate on that). For defense against large four-legged wildlife, folks may opt for more powerful cartridges like 10mm Auto or common revolver magnums. Competitive applications are limited by rule books.
Assuming that the intended application gives more than one cartridge choice to select from that is suitable for the task, we can then turn our focus to the cartridge that best allows us to shoot multiple shots accurately in the shortest amount of time. Almost always, experienced shooters will opt for the cartridge with the mildest recoil as this results in less work that the shooter has to exert in order to recover from the muzzle rise and take the next accurate shot. Inexperienced shooters can benefit from also picking the cartridge with the mildest recoil as it tends to have the lowest learning curve and requires the least effort to develop practical proficiency with.
The one exception I would make to opting for the mildest recoiling suitable cartridge is opting for the cartridge that a shooter is most familiar with. For example, if a person is most familiar with shooting a 1911 chambered in 45 ACP, then a 1911 chambered for 45 ACP is likely the best immediate choice. This is because introducing a different recoil profile requires an adjustment to a well developed recoil management technique. For the same reason, changing to a different manual of arms (like going from a 1911 to a DA/SA pistol) would require an adjustment to several techniques including reloading, safety manipulation, trigger manipulation, grip, presentation, and so on. Now if the person has the desire to make a change and take the time to relearn shooting techniques, then a making the change to the mildest recoil suitable cartridge makes sense as the individual may be able to eventually shoot the milder cartridge as well or better than the cartridge they were already familiar with.
With that in mind, if I was traveling to a location where I could legally carry my defensive pistol but imposed a 10-round limit on me, then the only change I would make would be to replace my standard capacity magazines with limited capacity 10-round magazines. Everything else would remain the same.
Along the same lines, my suggestion to folks looking to buy their first gun would also remain the same: find a gun that best fits your hands that you will use, chambered for the mildest recoiling cartridge that is suitable for the application, with the simplest manual of arms possible (or desired), and meets the jurisdictional legal constraints.
Same calculus. Different magazines.