Sunday, March 23, 2008

To Carry A Spare Magazine, Or Not Carry At All?

I belong to an online forum called Bersa Talk, which is a community for Bersa brand handgun enthusiasts. On a recent thread the question was posed: "Is it standard to carry a spare magazine, or just the one fully loaded mag with one round in the chamber?"

I responded that I carry a spare mag if I think to grab one before I leave the house. After the Trolley Square shooting last year, it makes sense to me that one magazine just might not be enough. And after a recent home invasion in West Valley, in which 5 thugs invaded a home and held the occupants at gunpoint while they hauled out their valuables, it might not be a bad idea to carry a spare magazine on your person, at home.

Dozens of others responded one way or another. It turns out that many do carry a spare. As often happens on internet fora, there was eventually a little bit of topic drift as the debate warmed up and strongly held views were expressed and defended. In the latter stages of the thread, it was dominated by two participants who were sparring back and forth, and the topic became whether some people shouldn't carry a gun at all. Here's a segment that I found particularly interesting:

RF: From a statistical standpoint, not carrying AT ALL, AT ANY TIME, is...defensible.

GB: Interesting assertion, and one that evolution, grand design, or whatever has settled upon as racial survival strategies for a large number of species. It manifests itself as relatively unarmed prey species that congregate in large numbers in herds, flocks, schools, or whatever the appropriate term might be. Anyway, the principle is that even with predation which will certainly claim a large number of the herd, flock, school or whatever -- enough will survive to ensure the survival of the species into the next generaton. It is all fine and good if you are one of the survivors. "Baaa" says the sheep(le)! It ain't so good if you are one of the culls who gets predated. A better personal survival strategy is to recognize the existence of the predators, be vigilant and prepared to fight back against them. That way your personal odds of survival become markedly greater than that of the unarmed herd, flock, school or whatever. Oddly enough, the presence of sufficient numbers of members of the herd who are vigilant and prepared to fight back against the predators increases not only their own chances of survival but that of the entire herd. It is the tact that is taken by such animals as elephants, bison and baboons.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to get at is that while the not carrying at all, ever, is defensible ("Baaa"), it is not optimal. It does nothing to combat ever increasing predation. It is largely based on the premise that life is cheap. That individuals in the herd may be sacrificed to the predators as long as there are enough who survive to insure survival of the herd, and that should there not be enough survivors then the herd itself will die as nature dictates. Personally, I don't hold to that "life is cheap" mindset that this necessarily implies. Certainly not my life or my loved ones.

RF: If you have a normal lifestyle...the chances you will be involved in a true life-or-death self-defense scenario are very remote indeed.

GB: That chance is remote, yes. But non-zero. And, as society continues to coarsen and the value of life is held in ever less regards by those who engage in lives of crime, that chance become greater over time. The point is that the cost of being caught without carrying when you truly need it is so high that the remote chance argument is negated. Same thing as with catastrophic health insurance. Same thing as having homeowner's insurance, flood insurance or a fire extinguisher. Since the cost of not carrying could very well be your life or the life of a loved one, carrying is justified even if the odds of needing to use it is remote.

RF: Some call CCW [carrying a concealed weapon] 'paranoid' behavior.

GB: No more paranoid than someone who has a fire extinguisher in the pantry, or who takes out flood insurance. It is actually the act of viewing the world as it is, and not of viewing the world through rose colored glasses. It comes from actually contemplating worst case scenarios and being prepared for such in a rational manner.

RF: Others think it necessary to be prepared no matter the risk-small or large... Call it what you will-it's all about choice, and risk/benefit.

GB: It should be a choice, and from the pro-carry folks it is normally treated as exactly that. The vast majority of pro-carry people have no desire to coerce people who do not wish to carry to carry anyway. It is viewed as a personal choice, as it should be. However, the actions of the anti-carry folks is not so -- they seek not only to not carry themselves, but to take away the option of carry from those who wish to do so, by way of legal means or by way of societal pressure, stigmatizing those who desire to carry as being "paranoid" or anti-social.

RF: I choose to carry intermittently, and believe the choice I have made as to carry mode satisfies that risk/benefit analysis.

GB: Yes, that is your prerogative. Personally, I choose to carry whenever possible in the most optimum manner feasable, since it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty when a true sociopath, psychopath, or other variety of violent criminal may choose to attack myself or [family member]. That lack of certainty and the cost/risk analysis that I have undertaken leads me to do just that. The cost of an unprepared for encounter is just too high, and the risk of one is non-zero and ever increasing.

It was a lively conversation. If you're interested in reading the whole thread, here's a link:

And here's a link to Bersa Talk:

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