Gun sales drive demand for high capacity magazines

Voices from the gun show: High capacity magazines
Voices from the gun show: High capacity magazines

America's zeal for guns is driving sales of one of the industry's most controversial accessories: high capacity magazines.

High capacity magazines that carry 10 or more rounds, have been banned in eight states. But sales are strong where they're still legal, fueled by fears that they'll soon be subject to tighter regulations.

The popularity of the magazines prompted Jarret Mock to launch the startup TorkMag last year in Fort Myers, Florida. His startup makes magazines that hold 35 or 50 rounds. The magazines, which sell for $22 or $40, are for AR-15s.

"We've sold several thousand units," since the summer of 2015, Mock said last month at the SHOT Show, the annual conference of the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Las Vegas. "For a beginning year that's pretty good."

Mock decided to start the business even though Connecticut, New York and Maryland have capped magazines at 10 rounds, and Colorado limits them to 15. Connecticut imposed its a 10-round limit after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman armed with high capacity magazines killed 20 children and six adults. Colorado imposed its limit after a killer used a 100-round drum to murder 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora.

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High capacity magazines have been used in 34 mass shootings between 1984 and 2015, according to the FBI, which defines a mass shooting as one with four or more victims.

But the limits on magazines may have helped, rather than hinder, Mock's sales. He says the possibility that his product could get banned has driven customers to buy it.

"It's not just fear of regulation," he said. "I think some of it is people saying, 'You told me you were going to try to limit this, so just on principle I'm going to go to buy one.'"

Mock says he's developing a transparent magazine, in addition to his opaque ones, so the shooter can see how many bullets are left.

X-Products of Nashville, Tenn., makes 50-round drums that sell for up to $360 and fit onto AR-15s and other military-style rifles like the FN FAL. Some of the drums are "skeletonized" with a cage-style casing instead of solid metal, so the shooter can see how many bullets remain.

X-Products co-owner James Malarkey said he sells 10,000 magazines per year. But why would anybody want to own one?

"For the shooter, it's fun," he said. "You can go out, you can shoot multiple rounds, you don't have to do a magazine change, and it's bragging rights to your friends."

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Malarkey realizes that not everyone associates the gun drums with good times. He admits that the general public might rest easier if government agencies develop a licensing system to make sure the owners are law abiding people.

"Instead of outright banning it, allow people to have some kind of licensing," he said. "I think it would weed out a lot of crime."

high capacity magazines bob irwin
Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas, says that a ban on high capacity magazines only hurts law abiding people.

Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas, where tourists from around the world pay to fire fully automatic machine guns with high capacity magazines at an indoor range, dismissed gun control as unenforceable.

"They're saying, "Well you can only have a magazine that holds 10 shots, and the bad guys, of course, don't obey that," said Irwin. All it means is that a person defending their home will have fewer bullets than the bad guy, he added.

"How is paying a fee or registering your 20 shot magazine going to prevent crime? It only affects honest people."

high capacity magazines gun
The DP-12 shotgun holds 16 shells split between two separate magazines, so each slips under the state limit of 10.

Louis Frutuoso, owner of Standard Manufacturing in New Britain, Conn., has found a way around the 10-round cap. His DP-12, a double-barreled pump-action 12-gauge shotgun that sells for $1,395, can hold up to 16 shells. But it contains them in two separate nondetachable magazines.

"In Connecticut, the magazine, can only hold 10 rounds or less, but this has two magazines," said Frutuoso. "Each magazine holds only seven rounds of shells, which makes it 14. Seven in each magazine, plus one in each chamber gives it a total capacity of 16 rounds. No one magazine holds more than 7 rounds at any time, so that keeps it under the 10 round limit that some states impose."

Frutuoso said he's sold 12,000 DP-12s since they launched last year.

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