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For fans of the Glock semi-automatic pistol, one perk available at company-sponsored shooting competitions is the opportunity to buy extra-large 33-round magazines manufactured at the Glock factory. "We all probably own one or two just for the heck of it," says Steve Denney, a former police officer who manages the Pro Arms gun store in Live Oak, Fla. "I hate to use the word after Tucson, but for most of us, it's just a novelty."
Glock factory-made 33-round magazines are also available from major gun-and-ammo distributors such as Midway USA, based in Columbia, Mo. On its website, Midway advertises the extra-large black polymer bullet container as "a factory original magazine for your Glock." The $35.99 item is currently out of stock and on backorder, the site indicates.
Glock does not ship the extra-large magazines with the guns it sells to civilian gun owners, leading to some ambiguity about whether the company itself makes the 33-round components for consumers. Denney and other people in the industry clarified that the Austrian-based company does make the extended magazines. "We have some Glock ones here in the store," he says. Glock executives and a company spokeswoman didn't respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.
The shooting spree Jan. 8 in Tucson that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), focused renewed attention on so-called high-capacity handguns. Investigators say the Tucson gunman used a 33-round magazine in a Glock 19 nine-millimeter pistol to spray more than 30 bullets in just a minute or two. Larger magazines allow a shooter to fire more rounds before having to reload.
The manufacture and sale of new magazines containing more than 10 rounds were banned from 1994 through 2004, at which time the federal prohibition expired. In response to Tucson, Democrats in Congress are circulating draft legislation to reinstitute curbs on large ammunition magazines. Bill de Blasio, the elected public advocate in New York, suggested in a written statement on Jan. 13 that if Glock continues to market 33-round magazines, the city's police department should boycott the company's firearms.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on WOR radio that "we need a law to stop you from selling" extended magazines, but rejected the notion of a boycott. Bloomberg explained that the NYPD buys handguns from three manufacturers—Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Sig Sauer, all of which make the extra-large magazines. "If we boycott one, you probably have to boycott all of them, and then you go back to the days when the crooks had better guns than the cops," Bloomberg said. (The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg Businessweek parent Bloomberg LP.)
Thirty-three round magazines are not of much practical use to law-abiding gun owners, according to Denney, the Florida firearm retailer. That's because the extended magazines stick out awkwardly from the base of a pistol's handle, making it impossible to carry in a conventional holster. "I guess people get them if they want to expend a whole bunch of ammo at the range, maybe for a YouTube video or something," Denney says. "I don't know what else you would do with it."
A variety of gun-accessory makers now sell 33-round magazines compatible with semi-automatic pistols manufactured by Glock and other firearm companies. Glock, which is based in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, typically sells its pistols with more modest magazines, containing 8, 10, 15, or 17 rounds, according to the Glock website. The site notes that six Glock pistols, in a variety of calibers, are compatible with 33-round magazines. "Glock pistols are superior in firepower to conventional pistol models of the same size," the site states. The Glock 19 that was identified as the shooter's weapon in Tucson is sold with 15-round magazines as standard equipment.
Wholesale and retail gun distributors sell Glock "factory original" 33-round magazines as separate accessories. At least on some occasions, Glock sells them directly to participants at civilian shooting-range competitions sponsored by its affiliate, the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation.
Law enforcement officials have not identified the source of the Tucson gunman's magazines. Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter, is said to have possessed four in total—the one he emptied, an additional extended model, and two that could hold 15 rounds.