Magazine Monday: 5 Ways to Feed Your AR-15

Let’s start out by admitting there are at least as many companies making AR-15 magazines as there are calibers that can be shot in the AR platform.

Some of them are low production, some are low quality and some don’t even work reliably. In my experience, all five of the magazines below have worked exceptionally well.

ar-15 magazines

1. Lancer L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazines

The Lancer L5 magazine is the only one with metal feed lips built into a polymer chassis. For many people, steel feed lips indicate quality. I am not in that camp, but I cannot say these magazines don’t work.

They are amazing and might be the best of the batch. However, they are not nearly as popular as some of the others because they come at a premium price.

It does have one feature that some would prefer, it does not have a flared floor plate.

This magazine does have compatibility with more than just the Mil-Spec M4 and its variants.

It can be used in any Mil-Spec AR-15 magwell, as well as those of an M4, M16, HK416, ARX160, SCAR16, SA80, SIG 556 and the ACR.

It comes in four solid body colors: Black, Flat Dark Earth, OD Green and Foliage Green.

It comes in three translucent colors: Smoke, Black and Brown.

The only listed compatible caliber is 5.56 NATO, but .300 BLK should work and some .458 SOCOM should also, depending on bullet profile.

Lancer AR-15 Magazine
The steel feed lips on Lancer AR-15 magazines are a plus.

2. Magpul PMAGs

This is the most ubiquitous of the aftermarket magazines. The one I choose to run is the Gen 2 variant. It is slightly less expensive than later versions.

Those are compatible with more than just Mil-Spec AR variants, but my main use is standard 5.56 AR’s. Magpul offers variants tailored for specific guns and calibers.

This fixes the incompatibility of their Gen 2 offering, and for a few dollars more, you know you have reliable functioning in the dedicated platform.

In my limited utility of such mags, I paint them with the caliber so as to reduce the likelihood of loading errors.

Magpul PMAG AR-15 Magazines
These Magpul PMAGs feature GunSkin wraps to customize them to the rifle.

3. Ross Defense Unimags

The Unimag has an articulated follower that allows true use of a plethora of calibers with the same magazine. This is not a free “upgrade,” but it does greatly limit the need for specialized magazines for those who shoot lots of calibers in AR’s.

It does not reduce the likelihood of user error in loading. These AR-15 magazines have a steel body for those who hate polymer offerings.

The lower portion of the magazine does expand with some calibers. That is normal and does not affect function.

The factory has tested eight calibers for compatibility, but there are others that will work as well.

Caliber Capacity
.223 Remington/5.56 NATO 30 Rounds
.300 Blackout 30 Rounds
.224 Valkyrie 26 Rounds
6.5 Grendel 24 Rounds
6.8 SPC 26 Rounds
7.62×39 25 Rounds
5.45×39 29 Rounds
.458 SOCOM 12 Rounds
Unimag AR-15 Magazine
The articulated follower on the Unimag allows for reliable use with multiple calibers.

4. MFT SCPM556 Magazines

Usually the least expensive of the bunch, the MFT magazine has the same tough polymer, anti-tilt/no-lube follower, flared floor plate, stainless steel spring as all its higher-dollar brethren.

It just tends to cost less. The only real downside is that it is only useable in Mil-Spec AR-15’s and only for 5.56 NATO and .300 BLK.

For most of us, that isn’t much of a downside. I cannot attest to their long-term durability or how long a spring will hold down 30 rounds before becoming defective, as I have not owned them for long enough.

I do know that as a square-range practice mag, they have never once failed me.

5. Hexmag AR-15 Magazines

The Hexmag is unique in its hexagonal grip pattern. They also offer die-cut grip tape to fit that grip pattern, as well as offering the grip tape in color choices to make caliber identification simple.

In addition to the standard .223/5.56, .300 BLK, .458 Socom, they also guarantee proper feeding of .50 Beowulf. This is also a reinforced polymer magazine with an anti-tilt, lube-free follower system.

The reality is, any and all of these magazines can have a place in your home. I use the Magpul PMAGs for my 3-Gun use. My standard is the 30 rounder, but I do also run a 20 rounder for prone precision stages.

I have GunSkin wraps on them so they match my rifle. I have some PMAGs painted with a large font for my .300 BLK home-defense pistol.

Hexmags are colored, numbered and tactilely coded for my oddball calibers. In the dark, I can’t tell if it is for my 6mm FatRat or my 6.5 Grendel, but I do know it isn’t for my .223/5.56.

The L5 AWF are starting to make a home in my Go-bag as they are awesome, but they also stack cleaner without the flared magwell.

The MFT mags have found a home in my range bag as a long-term testbed. I want to see if they hold up like the others. The Unimag is what I run my .458 SOCOM from.

Being the only steel body mag I own, it gives me the tactile knowledge if the weight alone didn’t tell me. I also just have better luck with feeding from this mag than any other in .458 SOCOM.

What do you use to feed your ARs? Why are they your favorite AR-15 magazines? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. PMags are fine, and all, but I’ve found that Sig Sauer Polymer 556 30 rounders work the absolute best for me. Tight, but smooth fit in the well, as well as the feed is crisp and troubled-free. Harder to find now, as it appears Sig has discontinued them, so when I DO run across them I generally stock up. No malfunctions to report.

  2. Mostly I stick with PMag 30’s and 40’s, they just work… always. But… I have been experimenting with HexMags (only found availability of the 30’s), seem to be keeping up with the PMags quite well.

    Got a dozen Amend-2’s. They work o.k., but they just don’t sound or feel right… but they work. No failures in the first 5000 rounds.

  3. Calif. Resident; Any Deals or Discounts for me living in CA> is nullified by having to go thru an, CA. FFL Dealer . and there ” Conifevence Fee’s” offset Any, and all thing.s being offered. Any way to get around the fee’s other than moving to another state.
    looking towards an answer…
    Am I even allowed to buy these magazines offered?
    even thou, I do not have a comparable weapon to use them in..

  4. All of my 5.56 mags are MagPuls mainly Gen 2, but there’s a couple of Gen 3s. My .300 Blackout mags are a mixture of steel and Hexmags (heavy on the steel), but I just started up with this caliber a few months ago. I stamped .300 AAC on the baseplate to aid identification, but I like the idea of painting, so I’ll work on a stencil now lol. My LGS only carries Magpul and Hexmags regularly. There was another store that supposedly carried other brands, but they shut down, very shortly after opening.

  5. I use the Lancers for my .458 without issue. Without going to check, i think i get 9 in the mag not the 12 listed above for the Unimag.
    Otherwise, gen 2 magpuls, just have to practice not over inserting in drills. Have that issue with some lowers if i get carried away.

  6. On the recommendation of several people I know, I stocked up like nuts on MFT 30-round mags. I left one fully loaded in my trunk one day when the temps were in the mid-80s. I opened the trunk the next day, and there was ammo scattered all over the trunk, and one of my FDE MFT mags was half-empty. Brought it into the house, it cooled off, and as I was stuffing ammo back into it, the mag just spontaneously ejected about 15 rounds all over the floor.
    It goes without saying that I’m undergoing a major crisis of confidence in all my MFT mags now. I only have a couple of ASC 20-round steel mags, and 4-5 Magpuls, and to me, I might as well be naked considering my obsession with the idea that you can never have enough magazines.

  7. Love Lancer L5 magazines. They do make a specific magazine for the 300 BO and it it molded on the magazine 300 Blackout. Definitely Lancer going forward for me.

  8. I know Pmags are pretty much the standard but I hate how bulky they are. I am a fan of Troy battlemags. I have had no issues with any 5.56 loading or any lightweight .300BLK loading. I have yet to shoot any subs out of the Troy mag but they do stack well in the mag. I only wish they would make other capacities in the appropriate length. I would love a few 10’s and 20’s to go with my 30’s.

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