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.
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.
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.
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.
|.223 Remington/5.56 NATO
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.
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!