I’ll be the first to admit that I have a slightly irrational love for 20 round AR-15 magazines. I’m not quite sure what it is about these little guys, especially when more is (obviously) better when it comes to ammunition.
Whether it’s the back-pocket-sized form factor, the fact that exactly one box of ammo will fit in them, or just the compactness they lend to a rifle when inserted, I always seem to gravitate towards them over 30 rounders at the range, or in the field. They’re certainly easier to use than higher-capacity mags when chronographing handloads from a shooting bench.
I’ve got about half-dozen or so from various manufacturers rattling around the gun room, and thought that I would provide a quick comparison and light review of my two favorite types: The Magpul PMAG 20 GEN M3, and the Lancer L5 Advanced Warfighter 20 Round Magazine.
A note about “Testing and Evaluations”
Any sort of “test and evaluation” that I could ever hope to perform would fall far short of anything Magpul or Lancer has run these magazines through. These companies are heavily invested in the shooting markets, and bringing a lemon to the table would be disastrous. So, they’ve already been thoroughly tested by the manufacturers.
Whether or not they will perform isn’t really the question. Magpul and Lancer can be trusted.
Both of these magazines have been in my regular rotation for nearly two years. Neither one has ever failed to feed, or given me any inkling of trouble. Personally, I use them interchangeably without any preference. If I’m testing two different kinds of ammo, I’ll segregate them in the two types of mag. It helps keep everything organized while prepping for a busy range trip.
One of the biggest differences between the two magazines is the spring length. The Gen3 Magpul spring measures over two inches longer than the Lancer AWM’s, and for good reason: it’s actually the same length as a standard 30-round magazine spring. There’s no question that ammo is going to feed.
Magpul’s anti-tilt follower “feels” more slippery than the Lancer one, but I haven’t noticed the Magpul running noticeably smoother. Regardless, it’s typical Magpul quality. Additionally, the GEN M3 mags were designed to work in rifles like the HK MR556, with its slightly non-standard magwell. And a tab on the back of the body positively prevents over-insertion in stressful situations.
Interestingly, the GEN M3 PMAGs (in all capacities) feature a dot-matrix on the lower portion of the mag. This area is ideal for filling in numbers or letters to help keep track of your mags during practice and training.
For long-term storage, I’d recommend the PMAG20. Stowing magazines for the apocalypse is bound to attract dust and random debris, and the seal provided by the included clip-on dust cover is good insurance against foreign objects and dirt entering the mag well. They’re also easy to mark numbers on, which would be fantastic for your private inventory control purposes.
The Lancer Advanced Warfighter magazine is easily distinguishable, thanks to the opaque design. This translucent body of the Lancer is definitely a nice touch, and provides instant feedback on how many rounds are left in the magazine.
Of course, the Lancer also features a set of one-piece steel feed lips. The debate between polymer and steel feed lips will likely never be settled. But if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool metal-mag guy, the Lancer is your best bet for plastic satisfaction.
These mags give you the lightweight and translucent properties brought to the table by polymer magazines, with the familiar feel of wrap-around steel feed lips. As an added bonus, the Lancer Advanced Warfighter mags have a very aggressive diamond-shaped texturing on the front of the body. Because it’s positioned only
where your fingers go, it’s less abrasive on magazine pouches while still providing a sure grip.
Naturally, the Lancer’s follower is of the anti-tilt persuasion. This configuration has pretty much become the standard throughout the AR-15 magazine world, and for good reason: Followers that stay level, stay reliable.
The translucent body of the Lancer Advanced Warfighter is great if you’re the kind of person who likes to know exactly how many rounds remain, as well as your bullet type. While the GEN M3 PMAG 30 is available with a window in the side of the magazine, the 20 round versions are completely sealed. Lancer gives you the ability to see your ammo, in a shorter format.
Variety is the Spice of Life
If there’s one gun accessory you can never have too many of, it’s AR-15 magazines. And with so many good options available, there’s no real reason to standardize on one brand. The above-discussed mags, for instance, have some great features for different uses.
But no matter which you choose to stock up on, you can rest assured that they’ll be just as reliable as your favorite carbine.
Magazine preference can be an extremely personal choice. What are your all-time favorites? PMAGs, Lancer, or perhaps the good-old USGI? Let us know in the comments!