Gear, Parts and Accessories

What’s up with Magazines?

Magpul PMAG with dust cover

Magazines are like a shaving razor, you use them until they don’t function and then you toss them in the trash heap. While most AR-15 mags on the market are well made and last a decent amount of time, a quality mag will prevent malfunctions while not shattering into bits when you toss it in the dirt. The most popular AR magazines sold today are of polymer construction, and usually hold up well to use and abuse. The aluminum and steel magazines work great too, so you will just have to decide which types are the right fit for your go bag.


Magpul PMAG
Magpul PMAG

The PMAG is probably the most popular choice for AR users today. They’re durable, inexpensive, and Magpul has some innovative design improvements that make their products a step above. Since 2007, PMAGs have dominated the market alongside the plentiful USGI magazines. What makes the newest PMAGS special is their compatibility with a wide range of non-Colt-spec platforms such as the HK 416 and MR556A1, M27 IAR, British SA-80, FN SCAR MK 16/16S, and others. A redesigned bolt catch notch in the rear of the magazine provides increased bolt catch clearance, while an over-travel stop on the spine helps ensure the magazine will not over-insert on compatible weapons. The spring pushes up a four-way anti-tilt follower and the constant curve internal geometry increases reliability when feeding odd types of ammunition.

USGI Magazines

USGI Magazine
USGI Magazine

I have no idea how many of these things are floating around out there, but I’ll bet the number is pretty high. Colt, ArmaLite, Adventure Line Mfg, Simmonds, Okay Industries, Center Industries, Parsons Precision Products, and many more made magazines for the government. Most of them work great, especially the newer models. While they don’t look as fancy as the PMAGS, they will do their job well enough. Since they’re aluminum, they are lightweight and durable. Time has proven them reliable, and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for them. One slight modification makes can them some of the best magazines on the market. By removing the black or green follower and inserting a Magpul self-leveling follower, their reliability goes up even further. For the money, I end up buying as many of these as I can.

Lancer Hybrids L5AWM

Lancer L5-AWM
Lancer L5-AWM

Lancer attempted to combine the best qualities of the polymer and aluminum magazines into one product. The newest L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazines (AWM) have a semi-transparent housing option, allowing you to see your round count. Additionally, they installed steel feed lips, which increases durability over longer periods. You can store the magazines fully loaded and not worry about bending at the mouth. The non-tilt follower on the AWM increases reliability over previous models, and the constant curve internal geometry lets cartridges slide through seamlessly. With the latest improvements, the L5AWM is quickly becoming my favorite magazine. They rarely, if ever, cause failures, and they seem to hold up forever.

Not a Permanent Fixture

No matter what the magazines you choose are made of, they are not designed to hold up forever. With enough use, every magazine will wear out. They aren’t something where you can say, “I have 10 magazines, and I’ll never have to buy more.” They are a disposable part of your AR platform, designed for soldiers to toss aside on the battlefield. As long as you shop smart, you won’t have to buy new mags very often, but higher quality magazines, like the ones mentioned here, will mean you have to buy a lot less! Grab some magazines today, high capacity magazines could one day be a thing of the past!

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 (5)

  1. Do these same rules apply to AK-47 mags? I’ve hunted bolts, levers, and pumps for thirty years, but am new to military weapons, and just bought a ZASTAVA PAP M70. The two 30 round mags with it seem fine, but before leaving the gun show, I bought two 40 round metal ones from another vender before leaving. I should have tried them while I had the gun there in the box in retrospect. They appear to have the little locking dog in the same spot as the thirty rounders when held next to each other, but the mouth or lips of the mag stick up about an eighth to three sixteenths inch higher than the thirty rnd mags, dragging heavily on the bolt when trying to cycle the action on empty mags. These were painted black and appeared to be new, are they meant for a different type AK, or are they simply a sub-standard quality control issue of where they were made? At the time, I just wanted to buy up extras while it’s still legal to, but at twenty bucks each, that’s $42. Plus change that I could have put toward something I could use. People told me when I initially started looking, that Saigas would not function with other brand AK magazines. That influenced me not to look at Saiga as a choice. Could it be that I have two forty rnd Saiga mags? Thanks for any responses, tell me what you guys think, or have experienced.

  2. john songer, i have had the same thing happen with my brown p-mags. thats the only color i have. anyway,these p-mags fail to feed at every 3rd or 4th round. they also do not lock bolt open after last round. this happened in multiple rifles.

  3. I use magpul mags and have several. Some are black and some are brown and the blacks were bought separately at gun shows and the two browns were bought from a popular catalog. For some reason my black mags seem to be better than my brown ones. The browns seem to jam up after a couple rounds. Have never had the same problem with the blacks. I can’t figure it out and now I am not using the browns anymore. Anyone know what may be the problam?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading