AR mags

People say that you should load AR mags with 28 rounds rather than 30 to prevent jams.  I read somewhere that the problem is that people (soldiers) would take the mags apart and put them back together in such a way that the springs didnt compress properly and when thirty mags did wind up getting stuffed into the mag there would be problems. So….logically, the answer was to play it safe and always go with 28 rounds rather than learn to re-assemble the mag correctly, I suppose. To each their own, I suppose.

Since the AR is so ubiquitous there is no shortage of manufacturers of magazines out there. “Contract mags” are what most of us wind up with. Simply put, these are magazines that are built under contract for Uncle Sam.

Theres three kinds of AR mags out there these days – plastic, aluminum and steel. Speaking from my own experience, I almost always go with the original aluminum mags. I’ve met very few plastic mags that were reliable, fit well, and could take abuse. Some folks love the Pmag from Magpul but I’ve read mixed things about them. The big drawbacks to plastic magazines as Ive experienced them have been durability and fit. I try to take good care of my mags and not drop them onto hard surfaces, etc, but when the zombies get here it’ll be nice to know that I can drop mags on the sidewalk at a dead run and not have them chip or break…I just havent met a plastic magazine yet that makes me feel comfortable in that regard. The other problem Ive had with plastic mags, and this was a problem on early first-gen Glock mags too, is that when the mag is fully loaded it swells a bit and makes insertion/removal from the magazine well a bit tricky. If it doesnt drop free from the AR when I push the mag release, I dont want it. The Pmags get great reviews but they also have their detractors. I have a couple of them and they seem to work okay, although I havent tested them to destruction yet. On the other hand, I have AR mags from waaaaaaay back that still work just fine.

The steel mags, which I understand are mostly surplus British SA80 mags although there are some commercial ones as well, seem to work but I’m squeamish about constantly inserting/removing a steel magazine into/from an aluminum magazine well…it seems like a recipe for wear.  I do have a few steel mags that Ive kept over the years but I almost never use them and they are relegated to tertiary-level spares. Given the low price of aluminum mags these days I may just strip them for springs and followers and toss them.

That leaves aluminum mags. Although the mags have pretty much stayed the same over the years, the innards have not. The biggest change has been in followers. I have original Colt mags with the alloy followers (thats old, baby!) Followers then changed from black plastic to green and now to tan. The latest feature is the ‘anti-tilt’ follower which seems to be becoming standard with almost everyones AR mags these days. While there are plenty of makers of AR mags out there, I’ve been stocking up on the ones from CProducts. Quality has been very good and they are priced extremely well. Often you can find wholesalers dumping them for less than $10 ea. in quantity.

For drum magazines, theres really only two options – the 90-round drum which is pretty darn big and bulky, and the 100-round Beta magazine. I’ve very little experience with either one but the Beta seems like a better choice just in terms of size and carryability.

Were someone to ask me what they should buy and stick away for that Rainy Day, I’d say get as many of the CProduct or genuine GI mags as possible. I prefer 30-rd mags although a couple 20’s are handy for carrying in your pocket.  I’d stay away from anything aftermarket like the dreded USA-branded mags, any steel mags, and most plastic mags. There are some 40- and even 50-round mags out there but I question their reliability and wouldnt advise getting them unless youre going to test them thoroughly.

Our buddy  ,Rawles has a FAQ about AR mags thats worth reading here.

20 thoughts on “AR mags

  1. Ok let see if we can put this to rest. 28 round is the max on all gov contract 30rd magazines. The reason is this. While the magazine is designed to take 30rnds and will, the problem lays with inserting the magazine into the rifle on a closed bolt. If the gov contract magazine is top off to 30rds you may or may not have enough give left in the spring for the magazine to lock in place. The top off magazine will work as long as you are alway inserting a fresh one on an lock back. I do own contract magazine and Pmag. I like the Pmags because you can top them off to 30rds and still get a lock on a closed bolt. I also buy the Cproducts Stainless Steel body magazines becuase they were test by SWAT magazine which included them being run over by a vehicle and they still worked, not bad for 11.95 each (30rd)

    Not real big on the drums so comment there.

    I also have Colt 20rd magazines that are about 30 plus years old and they still work great.

    Oh one last thing if you have a bunch of old gov contract magazines it is not a bad idea to upgrade with the upgrade kit (use SS spring kit) from Cproducts. The new Stainless Springs can be loaded up and left for 30 years. The spring will set the first time you load it and will not change or get weaker like the older springs.

  2. CDNN has 30 round CProducts AR mags for $7.49 each, or $6.99 if you buy 10.

    Cheaper Than Dirt has them for just under $10 each.

    I suppose it’s a matter of production volume, but 30 round mags seem to be the same price (or lower) than 20 round mags.

    20’s are a little easier to use when shooting from prone, but that seems to be the only advantage I can see (other than being a bit cheaper to fill).

  3. 30 round GI mags or the C Products which are essentially the same thing are probably the best way to go, certainly the best value. Consider stashing some spare springs as they are the only thing that really wears out IMO.

  4. The only reason for using 30’s is with a select fire weapon. If you are using a bullet hose, they’re ok. From the .gov’s perpective, issuing 30’s is cheaper, since 10 30’s is better than 15 20’s. However, from a private perspective, you now have only 2/3 as many mags to depend on. Feedlip damage, bad springs, lost, crushed, etc… One plus for the 20’s that is overlooked is the shape is very amenable to storage. That odd shape to the 30’s is a problem, both on and off body.

  5. I try to replace any mag springs I can with Wolf springs from Brownells. I’ve also had success with both their 20’s and 30’s.
    Makes for an easy refurb on a surplus AK mags too, but that’s another subject.

  6. pmags are a relatively new product, still going through a R&D phase. I owned a few of the first generation ones and had no problems with them, and own 2nd, 3rd, and whatever generation they are on now and it’s the same thing – they run like a top.

    Rawles’s FAQ is outdated. I wrote him a couple of years ago with some suggestions for updating it, and added that it is kind of odd for someone who proports to not even really use, own, respect, or shoot AR’s to write a report about the best mags for them. No reply.

  7. Bubba,
    With all due respect, Mr. Rawles’s wife pasted away around that time you mentioned, maybe he had something else to deal with?
    Why do you find it strange that he did not post your updated material when as you say Rawles is not a fan of the M-16 platform? To me what is really great about Rawles is that he went thru the trouble to write anything at all. It’s the hallmark of we Christians who follow a Reformed world view. It’s called Grace or Unmerited favor. Doing a good deed even when we get nothing from it. Maybe you can do a good deed and update us all with current info, or try contacting James Rawles again. Peace

  8. Will,

    I disagree totally with your reasoning for not using 30rd magazines. I own them because I can and I like them better. Oh also it has an awsome CDT effect.

  9. I agree with you Bubba the link is outdate, but I do not go to Rawles site to learn this type of information because his site is limited in the fact that most information posted is from 3rd parties with unknow backgrounds in the area they are posting about.

    I like to read the reports from soliders and contractor who operated over in Iraq. There is alot of good info out there on the AR platform and what worked well and what did not. I also have attended alot of training over the years that were thaught by personnel that have been in Iraq. I learned alot from these guys. If you ever get the chance to attend some of Paul Howe’s training it is great. He was a Delta operators best remember from “Blackhawk Down”

  10. Stainless steel spring is the way to go. They will not weaken over time even when compressed. The only down side is you may see some rust on them from time to time unlike with the silicon springs.

  11. 3rdman is correct. a full magazine on a closed bolt causes problems. In this area of the northeast we have to teach l.e.o.’s to load from an open bolt because we can’t count on their dumb asses to download the magazine a round or two.

  12. I own 35+ 30’s from Brownells and 10 of the their 20’s. All have the green follower and silicon springs. I can say that I have never had a problem with any of them. To be fair however, I train with an AK or FAL much more than an AR.

  13. Nickle – Rawles’ wife passed away late last year. If you read my comments I state that I wrote him a couple of years ago – actually more like 3.

    Rawles’s whole site is informational in nature. The point I was making in my comment is that he apparently wrote his AR Mag FAQ long enough ago for it to be partially outdated. The reason I wrote him is because I thought it important to keep the FAQ somewhat timely. Obsolete information is incomplete information and AR magazine technology has seen some quick advancements in the last few years.

    Thanks for sharing your views. Peace back at you.

  14. I own only pmags for my AR. Have not ever had a feed problem. The things are near indestructible. I can’t link here to the videos but you can google for pmag videos showing them being run over by trucks, etc… And even shot through and they still function. The only negative, which i do not agree is a negative, is that they maybe do not drop as readily when emptied.

  15. Bubba, You of course are right.
    I got “blocked out ” of another site, which routinely trash Rawles. So I might be over sensitive on the subject.
    Why not post an updated version here?, ( if the great and powerful Zero allows) .

  16. I have mostly Magpul Pmags for my AR and agree that they perform flawlessly, way better than the metal GI mags I mostly used when in Iraq.

    I also have two of the H&K 416 mags that were issued to my Marine Reserve unit before we deployed. I used them as my primary mags in country and they worked flawlessly and could be loaded to 30 rounds with ease. They are much more rugged than standard GI mags and feel more substantial than Pmags. They are, of course, way more expensive than most other options.

    It seems that several sources have come up with upgrade kits for the standard GI mags that replaces the spring, follower and even the base plate in some situations. This seems to be a great way to economize on any standard mags you may already have while improving reliability…

  17. I like the Pmag’s and have experianced no issues with them. CProducts also makes a great mag for the money.

    I have stocked more PMags than alumimum or steel due to what I consider their long term ruggedness. If you drop a plastic mag hard enough to chip it – I would imagine an alumimum mag would dent/bend. My experiance shows the PMags extremely rugged,

    But – I do have both stocked away. You really can’t pass up on CProducts mags for the price.

    Take care – Rourke

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