Best Firearm Magazines: Top Choices for Superior Reliability and Performance
Choosing the right magazine for your firearm is crucial to ensure reliability, durability, and overall performance. In a world filled with countless choices, finding the best magazine that meets your needs can be a daunting task. To make things easier, we have compiled a list of the best firearm magazines on the market, backed by extensive research, user reviews, and expert opinions.
- What Exactly is a Gun Magazine?
- Magpul PMAG
- SureFeed E2 AR-15 Magazine
- Lancer Systems L5AWM
- Sig Sauer P320 Magazines
- Glock OEM Magazines
- Hexmag AR-15 Magazines
- Types of Magazines: Fixed vs. Detachable
- What About Clips?
- Single vs. Double Stack
- Magazine Laws
- “Bullet Buttons”, Pinned Mags, and Other Legal Workarounds
- Maintenance Tips
- Tip: Keep Your Banged-Up “Training” Mags Separate
- Factory Fitment, Standards, and Incompatibility
- Parts of a Magazine
- How to Choose the Right Magazine for Your Firearm?
- How Do You Choose the Right Ammunition for Your Gun Magazine?
- How Can You Test the Reliability of a Gun Magazine?
- How Do You Load a Magazine Correctly?
- What is the Proper Way to Unload the Magazine?
- Can You Mix Different Types of Ammunition in the Same Magazine?
- How Many Rounds Should You Load into a Magazine?
- How Can You Tell If a Magazine is Fully Loaded?
- Why Mags are Made of Polymer
- Polymer vs Steel Magazines
- Can You Still Get Steel Mags for ARs?
Just like other firearm parts, magazines also get “wear and tear.” They need regular servicing, cleaning, and eventually replacement to ensure your firearm functions properly. More magazines may be beneficial for some firearm enthusiasts for convenience or specific requirements. Hence, experts provide a range of top 20+ magazine manufacturers, sharing valuable knowledge on magazine laws, basics, and helpful suggestions for firearm hobbyists.
Key points to remember:
- Opting for “factory” magazines that are produced by the same manufacturer as your firearm is often the best choice. To find the appropriate magazine, you can visit the manufacturer’s website or simply search for “(maker) (model) magazine” on Google, for example, “Glock 19 magazine.”
- Magazine size is a subject that politicians often legislate. To understand the magazine laws specific to your state or city, you can search for “(your state/city) magazine laws.” For instance, in California, there are restrictions on detachable magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, and vendors typically block sales of such magazines when shipping to a California address.
- Setting aside legal restrictions, the recommended capacities for most individuals are 30-round magazines for rifles, 10-15 rounds for pistols, and a minimum of 5 rounds for shotguns. Hunting-oriented firearms typically require lower capacities compared to those intended for self-defense purposes.
- Pistol magazines are commonly made of metal. Within the realm of rifles like the AR-15, many people prefer lighter polymer/plastic magazines over the more traditional metal ones typically used in military settings.
- Magazines, like firearms, benefit from regular cleaning and maintenance. Issues such as “failure to feed” often stem from dirty or worn-out magazines.
- Magazine springs wear out due to the compression and release action rather than when they are idle. Therefore, you can store loaded magazines without worrying about the springs wearing out during storage.
- Since feed lips (the part of the magazine that holds the top/first bullet) are prone to wear, upgrading to magazines with metal feed lips can be worthwhile, especially if the magazine is predominantly made of plastic.
- The firearms industry is increasingly adopting standard magazines for use across multiple firearm systems. Examples include STANAG standard magazines used in the AR-15 family and AICS style magazines commonly used in bolt action rifles. Glock style magazines are also being utilized for rifles, and carbine rifles chambered in pistol calibers.
What Exactly is a Gun Magazine?
A gun magazine, also referred to as a firearm magazine or ammunition clip, serves as a device designed to hold and supply ammunition to a firearm. It typically consists of a casing made of metal or plastic, equipped with a spring and follower mechanism. This mechanism is responsible for pushing rounds of ammunition upward into the chamber of the firearm, allowing them to be fired. Gun magazines are available in various shapes, sizes, and capacities, and they can either be detachable or built into the firearm itself. They are a critical component of any firearm, playing a vital role in its operation and performance.
Upon examining a firearm magazine, you’ll notice the casing and the spring follower inside. The spring follower pressures the cartridges or rounds, aiding the firing process. It’s essential to empty the firearm magazine when the firearm is not in use.
To inspect a firearm magazine, visually identify the spring follower, or feel its presence with your hands. If the magazine’s spring follower isn’t visible or feelable, a cartridge might be stuck inside. Always check the magazine for potential blockages or jams to ensure the firearm works efficiently.
Besides purchasing official magazines from your firearm manufacturer, numerous top third-party options exist for standard platforms. Here are some standout choices for different firearm types:
Magazines for AR-15 / STANAG-style:
- Daniel Defense
Bolt-action AICS-style magazines:
- Accuracy International
- Accurate Mag
- Modular Driven Technologies
Magazines for Glock pistol:
- Elite Tactical Systems
- KCI USA
- SGM Tactical
1911 pistol magazines:
- Ed Brown
- Tripp Research, Inc.
- Wilson Combat
Magpul PMAGs are widely considered the gold standard in the world of firearm magazines. Known for their durability, reliability, and performance, PMAGs are made from a high-quality, impact-resistant polymer that offers excellent resistance to wear and tear. Available for a variety of firearm platforms, including AR-15, AK-47, and Glock handguns, PMAGs are a top choice for many firearm enthusiasts and professionals.
SureFeed E2 AR-15 Magazine
SureFeed E2 magazines are another excellent choice for AR-15 owners. Manufactured by Okay Industries, these magazines have been the preferred choice of the U.S. military for years. The SureFeed E2 boasts a textured surface for better grip, an anti-tilt follower to prevent jams, and a heat-treated aluminum body for enhanced durability. These features make it one of the most reliable AR-15 magazines on the market.
Lancer Systems L5AWM
The Lancer Systems L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazine (L5AWM) is a hybrid design that combines the best of polymer and metal materials. This magazine features a polymer body with steel feed lips, ensuring long-lasting durability and consistent feeding. The translucent body also allows for quick and easy round counts, making it an excellent choice for competitive shooters and those in high-stress situations.
Sig Sauer P320 Magazines
Sig Sauer P320 magazines are the perfect match for one of the most popular handguns in the world. These magazines are designed to provide exceptional reliability and durability. With a high-quality steel construction and an anti-friction coating, P320 magazines offer smooth feeding and long-lasting performance.
Glock OEM Magazines
Glock OEM magazines are the go-to choice for Glock handgun owners. Known for their reliability, these magazines are made with a high-quality polymer body and a steel insert for added strength. Glock OEM magazines are also available in various capacities, making them ideal for both recreational shooters and professionals.
Hexmag AR-15 Magazines
Hexmag offers an alternative to traditional AR-15 magazines. Its patented hexagonal pattern offers superb grip and a unique look. Hexmag magazines, made from durable, fiber-reinforced polymer, also feature an anti-tilt follower and a heat-treated stainless steel spring, ensuring consistent feeding and reliability.
Types of Magazines: Fixed vs. Detachable
Fixed magazines are more integrated into the firearm compared to detachable magazines. They are considered semi-permanent as they are not easily swapped in the field during shooting, but rather typically removed only for maintenance purposes.
Firearms used for prepping often use detachable magazines because they offer more capacity compared to firearms with fixed magazines. Extra detachable magazines can be easily carried in an armor plate carrier for quick reloading in combat situations.
Shotguns feature a fixed magazine in the form of a tube located underneath the barrel. This tube can be disassembled for cleaning, and some people choose to upgrade it to a longer tube to accommodate more shells for self-defense purposes rather than hunting.
Bolt-action rifles have traditionally been fed from blind magazines, or concealed box magazines within the rifle’s stock. Some bolt-action rifles now have a hinge or latch in the trigger guard area, allowing for quick unloading of the magazine. Blind and fixed magazines help to maintain the rifle sleek and minimize snag hazards when hunting in wooded areas. However, detachable box-style magazines are growing increasingly popular on bolt-action rifles.
What About Clips?
In many cases, when people use the term “clip,” they are actually referring to a magazine.
Even though both clips and magazines are ammunition holders, notable differences exist between them. Unlike a magazine, a clip doesn’t contain a tube or box but is used to feed ammunition into a static magazine from the top of the firearm receiver. This method was popular for quick firearm loading during the World War II era.
Certain clips, such as stripper clips, can be utilized to swiftly load detachable magazines, including those found in the AR-15 family of rifles.
Single vs. Double Stack
Certain firearms can accommodate double stack magazines, which allow a higher ammunition capacity within the same height by increasing width.
Choosing between double stack and single stack magazines predominantly depends on personal preference. Single stack magazines are slimmer and easier to conceal, while double stack magazines hold more rounds, eliminating the need for frequent reloading. Single stack magazines were once considered more reliable, but advancements in technology have levelled this perception with double stack magazines.
One approach employed by stricter gun control advocates, regardless of political debates, is limiting magazine capacity. In the US, the common approach is to restrict popular 15- and 30-round magazines, reducing them to 10 rounds.
Most of these restrictions target detachable magazines as proponents of stricter gun control believe that possessing three magazines of 10 rounds is safer than a single 30-round magazine.
It’s advisable to search for “magazine laws” and your state’s name to get specific information about magazine laws in your state. With increasing local regulations, checking local laws might also be a good idea.
It’s important to know that many of these laws are still under legal challenges. For example, a federal court deemed California’s magazine laws unconstitutional in 2020. There is currently uncertainty about resolving state-level cases. These issues are likely to reach the United States Supreme Court in the forthcoming years.
“Bullet Buttons”, Pinned Mags, and Other Legal Workarounds
A significant flaw in crafting laws based on the tools used by criminals (as well as innocent individuals) rather than targeting the criminals themselves is the challenge posed by rapidly evolving technology. It becomes difficult to establish legal definitions that can effectively distinguish between what is considered good or bad.
As a response to laws that primarily focus on detachable magazines, the community has found ways to convert detachable magazines into fixed magazines. By converting a firearm/magazine to a fixed configuration, many of the associated restrictions are no longer applicable.
This typically involves modifying the release mechanism, making it necessary to use a “tool” instead of simply using a finger to drop the magazine. The intention is to increase the time required for reloading. One popular example is the Bullet Button, where the tip of a bullet is used to activate the button instead of a finger. Some individuals may even create or modify an accessory like a thimble to be placed on the fingertip, allowing for the magazine to be pressed and released in a manner similar to normal operation, but technically with a “tool” in between.
Another option is to “pin” the magazine in place. Instead of unloading the magazine for reloading, it remains stationed, with ammunition loaded through holes in the receiver located just above the magazine.
Certain manufacturers offer factory-modified magazines featuring false floors or other internal restrictions to reduce capacity to the legal limit in specific areas.
Magazines, either fixed or detachable, tend to gather oil, dirt, and debris during normal use. Also, small particles such as brass flecks and carbon fouling can enter the magazine through blowback from the firearm.
Cleaning magazines is a simple process involving disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly. Typically, it involves pressing a retention button at the bottom of the magazine and sliding off the baseplate. This enables easy removal of the follower (the plastic shelf between the spring and ammunition) and spring.
Use a brush, cleaning rod, or cloth to clean the magazine by removing any residue or buildup from all areas.
It is important not to apply oil to the inside of the magazine, as the oil can act as a magnet for dirt and carbon particles.
For bolt-action rifles with blind or fixed magazines, you might need to disassemble the entire firearm to access the box and spring inside the magazine. For specific instructions, it’s recommended to refer to the owner’s manual or search the internet.
Tip: Keep Your Banged-Up “Training” Mags Separate
In survival or defense situations, it’s important to minimize equipment failure risk. As magazines near their usable lives’ end, they might cause reliability issues. Thus, it’s a good idea to use new magazines in your everyday firearm or those used in combat situations.
However, it is not advisable to simply buy a new magazine and refrain from using it to keep it “fresh.” As a responsible prepper, it is essential to test your gear before relying on it, and this includes magazines. It is important to ensure that the magazine functions well with your specific firearm. Only after using a magazine sufficiently and confirming its reliability and compatibility should it be set aside as a “primary” magazine.
Many individuals employ the First In First Out method to continually refresh and rotate their magazines. For instance, professionals may mark a magazine with a small dot each time it malfunctions. Once the magazine accumulates three dots, it is typically relegated to the training pile.
To prolong the lifespan of your magazines during training, it is advisable to avoid dropping them on hard ground. For example, a useful tip is to perform dry-firing exercises over a carpeted surface or into a laundry bin. This way, when the magazine drops out during reloading drills, it lands on a soft surface.
Factory Fitment, Standards, and Incompatibility
There are technical standards in place to ensure interchangeability within the same firearm “platform,” similar to how different brands can produce USB plugs that work together seamlessly.
However, reality doesn’t always align as smoothly as the USB example. It is not uncommon to encounter situations where a magazine purchased for an AR-15, for instance, does not fit perfectly or easily into the firearm. Issues may arise, such as the magazine not seating fully or encountering difficulties when trying to insert it into the firearm.
Selecting which magazine will work best for your specific firearm can be a challenge. Some individuals prefer to buy one magazine from each brand, test them, and then purchase more of the model that performs the best.
Experts often suggest using “factory” magazines for safety reasons. These magazines and firearms are designed together by engineers, especially for modern models like Sig 365. These magazine prototypes undergo extensive testing involving thousands of rounds before public release.
In common firearm platforms like the AR-15, Glock, or 1911 pistols, it’s generally safer to buy third-party magazines. The designs are reliable, battle-tested and offer quality performance.
You might come across the term “STANAG standard”, referring to an AR-15 magazine. Despite the AR-15 being an American design, many NATO allies use the same 5.56 ammunition and desired a standardized magazine design for compatibility with various NATO service rifles. Non-AR firearms that use the STANAG design standard include the Bushmaster ACR, SIG MCX, FN SCAR light, and Sig 556.
Around 20 years ago, there was an increasing demand for detachable magazines for bolt-action rifles. Various companies introduced decent products, but Accuracy International emerged with the AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System) magazine, which became the industry standard. Accuracy International developed various magazine sizes to accommodate different firearm actions and calibers, with the most common being short action calibers like the .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor.
Parts of a Magazine
Magazines, excluding drum magazines, are usually rectangular and tapered at the top to fit the specific firearm design. Inside the magazine, rounds are stacked in a single or double stack configuration. The top sides of the magazine, known as feed lips, narrow like a mouth to securely hold the top-most round in place.
Feed lips on metal magazines can sometimes bend and may need adjustment to ensure proper function. It is important to avoid dropping loaded magazines on hard surfaces to prevent damage. Even plastic magazines often have metal feed lips to maintain reliability in various temperature conditions and keep the rounds in their proper position. The movement of rounds within the magazine must be consistent and reliable to ensure smooth feeding into the firearm. Magazines without metal feed lips may raise concerns about their dependability.
Each magazine consists of a tube or body that houses a spring, a follower, and a base plate or base pad. The spring provides tension to push the rounds up, while the follower sits on top of the spring and is visible in the assembled magazine. Base pads can be extended to increase capacity or provide a better grip for concealed carry firearms. If aftermarket base pads are purchased, a longer spring may be required to maintain proper tension for reliable feeding.
Some magazines or base pads may require an additional locking plate at the bottom to secure the base pad to the magazine tube. This plate can facilitate the installation of the base pad by providing a surface to compress the spring while sliding the base pad into place. Understanding the loading, unloading, and cleaning processes of magazines can influence your choices in firearm and magazine accessories.
On top of the magazine spring, you will find the follower, which connects to or rests on the spring. After inserting the follower and spring, the base pad is secured. Many aftermarket base pads feature set screws or pins to maintain tension and keep the base pad securely attached to the magazine tube. It is advisable to periodically check these components to ensure they remain properly fastened.
How to Choose the Right Magazine for Your Firearm?
When choosing a magazine for your firearm, consider several factors to make sure you pick the right one. Key factors to consider are:
- Compatibility: Determine which magazines are compatible with your specific firearm. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications or user manual for guidance on the appropriate magazine.
- Capacity: Consider the desired magazine capacity based on your intended use. Assess whether you require a higher capacity for extended shooting sessions or a lower capacity for improved handling and portability. Be aware of any legal restrictions on magazine capacity in your jurisdiction.
- Quality: Look for magazines made from high-quality materials and featuring solid construction. A reliable magazine should be durable, dependable, and easy to use.
- Price: Consider your budget when selecting a magazine. While price is a factor, prioritize quality and reliability over cost. Investing in a well-made magazine will provide better long-term value.
- Purpose: Evaluate the specific purpose for which you’ll be using your firearm. If it’s for hunting or competition shooting, you may prefer a magazine that allows for swift and effortless reloading. For self-defense, a higher-capacity magazine can offer added firepower.
- Reviews: Take the time to read reviews and seek feedback from other firearm owners who have experience with the same magazine. This can provide valuable insights into common issues or limitations that may not be apparent at first.
By considering these factors and picking a magazine that is suitable, reliable, and compatible, you can improve your shooting experience. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for loading and using the magazine, and always practice safe firearm handling.
How Do You Choose the Right Ammunition for Your Gun Magazine?
When choosing ammunition for your gun magazine, it is crucial to select the correct caliber and grain weight that is suitable for your firearm. Each firearm has specific requirements, so it is essential to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications or user manual for guidance. It is important to note that using ammunition that is either too powerful or too weak for your firearm can lead to malfunctions or damage. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the ammunition you choose aligns with the recommended specifications provided by the firearm manufacturer.
How Can You Test the Reliability of a Gun Magazine?
To assess the reliability of a gun magazine, follow these steps:
- Load the magazine: Load the magazine with the appropriate number of rounds as specified by the manufacturer or based on the magazine’s capacity.
- Fire the rounds: Insert the loaded magazine into the firearm and proceed to fire the rounds through the firearm. Pay close attention to any malfunctions or issues that arise during this process.
- Watch for malfunctions: Observe if there are any failures to feed, failures to eject, or other malfunctions that occur consistently with the magazine in use. If the magazine repeatedly causes malfunctions, it may be defective, in need of cleaning, or require maintenance.
- Perform drop tests: Conduct drop tests by intentionally dropping the magazine from various heights onto a suitable surface. This helps evaluate the magazine’s durability and whether it maintains proper functioning even after impact.
- Endurance testing: Consider conducting endurance tests where you repeatedly load and unload the magazine, simulating realistic usage scenarios. This can help gauge the magazine’s longevity and reliability over time.
How Do You Load a Magazine Correctly?
Follow these steps to properly load a magazine:
- Prepare the magazine: Ensure that the magazine is clean and free from any obstructions or debris.
- Insert cartridges: Take individual cartridges and insert them into the magazine one at a time. Align the base of the cartridge with the bottom of the magazine and push down firmly with your thumb. Alternatively, you can use a loading tool designed specifically for this purpose.
- Seat the cartridges: As you insert each cartridge, ensure that it is fully seated in the magazine. The cartridge should be flush with the top of the magazine and not protruding or misaligned.
- Avoid overloading: Be mindful of the magazine’s capacity and avoid overloading it with more rounds than it can accommodate. Overloading can lead to malfunctions or damage to the magazine and potentially compromise its performance.
What is the Proper Way to Unload the Magazine?
To unload a magazine, follow these steps:
- Remove the magazine: Ensure that the firearm is in a safe condition, pointing in a safe direction, and the chamber is empty. Then, detach the magazine from the firearm by pressing the magazine release button or lever, allowing the magazine to drop free.
- Eject remaining rounds: While keeping the magazine pointed in a safe direction, press the magazine release button or lever once again to activate the ejection mechanism. This will cause any remaining rounds in the magazine to be expelled from the bottom of the magazine.
- Remove cartridges: Once all the remaining rounds have been ejected, carefully and individually remove any cartridges still present in the magazine. Use your fingers to grip each cartridge and pull it out of the magazine. Avoid using excessive force or causing damage to the cartridges or magazine.
- Verify empty chamber: After unloading the magazine, it is important to visually and physically inspect the chamber of the firearm to ensure it is empty. Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction during this process.
Can You Mix Different Types of Ammunition in the Same Magazine?
Mixing different types of ammunition within the same magazine can have dangerous consequences, leading to unreliable firearm performance and potential damage. It is crucial to use only the appropriate caliber and grain weight specifically designed for your firearm and to avoid combining ammunition from different manufacturers or with differing specifications. Consistency is key in ensuring reliable and safe operation, preventing malfunctions and maintaining firearm integrity. Always adhere to manufacturer recommendations and exercise caution when selecting and using ammunition.
How Many Rounds Should You Load into a Magazine?
The number of rounds to load into a magazine should follow the manufacturer’s designated capacity and any area-specific legal limitations. Strictly following the manufacturer’s guidelines for loading the magazine is critical, as is staying informed about local magazine capacity laws and regulations.
How Can You Tell If a Magazine is Fully Loaded?
To determine if a magazine is fully loaded, count the number of rounds inserted and compare it to the magazine’s capacity. Some magazines have visual indicators or witness holes allowing easy confirmation of loaded rounds. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and legal restrictions regarding magazine capacity for safe and responsible firearm use.
Why Mags are Made of Polymer
As previously mentioned, polymer magazines have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in part to companies like Magpul and their PMAG series. These magazines have revolutionized the industry by offering a combination of reliability, affordability, and lightweight construction, particularly for the AR platform.
One main advantage of polymer magazines is their significantly lighter weight compared to traditional metal magazines, like those made from steel. Steel magazines for various rifles including the AR are still available and remain the preferred choice for platforms like the AK.
Besides being lightweight, polymer magazines are more resistant to bending and denting. Magazines often endure various forms of abuse such as drops, falls, and impact. Polymer provides enhanced durability, reducing the chance of breakage, bending, denting or visible damage.
Ultimately, the popularity of polymer magazines is due to their lightweight nature, resistance to damage, and ability to endure rugged conditions typical in firearm use.
Polymer vs Steel Magazines
While polymer magazines have gained popularity, steel magazines still hold a significant place in the history of firearms, including the AR platform and many others. However, steel magazines do come with their own set of drawbacks when compared to polymer counterparts.
A major downside to steel magazines is their tendency to corrode over time. Unlike polymer, steel is prone to rust and breakdown if not properly stored and maintained.
On the other hand, steel magazines offer certain benefits. Their metal feed lips provide increased durability and are less likely to bend or wear out compared to polymer magazines. Steel magazines, if well cared for, have the potential to last virtually forever.
Ultimately, the choice between steel and polymer magazines is a matter of personal preference. Neither is inherently superior to the other, as they each come with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is advisable to consider owning both types, as they offer different characteristics that may be advantageous in various situations.
Can You Still Get Steel Mags for ARs?
Steel magazines for AR rifles are still readily available and continue to be a popular choice among firearm enthusiasts. However, there has been a noticeable increase in the popularity of polymer and plastic magazines in recent years.
The endorsement and adoption of polymer magazines, such as the PMAG, by the US military have further contributed to their rising popularity in the civilian market. This endorsement often influences civilian preferences and purchasing decisions.
While polymer magazines have gained popularity, steel magazines still maintain their advantages and hold their place alongside polymer magazines. The final choice between steel and polymer magazines comes down to personal preference and specific needs. Both options have their benefits and can be suitable for different applications.
Choosing the right magazine for your firearm is crucial for its overall performance. The ideal magazine should be reliable, durable, and compatible with your firearm’s specific needs. If you’re a casual shooter, a competitive marksman, or a professional, the top-rated firearm magazines offer the reliability and performance you need. Magpul PMAG, SureFeed E2, Lancer Systems L5AWM, Sig Sauer P320, Glock OEM, and Hexmag AR-15 magazines all offer exceptional quality and have earned their place as the best firearm magazines available.