The AR15 magazine, maybe not so bad?


It wasn’t that long ago the Magpul Masada and FN SCAR were just prototypes being talked about in gun magazines you would purchase at the store. On the online gun discussion boards, excited people talked about these designs, but you would hear detractors point out that they shouldn’t have used AR15 mags. As AR15 magazines are the “weak point” of the system. That the H&K XM8 was such a smarter design as it had it’s own, better, magazine design.

I was talking to Shawn about this on the phone. He pointed out how it was a subtle change from people disliking the unreliable AR15 magazine, to wanting all new 5.56 rifles to use it.

It has been an odd change of mind set. It wasn’t that long ago that the AR15 was considered just inaccurate and unreliable. Plenty of outspoken people online would parrot that you needed to clean the gun every 100-200 rounds or it would jam up. This was considered common knowledge.

I think we have come a little way since then.

There are a few factors to credit for the old wives tales and horror stories, as well as many to credit for getting us out of that mentality. During the dark days of the Assault Weapons Ban, people were spending top dollar for old worn out mags. I know while I was in the Marines I was issued mags that may well have been older than me. Tons of old mags, that long should been disposed off, certainly didn’t help the situation. We had plenty of people, repeating stories that had been repeated over and over before, of how terrible the M16 was in Vietnam. Much like the telephone game, these repeated and changed comments sometimes become comically ridiculous. But suddenly we had combat vets, coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have used their weapons and could report that they are performing well. The AWB sunset and we had new magazines to buy. Companies like Magpul, and all these defense contractors producing high volumes made quality magazines cheap and plentiful. I remember people saying things along the lines of “now that we have the Pmag, we finally have a good mag for the AR15.”

We even see people now replacing Magpul Pmags with the USGI aluminum mags. The argument being that the USGI mags handle aging better.

Now it seems that it is expected any new 5.56 rifle will use the good old STANAG comparable mag. Maybe the design isn’t so bad.


  1. Bear in mind how much has been changed on them, over the years. The original follower sucked ass, and we’re now on the latest iteration that basically ripped off the MagPul improved follower. Then, there’s the PMag itself…

    Frankly, the AR-15 magazine is the weakest part of the design, and the fact that we’re locked into it is kinda tragic. The early mags were just not that good, and it took what, fifty years of product improvement to get us where we are today?

    I think the initial fallacy that created this problem was that they’d be able to go to a disposable magazine, and that just ain’t happening with today’s tech. Not sure if ever will…

    • I’m still using mags with those old black followers. In my experience, it is the feed lips of the AR15 mags that get damaged due to the types of abuse that weapon magazines experience. The simple fact is that a magazine is a perishable item and is not going to last forever. Buy a bunch, and throw them out when they get damaged and you will be ok. All magazines and can wear out or get broken. Even the magical AK mag won’t last forever.

    • The VZ58 mag was the best carbine magazine of its generation (in particular on weight and durability merits vs AK and AR mags). Durable and reliable aluminum construction w/ continuous curve design and strong feed lips. All of the new production polymer VZ58 mags weigh more AFAIK.

      Prove me wrong!

  2. One fine day smack in the middle of Clinton’s ban, I stood online for a (friendly) match at my gun club. I was porting my butthole-stocked BulgarAK, and the 6-8 guys with me all had ARs. Every single AR on the line had some kind of stoppage on the first string. One or two of them were fairly minor, but the dude next to me was cussing and banging on his rifle to try to clear the jam.

    I kind of felt bad because in the cockiness of my youth, I had told him before we started that I’d outshoot him in the match because my AK would keep shooting and his AR would jam. (This may have been part of why he was cussing so much.)

    One swallow doesn’t make spring, but it was a long time before I considered ARs adequate for personal use after that. Actually, it was meeting Iraq/Afghanistan combat vets who trusted ARs that swayed me.

    Running a carbine course with my AR and experiencing the nicer ergs of the AR didn’t hurt either.

    • Certainly didn’t help that Bushmaster and Olympic were the major AR15 manufacturers back in the day. When I worked at a range, every time there was a stuck case, 98% chance it was a DPMS.
      We, as Americans, tend to shoot more than other countries. Thus, we wear stuff out that doesn’t get worn out in other places.
      Look at the old Sig pistols. Americans would shoot them till the slide rail broke off. We would shoot MP5 till they work out. We have smiths who specialize in re-barreling and rebuilding AKs. Rest of the world would just throw away a beat up AK and get new one.

  3. it’s funny how the rest of the world using stanag mags doesn’t experience any major But those are usually made of steel and have longer service life.
    The US made the decision to make alu mags.. they’re cheaper lighter and disposable. Don’t blame the mags if they’re kept in service over and over after being abused.
    Back in the late 70s My father was issued a full usgi combat kit from the us for some weird reason with both 20 and 30 rounders. I’m still using them.

  4. I think the point of the AWB and worn out mags being kept around far longer than they should have been are great points of note. The AR began really picking up steam as a do-all shooter on the tail end of the AWB when the available mags were really tired or they were the off brand, after market trash put out for quick buck.

    The PMag did make the AR more reliable overall. The internal geometry allowed in the molding process made it so. That said, a new or at least maintained, USGI mag was already very reliable. The PMag is a bit better but that’s only notionally and not just in terms of reliability. They’re easier to maintain which hopefully translates to more people doing it. The covers are better for long term storage too.

    There is nothing wrong with a USGI spec’d mag! They’re usually a couple bucks cheaper than a PMag or Lancer or whichever too. Buy in bulk. Don’t fall in love with them. Replace them when they fail.

    And, if you intend to have a handful of mags set aside for a rainy day make sure you’ve qualified them with your gear, ammo and rifle. If they don’t give you consistent, stoppage free service on demand then rework your stuff.


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