Sunday, August 30, 2009

AR-15 Magazines

Troy's AR Mag FAQ
No relation to Troy Industries.  It hasn’t been updated in many years, but there’s still some useful information

Anarchangel’s Blog – How To Feed Your Poodle Shooter
Lots of good information on magazines, like what company is currently using the tooling once used by Okay Industries, and how to spot fake G.I. magazines.

Generally, you can’t go too wrong with a USGI or Colt magazine, though there is an occasional lemon, and Colt-branded mags are often greatly overpriced. Oh, wait a minute, an important note - it’s possible that you may find junk magazines with USGI floor plates slipped on, or, possibly, magazines that failed quality inspection. If you are buying USGI mags, be sure that the guy/shop you are buying from is reputable. If you have the chance to handle them before you buy, [carefully] run your finger along the feedlips to check for burrs.   UPDATE 11/20/11:  Except for a singular feed jam with one of my grey mags, my D&H teflon-coated aluminum magazines have all run well in several rifles, including the ACR.  That one jam may have been either a fluke, or due to insufficient lubrication.  I haven't gotten back around to retest this magazine yet.  The D&H 20-round curved magazines work well too.  UPDATE, 2/19/12:  Yup, definitely a problem with that mag.  Problem was similar to the problems that I had with the 5.45mm AR-15 magazines, but the problem was the left-side feed lip.  I bent the lip, and it seems to be good now.  UPDATE, 10/21/12:  I've run 4 full loads through the grey mag that was giving me problems, and it now seems to be running fine.

Brownells magazines are similar to USGI magazines, and are growing in popularity. Actually, Brownells recently got a gubmint contract to sell their mags to the military.

For what it's worth, my M4gery won't always strip the first round or two from fresh, fully-loaded, G.I.-type magazines. If I load the 30 rounders to 28, and the 20 round mags to 18, they feed fine. Doesn't matter what follower is in the magazine.  UPDATE 11/20/11:  They seem to be fine after they break-in after a few uses.

For magazine followers, I really don’t know what to tell you. Magpul anti-tilt followers seem to be a good idea, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about them.  They are certainly easier to remove from the magazine tubes than G.I. followers.  Some places are selling USGI mags with Magpul followers already installed for just a tiny amount more than mags with GI followers.

AR-15 No-Tilt magazine followers

The C-Products anti-tilt follower is really very similar to the Magpul Gen. II follower.  I seem to remember reading that Magpul sued C-Products over the follower, but lost.  I guess I would have sued too, in this particular case.

The USGI black and green followers often work fine for many rifles and magazines, and you may never really have a problem with one. It bothers me how easy it is to tilt and jam the G.I. followers though.  I have no experience with the new anti-tilt tan G.I. magazine followers. forum thread on tan-follower G.I. mags: How are the Enhanced Tan Follower USGI 30rd magazines working in the field?  Sort of a mixed bag of reports, but "a waste of range time and ammo ameliorated only by Going (sic) to the other mags, that we don't have enough of any more and can't get," does not sound very good.  I'm not exactly eager to buy some to try these out myself.

C-Products magazines are USGI-type magazines in either stainless steel or aluminum, and have Magpul or Magpul-type C-Products produced anti-tilt followers. I haven’t used any of these (yet), but reviews are generally good, and they do allegedly stand behind their product. There are some reports of really bad mags made during the mad rush after the ’08 elections. Check their website, linked at the beginning of this paragraph, before you buy their mags from someone else, the prices aren't bad.  UPDATE 11/20/11:  I have tested one stainless steel C-Products magazine.  Although they actually feel a little bit more flimsy than an aluminum G.I. magazine, the one that I've tested works fine.  C-Products is no more, if you get a bad one you may be able to return it to where you bought it, but there is no C-Products company to return them to.  ASC magazines are essentially the same as C-Products magazines, and MidwayUSA sells the same mags calling them AR-Stoner magazines.

Magpul PMag, an M-Rev model to be specific

Magpul polymer magazines, of the PMag and Maglevel varieties, are very popular right now. They are a lot easier to take apart for cleaning than most metal magazines, with no prying the baseplate off or having to work the spring out one coil at a time. They come with anti-tilt followers. A ridge inside, along the front of the magazine, keeps the ammunition in two separate columns. It seems to me that the polymer feedlips make these mags significantly easier to load and unload, and you won’t scratch up the brass. The baseplate is flat, without any sharp edges, which is nice to have when slapping a loaded magazine into a rifle with the bolt closed. One of the downsides of the Magpul mags is that they are thicker, with wider baseplates, and there are magazine pouch fitment issues sometimes.  The PMags fit fine into the 3-mag G.I. pouches with the two grenade pouches on the sides.

The 20-round PMags work well too.  Basically the same thing, but smaller.  I used one a lot while shooting off a bench working up loads.  I think it's good to at least have a few good 20-round mags handy, and I like these.

The M4gery that won't always feed from fully-loaded G.I. mags runs fine with fully-loaded PMags.

At least one carbine class instructor reports that Magpul PMags ran much better in a high round count class where students (and instructors) spent much of the time in mud.

Survival Podcast Forum: 224,000 Rounds in 12 Days
All of the AR-15 magazines had issues with mud but the MagPul “P-Mags” did the best job overall, by a wide margin, during the 12 days.
The PMag Maglevel magazines have small windows in each side. The Magpul EMag is similar, but has only one window, and no reinforcing ribs. Coupled with a spring that has some orange paint on it, the windows allow you to estimate how many rounds are left in the magazine. With all the Revision I Maglevels that I have, the orange paint is very faint and difficult to see. The newest version of the Maglevel has round count markings, a bright orange coil on the spring, and is a little slimmer than the older version.

It may be important to note that my AR-15s don't always lock back after the last round with the new Maglevels with the round-count numbers next to the windows.  They run fine in my ACR though.  UPDATE, 2/19/12:  Bad news, they no longer lock back the bolt of my ACR.  Good news, I bought some new ones, and the follower comes up higher, and locks the bolt back in both my AR-15s and ACR.  The problem seems to be just with the early 2nd Generation M-Rev Maglevel magazines.  I'm going to try e-mailing the tech at Magpul and see if I can exchange the older ones.

My go-to mags are the older generation Maglevel magazines. I also have a 20-round PMag ready to go, if there's a need.

Magpul also makes baseplates for USGI type magazines. The L-Plate had a rubber pad, and a lock-plate. The Ranger plate is similar, but has a rubber loop to help you pull it out mag pouches. Both of these base plates are much easier to remove for cleaning. Push the locking plate in a little bit, and the L-Plate or Ranger plate slide right off, without any prying or bending, as you’d do to get the aluminum floorplate off.

I bought a pack of Ranger plates for PMags, though I’m not sure why, other than to look cool. The PMags don’t hardly benefit from them like the USGI mags do. I should have just bought the slip-on Magpul loops for the PMags.

The original Magpul magazine extraction device.

Lancer is making polymer mags that allow to you tell how many rounds are left in the magazine also. The Lancer mag is made of transparent polymer, with steel feedlip inserts, and a rubber-padded baseplate, like an L-Plate.   I’m hearing good reports about the Lancer magazines working well, although I’m not so impressed.  UPDATE 11/20/11:  Lancer has modified the design of their magazines, and the new ones are called Advanced Warfighter Magazines.  The feedlip inserts are larger, the magazine body is textured, and I believe they went to tool-less disassembly.

The CAA mags are polymer, and the Countdown mags actually have a round counter on the bottom rear of the magazine that displays the number of rounds remaining.  The CAA mags are very new, and I don’t know much about them yet.  The CAA mags are made in Israel.  The Israeli IDF is replacing their aluminum mags with the CAA Tactical MAG 17.   UPDATE, 11/20/11:  I have one of the CAA countdown mags.  The countdown widget is a pretty cheesy measuring tape type gizmo that runs from the baseplate to the follower.  Has worked fine so far, but I don't trust the spring in the tape measure widget.  It would be bad if the countdown mechanism jammed up, and wouldn't let the follower advance.  If I could get them as cheap as the Tapco mags without the countdown thingy, I'd probably buy a few more.

I bought 5 British SA80 steel magazines during the years of the 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban.” Three of them seem to work really well, and they feel really solid. Two of them would drag on the bottom of the bolt carrier, and would cause failure to feed problems. I filed the mag catch notch to try to fix this, but now they will still jam the rifle if I put a little upward pressure on the mag. They come with black followers, which are very similar to USGI green followers. They do feel noticeably heavier than aluminum magazines, and they will rust if you don't oil them.  UPDATE, 11/20/11:  I'm down to two of five that really work all the time, and magazine catches sometimes stick in the notch.  It would not suggest buying any, unless you really want a super-strong magazine, and/or you can pick them up really cheap.  I "benched" the one more, because rounds loaded near the SAAMI max length pretty much jammed the magazine solid.  The same ammo ran fine through various other magazines.  I even ran some ammo over the maximum length in Magpul PMags.  It's worth noting that you need to be careful when using magazine loaders that you're sure that the ammo and magazine will work together.

Fusil USA makes steel magazines with steel anti-tilt followers, witness holes along the spine, and floor plates that are easy to remove.  The floor plates work in a similar fashion to the Magpul baseplates, and the baseplates of most pistol magazines.  Although I haven't tried to fit aftermarket floorplates, I believe that they will fit.  The Fusil baseplate also has a loop for tying on a loop of parachute cord.  The two I've been using work fine in my ARs, but one of them falls out the ACR, no matter how hard that I slap it.  I believe that these magazines are now, officially, G.I. magazines.  My 50% failure rate in the ACR concerns me, but I like the witness holes and the floorplates.  I've also read some reports of cracking at the top rear of the magazines where the magazine is notched for the bolt to strip and feed rounds.

Troy Battlemag

Review: Troy Battlemag AR-15 Magazine

9mm AR Mags
As far at 9mm mags go, the Metalform Colt magazines are regarded by many as being the Holy Grail. Metalform mags with Colt baseplates sell for $60+, but you can still buy them from Metalform for a little over $40.  UPDATE, 11/20/11:  The Metalform mags with metal UZI-type followers seem to be 100%.  The ones with polymer followers feed fine, but may not lock the bolt open all the time, without fail.

C-Products makes the current-production Colt 9mm magazines.  I believe that they are all marked "SS" somewhere, to indicate that they are made of stainless steel.  I believe that the Metalform mags are made of carbon steel.

Many report having problems with them sitting too high when used with Rock River Arms mag blocks. Although they feed fine in my lower with Hahn bottom-loading magazine block, I did have to file down the feed lips and the welded seam on the back on a couple of the magazines, and they don't lock the bolt open all the time. They are a lot cheaper than Metalform magazines, at less than $20 each through their website. Some of the C-Products magazines that I bought factory direct have Colt baseplates, and some don't.  UPDATE, 11/20/11:  Sometimes the C-Products followers come up high enough to lock the bolt open after the last round, and sometimes they don't.  C-Products and the new ASC brand magazines are the same.  C-Products reorganized, and changed their name, but the magazines are essentially the same.  Perhaps also of note is that the finish on all the C-Products/ASC magazines will be scratched off down to bare metal after the first use.

Magazine Loaders
The LULA loaders kick ass. The 5.56mm AR magazines aren't that difficult to load, but the LULA loader is still really nice to have. I misplaced the first one that I bought (only to find it after my next range trip), and ended up buying a second one. Although they are expensive, for just two pieces of plastic and a wire ring, they are really nice to have when loading or unloading several magazines at a time.

The LULA for 9mm AR mags is almost essential, as those suckers are a real bitch to load.

If you are in the military and/or you get your ammo loaded into 10-round stripper clips, you'll want the StripLULA. Works similar to the stripper clip guides that come with G.I. bandoliers, but is easier to use.

I have a Cammenga loader that I picked up at a gun show. That thing's a piece of crap. I tried it with several different types of magazines, and the most I ever got loaded was one or two rounds into the magazine before the loader jammed up completely. Twenty-something dollars I wish I could get back.

The Pro-Mag AR-15 magazine loader is one of few things they got right.  Pro-Mag magazines are generally awful, but the Pro-Mag loader will load 5 rounds into a magazine in one movement.  It even works with 5.45x39mm ammo, which the LULA will not work with.

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