M4/AR-15 Magazines

Some may disagree, but I don’t believe you can ever have too many magazines.  If I could have a 100 each of every size, style, brand and color I would still probably buy more. Even though that means over 1000 magpul mags alone. I just love having them all lined up and ready to shoot or fill. 


One of my magazine testing ammo cans. It is also handy for zombies.

Magazine testing

Magazine quality is more measured by non-performance than performance. I have heard all kinds of rumors about springs, leaving your magazines filled to capacity and how many cycles of full to empty your magazine should be able to withstand. Rather than filter the rumor, I am running my own tests. Some time ago, I filled to capacity around 100 magazines of different brands (all 30 rounders). I did about the same number of magazines with 28 rounds.  After a year I took some out and shot them to see if I had any issues. I didn't with any of them. All magazines were brand new when they started.

I have a new test going with some magazines that I have used quite a lot. Every couple of months I take a couple more mags from the pile and shoot them. I will keep doing it until I get problems or run out of mags, but I cycle my magazines anyway. I don’t think I need to keep any filled for more than a year for my needs.  

So what is the best deal on a reliable magazine?

magpul enhanced follower vs regular follower

Regular follower on top, Magpul enhanced follower on bottom.

To me the enhanced follower is worth the extra money.


If you are just stockpiling, then there is only one choice:Bravocompanyusa.com. Get their cheapest, or go nuts and pay the little extra for the magpul follower. It is a worthy upgrade for about $1. Buy bulk or just get a few at a time.  I have cycled some from full to empty hundreds of times and never had a problem with them.

For a little more per mag (though it does add up) I recommend magpul pmags. The window is cool but I don’t think it is worth the extra money for me as it turns out I don't use it. Some people love it.  I just get the plain ones, I also have a non-scientific belief that the plain ones will last longer.

Do Magpul PMAGS last as long as metal magazines?

There has been some argument that a pmag was never meant to last as long as a metal mag. If it helps, I have had the benefit of seeing hundreds of pmags get used daily. The mags were beat up and are still running with an average of about 20,000 rounds through each of them. Some started to go down from dirt build up and a couple just stopped working reliably. As in a couple out of hundreds over a long time. The same thing happens with metal mags also so for me I am completely comfortable with pmags.

Troy also makes a nice pmag. It is much newer to my testing process though, but initial impressions are good. They come with a stupid pull tab thing on the bottom that you should change out immediately to make the baseplate normal. If you leave the little pull tab on the bottom you are asking for malfunctions -you can push it up and distort the spring, which means if your mag hits the ground or rests on the ground you get missfeeds. But once it is changed up you have a nice mag with a good feel to it. I actually prefer it over the magpul in cordura pouches as it comes free easier (I have bands around the cordura to hold the mag in, not over the mag). Of course, a metal mag comes out easiest of all. And by easier, I mean more consistently. Sometimes the magpuls can snag a little.  

Higher capacity magazines

surefire 60 size comparison

The Surefire 60 rounder is a little taller but not

enough to force me to change my prone postion

From left to right: Surefire 60, BCM, Magpul.

With the exception of directors in hollywood, everybody knows magazines only hold a certain amount of ammo, and if that number could be made bigger (or unlimited like most movies) then that is a plus right? 


Well, currently there are no high capacity options that are as reliable as a regular 30 round magazine


Is it futile to pursue higher capacity AR magazines?

Most likely yes. It may not ever be an achievable or sensible goal to increase the capacity of a magazine. A smart man wrote me and covered some very, very valid points:

The magazine is already the least reliable part in an AR-15 based weapon system -in even a halfway decent rifle, more malfunctions are caused by the magazine than anything else. Therefore from an engineering standpoint, it makes no sense to try and complicate it more when your goal is a reliable weapon. So for 3 gun matches or non critical use, increasing capacity has some value, but for life and death it is too much risk. Then there is the fact that from an ammo retention standpoint, dumping a bad mag with the remainder of 30 rounds is less of an issue than the likely remainder of a 60 or 100 round magazine. We can only carry so much and losing upwards of 90 rounds due to 1 mag failing early would be very bad juju.

While his points are excellent and I cannot disagree, I do still hope for the unicorn that is a reliable 60 round mag. I am somewhat of a gambler. For me, a reliable 60 round magazine on my rifle would be worth the risk. I say this, most likely due to personal issues that come from running dry on the first mag and really wishing I didn't have to reload.

Why is it so hard to make a bigger mag for AR-15's?

Making a magazine hold more is a simple thing to do, the problem is that it makes it longer. A 200 rounder of double stacked ammo would be great if you never shot from the prone.

However, 2 companies have made some progress in this regard. Beta (c-mag) and Surefire. Beta has been around a while and Surefire not as long. Both have mixed reviews.  I used to have a Beta. Some days it ran awesome, some days it stopped feeding every few rounds. I never found out why, I just gave it away after a frustrating day. My guess would be that it has a rotary spring system that can bind up on itself while you are loading it.  To me, a reliable 30 rounds is better than 100 that could turn out to be 5, or 0.  And then of course there is the weight of 70 additional rounds on the weapon.

I had long wanted a solid 60 round mag.  I tried to get super fast with the redi-mag. I even tried taping mags together. I was ok with the weight, but what I hated about those options is it meant I had to learn 2 different movements under stress.  I felt the potential for my non-shooting hand to get confused about whether to go to the magazine on the weapon or fresh magazines on my kit was just too high. I drilled and drilled but while I could get fast, every now and again my hand would go the wrong way so I abandoned the redi mag and taping. Some guys are better than me at that stuff and love it, but I had to just focus on getting faster at regular reloads.

Then I heard about the new Surefire magazines

Surefire did some excellent pre-release hype and marketing before their hi-capacity mags came out. For a long time they were listed on vendor websites, just not in stock. The youtube videos of people testing them were awesome and I was excited. If not for the hype, I doubt I would have sprung the $129 MSRP for a single mag (now you can get them for under $90). First came the 60 round, then the 100. While the 100 is too long for many people to shoot from a normal prone position, the 60 showed real promise. Barely longer than a normal mag, it uses a 4 stack with a proprietary 2 tiered follower. The outside of the 4 across part of the follower stops moving upwards at about the 10 remaining rounds point and the middle, 2 round part of it continues up and delivers the last rounds to the top. The magazine is perfect for me. I don’t might the extra weight and it does not interfere with my shooting positions or affect how I do my reloads.  It did not even take me long to get used to the weird feeling that my mag should be about done and it keep on going, and going compared to what I was used to.

But alas, I started having issues with it. At first I figured it was just a new upper I had built. Then I tried it on a different weapon. It would be fine for a while, but then maybe 1 out of 10 times filling it (or even less) I would have the followers stick.  Trying different ammo, barrel lengths, gas system lengths, rates of fire or different shooting positions, nothing seemed to make a difference. Given all my experience with 30 round magazines and seeing so few problems, having the one 60 round magazine have so many problems worried me greatly. I called surefire and they assured me that was not normal and I sent it back to them. In the meantime, I looked online. I am not the only person with the issues I had. Sadly while some report no problems at all, many people report reliability problems. While negative news of course travels further and faster than news of contented customers, what I read confirmed what I feared: The magazine is not as reliable as a $10, 30 rounder. A comparison google search of "surefire magazine issues" (or problems etc) versus "magpul magazine issues" gives a strong impression on who makes the magazine with the most problems.

Surefire's customer support was excellent and they got my mag back to me promptly. Since then I have only run it from full to empty about 8 times and, thus far, have not had any issues, but I still get the resistance while loading at the same place, which makes me nervous that I am going to have problems again. I am hoping that they just put out enough badly QC'd magazines to make a bad name, but the product is good overall and they will fix the bad apples. I really, really want to believe in it and have it work. If not, I will have to console myself with the rumors that magpul is working on a hi-cap mag.

I will update this page once I have used the magazine some more since its return from the service department.

Gunquester - gunquester2@gmail.com