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AR-platform Magazines...How They Stack Up

September 21, 2013
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

How well a detachable magazine fits and functions in a rifle is critical to reliability. This is especially true with the numerous companies that manufacture magazines for AR-platform rifles. A magazine that does not fit correctly or function properly in a rifle can make shooting an unpleasant experience. Reviewing the Windham Weaponry CDI was an ideal opportunity to test a variety of magazines for functionality in one specific rifle with the variable being differences in the magazines.

Magazines from Ammunition Storage Components, C Products Defense, Cammenga, D&H Tactical, E Lander, NHMTG, Magpul, ProMag, Tapco and Thermold were tested. Some actual 30 year old Army issue magazines were also included. The magazine bodies are made from aluminum, steel, metal alloys or polymer. Capacities ranged from 5 to 45 rounds. Spring material and construction varied. Some followers were anti-tilt design and some were not. Magazines were completely filled and partially filled for live-fire testing. In total, 46 magazines were evaluated.

All magazines functioned perfectly with just one exception. A call to the manufacturer helped to identify the magazine as an older style that had been updated. The manufacturer immediately replaced it with the current style and the new ones worked perfectly. Even the 30 year old army issue magazines functioned without any problems.

Article Photos

Magazines tested

To test durability, all magazines were dropped repeatedly from a height of 4 feet onto hard dirt, gravel and cement as would happen during normal use. All of the magazines got a cosmetic nick or scratch from being dropped repeatedly. None of the magazines broke or experienced any subsequent problems.

Customer service was critiqued. The best magazine manufactured can be a waste of money if there is no support from the manufacturer. The customer service ratings shown below are based on how easy the company is to contact, responses to a series of questions posed about their products, phone conversations and email communications. Each manufacturer was also asked, "What sets your magazines apart from the other?"


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): 400 Series Stainless Steel or 6061 T6 Tempered Aluminum

Capacities: 5, 10, 20, 30, 40 (stainless); 5, 10, 20, 30 (aluminum)

Warranty: Lifetime against defects in material and workmanship

Customer Service: Good

Mfg. Comments: Magazines are finished with a proprietary coating called 'Marlube' that lubricates and wears in, not off; 10, 20 and 30 round stainless magazines can be permanently modified at the factory to fit specific state limitations (i.e. 3, 7, 15, etc.); magazines are lot traceable


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): 400 Series Stainless Steel or 6061 T6 Tempered Aluminum Alloy

Capacities: 5, 10, 30

Warranty: 100% guarantee against defects in material & workmanship

Customer Service: Very good

Mfg. Comments: A unique finish on the stainless steel magazines that penetrates the pores and gives the magazines a scratch-resistant matte black finish; each magazine is lot numbered for traceability


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): Heat treated 1050 steel, two-part anti-friction finish

Capacities: 20, 30

Warranty: Lifetime

Customer Service: Good

Mfg. Comments: Revolutionary 2-part magazine with slide capabilities for easy loading and unloading; accepts stripper clips; can be cleaned without disassembly

Observation: The 20-round magazine worked very good; the 30-round magazine was stiffer to slide open.


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): 6061-T6 Aluminum

Capacities: 10, 20, 30

Warranty: One year on material and workmanship

Customer Service: Very good

Mfg. Comments: Teflon finish applied over Type III hardcoat anodize finish; black and grey Teflon standard with multiple colored options


Made in: Israel

Body Material(s): 22 gauge steel

Capacities: 10, 20, 30, 40

Warranty: Against manufacturing defects

Customer Service: Very good

Mfg. Comments: The floorplates are reinforced with ribbing and an extra plate; the spring is an extra-power spring for better reliability

Observation: This was the only magazine evaluated that had a gloss black finish. The heavy gauge steel makes these magazines more resistant to accidental damage.


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): Heat treated aluminum

Capacities: 10, 20, 30

Warranty: Lifetime against defects in material and workmanship

Customer Service: Very good

Mfg. Comments: Each and every magazine we make is individually gauged to guarantee that they conform to spec; the 10-round magazines are tamper-proof and designed not to accept more than 10-rounds (ideal for states with 10-round capacity regulations)

Observation: A friend who shoots competitively was very impressed with NHMTG magazines


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): Polymer

Capacities: 10, 20, 30, 40

Warranty: None stated on website

Customer Service: See note below

Mfg. Comments: Advances in material technology and manufacturing processes and data from millions of magazines in worldwide military service help to make this our most reliable and durable PMAG to date

Observation: The dust cover on the Gen M3 is a nice touch for keeping dirt out of the magazine.

Note: This evaluation was done at a time when Magpul was in the midst of the turmoil caused by changes in Colorado law and the political overtones. Based on the input from dealers and most shooters, Magpul has a reputation for making quality products and has very good customer service.


Made in: South Gate, CA

Body Material(s): Heat treated steel with black oxide finish or Dupont Zytel based polymer

Capacities: 5, 10, 20, 30 (steel); 10, 20, 30, 42 (polymer)

Warranty: Unconditional Lifetime against defects in manufacture

Customer Service: Very good (and they handled the old style magazine problem immediately)

Mfg. Comments: We wind and heat-treat our springs (chrome silicon wire) in-house; The manner in which the spring and follower interface contributes greatly as to whether or not a follower will tilt, and ours works


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): (Gen II Magazines) Reinforced composite

Capacities: 5,30

Warranty: Lifetime guarantee & factory warranty

Customer Service: Good

Mfg. Comments: N/A


Made in: USA

Body Material(s): Zytel nylon

Capacities: 5, 10, 20, 30, 30/45

Warranty: Lifetime

Customer Service: Good

Mfg. Comments: Our springs are 17-7 Stainless Steel and heat treated for hardness after forming; Thermold had the first and original patent on polymer magazines

What is missing from the above is any references to 'mil-spec'. This was intentional. In communications with Ronan Corp (NHMTG), the following information was relayed about 'mil-spec' magazines. " ...I just wanted to pass on some information concerning mil-spec and USGI, two terms that are often used to sell aluminum magazines. In many cases the terms are used loosely to describe a style rather than actually conforming to spec or being government issue. Some magazines claiming to be mil-spec use thinner aluminum or springs that have less coils than the actual mil-spec. And, as you probably know, there are just a few companies that actually provide magazines to the US military. (In 2010) The government then changed mil-spec and wrote into their contracts with suppliers that the new mil-spec magazines could be sold only to companies possessing valid government contracts and could no longer be sold commercially. New true mil-spec magazines are no longer commercially available, and any magazine purported to be mil-spec conforms to the original spec at best.

There are a lot of similarities in magazines, but there are also some specific differences. Two factors should determine which aftermarket magazines to purchase. First, which one functions best in a specific AR-platform rifle. While all of the magazines from these 10 manufacturers and the Army issue magazines worked perfectly in the Windham Weaponry CDI, this may not be the case for AR-platform rifles from other manufacturers. The second factor would be personal preference based on features, warranty and customer service.



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