How To Choose The Best AR 15 Magazine

I served in the military as a Marine infantryman and carried my M16/M4 around the world. In addition to that, I’ve shot thousands of rounds through AR-15 rifles since.

After shooting that many rounds myself, and witnessing my fellow Marines and others outside the military, means I’ve seen my fair share of malfunctions.

What were those malfunctions caused by most of the time?

Faulty magazines. Some magazines had simply seen their time and needed to retire, some had bent feed lips, others had damaged followers or tired springs.

Whenever a malfunction occurred more than once, we would change mags. Guess what? It almost always fixed the problem.

How To Choose The Best AR 15 Magazine

A reliable AR-15 magazine is worth its weight in gold when it comes time to drop the hammer. The best AR 15 magazines won’t just feed your rifle reliably, they’ll do it under harsh and demanding conditions.

That’s why you want the absolute best AR-15 magazines you can get your hands on.

What Makes The Best AR 15 Magazines Reliable?

When it comes to AR-15 magazine reliability, good ole fashioned craftsmanship always wins out. AR-15 Magazines are very simple pieces of gear, composed of a magazine body, a spring, a floor plate and a follower.

One of the most important components of the AR 15 magazine is going to be the follower. The follower is the portion of the magazine that the ammunition rests on and feeds from. The spring is putting constant tension on the follower and pushing rounds upwards.

The magazine spring is important for a variety of different reasons. Springs are pretty simple and in many ways identical. The difference is in the spring material.

Stainless steel is the material that the best AR 15 magazines use. It’s highly resistant to corrosion and its slick nature ensures smooth reliable operation.

Polymer Mags vs. Metal Mags

The magazine body needs to be tough, and durable. It’s likely going to be dropped, exposed to heat, gun oil, and more. Polymer is highly durable and has become the most popular material used to manufacture AR magazines. Additionally, polymer AR-15 magazines are lighter and less expensive.

Lower quality polymer plastics will often split at the spine, and the feed lips will break off very easily. It’s hard to find out exactly what polymer material companies use to manufacture magazines, so you have to go by reputation.

How To Choose The Best AR 15 Magazine

Both styles of magazines will generally be very reliable, last a long time, and serve you well on the range, in the field, and on duty.

Whether you choose polymer or metal, there are a few function tests you can perform to ensure the AR-15 magazine you’re using is within industry specs.

Visual Inspection

This sounds obvious, but take a look at each of your magazines and ensure they are in good structural shape.

Visually check for any cracks or dents to the body. Also check the feed lips to ensure they are not bent, chipped, or deformed in any way.

How To Choose The Best AR 15 Magazine

Bump Test

Fully load your magazine and tap the bottom sharply against a hard surface.

You’re looking to see if a round ejects out of the magazine. If it does, then there is a good chance that the feed lips are out of spec.

Drop Test

This isn’t what it really sounds like. We’re not actually dropping the magazine. What we are checking for here is how well the magazine drops from the AR when you press the magazine release.

The magazine should drop freely without any assistance from you. Whether the magazine is empty or fully topped off, it should drop freely from the magazine well.

If they do not drop freely from the magazine well, then the body of the magazine may be out of spec.

Finally, ensure that your bolt locks to the rear on an empty magazine. The easiest way to do this is to perform a mag dump and see if the bolt locks back on an empty magazine.

AR15 mag dump

The Best AR 15 Magazines To Buy

Magpul PMAG Gen 3

It should come as no surprise the Magpul PMAG Gen 3 is at the top of our list.

These crush-resistant mags are designed with modified dimensions so they’ll fit not only AR-15’s but the FN SCAR MK16 and HK416.

The PMAG Gen 3 is anti-tilt and includes an insertion stop on the spine to stop the mag from over-inserting.

Additionally, the stainless steel spring is known for having a long service life and the follower is self-lubricating.

Magpul PMAG GEN M3

$12.99
at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

ETS Magazines

Elite Tactical Systems magazines are some of the most interesting mags on the market. You never just buy one. One of the big draws of the ETS Magazine is that it comes equipped with a coupler system.

The ETS Magazines can be connected together for quick and easy reloads. The ETS Magazines are also clear so you can easily identify how many rounds you have left. The magazines are also ribbed for a positive grip.

ETS Magazines are overbuilt to a degree. Although the overbuilt design increases their weight, it also makes them capable of taking some serious abuse. The oversized floorplates make them easy to remove from your mag pouch and strip from the AR magazine well.

ETS AR-15 .223/.556 30-Round Magazine

$12.99
at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

Hexmag

Hexmags made the cut for a few reasons. First, they are some of the most affordable AR 15 magazines you can buy.

Second, Hexmags gain their name from the unique hexagonal texturing on their magazines. This increases your ability to grip the magazine with or without gloves.

The magazines are incredibly durable, lightweight, and designed to have a long service life. They use anti-tilt followers, stainless steel springs, and excellent body design.

Hexmag Series 2 AR-15 .223/5.56 30-Round Polymer Magazine

$9.99
at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

USGI Style Metal Magazines | Duramag

Over the past 10 years, Duramag has built a well-deserved reputation for producing high-quality, trustworthy magazines. The Duramag stainless steel magazine is no exception with its heavy-duty body, bright orange follower, and tough EVERFLEX spring.

Duramag put some serious time and money into research and development to come up with their LIPLOCK technology and Advanced Geometry Followers. It’s that dedication and design that makes it possible for them to promise 100% reliability.

Duramag magazines won’t crack or swell like some polymer magazines are prone to doing. The company’s T-360 coating is used on these magazines in tandem with improved internal geometry to promote consistent feeding.

Duramag AR-15 .223/5.56mm Stainless Steel 30-Round Magazine

$14.99
at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

Wrapping It Up

Magazines seem like they should be a simple purchase.

After all, they don’t need to do anything more than hold ammunition and feed it to the gun.

An out-of-spec magazine will make even the best AR-15 nothing more than a metal club. Stick with magazines like those mentioned above, and you’ll have a much better day at the range, out in the field, or more importantly, on duty.


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Table of Contents

  • What Makes The Best AR 15 Magazines Reliable?
  • Polymer Mags vs. Metal Mags
  • Visual Inspection
  • Bump Test
  • Drop Test
  • The Best AR 15 Magazines To Buy
  • Magpul PMAG Gen 3
  • ETS Magazines
  • Hexmag
  • USGI Style Metal Magazines | Duramag
  • Wrapping It Up

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