Best AR-15 Magazines – What to Look for When Purchasing

When it comes to what the best AR-15 magazines are, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the variety of magazines available at different price points. The AR-15 is a versatile and widely used firearm, celebrated for its customization options and reliability. Whether you’re an experienced shooter or a newcomer to the world of firearms, selecting the right AR-15 magazine is crucial to ensuring a smooth shooting experience.

In this guide, we will explore the key factors to consider when purchasing AR-15 magazines to make an informed decision. In a very real sense, it does matter what you are going to be doing with your AR-15. If you’re betting your life, then something like a Magpul, Lancer or a high quality aluminum or steel magazine is a safe bet. If it’s simply for the range, then your choices expand dramatically.

Duramag 5.56 30 Round Aluminum Magazine


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AR-15 Magazine Material

The choice of material for AR-15 magazines plays a significant role in their performance and durability. Magazines are primarily constructed from three materials: steel, aluminum, and polymer.

  • Steel Magazines: Steel magazines are known for their exceptional durability and longevity. They can withstand harsh conditions and high round counts, making them a preferred choice for serious shooters.
  • Aluminum Magazines: Aluminum magazines offer a balance between durability and weight. They are lightweight and resistant to corrosion, making them popular among AR-15 owners.
  • Polymer Magazines: Polymer magazines are lightweight and cost-effective, making them suitable for beginners and casual shooters. However, they may not be as durable as steel or aluminum options.

Magpul PMAG M3 5.56 30RD – Black – MGMPI557BLK


Dirty Bird Industries

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Magazine Capacity

Choosing the appropriate magazine capacity is crucial and depends on your intended use:

  • Home Defense: For home defense, 10 or 20-round AR-15 magazines can be sufficient, providing easy maneuverability and reducing the risk of over-penetration. Depending on where you life, these limited capacity magazines might be all you are legally allowed to use.
  • Range Shooting: If you plan on using your AR-15 for target practice or competitions, consider 30-round AR-15 magazines to minimize the need for frequent reloading.

While 30-round magazines have long been the standard choice for AR-15 enthusiasts, it’s essential to acknowledge the merits of 20-round magazines. These often-overlooked magazines offer unique advantages. For those seeking precise shots while zeroing, shooting from a prone position, or managing elevation on varying terrain, a 20-round magazine provides greater stability and control.

Furthermore, if you use a variety of ammunition types, the 20-round magazine simplifies load separation and identification. In low-profile carrying scenarios or backpack storage, a 20-round magazine’s compact size facilitates quick retrieval and minimizes the risk of snagging. Whether you’re considering a lighter setup for hunting, belt-friendly options for law enforcement, or merely seeking versatility in your inventory, 20-round magazines have their place in the AR-15 world. Explore their utility and consider adding them to your collection for specific applications where they truly shine.

Lancer L5AWM AR-15 20RD Magazine


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Magazine Type

AR-15 magazines come in two primary types: detachable box magazines and drum magazines.

  • Detachable Box Magazines: These are the most common type of AR-15 magazines, known for their reliability and quick reloading. Choosing reputable brands is essential for consistent performance.
  • Drum Magazines: Drum magazines offer higher capacity but can be bulkier and heavier. They are suitable for extended shooting sessions but may require additional maintenance. Depending on the brand of drum magazine, reliabliity can also be an issue. Frankly, if it’s not a Magpul D60, we would be hesitant to bet our lives on a drum magazine.

Magpul PMAG D-60 5.56 60RD


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Magazine Compatibility

Before purchasing AR-15 magazines, ensure they are compatible with your specific AR-15 model. Not all magazines fit every rifle, as some rifles may have unique features or dimensions that necessitate specific magazine designs. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for compatibility. What that means mostly is that the magazine, depending on your AR-15, may not drop free. It’s not a huge deal, unless you’re into maximizing your reload speed.

Magazine Brand and Quality

Opt for trusted brands known for producing high-quality and reliable AR-15 magazines. Notable manufacturers in the industry include Magpul, Lancer, and Daniel Defense, among others. While budget-friendly options exist, investing in well-regarded magazines is advisable to prevent feeding issues and malfunctions.

The Case for Magpul AR-15 Magazines

he case for choosing a Magpul polymer magazine for your AR-15 is compelling, given the significant advancements in magazine technology. Over the years, AR-15 magazines have undergone substantial improvements, in tandem with developments in chamber specifications, gas pressures, materials, propellants, and operating system refinements. Traditionally, the benchmark for fighting rifle performance was set at 500 mean rounds between stoppages (MRBS) in a clean environment. However, Magpul’s GEN M3 PMAG has shattered these expectations, demonstrating an impressive track record of over 30,000 rounds between magazine-related stoppages and a remarkable 12,000 MRBS for any causes during US government testing at Aberdeen.

What makes Magpul polymer magazines stand out is their focus on resiliency. Through extensive material research and rigorous testing, these magazines are designed to resist deflection and return to their proper geometry after encountering forces that exceed performance thresholds. While cracks may appear under extreme stress, these magazines consistently function and maintain correct geometry until a suitable replacement opportunity arises. This level of reliability and durability makes Magpul polymer magazines an exceptional choice for AR-15 enthusiasts who demand top-tier performance and longevity from their magazines.

Magazine Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity and reliability of your AR-15 magazines. Regularly clean and inspect your magazines for debris or corrosion, as these issues can lead to feeding problems. Adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance and lubrication guidelines to keep your magazines in optimal condition.

It’s crucial to recognize that magazines, regardless of their material or brand, are inherently disposable items in the world of firearms. Over time, magazines endure wear and tear, often due to accidents, impact, or prolonged use. Cracks may appear, feed lips may spread, and followers may exhibit issues. These signs of wear can lead to reliability problems, jeopardizing your shooting experience and potentially your safety.

It’s essential to avoid becoming overly attached to individual magazines and instead view them as expendable wear items. Fortunately, magazines are relatively affordable, making it a practical choice to replace them when they show signs of wear or malfunction. By maintaining a rotation of reliable magazines, you ensure consistent performance and minimize the risk of malfunctions during critical moments, making for a safer and more enjoyable shooting experience.

Magazine Storage – Loaded or Unloaded?

Magazines are typically loaded with 30 rounds because they are designed to accommodate that specific capacity, adhering to the standard configuration. The spring tensions and follower designs in modern rifles generally allow for the reliable seating and locking of a fully loaded 30-round magazine, even when a round is chambered. While older rifles may have limitations, many shooters have adopted a more practical approach. In most cases, the need to top off or perform a magazine exchange arises primarily during range sessions. Consequently, loading 30 rounds and expecting to utilize the magazine’s full capacity, followed by a bolt lock reload, is a straightforward and effective practice.

A quality magazine spring typically experiences wear only through repeated cycles. It’s worth noting that you can cycle through numerous rifle barrels using a single PMAG before the AR-15 magazine spring becomes a limiting factor or a component prone to wear. Additionally, you can safely leave magazines, including high-quality ones, loaded for extended periods without any adverse effects. Therefore, there’s generally no need to be overly concerned about regularly replacing magazine springs.

However, it’s essential to include a caveat that acknowledges the presence of magazines with subpar springs in the market. Not all magazine springs are equal. In some cases, poor design, inadequate heat treatment, or other factors can lead to spring failure even while compressed. To mitigate this risk, it’s advisable to be discerning when purchasing magazines and avoid products from manufacturers who lack a solid understanding of spring engineering. This may take a bit of research on your part. By following this approach, you can confidently expect reliable magazine performance and minimize the likelihood of encountering spring-related issues.

Legal Considerations

Due to different laws in different places, please remember to stay informed about local laws and regulations regarding magazine capacity and ownership. Some jurisdictions impose restrictions on magazine capacities, and it is crucial to comply with all applicable laws.

In conclusion, selecting the right AR-15 magazines is a critical aspect of owning and operating this versatile firearm. Factors such as material, capacity, type, compatibility, brand reputation, and maintenance should all be considered when making your purchase. It’s not always the case of buyinng what is cheapest or using the free magazines that came in a package deal with your case of discount 5.56. As with anything related to the AR-15, please prioritize safety and responsible firearm ownership when using AR-15 magazines, and be aware of legal requirements in your area. By following these guidelines, you can enhance your shooting experience and ensure the reliability of your AR-15 in various scenarios.

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