Five Best AR-15 Magazines For Your Rifle ~ Review & VIDEOS

best AR-15 Magazine
Best AR-15 Magazine

Unleaded Ink By Norman Gray

Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- Now that you have the AR-15 rifle of your dreams and you’ve spent enough on accessories to get a second rifle it’s time to think about the most important piece of gear for every rifle, its the AR-15 magazine.

All rifles come with one or several factory OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) magazines that work reliably with that rifle and you have the option to purchase more if you choose.

Depending on what you plan to do with your rifle, a magazine cannot fail to feed and the best time to find this out is while you’re not being shot at. For some of you this is experience and for others it trial and error, but magazine selection is an important process.

How do ‘knowitall' gun writers know so much about things like this, well that’s easy, we made all these mistakes before you did, so our goal is to help you avoid them in the first place. So here are a few suggestions to help you choose a reliable magazine for your rifle.

First things first, find a brand or two that you may want and get one of each. You do not want to spend a $120.00 to find out that they won’t feed, some places won’t take them back. Then ask these simple questions, will they accept your magazine loader, will they easily insert in and drop free from your magazine well loaded and empty, will they hold thirty rounds and then chamber rounds easily and are they simple to take apart and clean?

Now load the AR-15 mags to full capacity and run them through your rifle, did they malfunction in any way or did they perform as expected? If it’s the later, then buy six or more and try them all out over time making sure they all work 100% reliably.

Seems like a lot of work but whether you are preparing for the zombie apocalypse or real war, it is a good feeling knowing they will work when called upon.

If you plan on modifying your magazines in any way, do your homework first and make sure the kit works with your brand of magazine and then put it thru its paces. Mechanical items usually work better after a break in period, but it’s still a machine and prone to failure. Inspect them often and make repairs or replace where needed and keep them as clean as conditions allow. One area to watch is the feed lips, on aluminum magazines they are prone to bend or break off and with polymer types they can distort out of shape if heated or break if very cold. Carry a few spares, they are not overly bulk and don’t weight much empty and when you need them you’ll be glad you have them close.

 My pick of AR-15 magazines I use myself:

5.  Brownells AR-15 30Rd Magazine CS 223/5.56 (Most common AR15 magazine)

They are constructed of aluminum and are supplied with a fiberglass-filled plastic anti-tilt follower with self-lubricating composition. These followers are a step up from the old aluminum followers which were not the most reliable at the time. Now don’t get me wrong, for a cheaper magazine they will take some abuse and keep feeding rounds. I used this type in the military and they performed when I thought they shouldn’t. Depending on the type of use, if they get bent or dented the follower may jam rendering them inoperable. But for general use at the range, competition or hunting they are budget friendly and easily replaceable.

Brownells AR-15 30Rd Magazine CS 223/5.56
Brownells AR-15 30Rd Magazine CS 223/5.56

4. FNH USA – SCAR 16S 30RD 223/5.56 MAGAZINES

If aluminum magazines bring back bad memories and you demand something a bit more robust, the steel FNH USA – SCAR 16S 30RD 223/5.56 MAGAZINES will scratch that itch.

FNH (Fabrique Nationale Herstal) makes some of the finest firearms in the world and it would figure their magazines would reflect that heritage. These steel magazines were developed for the FNH SCAR 16S and come with their low friction polymer follower for reliable feeding. You can expect these to be a bit heavier than their aluminum counterparts but will also last longer with harder use. They function equally well in your AR-15 and come in black and flat earth finishes and are higher priced than standard aluminum magazines, but you already knew that right?

FNH USA - SCAR 16S 30RD 223/5.56 Magazine
FNH USA – SCAR 16S 30RD 223/5.56 Magazine

3. MAGPUL – AR-15/M16 PMAG 30-ROUND GEN M3 Magazines

Everything’s going polymer these days and rifle magazines are no exception. The MAGPUL – AR-15/M16 PMAG 30-ROUND GEN M3 MAGAZINES are used by our military and carry their own NSN, this is a testament to their reliability in combat.

The Gen M3 are the latest in a line of magazines that work and work well, I haven’t had any failures in a single Magpul magazine I own. They have improved upon the older models to make these more compatible with other rifles and strengthened the mag catch and feed lip areas and the polymer body is designed to flex to resist breaking and crushing. Included is a new four way anti-tilt follower that performs better under high grit and dust conditions, and they still include the dust cover for storage of loaded magazines.

The thinner floor plate removes without tools and there is a dot matrix area for use with a sharpie to mark your magazines, and the price per mag won’t beat you up.

MAGPUL PMAG 30-ROUND GEN M3 Magazines
MAGPUL – AR-15/M16 PMAG 30-ROUND GEN M3 Magazines

2. SUREFIRE – AR-15/M16 60RD 223/5.56 Magazine

Our fathers and grandfathers fought wars with rifles that only held five rounds, hard to believe in today’s world dominated by 30 round magazines. Today 30 rounds is the norm but not the rule and Surefire has broken with tradition to give us 60 rounds in one magazines.

The SUREFIRE – AR-15/M16 60RD 223/5.56 MAGAZINE give you double the normal rounds in one magazine weighting in at 2 pounds and is less than the width of two normal magazines stacked together.

They meet NATO STANAG 4179 specifications and function in all rifles that accept AR-15/M16/M4 magazines. The Nesting nylon followers are lube free and fully support the rounds for reliable feeding. The springs have a cadmium coating to reduce friction and resists corrosion. They will fit in most carriers that hold two magazines and they sell a single magazine pouch that is M.O.L.E. compatible, but keep in mind these magazines are pricey and not for the budget minded.

SUREFIRE - AR-15/M16 60RD 223/5.56 Magazine
SUREFIRE – AR-15/M16 60RD 223/5.56 Magazine

1. X PRODUCTS – AR-15/M16 50RD 223/5.56X15 DRUM Magazine

Higher capacity magazines are all the rage and anything that hold over 30 rounds is highly desired. X PRODUCTS – AR-15/M16 50RD 223/5.56X15 DRUM MAGAZINE is fairly new to the market but it meets the needs of the modern AR shooter, military and law enforcement. The steel and aluminum constructed X-Product drum holds 50 rounds of 5.56×45/.223 FMJ ammunition and 300 AAC Blackout. It is rated for full auto fire (1100 RPM) with rifles with a high cyclic rate and loading/un-loading is easy using the finger notched hand wheel with no tools.

All the critical components are Cerakote coated to reduce friction and make the need for lubrication unnecessary. It will function with many types of AR rifles, with some exceptions and is shorter than a standard 30 round magazine which aids in shooting in the prone position.

There is also a single and double carrying pouch available that are M.O.L.E. compatible and something I feel is very important is, (for the high price paid) it’s made in the USA and has a lifetime warranty.

X PRODUCTS - AR-15/M16 50RD 223/5.56X15 DRUM Magazine
X PRODUCTS – AR-15/M16 50RD 223/5.56X15 DRUM Magazine

Once you find the right combination of performance, durability and capacity. It is time to bit e the bullet and stock up. When SHTF you will thank me, because we all know reloading under fire is a bitch.


And Now For Something Totaly Un-Related

About Norman Gray:
Norman Gray has been involved in the shooting sports for well over 30 years. He has served in both active duty and reserve component of the United States Army as an Infantryman and was honorably discharged at the end of his service. Moving to Arizona, he began assisting his long time friend and mentor Bob Shell, an accomplished writer and author in his own right. Norman is freelance contributor with Handguns Magazine, Canadian Firearms Journal and Manzano Valley Outdoors. He is also a member of (POMA) The Professional Outdoor Media Association, the (NSSF) National Shooting Sports Foundation and a Life Member of the (NRA) National Rifle Association. Visit: http://www.unleaded-ink.blogspot.com/


AmmoLand Editor Comments:  This article was updated to reflect changes in product improvements / availability on 07/06/2017.

65 thoughts on “Five Best AR-15 Magazines For Your Rifle ~ Review & VIDEOS

  1. The guys I knew in Vietnam with the early M16’s had a lot of trouble with grit and mud jamming the guns and ehte mags as issued in 1967-68.

  2. I like Hexmags, Tapco, Pmags, Amend 2’s, USGI’s, and Lancer L5 AWM’s! They are all equally good! USGI’s are the best with non-tilt followers!

    1. I now have 10 ETS magazines with coupling mechanisms built onto them. They work very well and come with storage caps. (Extreme Tactical Systems) I haven’t noticed any excess noise others have complained about, and they are very tough and chemical resistant. Also translucent so you can see the ammo count. May not work with some weapons systems when coupled, but great with AR-15.

  3. After having an Ar15 for over 4 years, I have two types of Mags. 1st, Magpul Pmag M2 and M3 are wonderful, I use them almost interchangeably and have never had a problem with them after 4 years of shooting. I also buy those D&H mags that come with a DPMS. Palmettostatearmory.com sells them for usually from $5.99 up to $8.99 and these mags are very highly respected. Teflon coated aluminum mag, with self cleaning spring and anti-tilt follower… Great mag as well, I guess it would be considered a GI style Mag. I was just looking at Colt polymer 30 round mags, they are on sale with CDNN.com for $9 each on sale. Are they any good?

  4. Way to many shills product reps in this thread that taint the credibility of the entire website. Overall the fact that there are so many magazine manufacturers many of whom, even the US gov, have endorsed junk magazines that have gotten soldiers killed, makes all endorsements suspect. We really need some manner to filter out the shills to only get creditable reporting. I personally have purchased many brands of mags but all have failed at some time for many different reasons. If you compare magazines side by side and even use a micrometer to measure the cautious features, you will find a wide variability in manufacturing. This site simply is not creditable on this subject.

    1. Sounds like NoMar Bull is full of bull. Obviously there are variations in manufacturing and slight variations in technical specifications from magazine to magazine, especially from brand to brand, but one has to possess, use and test each to know the functioning capabilities of each and must already have skills and knowledge of such things for it to do any good! I agree with one commentator about only using 20 or 30 round magazines; much less problematic and if you have to hit the ground and “get small” the 20 rounders are much better to allow accurate return fire without interference. To criticize this site as not being credible when there are many credible and experienced commentators on here; especially without providing something credible yourself is completely foolish and immature.

  5. I guess I’m old school. I prefer aluminum mags over poly. Got several old surplus with scraps and scratches on the outside no dings or dents. They have a line green follower. Never a jam or misfeed.They add character to my kit. They will however cut your fingers to shreds if your not careful loading them.

    1. I don’t believe the U.S. military has approved any plastic magazine for general issue. And you don’t have to be careful loading your aluminum or steel AR magazines if you purchase a loading tool.

    1. Some rifles don’t have the M4 feed ramps . Your rifle might not. It also might need some oil in the bolt carrier group. The buffer/recoil spring might be broken or binding. Your magazine spring might not be pushing the next round up fast enough to be properly striped by the bolt. The gun could be over-gassed, might need a heavier buffer, It could just be too dirty.
      It probably isn’t an ammunition problem, on the barrel it should be stamped 5.56 or .223 or perhaps Wylde. A 5.56 or a Wylde gun can shoot either 5.56 or .223. A barrel marked .223 should only be used with .223 ammo.
      Take your gun to a real gunsmith along with your magazines and ammo. Next time it jams, leave IT JAMMED so te gunsmith can see just how the jam is happening.
      Remove the magazine, but leave the bolt against the jammed round IF THE CARTRIDGE is really jammed and can’t enter the chamber, otherwise take a picture of the jam, then clear the weapon completely. Take it to the smith and show him/her the picture and the particular magazine.

  6. I have the X-Products 50 round drum Magazine, and it’s fantastic!! So cool and ”Bad Ass” looking!! I use it in my completely skeletonized AR 7 1/2” pistol. The rest of my mags are 20 round Pmags.

    When I 1st got into AR’s, which is only about 2 years ago, I thought, ”I’m gonna get 40 round Pmags!” 1st off they’re very long and aesthetically, don’t go with the pistol.

    The drum magazine goes very well with it, as it’s shorter than a 30 round mag. And it too is skeletonized. Does anyone know of stainless steel polished 20 round mags?

  7. Gentlemen, I would agree with all of you that the magazine is the heart of your rifle and must be be to spec with a good spring and follower. That being said l would suggest reasonable expectations. In my 30 years in the infantry the main issue with magazines we found were the result of bent feed lips from having being dropped, or plastic feed lips shaved away by the bolt from loading in light machine guns instead using of a belt. If cleaned and oiled properly I’ve never had any problems with issue aluminum mags that were not abused. I just take care of my kit and don’t leave a string of magazines all over the ground behind me as I advance foward . Hard to reload them that way when you get to cover and yes, vehicles tend to roll over them when they are all over the ground. Tossing away magazines like cigarette butts is a bad habit picked up from IPSC sport shooting where nobody is shooting back and you never have to reload from bandoliers in a firefight once those 5, 8, or 10 magazines start running empty.

    1. In 1965 I was sent Plastic Canteens to issue; outfits refused them. Said they were not regulation? The USMC sent them to our supply center at USMC Marine Air Base at Cherry Point,N.C.. So, it is a fact that just because all troops do not get the memo that it is not used as the NEW issue.

  8. I agree, I have old colt aluminum 20 round mags with the aluminum follower, I just checked with a magnet. Also, isn’t it M.O.L.L.E.? 😉

  9. +1 on the NHMTG. They are all I use in Service Rifle competition and are excellent mags. I also own a number of P-Mags and are extremely happy with them, the I don’t think they are as reliable as the NHMTG’s.

  10. I have over 100 NHMTG magazines. They look a bit rough with the dry film finish even brand new. I’m a truck driver and have a gallon of Motorkote. It’s a diesel oil additive. Instead of just coating, Motorkote penetrates the microscopic pores of metal. It’s the best gun oil on the planet. NHMTG magazines clean up nicely with it. Where to buy: T/A or Petro truck stops.

  11. Brownells is producing the highest quality milspec type mag out there right now. CProducts and most USGI producers are reliable in almost every built-to-spec gun. PMags are great if they run in your gun – they may not. Lancers are great and the HK mags are outstanding but priced like they followers are gold plated.

    The best mags I own, hangs down, out of 60+, are the Fusil USA mags I got about 6 years ago. Rare but buy every one you see. If anyone else has used these, they know exactly what I’m referring to.

    The mags that get the most miles and have yet to fail are my 20rd Brownells. I see this trend at the range, the more regular shootera opting for the lighter and handier sized magazine.

  12. I’ve had nothing but PERFECT function with Brownell’s Magazines. Brownell’s is a major player in this space, and yet isn’t mentioned.

    I’ve seen both Surefire high caps and the X-Products drums malfunction in the hands of other shooters (note I said “shooters” – plural) at the range.

    The author’s omissions and inclusions strongly undercut his credibility.

  13. I’ve run all kinds of magazines over the years: C-products, Lancer, Colt, HexMag, Magpul, Troy, etc. Traditional, (crap) follower, anti-tilt follower, etc.

    The one that stands out to me is the E-Lander 30 round magazines made in Israel from the Mako Group. They are mil-spec dimensions, heavy-duty steal construction, have an anti-tilt follower, and are fully marine-coated for corrosion resistance. The best part? They can be had for about $8 apiece! All of the ones I have run 100% of the time with no issues. For the money, you can’t go wrong.

    However, for durability, I’ll go with the magpul plastic mags every time. I have one that I ran over and peeled out on with my pickup truck on hard, sharp gravel and it still works flawlessly. It is all chewed up and was cracked inwards afterward, but all I had to do was reach in with my finger and pop the plastic back out and it was good to go. If a metal magazine gets crushed, there’s usually no fixing it, especially in the field in under 2 minutes.

    I hope my experience can help some of you guys out there looking to stock up.

  14. Mako E-Lander Steel .223/5.56 NATO AR-15 Magazine are the best in my opinion . Cheaper than dirt had them on sale for $10 per 40 round mag . I got 60 of them and now the sale is over and I found out they are $30 . The 30 rounders are only $16.60 .I have over 10 ar builds they run smooth in all of them. I have many different lowers and run 223/556,300blk sub & sonic,458 socom ,full auto and suppressed .

    I also like the SUREFIRE – AR-15/M16 60RD 223/5.56 Magazine I have never had any problems .
    Mako E-LANDER magazines are high performance, durable steel bodied magazines. These 30 round mags are perfect for the AR-15, M-16, M4 or any other platform.

    Made in Israel for the Tavor, M16, and common small arms, the E-LANDER has been thoroughly tested by special military forces and anti-terror units. These magazines have proven to withstand severe combat conditions and meet spec ops requirements.

    Backed by over six decades of experience the manufacturer has specialized in precision-stamped metal parts and tools with an uncompromising commitment to quality and reliability. A wide range of the manufacturer’s products are exported worldwide to demanding customers.

    Specifications and Features

    High performance steel body – strong heavy-gauge steel
    Tested by special military forces and anti-terror units
    Fine resistance body coating, enduring up to 96 hours salt-spray test. This exceeds the military salt-spray test requirements.
    State-of-the-art anti-tilt self-leveling follower. (colors vary)
    Improved reinforced floorplate.

  15. This entire magazine article is bunk. The author denigrates the GI issue magazine stating it’s a good magazine for the “range” but, not of much value for serious shooting, i.e., combat. He remarks the “aluminum” followers….compared to MAGPUL followers….pure horse dung. There are not now, nor ever were aluminum followers in GI issue magazines. This clown wouldn’t know a pistol from a revolver.

    The coup de grace with this “expert” is his recommendation of the Surefire 60 round magazine. The Surefire mag is the biggest piece of junk to ever wear the Surefire name. The follower is not anti-tilt. There are consistent failures-to-feed that I attribute to the follower design. I returned my Surefire to the company under warranty. They returned it “fixed”. Same problem. Junk.

    In conclusion, the author never acknowledges the Lancer hybrid magazines, as though they don’t exist. This mag being a hybrid of polymer with steel feed lips. An amazing magazine of reasonable price and utter reliability. But, it is not mentioned. I suggest the author find another subject to write reviews on….perhaps toilet paper, as his review of magazines belongs right there….in the toilet.

      1. Glad someone finally mentioned Lancer magazines. I was flabbergasted that the author didn’t include them, as they are the best out there.

        1. Lancer Mags are probably the best. PMAGs are fine, never had an issue with either. Same for the GI mags with the Magpul followers as long as the feed lips are in spec. And that includes the 40 round PMAG. Those are the only mags I would bet my life on.

          I’m waiting for the reports on the 60 round PMAG drum before I buy.

          The other drums and especially the Surefire ones are a no go. The Surefire mags are problematic. Way to many issues with the Sufefires to bet my life on them.

          This article is bogus on many levels of BS.

          1. Agreed. Not having Lancers at #1, let alone not even including them in a top 5, to me, tells me the author and most of those commenting haven’t a clue.

    1. Dan III –

      The original 20 round magazines we had in Vietnam had aluminum followers, so your assertion otherwise indicates you were not there. I was, the Colt manufactured magazines were 20 rounds, straight bodied, aluminum follower and body magazines. The only plastic in that weapon – M-16 and M-16 A1 was the furniture.

    2. You don’t know what you are talking about. I own 3 Surefire 60 round mags. Thousands of rounds downrange between the 3. Not 1 single failure of any kind. You are correct, the follower is not anti-tilt but who cares if it works. You may want to check your gun.

  16. My Extar came with a Pmag and it is flawless. I have always used surplus magazines ( with the green plastic followers} and have never had a feeding problem in my CAR. home built shorty in more than 20 years. Can anyone recommend a good 40 round mag?

  17. “Magpul followers are a step up from the old aluminum followers which were not the most reliable at the time.”

    It is my understanding the original 30 round USGI mags had black plastic followers, not aluminum. USGI 20 round mags, which predate 30 rounders, had aluminum followers and worked flawlessly.

    1. The original GI 20 round magazines we had during Vietnam were aluminum followers in a straight aluminum magazine body. That was what you got issued fron the quartermasters in the Army.

  18. [email protected] says:

    What weapon system are you running,I ask because i recently purchased a (BCM.) And the new M3 P-MAGS loaded full 5,10,20 and 30 round will not secure in my weapon ,I have not tried the older M2 style but i will, I am concerned if the mags wont secure on bolt closed then thats not a reliable product for me.My weapon system is believed to be in the top 3 for quality,So i hope and dont think that is my issue.

    1. I have a Daniel Defense MK18 and have also had some trouble seating Pmags. I did find some info tho that helped and thought I would pass it along. The majority of issues with mags not seating smoothly comes from rifle lower design or an issue with the mag release. Usually tho it’s just how tight the magwell was constructed. Sometimes downloading a few rounds works but in your case seems to not have worked? I can almost guarantee its not the magazine tho. And a good rule of thumb is to always give a good slap to the bottom of the mag after inserting. Hope that helps

  19. My favorite mag currently is Amend2 mags, they have a superior follower and flawless feeding down to the last round. It fits well and is extremely durable! I bought one at Shot Show last year and ordered desert tan and OD green from Crows. They are coming out with 10 & 20 round magazines soon and I plan to stock up.

  20. For the price the best mag out there is made by CAA Polymer AR-15 .223/5.56 NATO 30 Round Magazine
    they fit better in a Standard AR then the gen 3 Pmag. DE Guns has the best price on them for 7.99 each on there deal of the day page. I do like Magpul products and think the gen 3 works good in my HK MR 5.56 but not in my standard ARs

  21. I bought a 50 round drum magazine from X-Products for my M1A. Got the cartridges into the magazine okay, but the cartridges would then not feed into the chamber from the magazine. What a bogus buy. I’m out $300 bucks, but am looking for help from the State Attorney Generals Office of Consumer Protection. There should be lemon laws for lousy magazines also. Save your buck$ and DO NOT BUY! The company doesn’t want to give me a refund on it. This was the first time the magazine was used. Another bad after market product.

  22. We have three preferences that have always worked very well for us. Our first choice has always been the C-Products/C-Products Defense stainless steel 30 rd mags. Never had slightest issue with them. Next is the fine Brownells offering. Again, never a problem. Third is ASC. We also run Magpul, MSAR, Ruger, and even PROMAG. The only mags we have had big issues with have been the PROMAG 40 rounders. Feeding Issues. Now is the time to stretch and stock up on all brands of AR mags. One of the best suppliers is CDNN. Cannot beat the service and prices. Look for their sale flyer. As for P-Mag, we have them but they are not my favorite. Has some loaded for long term test. Will reserve recommending until they pass our test. Good Luck and God Bless, Quizkid

    1. What TEX said. Pmags are the only mags I will spend money on. I have a some USGI mags that look like he** but have had springs and followers replaced that I “Took” as a retirement gift from the Army. I think the High capacity mags are a novelty item, IMO. They throw of the balance of the rifle and greatly reduce the speed and efficiency of reloads and other drills, unless you are training with them. Just my $0.02.

      1. What they said, I goto when solving feed issues because I know they hit the ramp right with them. Never once had a feed issue.

      1. I’ve had one page that wouldn’t feed properly, one with the window. I’ve talked to a few others with the same problem, but only on the windowed ones.p mags don’t work on ar-10.

      2. The LR/SR mags are designed for the AR-10 series. They fit my DPMS and an Armalite equally well. Mine are the 20-round version, no windows. Hope this helps.

      3. @Michael,my 308’s are DPMS not Armalite. Armalite is the true AR10 and DPMS is LR308. It’s just that all 308 AR platform rifles are mostly referred to as AR10’s. It’s kind of become synonymous for all AR10’s.That’s one of the reason I went with DPMS because the LR308 accepts Pmags. Take care.

        1. Quick question is there a difference in the magazines for the AR 15, not the ArmaLite but a standard AR. I received six mags that are supposedly for the AR their the right caliber anyway but they seem to be just a trifle bit thinner than the magazine well.
          Any ideas
          thanks a lot
          RCHGUNS

  23. Excellent article, Mr. Gray. You did make one error, however: “Now load them to full capacity and run them through your rifle, did they malfunction in any way or did they perform as expected? If it’s the FORMER, then buy six or more and try them all out over time making sure they all work 100% reliably.” Looks like the word “former” should be replaced with “latter.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *