Imagine, if you would, that your favorite pistol manufacturer (Glock, Ruger, Sig, Kimber) was offering a new model that was exactly like their regular models except that it fires only one round. Same price as the other models though, but only fires one round. Would you buy it? Would you plunk down $550 for a single shot Glock or Sig? Im guessing the answer is ‘no’. Why wouldn’t you buy such a gun? The answer, Im pretty sure, is because a single shot semiauto pistol is fairly useless. If they had a similar model, the same in every way except that it fires fifteen rounds before reloading, and it cost an extra $25 would you get it over the $550 single-shot version? Yet, if you buy a cheapo magazine that doesn’t work you have, essentially, turned your $550 gun into a single shot pistol.
Yup, he’s talking about magazines.
With a few exceptions, I try to stick with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) magazines whenever possible. That means that for my Glock I use magazines made by Glock. For the Ruger MkII I use magazines made by Ruger. Notable exceptions are military weapons…magazines made by contractors have to meet specs to ensure reliability and interchangeability. Usually, theyre okay although sometimes a contractor can be pretty off-spec. For my ARs I have no problem buying non-Colt magazines as long as those magazines are made by one of those outfits that make mags under contract for Uncle Sam or have proven to be an excellent product.
Glock – I stick with OEM Glock mags. On average theyre about $17-25 each and that’s a bargain for a mag that you’re going to have 100% faith and confidence in. I have used the Scherer aftermarket mags and found them to be a waste of money. Theres some Korean contract mags on the market and I haven’t heard anything bad about them, but I don’t want to trade my peace of mind that I get from OEM mags for saving $3 per mag with the Korean mags. To be fair, I haven’t tried them but I just don’t feel a need to. Recommend: Buy genuine Glock
AR – The usual suspects seem to do well…Okay, AdventureLine, Parsons, Colt, etc. I’ve been very pleased with the aluminum mags from CProducts and they can usually be found on sale somewhere for around $11-15 each. Theyre excellent magazines with MagPul followers and I recommend them unreservedly. I have no experience with the 100-rd Beta C-Mags but Ive read mixed things about them. In plastic mags, Ive only met a few that seemed worth a damn. The Eagle clear plastic mags with the constant-spring followers were actually quite good but I don’t think theyre made anymore. I haven’t had much experience with the MagPul Pmag but I just cant shake the feeling that theyre going to be a bit more fragile than the aluminum mags when it comes to dropping them on hard surfaces…I need to spend some time abusing one.
Recommend: Buy genuine military surplus mags (try before you buy) or buy the CProducts mags.
AK – Interestingly, its hard to find a bad mag for these things unless you buy an American one. Even the Chinese mags seem to work across the board. In terms of personal preference, I go for the Eastern European manufacture ones. The ones with the ‘rib’ running down the length of the spine of the mag seem to be of mostly European manufacture. I’ve had a little experience with some of the US made AK mags and while some are good they tend to be overpriced compared to the foreign made stuff. In terms of drums, the Chinese drums seem to work just fine. I’ve not met a plastic AK mag I liked and Im not sure theres an advantage to them.
Recommend: Eastern European made mags. Chinese mags as a second choice.
1911 – Everyone makes these things. I’ve been very pleased with Chip McCormick Shooting Star mags. Priced between $10-20 depending on where you find them, I’ve found them to be excellent magazines at a great price. The Wilson mags are very good but theyre usually around twice the price.
Recommend: Chip McCormick Shooting Star or Wilson.
P35 – I either use military mags (harder and harder to find) or OEM Browning mags.
HK91 – With genuine German military mags, many made by HK, for a lousy one dollar each why would you buy anything else? There are surplus steel mags as well as aluminum and the steel ones are usually around $5-10 each. If there are any aftermarket mags out there I’d just pass on them. The 30-rd mags that sometimes turn up are disturbingly primitive. There is one company offering a 50-rd drum for the HK91 but I haven’t tried it…yet.
Recommend: Genuine military surplus mags for $1 ea.
Ruger 10/22 – Ruger OEM or Butler Creek. In the Butler Creek the steel lip mags are the best but the cheaper Hot Lips mags are great too. Black Dog Machine is making a drum for the 10/22 and while I have no experience with it, people whose opinion I respect have reported positively on them. Eagle also makes a ‘hi-cap’ magazine and the ones I’ve used seem to work fine and are a good value.
Recommend: Butler Creek magazines or Black Dog. Eagle as 2nd choice.
Ruger Mk II/III – Ruger OEM. Possibly MecGar. Nothing else.
Recommend: Ruger OEM
Anything marked “USA Brand” is utter crap. Maybe you have a few USA mags that work but I’ve had a lot of experience with them in a variety of guns and they are headaches waiting to happen. MecGar probably has the best reputation among aftermarket mag manufacturers and is known to make mags for some of the larger gun manufacturers. Triple K? Better than USA but not too much so from what Ive heard. Broadly speaking, any military-style gun is going to have a good selection and availability of magazines (AR, AK, FAL, HK91, M1A, etc) unless its an oddball that was never seen much in this country to begin with (FNC, HK93, Valmet, FAMAS, etc.) Sometimes a magazine will be made from a magazine of another type and modified to work in a different firearm. Examples of this would be AR-15 mags modified to work in original AR-180 carbines, magazines modified/welded to work in 7.62×39 ARs, M1A mags modified for AR-10s, and the worst offender – the Ramline ‘Combo Mag’ that was supposed to work in Mini-14, AR-15 and AR-180 carbines and didn’t seem to work reliably in any of them. These modified magazines are often problematic. Sometimes they are the only option against having no magazine at all but if you can find a magazine that is correct for your gun its probably a better buy, even at the higher price, than one of these shop-class project magazines.
If youre stocking away magazines for the uncertain future there are almost no special tricks involved in storage. Make sure the magazines are clean, perhaps a very light coating of oil on the surfaces, stack them in an ammo can, toss in a pack of dessicant, seal it up, see you in twentyfive years. From experience, a .30 can will hold 8 or 9 HK91 mags, 9 or 10 FAL mags and a 40mm can will hold around 75 HK91 mags if you stack them right.
For range trips and practice sessions, I try to use the same magazines over and over. My ‘range mags’ usually have a piece of orange duct tape wrapped around them at some point to identify them as range mags. These are the mags that get loaded/unloaded frequently, dropped, kicked, stepped on, bounced off concrete, muddy, dirty, wet, etc. I almost never use the magazine of the gun I carry daily…I might use them for a few rounds of practice just to check their function but normally I use a dedicated range mag. The idea is that the magazine in the gun you carry needs to be in top condition..once Im sure that the magazine works reliably I stop using it for anything other than daily carry. Why introduce unnecessary wear and tear and possible problems if I don’t have to? New mags are always tested at the range several times before being added to inventory. Never just buy a mag, assume its ‘good’, and toss it in with your others. Very bad. If you want, take it a step further and discretely number each mag so that if one gives you problems consistently you can sort it from the others for repair/cannibalization/destruction.
Magazine maintenance is pretty easy. Learn how to take apart your magazine and clean out the insides. Springs do go bad after a while and while it’s a good idea to have extra springs its almost easier to simply have extra mags. Some magazines (AR mags, for example) can benefit from having newer designed followers installed, and some magazines (1911 mags, most notably) have aftermarket springs available that provide more reliable feeding. Almost all my magazines, regardless of gun, are stock magazines with no aftermarket accessories or modification. The only exceptions are older AR mags that I sometimes swap out the followers.
I’ve gone on and on before about that classic argument “How many magazines should I have” so I won’t get into it here. I’ll just say that its hard to have too many. Any ‘extras’ will never have a problem finding a home..either with a buddy who got caught short, as a stash at the weekend place, as dedicated range mags, or as spares kept in stock against future restrictions. When HK91 mags hit $1 ea. I went long on them and have, no lie, about 500 of them sitting in storage. When people ask if I have enough magazines for a particular gun I usually say I’m “okay” on a particular magazine, except for the Hk mags…those Im “fine” on. Reality is, though, that “fine” for a particular gun is usually far, far, far less than that. How much is up to you.
I usually keep one magazine with each gun when they are stored. I don’t keep guns separate from magazines when theyre in the rack or the safe. The magazines may be unloaded but theres always a magazine with the gun. For pistols, if theyre still in their cases I usually keep an extra one or two magazines in the case. If you have to grab your guns and go, go ,go at least you have one or two mags. Running around with a single-shot AK or single-shot AR is embarrassing. I’d rather show up in Haiti with a 10/22 and a 25-rd magazine than an AR with no magazine.
As of today, you can still by the ‘normal capacity’ magazines pretty freely. That may change in the future so unless you like playing with the 10-round handicap that we had to endure in 1994-2004 you should inventory your stuff, see what you need, guess what you’ll need for an additional gun purchases, and get out there abd fill the holes in your magazine supply.