May 2014

AR-15 Magazine Testing: Price Has Little to Do with Quality

We put both polymer- and metal-body magazines through a 12-step wringer (if they made it that far) and found out that some of the best-performing models didn’t cost a lot.

A rifle is only as good as the magazine it uses and the ammunition it is fed. The feed device is the heart of the rifle. Magazines are made in many variations upon the same design — a box with a spring and follower. Some are made to be as reliable as possible; others are built as cheaply as possible, and most are designed to function and are priced competitively. But as we found in this report, not all AR-15 rifle magazines can withstand tough testing.

The test program took some time to design, and we’re indebted to Larry Weeks at Brownells for passing along some critical advice on how to separate the wheat from the chaff regarding magazine durability and function. Producing a tough test protocol is important because these are not simply sporting magazines.

Sure, they will be used hard in 3 Gun competition and maybe the national matches. And hunters may drop a magazine from a deer stand or a varmint blind. But our protocol strongly considered the needs of peace officers who privately purchase the AR-15 rifle; they will bet their lives on the rifle, ammunition, and magazine — and you may do the same in an emergency.

We had three pieces of each test magazine, and they were grouped into polymer and metal bodies. The 10 polymer magazines were Command Arms Accessories 30-Round Polymer Magazine, $12.34; IMI Defense Polymer 30-Round AR-15 Magazine, $11.97; ProMag Industries 30-Round Black Polymer Magazine, $15.45; Command Arms Accessories AR-15 Countdown Magazine, $13.52; SIG Sauer AR-15 30-Round Polymer MAG55630BLKP, $20; S.W.T. 30-round AR-15 Magazine, $17.99; Thermold Master Molder Magazine 30 Round M16/AR-15 M16AR1530, $10.59; Troy Industries Battlemag Magazine AR-15 30-Round Polymer, $14.29; Magpul AR-15/M16 PMag Gen M3 MAG557BLK, $14.20; and the Magpul PMag 30 AR/M4 Window Gen M3 MAG556BLK, $17.05.

The five metal body-units were Cammenga’s AR-15 Easymag 30-Round EM3556, $21.99; ProMag Industries 30-Round Blue Steel Magazine, $18.31; OKAY Industries USGI 30-Round AR-15 Magazine, $8.99; NHMTG AR-15/M16 30-Round Magazine MA02L, $19.99; and the Brownells 30-Round Gray AR-15/M16 Magazine w/SS Spring 200200, $9.99.

One of the surprising things we found during the test was that price had little to do with quality and performance — a contradiction in what we usually find among guns.

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