M16 Mag Options

The M16 rifle and its variants have been in US service since the Vietnam War and can now be found in dozens of countries around the world, but one of its accessories is even more widely distributed – the magazine. Standard M16 magazines don’t just fit all the AR15 clones on the US market; thanks to a NATO standardization agreement, they’re also compatible with many other rifle designs, including most NATO-issue ones. The Belgian FNC, British L85 and French FAMAS G2 all take M16 mags. It’s no surprise that they’re the most common magazine in the western world, with tens of millions of them in circulation.

Colt M16 30-round mag
Colt M16 30-round mag

So if you’re looking for M16-type magazines, what’s the best option? For a long time the gold standard was an original Colt, with the 30-round version being the clear leader. That’s no longer the case though. The fact is the Colt magazine, designed as a semi-disposable item for military use, is far too flimsy and prone to damage. It’s lightweight aluminum, and the spring isn’t all it could be. The follower is also prone to tipping, causing a misfeed.

The limitations of the Colt mag were obvious as far back as the mid-80s, and the British were the first NATO member to come up with an improved version. Unfortunately it wasn’t much better. The Radway Green magazine was heavier and more robust, with a better spring, but it was still trouble-prone. The next step came when Heckler & Koch reworked the L85 rifle to cure its reliability problems; they also designed a new, steel magazine that’s fully compatible with the M16 but much tougher. As well as its ultra-strong body, it has a new follower design that almost eliminates misfeeds.

Metal magazines might be on the way out though. Polymer ones have been around for a while; the Heckler & Koch G36 uses them, for example. They’re moving into the mainstream now, though. Magpul’s PMAG and EMAG are in widespread military use, with the UK buying a million for troops in Afghanistan. They’re lighter and tougher than metal ones, and you can visually check how many rounds are left. Some early ones were picky about the weapons they’d fit but the new PMAG 30 will work in any firearm that’s STANAG 4179 compliant – in other words, anything that takes AR15 mags.

Magpul PMAG
Magpul PMAG

Some people still distrust polymer magazines, but there’s no reason to. The latest materials are fully up to the job and have a lot of advantages over metal. If you want tough, reliable magazines for an AR15-type rifle – or anything 4179-compliant – you really can’t beat a PMAG 30. In fact, Magpul is now expanding its range and offers models to fit 7.62mm AKs and some .308 weapons, including the outstanding SR25 and the military M110 version. As well as standard 30-round versions of the STANAG magazine they have 10, 20 and 40 round mags, so even if you live in a state that bans high-capacity magazines you can get all the advantages of the technology.

Magazines aren’t very exciting and a lot of shooters don’t pay enough attention to them, but they’re a key part of a smoothly-functioning rifle. It doesn’t matter how expertly built and tuned your weapon is; if you use inferior magazines you’re going to get stoppages. Those old GI mags are a long way from the best available, so get yourself some decent ones now.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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9 thoughts on “M16 Mag Options

  1. PMAGs all the way. I’ve never had any stoppage issues with them or any other problems you would normally encounter with a standard metal GI mag. They’re tougher and unbelievably reliable. They don’t dent which is the main problem I found with the metal ones. As soon as the metal ones got dinged or bent I’d start having problems with them because from what I could see the feeder would get snagged on any dents which would cause it to tilt, hence the stoppage issues.

  2. I like the PMAGS. They’re tough, reliable and I’ve never had any feeding issues. The only issue I had is using the stock spoon to reload the mags.

  3. I like the D&H 30 round aluminum with the magpul followers. They are More affordable and It is easier for speedloading with stripper clips. Then my second choice would be magpul pmag 3rd generation.

    1. Aluminium mags are definitely affordable, but they’re also flimsy. I used Radway Green or Colt ones for most of my career and they were incredibly easy to bend, dent, squash or just generally screw up. When the steel H&K ones came in I felt a lot better about my rifle. The PMAG 30 has to be the way ahead though.

  4. But how about speedloading your mags with stripper clips during battle? If there is a “just as quick” a way with the magpul pmags then I may switch to pmags as my first choice, and don’t say the maglula because that takes forever and tires out my thumb. As a former Marine from the 1990’s I may not be aware of a quicker way to speedload PMAGS. Steel mags are ok and resist bending but they weigh more and I need to carry at least 12-15 mags if I am going with an AR-15-5.56/.223 just in case I may lose some. Plus there is the fact that polymer has only an active service life of about 20 years before it will become flimsy and crack. “Sig pro” polymer pistols states that on their website. Why do you think they are constantly selling barely used polymer police trade-in guns like glock, S&W m&p, etc… Because a smart lawyer can sue for any police shooting in which he could claim the pistol was unserviceable because the pistol was too old and the police department was neglectful for being “cheap penny pincher’s ” and not reissuing new pistols. Also, If you plan on passing your heirloom rifles on to your grandchildren, they need to have mags that will also be serviceable and work. These mags and guns may not be as easily available in the future depending on the law. There are steel ar-15 magazine followers available and I already have a few of them set aside. Plus, you can repair aluminum or steel mags if you need to much easier than polymer mags. And lastly, don’t get you pmags too close to the bonfire or heat source, muffler, etc… because they will warp if not melt. I have seen pics of guns with warped/melted polymer stocks on gunbroker being sold at a significant discount. Either way, I have plenty of aluminum, steel and polymer pmags set aside. Each has a benefit and a downside.

    1. Any clip loading device should work with any STANAG magazine. After all if the mag won’t fit the loader it’s not likely to fit the weapon either.

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