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.
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.
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.