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Updated Aug 8, 2022 5:33 AM

Dedicated magazine pouches to haul ammunition have existed for as long as firearms have been a part of warfare, and for the last half-century, the average American warfighter has utilized pouches specifically to carry the venerable STANAG magazine that feeds most of the 5.56x45mm self-loading rifles on the market. 

But these aren’t the days of sloshing through the jungle with your M-1956 harness, no armor, and a bloodstream full of THC and lysergic acid. After twenty years of the War on Terror, nearly every weapons system has improved amazingly, to include magazine pouches, going beyond what previously amounted to cloth bags and featuring technologies to allow you to quickly retrieve fresh magazines without making the pouch unable to retain mags. These technologies include bungees, elastic, Kydex thermoplastic liners, and plastic claws that are all tightenable, all to the end of providing a critical balance between retention and speed.

To that end, we’ve gathered a list of some of the best AR-15 and M4 magazine pouches, no matter what your use or budget. Some of these options will be more suited to military or tactical use, while others will be better for competition shooting where factors like noise discipline and sand infiltration may not be as big of an issue. All magazine pouches presented today are made in the United States by trusted manufacturers, many of them with NSNs for military use. Because of that, the average cost may be higher, but trust me when I say it’s worth the extra cash. 

I’m basing my analysis off of pouches that I’ve personally used for both leisure and military shooting, so your personal favorite may not be included. Feel free to provide your favorite in the comments below if we missed one of your preferred options.

Best Overall

The HSGI Taco magazine pouch is among the most popular and commonly-recommended options for many members of the U.S. military. The Taco features nylon front and rear panels riveted on the bottom to a U-Shaped plastic claw, the latter of which gives the pouch its name. The pouch is held together by a bungee cord, which also allows you to tighten or loosen the pouch depending on the type of magazine you prefer. The Taco also allows you to have an open-top pouch with passive retention while still avoiding the issues that purely-Kydex options have with sand infiltration. Additionally, they’re not as limited for use with thicker or more textured mags like Magpul PMAGs, which are becoming increasingly standardized in the military.

Some of the most notable features about the Taco is that while you can tighten them down to retain almost any rifle magazine, it’s still very easy to draw out a magazine to reload your weapon and get back to firing. Additionally, because of the fact that the front and back are flexible cloth, it’s easy to re-index partially full magazines during tactical reloads with the rounds up, which allows me to determine which magazines are empty or partially empty by feel. This is something that purely Kydex magazine pouches struggle with, especially with PMAGs. Finally, due to the adjustable retention and the flexible nature of the cloth front and back, the Taco is compatible not only with STANAG Magazines, but is also compatible with unusual assault rifle magazines such as the G36, the Galil, and the Steyr AUG, as well as Kalashnikov-pattern magazines and other taller or more aggressively curved magazine types.

The limitations of the Taco magazine are mostly in user comfort, especially when it comes to mounting. Primarily, the Taco isn’t going to be as secure as purely Kydex options, and some people may not feel comfortable with a magazine pouch that doesn’t come with some sort of top retention capability. Although you can add bungee retention on top, it’s not something that comes stock with the Taco. Another issue is the fact that the Taco uses plastic Malice clips’ as the included mounting solution, and while one of the most secure mounting options, they’re a pain to actually use when attaching them to whatever surface, and can be swapped for conventional MOLLE, Bladetech clips, Hypalon straps, or any other style of MOLLE mounting mechanism. Finally, the protruding plastic claws make it so that if you use the Tacos on a belt for weak-side reloads, like I do, during movements you may find empty taco pouches digging into your sides if you lean to your weak side.

Overall, I cannot recommend the Taco enough, and it’s been useful and perfectly functional at the range and in the field, allowing for extremely flexible use while not sacrificing those Instagram-worthy speed reloads. These pouches are commonly available at most tactical suppliers, the MCX, or Patriot Tactical, and I’ve heard anecdotes of even non-infantry units in the Marines making these standard issue. The Taco also comes in specialized configurations for two magazines in the same pouch, SMG magazines, pistol magazines, tourniquets, and other styles, which means that if there’s a need, there’s probably a style of Taco for you. If you need a replacement for your issued fabric magazine pouches, want to look cool, or simply like the name Taco because it reminds you of your Quicksand-tan Toyota Tacoma that you bought at 29% APR, the HSGI Taco is our pick for the best overall magazine pouch.

Specs
  • Manufacturer High Speed Gear
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Injection-molded polymer, nylon Cordura, and elastic shock cord
  • Available colors Black, Coyote Brown, LE (Navy) Blue, Multicam, Multicam black, woodland, OD Green
PROS

Compatible with many types of magazines

Extremely quick to use during reloads

Adjustable retention

Flexible for use with different types of MOLLE mounting

CONS

Malice clips are a pain to weave into MOLLE

Protruding claws can dig into sides if worn on a belt

Not as secure as closed-top pouches or purely Kydex pouches

The Eagle Industries Double Mag Pouch definitely isn’t the coolest, prettiest, highest-speed, lowest-drag option on the list. In fact, it’s probably the lowest-speed, highest-drag option. But it works, it’s cheap, and it can be easily found online or in most surplus stores if the retail price is still too high for you. Additionally, it’s Berry Amendment-approved, and was formally adopted by the military and bears an NSN, meaning that this was effectively endorsed as acceptable military equipment by the Defense Department.

Consisting of a simple cloth pouch with a drainage grommet in the bottom, and a velcro closure, the Eagle is as simple as pouches get. You’re also locked into the fabric MOLLE straps that are sewn onto the pouch, secured at the bottom with snap buttons. It’s incredibly simple and not the most flexible, but it works, and has worked for the entirety of the global war on terror. They hold two magazines per pouch, and feature elastic straps on the sides that allow them to lay flatter when not in use. Additionally, those straps can allow a semi-secure carrying solution for a single magazine if you prefer that, or if you’ve already drawn one of the magazines out for a reload.

The best feature of the Eagle Double mag pouch is the cost and availability. These have been standard-issue for years, and so they’re absolutely everywhere on the surplus market, flanked by legions of imitators. But for the low price that you can find these, even new, you’re getting a proven design that’s made in the USA and has been the basis of most of the velcro pouches on the market, and they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The pouch is compatible with at least one of every type of STANAG magazine, and in a pinch can accept single magazines of G36 magazines and AK magazines. But this brings me to one of the key limitations of this pouch, which is the magazine compatibility.

This is a very old magazine pouch system, and textured polymer magazines were not common when this system was invented, and so the pouches are sized to use standard “GI Joe” aluminum STANAG magazines. This presents the issue that using two PMAGs, Lancer magazines, Daniel Defense magazines, and others that feature the molded grips are wider than the original STANAGs or similar magazines, and so fitting two of them is difficult, especially to do without being able to hold the pouch open with one hand while pushing the magazine in with the other. When it comes to re-indexing partially-empty magazines with PMAGs, forget about it: the baseplates are wider than the tops of the magazines, making it that much more difficult than putting the magazines in rounds-down. Finally, retrieving magazines is slower than other options because they are still closed top magazine pouches, and have a large cloth flap that requires you to undertake an extra step to get a fresh magazine.

The number of flaws aside, the Eagle is still the most cost-effective pouch that I’d trust in a professional situation, from a reputable company, and that satisfies the requirement of being made in the USA, and having been formally accepted by the U.S. military. If you’re on a budget, and you’re not already issued these, they’re a solid choice above their legions of imitators.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Eagle Industries
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Nylon Cordura with metal snaps
  • Available colors Black, Coyote Brown, LE (Navy) Blue, Multicam, Multicam black, woodland, OD Green
PROS

Compatible with many types of magazines

Cost-effective

Readily available

Simple to use

CONS

Not designed for PMAGs or other textured magazines

Flap can slow down reloads

No built-in retention other than the flap

Using two magazines per pouch can be bulky

Safariland is one of those companies that you’ve definitely heard of but may not realize makes absolutely everything. From holsters to body armor to tear gas to forensic lab equipment, Safariland has something that might suit your needs. In addition to all this, they cater fairly strongly to the competition market with a line of holsters, magazine pouches, and belts specifically designed to help you shoot your best at the range, with options even specifically designed to adhere to USPSA rules and regulations.

The Safariland 774 Competition Rifle Magazine Pouch is part of this line, optimized for speed, with just enough retention to keep your magazines secure until you draw them and not an ounce of force more. This pouch also dispenses with more military-oriented considerations of other pouches on this list such as tactical-colored nylon and retention flaps, being a Kydex thermoplastic shell. To add value to its use as a competition magazine carrier, it’s compatible with Safariland’s “Quick Locking System” or QLS, which allows you to swap magazine carriers depending on the competition stage, such as changing from rifle magazine pouches to shotgun shell holders, or putting your magazine carriers where your pistol holster is, as well as being able to quickly change the placement of the pouches on your belt.

The reason why I specify a belt is because while yes, the 774 is compatible with a MOLLE adapter, it’s really meant to be worn on a pistol belt, thus being only technically a MOLLE pouch. This means that if you wear a plate carrier or chest rig to the range for competitive shooting, say in two-gun action shooting, you might find the 774 to be a moot point. Belt-mounted magazine carriers work well for some law enforcement agencies, where regulations prohibit wearing ammunition on a vest (e.g. my local police department.) Additionally, the black plastic of the 774 looks distinctly less military than tactical nylon, and that’s another consideration for some departments who want to present a more professional, traditional appearance. This being said, if you’re using a rifle in a law enforcement context, you’re likely also wearing some kind of plate carrier, which probably has magazine carriers on it anyway. Another context where the 774 could shine is in or around water, given that the Kydex will not retain water weight. Mounted to a skeletal belt or a plate frame style plate carrier, this provides a solution that sacrifices some flexibility for water-repellent characteristics.

The advantages to using the Safariland 774 are manifold if you’re looking to put together a competition rig, offering speed, retention, and mounting flexibility that an open-top MOLLE pouch would struggle to offer. There’s no flaps or bungees to get in the way on this one, and the only thing standing between you and a reload is the Kydex of the magazine carrier holding the magazine in place, which means that with a positive pull, you’re free of the carrier and ready to load a fresh magazine. The retention isn’t weak, either, considering that it’s a flexible piece of plastic that’s molded in the shape of the feeding end of a STANAG magazine, holding the magazine in place through friction. This provides enough force to prevent the magazine from being freed in any way other than pulling, being unable to be shaken free, even when held upside down. It won’t provide retention against the magazine getting caught on clothes or other objects, but for competition it’s more than enough. As for mounting flexibility, the Safariland QLS system ensures that you can mount this magazine pouch any way you want, vest- or belt-agnostic, even upside down, given the Kydex retention style. But for every capability, there’s a limitation.

Probably the biggest drawback of the Safariland 774 is its all-Kydex construction, and nearly every issue with the system stems from that. Firstly, molded plastic magazines are extremely popular, to the point of being standard-issue in my unit, and in many units throughout the military. Most of these magazines feature some kind of textured plastic grip, and these grips have affected magazine fitment in weapons due to being too large for the magazine wells, e.g. the Magpul Gen 2 PMAGs being incompatible with pre-A5 HK 416-series rifles, including the Marine Corps’s standard-issue M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. What this also means is that re-indexing partially filled mags during a tactical reload is going to be extremely tricky, much more so than nearly any option on this list. While this isn’t an issue for people on a flat range who fire until bolt lock, it makes these magazine carriers decidedly less tactical.

Speaking of less tactical, Kydex, if brushed against by any hard object, will make a clicking sound. Another issue is that fine dust, specifically that found on dirt roads in areas where military vehicles have been, gets in between the plastic of the magazine carrier and the plastic of a polymer magazine, and causes the magazine to seize up against the mag carrier, making it very difficult to draw a fresh magazine. Again, this isn’t an issue that affects the sport shooter on a flat range, but it’s something that narrows the scope of usage for the 774, even though the expressed purpose of it is to be a competition magazine carrier.

Probably the biggest issue that faces the Safariland mag carrier is that it’s only technically a MOLLE pouch. I mentioned this before, but I felt bad including it on a MOLLE pouch list, let alone putting it in the top three, simply because the pouch itself doesn’t actually attach via MOLLE. To mount to MOLLE, you need to purchase a separate adapter, which puts the 774 at a significantly higher price bracket than comparable options, and adds an extra step to your magazine pouch procurement. The thing is with these issues is that if you use the pouch for its intended purpose, which is competition, you’ll likely be fine. Use aluminum STANAG magazines with anti-tilt followers, and you’ll have no issues.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Safariland Group
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Kydex thermoplastic
  • Available colors Black, coyote brown, flat dark earth, foliage green, olive drab
PROS

Extremely quick to use during reloads

Adjustable retention

Flexible for use with different types of mounting

CONS

Plastic construction doesn’t accept some magazines, especially not when carried rounds-up

Mounting brackets are extra, not primarily made for MOLLE usage

Not designed for military usage, all tactical uses are secondary

The Blue Force Gear Ten Speed is possibly the only magazine pouch on the market that I trust to be well-made and reliable in addition to being capable of lying completely flat when not in use. This unique design has nearly the entire pouch made of elastic material, stretching to accommodate cargo while in use, and then relaxing flat when not. The part of the pouch that’s not made of elastic is made of a proprietary material that BFG calls “Helium Whisper,” which they claim is highly durable while still retaining flexibility and ease of use when threading the MOLLE webbing. I specifically picked these pouches because, while I like to have the capability to carry six magazines, as a forward observer, I spend a lot of time in the prone. Having the ability to make the front panel of my plate carrier as low-profile as possible is a very appealing prospect.. These magazines come in single, double, or triple configuration, and can be purchased with or without a front column of laser-cut MOLLE to stack them behind other pouches. This allows these pouches to be used in a secondary configuration to more conventional pouches, such as having an extra one of these as a pouch where you can not only stuff an extra magazine, but also any other random implement that you need stored in the moment.

Despite its status as a decidedly niche item that doesn’t work for everyone, the BFG Ten Speed pouch works excellently for those who need it. Drawing out a magazine is incredibly easy, given that the only retention is elastic cloth, and during my yearly rifle qualification, I found that it was just as fast as using the HSGI Tacos on my belt. Unlike some other options on this list, the Ten Speeds are largely magazine-agnostic, and will accept every straight-sided STANAG magazine, including PMAGs. In addition to this, these magazine pouches are truly lay-flat, and are as good as invisible and intangible when not in use. Finally, the Ten Speeds can be used for much more than just magazines, and I’ll sometimes relegate one of my three to map pen duty, or tuck the 6-pin MBITR connector to my radio push-to-talk into one when not in use. The fact that the pouches are made entirely of elastic means that it will hold small items like a bundle of map pens, a flashlight, MS2000 strobe, or the MBITR plug just as well as it holds a full size magazine.

Unfortunately, that all-elastic construction used by the Ten Speeds that makes it so user-friendly and multipurpose is also its biggest drawback. For starters, you can forget about re-indexing magazines during tactical reloads, and even getting magazines in the pouches in the first place usually requires two hands. It’s the struggle of having lay-flat pouches, having no way to keep the pouch open to accept whatever you’re putting in, which is simply a technological trade-off that’s inherent to the system. Another issue is that the only thing that’s holding your magazines in place is elastic tension, and over time, the elastic will inevitably become stretched out to the point of uselessness. What this also means is that the very purpose that the Ten Speeds serve in my personal kit, which is to say, enabling me to lay in the prone, causes the magazines to be squeezed out of the pouch, requiring them to be pushed back down after coming out of the prone. The final shortcoming of the Ten Speeds is that they lack any kind of positive retention. Yes I’m aware that they made Ten Speeds with velcro flaps, but that was a niche product that Blue Force Gear has seemingly discontinued, and can only be found on the surplus market.

I chose the Blue Force Gear Ten Speeds specifically because I don’t always use my front magazine pouches, and they should be evaluated against your needs, and how said needs match with the factors that I’ve outlined here. These are great secondary or occasional-use pouches, and need to be integrated into how you train with your magazines in terms of where you draw magazines from, and where you re-index partially-full magazines. This is what kept the Ten Speeds off the top 3 podium, but merited them a mention on this list. They’re a niche product that will suit some people, but not all or even most.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Blue Force Gear
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used “Helium Whisper” elastic fabric
  • Available colors Black, coyote brown, Multicam, ranger green, wolf gray
PROS

Extremely quick to use during reloads

Accepts nearly every 5.56mm magazine

Completely lay-flat when not in use

CONS

Almost impossible to re-index magazines without using two hands

Elastic will eventually stretch too far to be useful

Magazines can be squeezed out of the pouch while in the prone

Take every limitation that I outlined with the Safariland 774, except maybe one, and throw them out of the window. The Esstac Kywi pouch is here to provide a solution to the mounting issues, plastic noise and reflectivity, and competition focus of the Safariland, while offering almost the same level of retention. It does so by incorporating a Kydex liner into a nylon Cordura sleeve that features MOLLE webbing, specifically to allow you to choose any MOLLE mounting solution that you choose. These pouches can be purchased directly from Esstac with whichever mounting solution that you choose, whether they’re nylon straps, Hypalon straps, Bladetech clips, Malice clips, or even specific belt-mount clips, allowing these to serve much the same duty as the Safariland option. In terms of actual magazine retention, they offer rock-solid rounds down retention for almost all types of magazines, especially the “low” style pouches. These pouches also come in a number of configurations, featuring models with or without front MOLLE, in low, medium, or high configurations. The low configuration offers maximum magazine access, but sacrifices on magazine retention, which is of course the inverse of the high style magazine pouches. This means that there’s probably a Kywi model that’s right for you, depending on what your intended use is.

The Esstac Kywi offers the perfect blend of competition and tactical shooting, featuring a Cordura exterior but Kydex interior, solid retention even on the lowest setting, and the flexibility of mounting. Especially for shooters who’ve gotten used to competition magazine pouches, and who want a nearly one-to-one shooting experience in a tactical environment, the Kywis provide the outward tactical nylon appearance to blend in with your plate carrier or chest rig, also mitigating concerns with surface noise and IR light reflectivity. The Kydex of these pouches provides outstanding retention without the need for flaps or bungees, the sides bending inward like a pinched ‘U’ and creating pressure points against the magazine to keep it in place. This has the added bonus of creating a tactile indication that your magazine is properly seated in the pouch, where a fully seated magazine will click into place as you overcome that inward pressure. Finally, you can use nearly any MOLLE-compatible mounting choice that you want to keep these secured. I personally prefer Hypalon straps, but you may prefer Bladetech clips: the important thing is that Esstac lets you make these pouches work right for you, no matter your preferred mounting method.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason why the Kywis didn’t make our top three, and a lot of that boils down to the Kydex retention. While the Kydex liner does provide excellent retention, that’s totally magazine-dependent, once again favoring rounds-down STANAG magazines over all other orientations and magazines with more complicated and larger magazines increasing in difficulty of storage, especially trying to carry rounds-up for tactical reloads or with empty magazines. Another issue, and one that caused me to abandon Kywis on my USMC Plate Carrier entirely, was that like the Safariland 774s, the Kydex liner would cause polymer magazines to seize up when dust was introduced to the system. Thankfully, this only messed up a speed reload drill or two, and nothing serious. Once again, this is another system where you’ll want to favor aluminum STANAG magazines over other platforms, since that’s likely what the designers used to test these pouches. Finally, the downside to the open-ended mounting solutions are as much a bonus as they are a hindrance. The biggest issue with this is that, if you notice the listing that’s linked above, they’re careful to note that the pouches don’t actually come with any straps to mount them to your plate carrier, belt, or chest rig. This means you have to factor that extra cost in addition to the cost of the pouches themselves. None of these are debilitating, but they’re important enough to note here.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Esstac
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Cordura, Kydex thermoplastic
  • Available colors Multicam, Multicam Black, Multicam Arid, Multicam tropic, Woodland Marshal, Desert Marshal, Kryptek Highlander, Kryptek Typhon, M81 Woodland, Wolf Gray, Black, OD Green, Ranger Green, Coyote Brown, Tan 499, and many more
PROS

Rock-solid retention with no flaps or bungees

Flexible mounting options

Competition-level speed with military looks

CONS

Not compatible with every magazine type and in every configuration

Dirt can cause the magazines to seize up

No mounting options included

Maybe you’re not content with the various retention methods outlined above. Maybe you just want to be absolutely certain that no matter what you do, your magazines are in place and safe. If that’s the case, the Eagle FB Style is right for you, offering both Kydex retention and pull-tab bungee with a twist. The Kydex is lined with a soft felt-like material, which can be helpful for weird people who like to put velcro on their magazines, but more importantly helps to alleviate the issues that the Safariland and Esstac offerings had with dust and dirt getting caught between two plastic surfaces. In addition to this, the Kydex retention is strong enough to be used without the bungee pull tabs, making these versatile and capable no matter your shooting style or choice of magazine. The magazine pouches provide retention out of the box that’s so durable that you really should spend some time breaking in the liners before you use them in any environment where speed is crucial.

These magazine pouches provide retention no matter which magazine you prefer. Even if you’re like me, constantly griping about Magpul PMAGs and re-indexing rounds up during tactical reloads, these can work for you. Not with the Kydex liners intact, mind you, but because they include the bungee, you can remove the liners and use these as bungee pouches, although that’s a destructive process. Even without the bungees, you can use these as almost the same type of magazine pouch as the Kywi or Safariland pouches, since the Kydex liners are outstandingly durable. Additionally, if you use STANAG-style magazines, the fact that the Kydex liners are on all four sides means that re-indexing magazines is as simple as drawing them out.

The downsides of the Eagle pouches are probably already populating in your head by now, namely how tight the Kydex liner is, that it doesn’t play well with molded polymer magazines, and that I hate the alternative of bungees almost as much as I do not being able to re-index on tactical reloads. The included Kydex liners are unbelievably tight, requiring considerable force to free the magazines from the pouch, and meaning that in a hurry, or with sweaty hands, your hands may slip. This could be alleviated under normal circumstances by using a textured plastic magazine, which are usually designed specifically to improve your grip purchase, but the Eagle FB Style magazine pouch absolutely does not play well with textured polymer magazines. Even relatively slim options like the Daniel Defense 32 round magazines stuck fast in the pouches, requiring me to use two hands to separate the magazine from the pouch. Maybe I’m weak, maybe I’ve got a lemon, but either way, I don’t recommend using anything but STANAG style magazines with a no-tilt follower with these pouches if you’re going to be relying on the Kydex liner. As for the bungees, while they do offer a solution to my issues with the fitment of molded polymer magazines, they also present the issue of putting a bungee cord over top of the magazines, which I’ve had issues with in the past when it comes to reloads and getting caught up on them in the process. Indeed, my gripes with the Eagle FB style aren’t even necessarily statements that the pouch is bad, just that it’s not right for me.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Eagle Industries
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Cordura, Kydex thermoplastic
  • Available colors Multicam, Black, Coyote Brown
PROS

Rock-solid retention

Double retention for absolute peace of mind

Velcro lining for Kydex prevents sand issues

CONS

Kydex doesn’t play well with magazines other than STANAGs

Magazine retention is extremely stiff

Bungee option still gets in the way

The Crye Precision modular pouch supports not only magazines, but the A/N PRC-152 handheld radio and other MBITR-style radios, water bottles, energy drink cans, dip, and anything else that you can fit, with many options for you to adjust the pouch to your particular needs. Most notably, the pouch has specific features that enable you to morph it, such as a tapered velcro flap designed to make tucking it behind magazines easy, if that’s what you choose, or a movable bungee attachment point to make the radio retention bungee work as a magazine retention bungee simply by moving the velcro portion and tightening the bungee down. Additionally, it has flexible mounting options, being designed from the ground up to be MOLLE compatible with its Hypalon webbing, belt-mounted with a built in belt loop, or compatible with Crye’s own AVS system. All this flexibility comes at two major costs, namely the actual, literal price, and the pouch’s ability to perform as well as a purpose-built option for any of its myriad uses.

This is a really well-made, well-thought-out pouch that is probably the best velcro-flap pouch on the market at this point in time. Every detail is designed to make this pouch work for you, whatever you throw at it… The use of Hypalon for the MOLLE webbing is another great decision, as it provides extra stability and ease of use when webbing into a MOLLE system. On top of that, you’re not stuck with it as a MOLLE pouch and can easily belt-mount it or use it with a Crye AVS. The flexibility in retention options is great as well, with the options of a top flap or top bungee, which means that you can easily move between different usages or retention options for magazines. The usage of lateral bungees means that you can accommodate different sizes of radios or bottles. In addition to all that, the side bungees allow you to use the pouch as an open-top magazine pouch by doing away with the bungee and tucking the flap, while tightening the side bungees for retention, and it works well enough.

This is kind of a case of a pouch that does it all sort of well, and none of it extremely well, and there are some design shortcomings even in what it accomplishes properly. For starters, it lacks a lot of the quality of life features that many dedicated radio pouches have, such as the ability to access a radio keypad easily without removing it from the pouch. This particular pouch is too deep to easily use with M4 magazines, which the vast majority of professional users will be using it for, and tucking the velcro flap in works in that I can do it, but I’d really prefer if there was opposite-side velcro on the inside of either side to be able to fold down the front velcro flap and tuck the top flap in and have it stay there. Overall, a cool pouch, but not cool enough for me to NEED need it on my personal kit.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Crye Precision
  • Country of Manufacture USA
  • Materials used Cordura, Hypalon, Elastic shock cord
  • Available colors Multicam, Coyote Brown, Ranger Green, Black
PROS

Truly versatile for any purpose

Fully adjustable Included

Hypalon straps are very steady

CONS

Expensive

A jack of all trades is a master of none

Too tall to rely on as a dedicated STANAG magazine pouch

Why you should trust us

I’m far from the omniscient gear guru, but I know a thing or two about what works when it comes to tactical nylon. The obvious thing that jumps out to many people is going to be the fact that I’m a Marine Corps reservist, and they might assume that’s why I think I know something. Far from it, since most U.S. service members just use what they’re issued anyway, and spend the saved money on liquor and Camaros. 

However, prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, I worked for a retailer of tactical gear, and so I got exposed to many different forms of pouches, plate carriers, chest rigs, and so forth. Even now, one of my expensive hobbies that I’ve monetized is experimenting with tactical gear, and so I’m here to bring over seven years of experimentation, bad choices, and wasted money to the table to help you make a more informed decision. 

On top of all this, I actually use my gear frequently at the range, so I’m constantly developing things that work for my particular shooting style. Above all else, I’m not telling you what you should do: I’m just telling you what works for me, and that maybe you might find some value in that.

Types of magazine pouches

Magazine pouches come in several configurations, only some of which are covered here. However, I’m going to do a quick rundown on the different types, what they’re usually used for, and their generalized pros and cons. In general, the types of magazine pouches can be broken down into four major groups: cloth, thermoplastic, hybrid, and leather, with the first three represented in some way on this list.

Cloth

These are the simplest, and often most cost-effective types of pouches on the market. At their core, they’re a cloth bag, usually made of nylon Cordura, with some sort of closure on top, be it a velcro flap, a snap flap, a bungee, or some other mechanism. These pouches are also the most common on the surplus market, having been around since the advent of MOLLE, and so they can be had for very cheap if you’re on a budget. The advantages that they have is that they usually work well with at least one of most magazines, and that they’re fairly easy to use for re-indexing. The disadvantage is that generally their flap closures can get in the way during reloads, and they have no form of inherent retention beyond the flap.

Thermoplastic

These pouches (or carriers as I prefer to call them, since they aren’t actually a bag) are made of flexible thermoplastic, which is a substance that includes the Kydex family of materials. This allows manufacturers to mold magazine carriers to specific magazines, firearms, and other implements, and have them securely held with no need for other retention in most cases. The advantage to this type of carrier is that they offer positive retention with no need for bungees, straps, or flaps, and instead rely on friction from the molded plastic to hold the magazine in place, which makes them some of the fastest on the list. The downside to these is that they’re often only compatible with one or two types of magazine, and aren’t flexible in allowing non-standard types of magazines, should you be a weirdo who uses G36 magazines or AUG magazines.

Hybrid

These pouches use a combination of cloth and other materials to provide their retention, whether through the use of gripping material, elastic tension, thermoplastic inserts, or some other type of solution. These pouches seek to offer a “best of both worlds” approach, and often include both thermoplastic liners and some other form of optional retention. The advantage to these pouches is that they solve the biggest issue with many of the purely cloth or purely thermoplastic options, providing a mixture of retention and flexibility. The disadvantage is largely that they inherit some of the issues of both cloth and plastic magazine carriers and the fact that they’re oftentimes still very pricey.

Leather

This isn’t an option that I discussed on this list, largely for the reason that we were speaking about rifle magazines, and the fact that I wanted every pouch on this list to have some sort of military usage. Leather is possibly the oldest ammo carrying solution, oftentimes offering intricately embossed designs, brass hardware, and other stylish choices. The advantages of leather largely boil down to style and comfort. Not much looks nicer than well-tanned and finished leather, and it’s very comfortable to wear on your belt in a concealment environment. Additionally, this may be the only option for pouches if you’re in a law enforcement environment, due to departmental restrictions or a desire for uniformity. The disadvantage of leather is that it doesn’t play well with moisture, doesn’t offer the cost-effectiveness of cloth or the rock-solid retention of thermoplastic, and has limited options for securing the pouch.

Key terms for magazine pouches

MOLLE

MOLLE stands for “MOdular Light Load-carrying Equipment” and is also known by its other name, PALS, or “Pouch Attachment Ladder System.” MOLLE functions by stitching rows of nylon straps down in 40mm increments, creating a series of loops. Through these loops, you weave straps that are found on the back of MOLLE-compatible pouches, which secures the pouch to whichever mounting surface. As an interesting aside, MOLLE is technically a proprietary term belonging to Specialty Defense Systems, and PALS is proprietary to Natick Labs. Any pouch or attachment is simply MOLLE/PALS compatible. However, you know your product is successful when everyone uses the brand name for every iteration of that product.

Retention

Retention is, simply put, how your magazine pouch keeps the magazine in unless you’re the one drawing it out. Common retention types include molded plastic, bungees, and flaps.

Kydex 

Kydex is a thermoplastic material that can be precisely molded to accommodate many different types of tools and implements, while providing a certain level of inherent retention.

Hypalon

Hypalon is a type of rubber that is resistant to light, tearing, chemicals, and water, and offers flexibility, grip, and durability. It’s used in MOLLE straps to provide more grip than cloth when used against other cloth

Indexing

Indexing is a technique where a shooter takes a partially-empty magazine, and inserts it into an empty magazine pouch with the rounds facing up. This allows the shooter to distinguish between a fully-loaded magazine (rounds down) and a partially- or fully-empty magazine with a simple touch, which is very helpful to discourage the shooter from taking their attention off the downrange area, and allows easy identification in the dark.

Speed reload

A speed reload is a magazine change where the magazine that is dropped free from the weapon is not retained, in favor of loading a fresh magazine. The advantage of this is that it’s the fastest way to reload, requiring no extra steps beyond ejecting the magazine and replacing it with another. This is recommended for use when the magazine is completely empty, and there are no rounds to retain.

Tactical reload

A tactical reload is a magazine change where the ejected magazine is retained after being ejected, usually before being fully empty. This magazine is then replaced with a full one. The advantage to this technique is that it ensures all spare rounds are retained for later use, although it requires the shooter to take the extra step to retain the partially-empty magazine.

STANAG magazine

The common “GI Joe” aluminum magazine. This is the most common style of AR-15 or M4 magazine, and is the magazine that many 5.56 rifles, and almost all 5.56 military rifles in NATO, are designed around. The name stands for Standards Agreement, and it represents the accepted format of magazine that needs to be met or superseded. As a general rule, older STANAG magazines with black or green followers have followers that can tilt, which can induce stoppages or malfunctions from improperly-feeding rounds. Because of this, look for magazines with tan or blue followers, or get the Magpul follower retrofit kit.

How we chose our top picks

I chose these magazine pouches based on my experiences with pouches that I have personally owned and used. Every single pouch on this list has been on my kit in some form or another at some point in time. I left several other options off, since they either didn’t measure up, didn’t offer anything that the ones I included don’t have, or were too niche to be of much use to most of my readers. However, because of the fact that these choices are based on my experiences, my selection is limited. If you want to see my take on any of your favorite pouches, you can find my social media in the header of this article.

FAQs about magazine pouches

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What is a MOLLE pouch?

A: A MOLLE pouch is any pouch that can attach to MOLLE or PALS webbing by means of straps, clips, or hooks. Newer types of webbing use laser cut material where the fabric of the carrier has slots cut directly into it for mounting, which saves on weight and bulk.

Q: What MOLLE pouch does the military use?

A: Short answer is “many different types,” but in general, the MOLLE pouches that are officially sanctioned and purchased by the military must be Berry Amendment-compliant, meaning they have to be made in the USA of materials either from the USA or select allied countries. A quick way to tell is to see if the pouch in question carries an NSN, or National Stock Number. That means that the item in question has been entered into the GSA catalog, and can be purchased through official government channels. Brands that are commonly used by the military are Eagle Industries, High Speed Gear, Inc, Blue Force Gear, First Spear, S&S Precision, London Bridge Trading, Crye Precision, Tyr Tactical, and Paraclete. Every pouch on this list is made in the USA, and most of them are Berry compliant and carry an NSN.

Q: What is the best AR-15 magazine pouch?

A: Overall, the best that we tested is the HSGI Taco pouch. It balances retention with ease of use, and supports many types of magazines, while being cost effective and readily available.

Q: What is the best competition magazine pouch?

A: The best competition magazine pouch that we tested is the Safariland 774. It’s fast, lightweight, and easily mounted to regular competition belts.

Q: What’s the difference between a magazine carrier, a magazine pouch, and a magazine holster?

A: Semantics, mostly.

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Matt Sampson is an 0861 in the Marine Forces Reserve and a Virginia native. In his past life, he worked in tactical gear retail and is an avid firearms enthusiast. The farthest the Marine Corps has sent him from home is Oklahoma.

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