When it comes down to it, magazines are arguably the simplest mechanism in any firearm; a box with a spring and a follower that feeds bullets into the chamber. But as AR-15-pattern rifles became the standard for military, law enforcement, and civilian shooters alike, the world of AR-15 mags got a little more complicated. Today, not only are there numerous aftermarket magazines for the AR-15, but also a whole host of modifications and accessories for the mags themselves.
Undoubtedly the biggest name when it comes to aftermarket magazines and their components is Magpul Industries. Magpul is today best known for its PMAG series, widely considered the best AR-15 magazines available in terms of reliability and durability. But the product that provided the company namesake is the Magpul itself. It’s a simple but durable rubber loop based off improvised duct-tape and paracord pull tabs devised by shooters looking for a faster way to fish magazines out of pouches. A more permanent version of this concept is the Ranger Plate, designed to replace the bottom floor plate of your standard U.S. government issue magazine or slide onto a PMAG. Keeping your mags secure inside your load-bearing kit is important but so is getting access to that ammo when you need it. Magpuls and Ranger Plates can help achieve a balance between magazine retention and easy access.
Ensuring you have magazines that feed reliably and don’t cause malfunctions is important. But sometimes it’s difficult to buy the latest and greatest stuff due to supply issues or panic buying causing overall firearms industry prices to skyrocket. With drop-in anti-tilt follower kits like the one offered by Magpul, you can enhance U.S. government issue magazines to ensure the best possible reliability on a budget. This is a great stopgap measure until you can replace your mags.
Another way to squeeze more performance out of existing magazines are aftermarket extension like this design from Taran Tactical for PMAGs. Originally designed with competition shooters in mind, these add a few extra rounds to your magazine’s capacity. While 5 or 6 extra rounds may not seem like much, it can add up over several magazines. Consider a basic load of seven magazines; using extensions all all 7 equates to over a full mag of extra ammo. The extensions also don’t unduly expand the length of the mag, meaning that the extended mags will still likely fit inside your existing pouches.
There’s even magazine accessories that add functions outside of supplying ammo to your rifle. One of the most promising products is the MagPod, designed to allow your magazine to act as a monopod to help accuracy while prone. While resting your magazine on the ground was widely considered a bad idea in many shooting circles, it’s now understood that good mags will not malfunction if you rest them on the ground while shooting. Even the Army rifle marksmanship field manual has been updated to reflect this.
Much like the rifle they lock into, AR-15 mags have embraced customization, with many options supporting the core function of any magazine: getting more bullets into the gun.