Aftermarket Gun Magazines
Pat Cascio 05.16.16
I have something of a rule when it comes to magazines. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but one I follow quite often. I usually recommend that folks stick with factory magazines for their firearms. Factory magazines were designed to operate well in the guns they were made for, so it’s not a bad rule to follow when looking for spare magazines.
That said, I’m not aware of any firearms company that manufactures its own magazines. Mags are generally made by another company to specifications determined by the firearms company. Just because your magazine says “Colt” on it doesn’t mean Colt made it. This is especially true with 1911 magazines, so be advised.
Also, you will see ads for military surplus 1911 magazines. Don’t fall for it; there are no more military surplus magazines for the grand ol’ 1911 period!
Speaking of 1911 45 ACP magazines, there are so many different makers out there that I’ve lost count of them. I personally don’t use Colt branded 1911 45 ACP magazines for a number of reasons. I’ve found them to be overpriced (in my opinion), and they are a bit fragile (the feed lips tend to split, much like the old Pachmayr 1911 mags).
The photo above shows a sampling of my 1911 magazines, and not a single one in the picture is the same. However, every one of them works in any of my 1911 pistols. Do I have a preference? Of course: I love Wilson Combat 1911 magazines. But all of these work just fine.
Some 1911 magazines hold 7 rounds, some hold 8 rounds. If the magazine is flat-bottomed, it was designed to hold 7 rounds, and changing out the follower is only asking for problems. So, if your 1911 magazine has a flat bottom, just load 7 rounds into it. Many 1911 45 ACP magazines made today are slightly longer than the butt of the gun, have some sort of rubber or polymer floor plate, and are designed to function with 8 rounds in them. So if you magazine protrudes below the grip of your 1911, has an extended floor plate, and you can easily loads 8 rounds into it, great. You are good to go!
When the “assault rifle” ban and “hi-capacity” magazine ban was law 1994-2004, everyone was scrambling to buy as many 10+ round magazines as they could. I was no different. I was caught flat-footed and only had a couple 15-round magazines for my Glock 19, as did my oldest daughter. I found a place advertising 15-round Glock 19 magazines for $5.99 each. We called, and the company (wish I could remember the name) assured us that they were genuine Glock magazines. We ordered 30 of them. When UPS brought the package, we found the cheapest imitation magazines I’ve ever seen in my life. They were NOT Glock. They had no markings on them at all, and they were junky plastic without the metal lining found in Glock mags. They all jammed, and are only good for practicing malfunction drills.
There are some really good aftermarket Glock 9mm magazines coming out of South Korea these days, and for good cause. South Korea made a deal with Glock and purchased hundreds of thousands of Glock 19 handguns. As I understand it, Glock sold those guns at a very low price, thinking they would make up for it by selling hundreds of thousands of Glock 19 magazines to South Korea. Well, Glock got snookered in the deal. South Korea began making their own Glock 19 magazines. Some of the first ones imported into the USA were “just okay” in my book, but the current batch are every bit as good as genuine Glock 19 magazines. Plus, South Korea is also producing extended 33 round 9mm magazines, and they work great, too.
Which brings us to the 40 S&W Glock magazines made in South Korea. Both the 15-round for the Glock 22 or the extended 31-round versions. I’ve had no luck with these; they all either jammed or wouldn’t hold the advertised number of rounds. I haven’t seen these magazines on the market lately, but if you do, steer clear of them. Why South Korea can produce outstanding Glock magazines in 9mm but not 40 S&W is beyond me.
Everyone owns an AR-15 of some type, right? You don’t? And you’re reading Alloutdoor? Shame on you! LOL! As I mentioned at the onset of this article, I’m not sold on genuine Colt 1911 magazines, and so it is with Colt AR-15/M-16 magazines.
Some people insist that Colt magazines are the best AR magazines made–not stopping to realize that they are NOT made by Colt. Back in the day when the AR-15/M-16 first came out, Colt-branded AR magazines were the only game in town. These days there are a number of aftermarket AR magazines being manufactured. I’ve enclosed a picture with this article, showing 6 different 30-round AR-15 magazines. While they look similar, each and every one of them has a different maker’s stamp on the floor plate. Some are anodized gray in color, some are black, some are aluminum, some stainless steel, and some polymer. However, every single one works in every AR in which I’ve tried them.
You will also notice in the AR-15 magazine picture that some of the magazine have different color followers. All are no-tilt in design, and that is what you want. Some older AR magazines have black or green followers, and those tend to jam from time to time, especially if you put 31 rounds in the magazine instead of 30 rounds. For a buck or two each, it’s worth replacing your AR magazine followers with no-tilt followers.
Do I have a preference? You bet: I love the PMag 30-round poly magazines for my ARs. I’ve never had a single problem with them.
During the magazine ban from 1994-2004, there were some cheap aftermarket AR magazine out there, and they are easy to spot. There’s no name on the floor plate, and you can VERY easily bend the feed lips with your thumb. Steer clear of these. They are junk, pure and simple! The same goes for similar Ruger Mini-14 magazines; the feed lips bend easily with just thumb pressure.
Now, let’s talk about the AK-47 and all its “clones” and clone-like models that are sold in the USA. No matter who makes it and what name they give it, everyone still calls ’em “AK-47” for some reason, and I’m guilty of this myself. The AK is the most prolific rifle in the world, has been used in conflicts all over the world, and is often used by both sides in regional conflicts. By some estimations, there are 50 million AKs in the world, and some say it’s close to 100 million. We’ll never know for sure.
There appears to be a never-ending supply of 30-round AK-47 magazines that take the 7.62×39 round, and at last count, AK magazines are being made by at least a dozen different countries (probably more). And that’s not even considering polymer AK magazines being made in the USA.
The standard AK-47 magazine is heavy (about a pound empty) and is made of steel. Used to be, all you could find in the USA were military surplus AK magazines, but that has changed. There are some brand-new Bulgarian-made 30-round AK magazines being imported by CDNN. They are in plastic bags and soaked in oil, so they need a good cleaning before use.
There are also some polymer AK magazines from other countries that are still coming into the USA. I’ve tried them all, and while they are okay for range magazines, they aren’t something I’d want to bet my life on. What I’ve found with those is that the plastic locking tabs on the back of the magazine tend to wear or shear off. And if dropped when loaded, the floor plates can pop off, spilling all your ammo on the ground.
There are a few companies making polymer AK magazines in the USA, and one in particular is TAPCO. I’ve used their AK mags for years. They are well-made, but I’ve had one particular problem with TAPCO 30-round AK mags: some will only hold 27, 28, or 29 rounds. No matter how hard I’ve tried to get the advertised 30 rounds into some of their magazines, they just won’t go in there.
With that said, I’ve yet to have a TAPCO polymer AK mag fail to feed. And I’ve seen TAPCO AK-47 magazines selling for as little as $6.99 each, and that is a bargain. They are durable, too. I have found that I’ve had to “fit” some of them in various AKs as the magazine wells are a bit too tight, but it only takes a few minutes to remove a little excess material from the TAPCO mags.
Given my druthers, I’ll take heavier, all-steel, genuine military AK-47 magazines when the SHTF. Yeah, they are heavier than the polymer mags, but they’re well worth the added weight. We have several AR-15s around our house. However, my A.L.I.C.E. web gear is all set up with AK-47 magazine pouches, and each hold 3 30-round Bulgarian mags.
My wife has an old Bersa Model 383 pistol in 380 ACP. We have a couple of aftermarket 7-round magazine for this pistol, made by the same company. One is blued and works well, while the other is stainless steel and won’t function reliably. Go figure.
This is only a small sampling of aftermarket magazines that are available these days. And remember, you don’t always get what you pay for when it comes to aftermarket magazines. I see people spend two grand on a fancy 1911, then look at the cheapest aftermarket magazines they can find. Be advised!