Casket Magazine vs Drum – Up Your Capacity

In the world of modern long guns and the respective rifle magazines, we have nothing but options. So many options that it can be exhausting sometimes. I’m not here to help with magazine fatigue, but I am here to help you figure out the most efficient way to carry the most ammo possible. Today we are looking at what is often called a “casket magazine” (a quad stack like ATI’s Schmeisser 60-rounder) and its drum mag counterpart (such as Magpul’s D60).

Both promise to offer you more ammo than usual, but both magazine types have been rather controversial, and neither style has an unblemished history. Let’s run through ’em. 

Quad stack (casket magazine) and drum: they're big, they're mean, and they hold lots of ammo. 
Casket magazine and drum: they’re big, they’re mean, and they hold lots of ammo. 

Both types of magazines have a long history of trying and failing. The idea of packing more ammo into a magazine is nothing new. Numerous companies and even military forces have experimented and tried to get both drum and casket magazine styles to work for years. Only recently have we even had some successful models.

When you have the need for speed, you might have the need for extra ammo, and as such, we want to direct you to the best sources possible for a little extra gas in the tank.

Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of quad stacks vs drum mags and find what works best for you…though the argument could be made for both. 

What’s a Drum?

A drum is a name given to magazine design to hold more ammo than standard. Instead of using a straight design backed by a normal spring and follower, it uses a cylindrical design in which rounds spiral around the center. With a drum, your ammunition is dispersed in various directions instead of just up and down. This design allows you to hold anywhere from 50 to 100 rounds in a container (the drum) that’s no longer than a traditional 30-round rifle magazine. 

Drums can and often do suck, but the Magpul D60 absolutely rules.
Drums can and often do suck, but the Magpul D60 absolutely rules. What is a drum magazine, you ask? Glad you asked!

Early drums were made for weapons like the Luger, which traditionally held 8 rounds, but a drum held 32. Drums would be used in early MP 18 SMGS and the Farquhar-Hill rifle of 1915. They’ve been around for a long time but have never seen widespread acceptance. 

What’s a Casket Magazine?

A casket mag is a “quad stack” box magazine that’s typically a little longer than your standard magazine, but it’s also about twice as wide as a standard double stack. A casket magazine stacks its contained ammunition four in a row. Sometimes the first portion is a traditional double stack magazine before it leads into a true quad stack design (as you can see below). 

The casket magazine is a little more traditional in form than its drum counterparts.
The casket magazine is a little more traditional in form than its drum counterparts. 

The Finns came up with the first accepted coffin mag for the Suomi, which seemed to be a reliable design. In fact, these quad stack mags have seemed to work better with pistol calibers in the past, and only recently have they become more reliable with rifle rounds. 

Where The Two Collide 

Both quad stack mags and drum magazines have the same goal: pack more ammunition into a single magazine. More ammo means less reloads, and that can be handy in a number of situations. In a competition that buys you a second or so and that can mean the difference between winning and losing. In a home defense situation, you might be fighting in your underwear, and no one wants to worry about a reload. 

Both quad stack and drum mags provide ample ammo for home defense.
Both quad stack and drum mags provide ample ammo for home defense.

These two magazine types accomplish the same goals in different ways. This leads us to ask, which is better? 

Which Offers the Most Ammo?

That’s a good question, and it’s tough to say due to the number of different calibers and weapon designs that use either type of magazine. If we just looked at the extremes of the two magazine types, we see the Surefire 100 round quad stack magazine pushing the boundaries of thumbs laid. Yet, on the flip side, there are 100 round drums and even 150 round drum magazines in 5.56. 

It seems like drums can offer more, but most of the time, the two magazine designs are fairly close in capacity. In terms of capacity, there isn’t a huge difference, so that leads us to the next question, which is more reliable? 

Quad Stack vs. Drum – Reliability 

This is the game-winning question, and I’d love to give you an easy answer, but I don’t have one. Like most things, the big difference in reliability is less about the design these days and more about the manufacturer. Only recently have companies figured out how to make quad stack mags and drums work reliably. 

Surefire, in my opinion, makes the world’s best modern quad stack magazines. They make them in both 100-round and 60-round varieties, and I’ve used a 60-rounder several times without issue. A typical issue quad stack mags have is that when they have an impact on a partially loaded magazine, a round can jump between stacks in the magazine and eventually cause a malfunction. I’ve not run into that with the Surefire quad stack magazine. 

Casket magazines don't hold back! Not anymore anyway.
Casket magazines don’t hold back! Not anymore anyway.

On the drum side, Magpul mastered them with the D60, and then they released several models for several different calibers, including 9mm, and .308, and released them for multiple platforms. The Magpul drums famously solved the issue with drums and reliability and have proven to be the most modern and reliable drums on the market.

Companies like X-Products are making reportedly great drums, and the Schmeisser S-60 has proven to be both affordable and fairly reliable. Desert Tech even released an entirely new AR 15 lower to use quad stack magazine. Reliability is more on who makes the magazine and less on the design idea these days. That being said, the “gun to my head” answer is that high-quality drums are overall more reliable than quads. 

Benefits of the Casket Magazine

Casket (or “coffin”) mags can always be left loaded and ready. While some drums can, it’s worth mentioning that not all can. Coffin magazines also tend to be easier to reload. While the magazines are wider, you can still do the old beer can grip with one and shove it in your gun. 

These mags are beastly. Which is a Good Thing.
These mags are beastly. Which is a Good Thing.

 magazines tend to be easier to clean and certainly fit better on load-bearing gear than drums. You can typically attach three to your standard plate carrier, and even with a drum as compact as the D60, you likely can’t fit more than one on your gear. 

Benefits of the Drum Magazine 

Drums mags tend to be shorter than Quad stack magazines and are usually easier to use in the prone — although there are exceptions, like the Desert Tech Quattro magazine. Drums also tend to be easier to load with a ratcheting mechanism to help save your thumbs from the pain of pressing individual rounds into place one after another. 

Drum mags are much easier to load than their quad stacked coffin~ish counterparts.
Drum mags are much easier to load than their quad stacked coffin~ish counterparts.

Drums are more common these days, with models being released for MP5s, Glocks, PCCs, Scorpions, AR 15s, AR 10s, and many more. They tend to be a little cheaper as well. A Magpul D60 costs just a bit less than a Surefire 60 rounder. Although the Schmeisser S60 might be defying the norm with its price point (likewise with the 60-round windowed version, though that’s slightly more expensive.

Plus, the D60 and similar drums are likely to be a hair more reliable. 

Loaded Up

It’s a wonderful world we live in where the industry offers us so many different magazine types of various capacities. The good news is that you don’t have to just pick one, get ‘em both. Why deny yourself the advantages of either? 

That being said, which is your choice? Let us know below.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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