Choosing a Duty Grade AR Magazine

The AR 15 is America’s rifle, and more and more police forces and citizens are adopting the gun for both duty use and home defense. It makes sense. The AR 15 is a lightweight, semi-automatic rifle that is easy to handle and potent for both close quarters and relatively long range work. One of the most critical components of any weapon’s reliable function is a reputable magazine. When it comes to the AR 15 you have plenty of options for magazines, but how do you find a duty grade AR magazine?

When it comes to finding a magazine that I’d trust my life to I look for a few things.

Anti Tilt Follower

First and foremost an anti-tilt follower is an absolute must-have. This was a significant improvement in the way magazines fed and how reliable they could be, especially over time. The current modern anti-tilt follower is a 4-way design that keeps the follower level regardless of the condition.

The Magpul PMAG Follower

Magpul has some of the best anti-tilt followers on the market, and several companies will use Magpul followers in their magazines. Magpul makes one helluva good duty grade AR magazine too. When shopping for magazines ensure an anti-tilt follower is present.

A non Anti Tilt Follower – Stay Away From These

Well Made Feed Lips

Out of spec feed lips can cause severe malfunctions in your guns. You want feed lips that hold the rounds in to prevent double feeds. You can measure the feed lips with calipers to ensure they are good to go,  or you can perform a simple at-home test. Fill the magazine up to half of its capacity. Now slam your hand into the bottom of the magazine. If one round comes loose or pops out that’s usually okay. If multiple rounds pop out, you likely have lousy feed lips, and your magazines have slight deformation. Your duty grade AR magazine needs to perform at optimum capacity.

The Lancers and Feed Lips

The AR 15 design was made to work with metal feed lips, but we’ve seen polymer feed lips work very well. This is especially true with Gen 3 Pmags. My favorite magazines are the Lancer L5s that have polymer bodies and metal feed lips.

Quickly Degrading Feed Lips

The Spring

There is not a lot to say about the spring. There are only two acceptable options, stainless steel, and chrome silicon. Chrome silicon will likely last longer but may corrode. Stainless Steel springs won’t corrode. I go with stainless steel. I also live in Florida, so rust is a real issue here.

Solid Springs in Solid Magazines

While we are talking springs lets also mention a quick test you can do to ensure your magazines springs are robust. Insert the magazine on a closed bolt. Pull the bolt to the rear. Does the bolt lock to the rear? If so, the bolt lock and your spring is fine. If the bolt does not lock to the rear you may have a worn magazine spring that needs attention.

Do They Drop Free?

If hit the magazine release button of your lower receiver do the magazines drop free? This could be a lifesaver should you need to speed reload your AR 15. To do this test you need an actual metal AR lower receiver, no out of spec polymer, 80 lower receiver or anything crazy like that. Insert the magazine empty and press the release button. The magazine should drop free. Load the magazines and do the same test. It should always drop free. If not, I’d choose a different magazine.

Let the Magazines Hit the Floor

This may not impede the reliability of the magazine but would be a consideration if I was choosing a duty grade AR magazine.  

Reputation and the Duty Grade AR Magazine

Lastly, who makes the mag and who uses it? Do you trust both? If not maybe you should consider a different magazine. Before buying its a good idea to see who believes in the magazines concerning police or military forces. Reputation goes a long way in this industry, and companies like Magpul, Okay Industries, and Lancer have earned their stripes. These are the magazines I trust, but what about you? Let me know below if you have some suggestions I can add to my collection.

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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