High-Capacity Magazines: Do You Need Them?

How many mags are needed with a self-defense rifle? What size of mags should be used? What’s the purpose of high-capacity magazines in the first place? That’s a lot of questions and someone out there has the perfect answers. But until then, let’s look at some reasons why someone would want or need high-capacity magazines.

What is a high-capacity mag?

Most AR-15 rifles come with a 30-round mag and handguns come with varying sizes based on the model ranging from 7-21. A magazine can be changed quickly when the mag is empty, so you may ask, why use higher capacity mags? There are several reasons, but 1st, let’s look at what a high-capacity magazine is.

When the US Military first adopted the M16, they were issued with 20-round mags. Fast forward history a little and 30-round mags became the norm. They were considered high-round at the time because that was the highest-round mag they were making. But that is no longer the case, and the definition of a high-round mag may have changed.

ATI 60 round mags hold twice as many as standard mags
The ATI Schmeisser 60-round mag is a perfect option for AR-15 rifles. The mag feels great in the gun even though it holds twice as many rounds as a standard AR mag.

Many places that define a detachable ammunition feeding device (magazine) list high-capacity as 15-30 rounds. A lot of the guns that we buy were designed to hold and shoot magazines of this size. Because of state laws and the federal ban back in the day, lower-capacity mags became the standard. Today, however, 30-round mags are standard for AR-15s and AK-47s and up to 21 rounds are standard for a lot of handguns. So, by high-capacity magazines, I will be referring to the mags that hold more than the current standard.

Four Reasons to Own High-Capacity Magazines

1. The Criminals Have Them

I have 40, 50, and 60-round mags for my AR-15 rifles and there is a reason I have them. The 1st reason is because the criminals do. Even if you are faster than Jimmy John’s at changing mags, you can’t change them faster than a speeding bullet. Criminals have access to high-capacity mags which means they can keep firing for longer periods of time. Being stuck in a gunfight with 10-round mags against someone with a 60-round mag is a bad day.

But wait, there are laws keeping criminals from possessing high-capacity mags, right? Correct. There are laws, but bad guys break laws so the laws don’t keep them from loading up.

2. Tactical Advantage

It doesn’t matter if it’s for self-defense, range day, or because someone let the zombies out, you have a better advantage if you have more ammo in your gun. Mag changes can be made quickly and it is good to practice mag changes. Some high-capacity mags are very long and may get in the way of shooting prone or clearing small areas. But in general, having more ammo keeps you in the game and reduces the amount of time needed for mag changes. For handguns, high-capacity mags are great for secondary mags and can easily be carried concealed, on a tactical belt or vest.

3. Less Reloading

When you plan to hit the range for a day of training, using high-capacity mags can reduce the amount of time you spend re-loading mags. The right mags can even cut this time in half. When I get out to the range, I like to spend as much time as I can training and not standing around reloading mags. Having a few high-capacity mags for my Glock 17 is a great way to increase my training time.

4. Because I Can

Some will argue there is no need for any magazine that carries more than 10 bullets. The people in the black suits don’t like it when you bring up that nasty little Second Amendment. But the truth is, our Founding Fathers didn’t insert a clause giving the people the right to keep and bear arms so we could hunt. Our system was designed for the people to have the power and elect a government to work for the people. That means we can have guns because we live in America. And if I want to be prepared to protect my home from burglars, zombies, or foreign invaders, that’s my right.

Magpul Drums work great for AR-15 rifles and PCC's
Magazines drums like this Magpul D-60 are a great way to carry a lot of ammo for your weapon.

Which high-capacity mags are good?

There are plenty of high-capacity mags out there for various guns. Here are my favorite ones for the AR-15 rifle, the Glock 19/17 pistol, and any PCC that uses Glock mags.

high capacity magazines
If you want high-capacity mags, there are a lot of options out there for just about any gun that holds a magazine.

ATI Schmeisser S60 AR-15

My favorite high-capacity mag for the AR-15 is the ATI Schmeisser. This thing is durable, easy to load, and fairly compact for the amount of ammo it holds. While it’s larger than the standard 30 round mag, it will still fit in an AR mag pouch (it just sticks out further) making it possible to carry on a vest.

Magpul PMAG D-60 Drum

Let’s face it, drums are really cool looking in just about any gun. The D-60 drum by Magpul is compact and also durable. It takes just a little longer to load than the ATI stick mag, but it’s also shorter and a little more compact. They can’t be carried as an extra mag because of how wide they are, but they make a great primary magazine to keep your gun ready to go with a lot of ammo.

ACS 40 Round AR-15

ACS and other companies make a 40 round AR mag that is longer than the standard 30 round mag but the other than that they are the same. I personally prefer the thicker ATI mag because it holds more ammo, and the thickness doesn’t really affect much. But if you want something that has more of a “banana clip” look to it, this one works.

Glock 33-Round “Stick Mag”

The 33-round Glock mag is one of the best and most universal mags for handguns and PCC-style rifles. Not only does it hold 33 rounds, but it can also be used in the AR-style pistol, rifle, and handgun that accepts Glock-style mags. Several calibers are available to fit whatever pistol round is desired. There are tons of after-market mags like ETS, KCI, and SGM Tactical that make these things very affordable.

Magpul D-50 PCC9

This drum is made specifically for PCCs that accept Glock mags. It will not fit in a Glock 17 pistol but is a thing of beauty in an AR-style 9mm rifle/pistol or any other PCC that takes Glock mags. Very compact, it’s the perfect way to carry a lot of ammo in a magazine. Just like with the AR-15, I like to keep the drum in the gun and then use stick mags for additional ammo.

An endless number of other mags are out there for specific models like the Scorpion, Stribog, and others that all hold 30 rounds of handgun ammo. A high-capacity mag for a handgun may vary based on the gun. For instance, 12-round mags are available for the Glock 43, which I consider a high-capacity mag for that gun.

Add a high-capacity mag to your favorite rifle or PCC
Having a high-capacity mag for your handgun, rifle, or PCC reduces the number of mag changes needed. They are fun on the range and could be an advantage during a self-defense incident.


You can keep a high-capacity mag in your weapon, or have one on standby for a secondary mag. It all depends on what gun it is being carried in and how maneuverable the gun needs to be. But there is a definite advantage to having mags that hold more ammo.

And maybe you just want one because they look cool. Every gun guy needs that one Rambo-ready gun that makes all your buddies envious. Either way, there are plenty of options for high-capacity magazines and plenty of reasons to get one.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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