Mag Coupling — Keep It Jungle Style

One magazine is never enough. I mean, we are GunMag Warehouse, so maybe there is an implicit bias there. Anything involving guns, especially gun fighting, should have a bias towards more ammunition than less. Spare mags, extendos, and drums are all ways to have more ammo than less ammo, but so is the fine art of mag coupling.

Mag coupling isn’t when two mags fall in love and decide to make a family. It’s the art of taking one magazine and making it stick to another. This can be done with tape, dedicated coupling devices, and the magazines themselves. Mag coupling provides a simple solution to the age-old problem of wanting more ammunition and wanting it right now.

History Of Mag Coupling

Mag coupling is, like most things, the product of a need. The first war where we saw a massive shift to box-fed magazines was World War 2. American forces especially came to the war with box magazine-fed guns like the M1 Carbine, the Thompson, and later the M3 Grease Gun. Unlike previous wars, magazines were issued en masse, and your average soldier could reload faster than ever.

Maneuver warfare became the small squad tactic of the day, and that required suppressive fire. Suppressive fire required, well, more fire. Reloads had to be fast because not only did your life depend on it, but so did your squadmate who was boot, scoot, and boogying around the battlefield.

G.I.s do what G.I.s do and began modifying what they had to work better. They utilized a range of materials, from tape to inner bicycle tubes, to fasten two magazines together. This became the modern process of mag coupling. Soldiers packing box-fed weapons famously began the process. This process seemed to be purely American, which might’ve been due to our weapon design.

Audie Murphy famously loved couple magazines and did so many times. The M1 Carbine he carried in World War 2 featured coupled magazines, and in films, he did the same with a Thompson gun, adding a sense of realism and pragmatism to a Hollywood production.

Audie Murphy M1 carbine with coupled mags
An Audie murphy M1 Carbine for sale at LSB Auctions showed he used the Practice of Mag Coupling. (Courtesy LSB Auctions)

Since then, mag coupling has been the norm, and it’s crossed the world with pictures from Ethiopia, Israel, Poland, England, and beyond. Why is mag coupling so popular? Because it’s practical.

Audie Murphy with coupled mags in hollywood film
Audie Murphy took the practice from real life and applied it to his films.

Mag Coupling Practicality

Mag coupling gives you an instant on the gun reload. Reloading in a gunfight is critical, and being able to do so on the fly can’t be overlooked. Mag coupling allows you to pop out an empty mag and pop in the fresh one with hardly any movement necessary.

For a soldier, the benefit is not just a quick reload but a slower lull in fire when laying down suppressive efforts. Also, it allows your average Marine or Soldier to lay down the hate and establish fire superiority with nary a break in fire. That first minute of a firefight can be a critical time to establish those fires and get after it.

Vickers Delta Carbine with coupled mags
Larry Vickers recreation of his Delta Carbine shows two mags coupled.

Mag coupling also works tremendously well for the average gun owner. If you wield a rifle or PCC for home defense, you can couple a couple of mags together and have extra ammo on hand without issue. I imagine most of us don’t have time to grab a plate carrier or battle belt with reloads on board. As such, having some extra ammo on the gun is a huge benefit to mag coupling.

Malcom X with coupled mags
Malcolm X was a fan of the practice as well.

Anytime you need your firearm, you can have double the ammunition. Now, why would you use mag couplers instead of extended magazines or drums? Well, extended magazines can make it tough to go prone, or your gun might not offer a reliable extended magazine option. Drums are great but often expensive, and very few work well. Two 15 dollar PMAGs offer you sixty rounds at a fraction of the cost of the Magpul drum. However, the Magpul drums work extremely well.

Downsides to Mag Coupling

There is no free lunch, and of course, mag coupling offers a few downsides. First, it makes your weapon a fair bit heavier. That’s not a downside for home defense, but on mile 18 of a 20-mile patrol, you’ll feel that extra weight.

Another downside is a slightly wider gun, which isn’t huge but notable when clearing the tight quarters of a ship or middle eastern house. Depending on how you couple your magazines, you could also be exposing the rounds to the dirt with an inverted coupling.

Navy SEALs with mag couplers
Navy SEALs think it’s cool.

Also, if you do a straight offset mag coupling, you’ve effectively extended the length to that of an extendo and lose your low prone capability.

A big issue we ran into in Afghanistan was that after our guys fired the sixty rounds from their coupled mags, it was tough to retain them. It’s a big wide chunk of metal and plastic that barely fit in a drop pouch. Forget about trying to fit them into a mag pouch, either.

Current Incarnations

The early ways of mag coupling still work perfectly fine. Some tape of a rubber tube, and you’re good to go. It’s caveman-like but efficient. I recommend a side-by-side coupling with something sitting between the magazines to separate them just enough to make reloads easy. The inverted style works but has its own set of issues.

ETS coupled mags.
ETS designs magazines that come ready to couple.

Mag couplers made by actual magazine companies are my favorite go-to method. They are cheap and efficient. They make it use to uncouple the mags should you choose to. Overall, this provides a simple and cost-effective way to live your mag coupling dreams. However, these aren’t made for every magazine or platform, and that creates a challenge.

Magpul Maglink magazine coupler
The Magpul Maglink makes the process easy for P-MAG wielders

Finally, we have magazines built to be coupled. ETS makes AR 15 magazines with built-in mag couplers, Ruger has the BX-25X2, as does HK for the G36 and Sig for the 550 series or rifles. Sadly these aren’t super common.

Coupled Up

Mag coupling has been practiced prolifically with box-fed guns. On-the-fly reloads have never been faster. Mag coupling leaked from World War II to the Global War on Terror and everything in between. Soldiers love the practice, and it’s stuck around for a reason. They leaked into our cultural subconscious, and pictures of Malcolm X cemented the idea into the larger American culture. Mag coupling is a simple solution to a big problem and provides a ten-cent fix to a life-risking proposition.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner, a lifelong firearms enthusiast, and now 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 the world's Okayest firearm's instructor.

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