Mag Review: Magpul 20-Round AK PMAGs
When I first saw the announcement for Magpul AK PMAGs, my initial thought was something like, ‘why bother?’ Not because Magpul doesn’t make great kit, they absolutely do. More because steel AK magazines are next to indestructible, and at the time, dirt cheap. Once these little steel mags started rising in price, I began to take a more critical look at them.
Certainly, these robust communist relics are durable as hell, but they’re also quite heavy. Not necessarily for range use, plinking, or hunting—but stick six or more loaded steel magazines in a backpack or carrier and polymer magazines start sounding better and better.
The only hurdle standing in Magpul Dynamics’ way were Bulgarian circle 10 magazines. Long considered the gold standard of polymer magazines, these waffle-patterned, steel-reinforced magazines proved every bit as durable as their steel counterparts at a fraction of the weight. For a short time, these Bulgarian beauties were plentiful and affordable – but slowly, almost unnoticeably, their price began to rise. Now, these once inexpensive magazines run close to $50 each, assuming shooters can find them in stock.
For shooters like myself who like to have at least five magazines for any given rifle, this was just too expensive, leaving shooters to choose between heavy and affordable, or lightweight and expensive.
This is where Magpul AK PMAGs come in.
Lightweight, affordable, and built from the same high-strength polymer as the AR-15 magazines that built the company’s name, the AK PMAG is ideal for modern AK enthusiasts. Especially those that wish to purchase a dozen or so and run them hard.
Initially, AK purists and Bulgarian Circle 10 fans alike bemoaned the PMAG’s lack of metal reinforcements. Rightfully so – while unimportant for most shooters who don’t take their mags to war, the lacking tab on an AK magazine must be reinforced to ensure longevity. This is due to how the magazine locks up in the rifle.
Unlike STANAG or AR-15 magazines that insert straight up into the magazine well, retained by a magazine catch – AK magazines use a lip at the front and tab at the rear to lock and rock into place. This lip needs extra reinforcement since dropping the rifle on its magazine (or performing a Spetsnaz pushup) applies crowbar-like pressure on the mag itself.
In response, Magpul released a new version of the magazine featuring steel reinforcement at critical locations. The magazine is more expensive and slightly heavier than the originals but offers peace of mind to shooters who regularly use and abuse their equipment.
While great news for most shooters, folks like myself still yearned for another Magpul option. One that would replace the increasingly expensive Hungarian AK magazines, with lighter construction than metal Korean 20-round magazines.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘but Magpul released a 10-round version, isn’t that good enough?’
In a word, no.
While the 10-round magazine is great for placating politicians and bench-rest shooting, it’s not capacious enough for serious use. In particular, as the ideal magazine for a truck gun or bugout rifle.
Which is why I was so thrilled at the recent announcement from Magpul – a 20-round AK PMAG!
These magazines are completely polymer, and incredibly lightweight. Normally, I’d be concerned with their lack of metal reinforcements, but given their truncated length, they don’t have as much mechanical advantage applied to them as the full-length 30-rounders.
In testing, the magazines performed predictably great, with no malfunctions whatsoever in six test guns: a Romanian SAR-1, a Serbian N-PAP, an RAS-47, a C39, a milled Arsenal SAM7-SF, and an Arsenal SGL-21. This sample selection covers el-cheapo all the way up to one of Arsenal’s most expensive products. In every single one of these guns, the magazine had solid lock up and zero wobble.
After extensive testing, I’m replacing the steel, 20-round Hungarian magazine in my bugout AK with a Magpul 20 round AK PMAG. The weight savings and ease of insertion/removal more than make up for any tensile strength concerns. Plus, given the magazine’s low cost, they can be replaced for less than a third of the cost of a Hungarian mag.
It may ruffle the feathers of more traditional shooters or AK purists—but pragmatists and any shooter who simply wants a light, handy option for their Avtomat that allows them to carry a good amount of ammo and shoot from the prone position needs one of these magazines.
That said, hopefully Magpul will release a steel-reinforced version in the near future. If not, I won’t lose any sleep, but it would at least silence the naysayers.
Jim is a freelance writer for dozens of firearm publications, the host of the YouTube channel Burst Review and the youngest author to write a cover story for Shotgun News in its 86-years of operation. Jim loves anything that goes, ‘boom’ but particularly enjoys military firearms from the Cold War and WW2. When he’s not slinging lead downrange he can be round hiking in the mountains with his wife Kim and their vicious attack dog, Peanut.