“You can never have too many mags.” It’s the mantra of every serious gun owner, and it goes right along with the advice to double, triple, or quadruple your mag total for every gun you own. If it came with one, buy another, or two more, or three more. You get the picture. This is as true for ARs as it is for any other mag-feeding firearm.
When following this sage advice, mag choice is critical. Not all AR magazines are created equal. Sure, they may look alike and all hold ammunition that feeds into your freedom shooter, but that doesn’t mean they are all clones. Besides, you don’t want anything associated with the word “clone.” Have you seen the way Stormtroopers shoot? But I digress…
Here are five of the top AR magazines out there, listed in alphabetical order because ranking them any other way would be biased, and we know that nobody in the gun community ever has strong opinions, right? That said, here we go…
1. ASC AR-15 .223/5.56 30-Round Stainless-Steel Magazine
While most AR magazines are some variant of polymer, Ammunition Storage Components (ASC) offers their mags in stainless-steel and aluminum, this one being stainless. The theory behind this is twofold. First, metal is arguably stronger than polymer even with the advancement of polymer compounds and technology, thus the reason gun barrels are made of metal, not plastic. The second is a nostalgia play: metal mags just feel more like war machines than plastic ones. Let’s face it, the gun community latches onto the cool factor whenever possible. Metal magazines certainly fall into that category.
Founded in 2011 (appropriate for a gun company, no?), ACS specializes in mags for the AR platform. For the stainless-steel version of their AR mag, ASC uses chrome silicon springs, enhanced anti-tilt polymer followers, 300 Series SS floor plate, and powder-coated matte black finish.
2. Duramag AR-15 .223/5.56mm/.300BLK 30-Round Stainless-Steel Magazine
Here we have another entry in the metal mag category.
While the jury may still be out as to whether metal or polymer mags are better – each has its own set of outstanding features – the Duramag AR-15 .223/5.56mm/.300BLK 30-Round Stainless-Steel Magazine provides another great contender in the fight. Made from 410 stainless steel, the Duramag adds a layer of T-360 inside and outside to, according to Duramag, “ensure not only incredibly smooth performance and ease of loading, but also product longevity through the harshest conditions.”
Duramag also assures their customers that the unique construction of the magazines allows for indefinite storage of loaded mags without worry about rounds springing free, thanks to their “Lip Lock” technology. (Even if the tech fails, we still love the name.)
3. ETS AR-15 .223/5.56 30-Round Magazine with Coupler
When you see an ETS mag, you know it. Their signature see-through design makes it easy to spot one out of a lineup. It also makes it easy to see how many rounds you have left inside.
Made from a more flexible polymer that ETS claims is less prone to cracking under dropping or pressure than traditional AR magazines, the AR-15 with Coupler comes with a lifetime warranty against said cracking. It also comes with external ribs that help you get a better grip, a must-have when changing mags on the fly. Even if you don’t need a rapid change, the texturing will help prevent the embarrassment of dropping your mag in front of the dudes.
Here is where the AR-15 with Coupler shines: the Coupler part. Grab two of these mags and pair them up via the circular coupler on the outside, thus keeping a spare mag at the ready. You can pair them one of two ways: inverted, so you flip the mags over to insert the new one, or side-by-side, which allows enough space between them that the empty one won’t get in the way of the reload.
4. Hexmag Series 2 AR-15 .223/5.56 30-Round Polymer Magazine
Hexmag is probably the most recognizable name in the magazine industry behind Magpul, and for good reason. The company has gained a well-earned reputation for reliable ammunition storage and feeding into a whole host of guns, primarily ARs.
The Series 2 builds upon that reputation with what they claim are “some of the strongest, most versatile and most dependable options on the market today.”
Some of the Series 2 features include a tool-less design for the baseplates, making for quick disassembly and reassembly for field cleaning or should you need to replace one of the internal stainless-steel springs. As much as we would like to think springs on even the best magazines will never fail, that’s simply not true. It just takes longer. Magazines are like tires on a car: they will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Hexmag makes that easy.
Another of Hexmag’s big selling points is its unique exterior design. While it might just look like slick marketing, it’s anything but slick. In fact, those little hexagons reduce slickness and make gripping the magazines easier—a big deal when you change mags in a hurry.
5. Lancer L5 AR-15 223/5.56 30-Round Advanced Warfighter Magazine
So you want metal in your mags, but only a little at the top and the rest can be polymer?
Meet the Lancer L5 AR-15 223/5.56 30-Round Advanced Warfighter Magazine. Based on the common concept of the polymer mag, this hybrid design addresses an issue that Lancer thinks is key to a lot of AR runners: loose lips. Not the ones that sink ships. The ones that might let a round slip out from the top of the mag or could even create a misfit issue when inserting the full mag into the mag well.
Lancer solves this potential problem by adding hardened steel feed lips. The company claims the steel feed lips last longer than traditional molded polymer lips, assuring tighter tolerance over the course of many reloads and magwell insertions. Ultimately this results in longer mag life and reliability. Couple all that with a stainless-steel spring and you have the makings for many years of reliable ammo feeds.
Thanks to huge amounts of cross-compatibility, there are a ton of options when it comes to 5.56/.223 magazines. Finding a good one for your gun won’t be hard. Just look for reliable service, durable design, and a reasonable price.