What’s a Mag Dump? Exploring the Sacred Act of Fun

What’s a mag dump? If you want the dictionary answer, it’s this: “The act of firing at a target repeatedly until the magazine of ammunition is empty.” That does the job of telling what a mag dump is, but it doesn’t give you the experience of mag dump.

Can you really know what something is without truly experiencing it? It’s is the act of pasting a smile on your face with brass, lead, and gunpowder. A mag dump is a finished dish, but the ingredients are triggers, bullets, and smiles. It’s not a practical tactic for most uses. You won’t see it prescribed for shooting classes, in 3-Gun shooting, or anywhere in which terms like ‘practicality’ are thrown around.

What’s The Point?

It’s fun! So much fun, I challenge you to dump a mag and have a frowny face on. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy guns, magazines, and ammo, and I dare you to be sad dumping mag after mag into a target.

Arnold Schwarzeneggar mag dump

In 2021 with ammo prices the way they are, it’s most certainly a flex. If you show me a designer purse, I couldn’t find a way to give a sh!t. But if you show me dumping 60 rounds of 5.56 from a Magpul Drum in a few seconds, I’ll be impressed. Watching dudes with machine guns blow through 5.56, 9mm, 45 ACP, and beyond tells me I need to grind a little harder.

Can a Mag Dump Ever Be Practical?

While a Mag Dump isn’t exactly a tactical practicality, it’s not entirely useless. You can use mag dumps to test firearms, optics, and accessories. It’s a stress test on the gun, magazine, optics, and more. Especially when you are working with multiple mag dumps through your gun. One is never enough for a test, so a few mag dumps amp up the stress.

Marine mag dump D-60
Marines must’ve mag dumped a time or two while testing the D-60.

The barrel of the HK G36 reportedly shifts in its polymer trunnion when the gun eats a few dozen mag dumps. Something Jerry didn’t know when they adopted the rifle but found out in the hot environments of Iraq and Afghanistan. While a mag dump can be used for practical purposes, it rarely is.

Mag Dumps In Media?

Plenty of movies and TV shows portray mag dumps. The effectiveness depends on the level of plot armor the main character has. You see, when a good guy starts spraying lead, it often results in the deaths of dozens of bad guys.

For example, my favorite mag dump in film and media is from the classic film known as Commando. Commando sees John Matrix mag dump with a Valmet M78, which is an RPK knock-off, and along the way, he kills a dozen dudes with ease.

You might argue the best mag dump in films comes from another classic film called Predator. In the film, we see an entire team of black ops commandos let loose with M16s, MP5s, and a freakin’ minigun! However, I argue the veracity of this being the best mag dump since it’s not very effective in the film.

Predator movie: team of black ops commandos let loose with M16s, MP5s, and a minigun

If you want a realistism, check out the clip from MacGruber, in which the main character can’t control his dual-wielded full-auto submachine guns.

clip from MacGruber, in which the main character can't control his dual-wielded full-auto submachine guns

In Video Games

Video games allow the everyday John, Joe, and Jimmy to mag dump nearly any firearm in the world in a digital environment. Most games encourage short controlled bursts of full-auto fire, and that’s a realistic tactic, but sometimes mag dumps can be an effective tactic.

In close-quarters fighting, especially in multiplayer games, you’ll find mag dumps to be extremely handy for close-quarters fighting. When you are at bad breath distance with another player, you pull the trigger and let it rip, hoping you score more hits than the bad guy scores on you.

Dual machine pistols in Call of Duty
Dual machine pistols in Call of Duty simply encourage the act.

Heck, how many times have some just popped in front of you and given you a fright? That fright clearly calls for you to pull the trigger until your avatar reloads.

Multiplayer games often have a submachine gun class that also encourages mag dumps. The rounds individually don’t do much damage, and for balance issues, those guns are often super easy to control. This makes them dedicated bullet hoses that not only encourage but require mag dumps if you want to be successful.

Let’s not forget those ‘on rail’ turret sections single-player games offer. Who doesn’t love coming up on a Browning M1919 in a World War Two game? You know as soon as you mount it, you will face wave after wave of bad guys. If you aren’t engaging the useful tactic of the mag dump, are you really even playing the game?

Can Anything Be-Mag Dumped?

In theory, yes, and I say you can mag dump anything! This includes belt-fed weapons. That makes no sense when you go all the way to the top of this article and read the clinical definition. However, the thing is, mag dumps aren’t about clinical definitions. You see, it’s the spirit of the mag dump that allows a belt-fed weapon to be mag dumped.

Navy Seal using MP5 for mag dump
Navy SEALs used MP5s as room brooms for a reason.

A mag dump is more than a definition. It’s a feeling, an experience, and it goes beyond a simple explanation. It’s a feeling deep down inside your soul. You might be mag dumping a shotgun, or a Glock, or an AR, or a danged minigun. Regardless of the gun, it’s the feeling you get from a mag dump that makes it a mag dump.

I’d like to say this whole article has explained what a mag dump is, and you might walk away more informed, but you still don’t know. Worry not, it’s easy to figure out. Here is what I need you to do.

Go load a magazine. Go to the range, load that magazine, aim it downrange, and pull that trigger as fast as you possibly (and safely) can until the slide or bolt locks back or the gun goes click.

Now you know what a mag dump is.

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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