Why Color Coded Rifle Mags Make Sense

When it comes to selecting magazines for your AR-15, in today’s world your choices are many.  You have choices in manufacturer, capacity, color, and features.  There really are magazines for just about every situation.  Sometimes the choices can even seem overwhelming.  I get it, and for that very reason, the majority of my mags are simple 30 round black Magpul Gen 2 PMags.  They work in all my rifles and I never have to worry about clashing colors or deciding what features are important for me in a certain situation.  I just need those mags to be full and to feed reliably.

The choices aren’t always just superfluous.  In fact, there are some pretty good reasons to have some magazines that are easily distinguishable from others.  Let’s take a look at why color coded magazines can make sense.


The first reason that you might want to have magazines of different colors is for safety.  If you have rifles of different calibers it might make sense to dedicate a certain color to a specific caliber.

When it comes to AR-15 calibers it has become fairly well known that introducing a 300 Blackout cartridge into a 5.6/.223 chambered rifle can be catastrophic.

HexID color coded Hexmag magazines.

What about if you deal with both live rifles and rifles that fire marking cartridges.  Making sure that the right magazines are in the training area and the wrong magazines is a serious safety issue.  Dedicating magazines that are easy to tell apart visually to a specific purpose can help to make sure your training is as safe as possible.

Ammunition Management

Depending on your situation your ammunition might vary.  The ammunition that you keep in your rifle for home defense is expensive and you probably don’t want to inadvertently send that ammo downrange at a training session without a purpose. Even more importantly, you certainly don’t want your training ammo to end up in your rifle when you think it is loaded with defensive ammunition.

Again, having color coded mags that are easy to tell apart can help you to make sure that your rifle is loaded with the ammunition that is correct for your intended use.

How To Segregate your Ammo

A simple way to identify your magazines is to mark them.  I’m a firm believer in marking your mags so that you can tell them apart, but you could also choose to mark mags according to their purpose with a paint pen or even with colored tape.

You could also choose to purchase magazines in different colors for different purposes.  If you own AR-15s in both 5.56/.223 and .300 BLK, it might make sense to dedicate certain color magazines to certain calibers.  

Black PMAG, loaded with 300 BLK.
Maybe you dedicate to loading 300 BLK only into black PMAGs and put 5.56 into FDE PMAGs.

A third option is offered by Hexmag.  With the Hexmag HexID Color Identification System you can change the color of the follower and the hex-shaped retainer on the bottom of the mag so that a quick glance at the bottom of the mag informs you of the intended purpose of the magazine. 

HexID color coded magazine followers.
The HexID system comes in a convenient 4 pack and ensures that you don’t have to worry about a piece of colored tape coming off or a paint marking wearing away.

Final Thoughts

In some situations marking magazines by purpose is a simple convenience.  In others, it is a matter of safety.  Whichever situation you find yourself in there are great solutions to help you to keep your mags and ammo easy to identify with a quick glance.  Think about your situation and what makes sense for you and then take action to get your mags color coded.

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA's students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

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