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There are a few common traits most owners of AR15 rifles expect, whether they’re spending a few days on a hunt or a day at the range honing their accuracy and shooting skills. When it comes time to pull the trigger, AR15 enthusiasts expect the mechanical systems in the upper receiver to function flawlessly and the ammunition feed system to work consistently and reliably.


Unfortunately, many DIY budget-builders and AR15 rifle enthusiasts fail to concentrate on one of the more essential pieces, and that’s a reliable magazine. Although simple in operation, an ammunition magazine that reliably feeds your bullets into the chamber without suffering a critical meltdown at the worst possible moment is ultimately the difference between an exhilarating experience or an extremely frustrating one.

Although the size and shape of most magazines are pretty much uniform in the industry, not all AR15 magazines are created equal. When you’re looking for the most reliable AR15 magazines, here are a few magazines you’ll need to check out before making your purchase.

Magpul’s PMAG M3 Polymer Magazines

One of the most reliable AR15 magazines on today’s market is the PMAG M3 from Magpul. Constructed of polymer, the PMAG M3 is not only lightweight but durable. During high volume shooting situations, the polymer construct of the PMAG M3 allows the magazine to flex against the rigors of constant use and return to its original position after a firing sequence. If the feed lips of a PMAG M3 should ever break, you’ll be able to spot the break instantly.


After a heavy firing session and subsequent inspection, if the PMAG M3 magazine from Magpul looks good, it’s safe to say it’s ready for another session. Priced to sell, Magpul offers the PMAG M3 in a standard capacity thirty-round magazine for around twelve dollars. Magpul AR15 mags are some of the best value on the market.

Okay Industries Surefeed Metal Magazines

If you’re not a firm believer in polymer magazines and prefer a more traditional metal magazine, then you’ll want to consider the Surefeed lines of magazines from OKAY Industries. One thing that sets them apart is that OKAY supplies the US Military with magazines for their weapons, and the same type of magazines are available commercially.


Okay Industries offers the Surefeed magazines in various capacities from ten to thirty rounds at very competitive prices because metal magazines are generally cheaper and offer the same durability as most polymer magazines on the market. Although the price point differences between metal and polymer magazines are minor, the money saved by purchasing Surefeed magazines can add up when making volume purchases.

Lancer Systems AWM Magazines

When it comes to combining the best of polymer and metal to make a magazine sure to meet the needs of even the most skeptical AR15 enthusiasts, Lancer Systems Advanced Warfighter magazines are a sure pick in the world of reliable magazines. Priced about the same as Magpul’s PMAG line, the AWM magazines from Lancer Systems come in multiple capacities from ten to thirty rounds and are transparent so you can check the number of cartridges left in the magazine visually.


One of the best features of AWM magazines from Lancer Systems is that the AWM magazines have rugged polymer bodies, except for steel feed lips. By combining steel feed lips with a polymer body, Lancer Systems AWM magazines are probably the best for durability and the ability to handle more rigorous use than most.

Strength and Weakness

Although the three types of magazines mentioned are guaranteed to more than likely, provide many years of reliability, even with them, there are a few things you’ll need to understand to make sure you’ve purchased a magazine that will work for you.

Most semi-automatic pistol magazines come from the pistol manufacturer and limit you to the use of their pistol-specific magazine. However, in the world of AR15 rifles, hundreds if not thousands of companies flood the market with AR15 magazines. From a strength perspective, this proliferation means you have a wide variety of magazines to choose from when shopping for that perfect set of ammunition magazines. As desirable as this situation may be, many of these manufacturers skip production quality to maintain price points to promote marketability, choosing to cut corners and produce lower quality magazines that often fail during a firing situation.

Although many mags will demonstrate the same appearance, when it comes time to shop for an AR15 magazine, there are a few things to look for that will help you separate the reliable magazines from the poor-quality ones.

Outward Appearance and Functionality

Esthetics aside, the first thing to check is whether the magazine is dented or cracked, which forecasts a possible failure from the beginning. Even if you intend to purchase newly manufactured magazines, remember all those corners some of the companies took during production. Inspect these magazines all over, taking extra care to examine the feed lips at the top of the magazine and the follower blade inside. Should you discover a small hairline crack on one or both feed lips, and if the follower blade appears bent, take a hard pass on the magazines. Disregard the low price because it’s almost a sure bet a troubled magazine will spell trouble after firing a few rounds.

Although you may not get the chance to check the load capacity because you make an internet purchase, there are a few things to do before you take the mag to the range or on a hunting trip. First, save the receipt because if the magazine fails this next test, you’ll want to return the mag as soon as possible.

Remember to load the magazine one round short of total capacity. For example, if the magazine capacity is thirty rounds, load twenty-nine. If you live in a state with a high-capacity ban in effect, such as California or Maryland, then load nine. Once loaded, give the magazine a sharp rap against a padded surface or slap it with your hand, which is guaranteed to hurt you much worse than it will the magazine. Either way, if one or two rounds break free, it’s a safe bet the manufacturer didn’t produce the magazine’s feed lips to correct operational specifications.

Freefall and Bolt Latch Test

Another test to ensure correct magazine functionality is the freefall or drop test. Try inserting either a fully loaded magazine or an empty one into the magazine well of your AR15. Extend your AR15 in a safe position, either downrange or not pointed at another human, and press the mag release button on your rifle.

Regardless of whether the magazine is empty or fully loaded, it should drop out of the magazine well without you needing to pull it out. If you must jiggle it or pull it out of the well, this magazine is assuredly not made to conform to proper operational specifications. The last thing to test is whether the bolt latches back on an emptied magazine. The easiest way to test the magazine’s capability is to drop the bolt on an empty chamber, insert an empty magazine and pull the charging hammer back. If the magazine is within specifications, it should hold the bolt back without the need to fumble with it.

Trust but Verify

Remember that even with the most quality-controlled production processes, a defective magazine can slip through the cracks, so be sure to perform all the necessary checks and tests before you buy. A reliable magazine for your AR15 doesn’t need to be expensive but it does need to perform as intended when necessary, so test them for proper functionality before you head out on a hunting trip or a day at the range.

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