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The Best AR-15 Magazine Brands

Find the best 5.56 mags for the money at AT3 Tactical!
Author: Bailey B.

Magazines, while sometimes understated,  are a critical part of every build; they can run flawlessly and compliment your build in a way that no other part can, or they can be a pretty big source of annoyance (also in a way that no other part can). Seriously, it can be pretty irritating having to deal with a subpar magazine that jams up on you too often. Unless, of course, you want to become a master at identifying and clearing the different failures that can occur. 

While I do recommend everybody gets familiar with how to handle and clear malfunctions, it’s definitely not something we want to deal with on a range day or a self-defense situation.

We’ll go in depth with some of the best options out there to keep your AR-15 functioning reliably. And looking cool, as a bonus.

In this article, we will be focusing on magazines chambered in .223 REM/5.56 NATO, although I will be sure to mention when a company offers products in other calibers for all of you interested in that.

It is also worth mentioning, what works best in one gun won’t work the best in another one. Small differences in the bolt carrier group and chamber can cause one company’s magazine to run poorly , while another style of magazine may run absolutely perfectly. I would encourage you to experiment with different brands to find what works best for you.

Magpul

Starting off with one of the biggest and most well renowned names in the firearms industry, Magpul offers a huge selection of high quality magazines. The Magpul PMAG is the standard to which many of us compare magazines to, and for good reason. Made of impact resistant polymer, you won’t be breaking them (unless you try to), and they also feature a self lubricating follower taking maintenance to a very minimal level.

They just work. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a PMAG act up on me, and I treat my magazines like crap. I throw them in dirt, mud, sand, even a mysteriously placed puddle of ketchup and mustard once, and I definitely don’t clean them.  I’ve even ran over a couple PMAGs (on purpose) and they ran just fine.

Gen M3 PMAGs are the latest and greatest version, with enhancements for reliability built into the magazine body.

The PMAG is also pretty ergonomic, the texture and designs both feel good in the hand. It’s easy to grip during insertion and extraction so if you’re sweaty or wet you won’t have a problem seating the mag. Magpul also offers windowed versions of both the PMAG M2 and M3, making it extremely easy to see how much ammunition you have left. Although I do wish the windows were a tiny bit bigger, they get the job done just fine.

 The Magpul PMAG comes in 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 60 round capacities, and you can buy them in bulk packs for a lower cost per magazine. For the budget minded builder, PMAGs offer the best compromise you will find between price and quality. PMAGs can also be found in 9mm for the Glock platform, and .300 BLK with easily identifiable differences in texturing so you won’t get them mixed up with your .223 REM/5.56 NATO magazines, 7.62×39, and 308 Win/7.62 NATO to name a few.

Gen M2 PMAGs are a little cheaper and don’t have the M3 enhancements, but still have a stellar reputation for reliability.

One more quick point; Magpul offers interchangeable floorplates, such as the Ranger floorplate, and an attachable coupler called the Maglink that allows you to connect two magazines together for quick reloads. Now you can do super fast tactical reloads like they do in your favorite action movie too.

Hexmag

         When I was young, my mother told me “you never really know a person until you live with them”, getting to know their specific quirks and tendencies is something you don’t have the opportunity to do until you spend day after day with them. These words of wisdom apply directly to my relationship with Hexmags. I absolutely love them to death, out of all of my mags I can confidently say I have put the most rounds through my Hexmags. But through using them so much, I’ve found that they have their own little quirks.

They consistently act up on me (make no mistake, they’re still fantastic magazines though). I’m not sure exactly why, unlike my PMAGs I actually take good care of my Hexmags, but they give me one singular magazine related jam every single time I go to the range. It’s like clockwork, one of my Hexmags will jam up literally only one time per range session and, after that, they run flawlessly. It has happened every range day since I’ve had them, and I’ve actually grown to find it quite endearing. Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome, but even after all the (very minor) trouble they give me, I will forever be a part of team Hexmag.

HEXMAG 30 Round Magazines come in a variety of colors, and can have their followers and floorplates changed for additional color coding.

The hexagonal texturing on the mag from which it gets its namesake offers exceptional grip that you won’t find slippery at all, and Hexmag even offers stippled hexagonal shaped tape that you can stick into the hexagons to improve that grip even further. And let’s be honest, the hexagons are eye-catching and can really take the look of your firearm to the next level.

One of the flagship features of the Hexmag is called HexID, the ability to swap the color of the hexagon on the bottom of the magazine and the follower, letting you organize and quickly identify which loads are in which magazines. Want a mag to be specifically for green tip? Change the HexID to green. Standard 55 grain training ammunition? Keep the HexID the stock orange color it comes with. Have a heavier 62 grain load? Swap the HexID to red. Hexmag offers 7 colors, in addition to the stock orange, for you to play around with.

Duramag

Duramags, made of either steel or aluminum, are, well, durable. If you like the advantages of a sturdy and reliable metal magazine, or you’re clumsy like me and treat mags like trash, you will probably fall in love with the Duramag. And honestly, metal magazines just have a certain look and feel to them that is hard to beat or replicate in the polymer world.

They are also surprisingly lightweight; the Duramag Speed, made of aluminum, comes in at 4oz unloaded, while a PMAG comes in at around 4.9oz unloaded. Noise may be a factor to take into consideration if that is important to you though, I imagine a metal magazine is at least slightly more noisy compared to a polymer one with all of the metal to metal contact.

DURAMAG 30 round aluminum magazines have the classic GI/STANAG look in a variety of colors, and come with anti-tilt followers.

Duramag offers two different models, their standard model made of steel, and the Speed model made of aluminum. Both models are offered in 30 round capacity magazines, with the stainless steel model also being offered in 20 round capacity. Duramag also offers magazines for 9mm (Colt style), .450 Bushmaster, .350 Legend, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC/.224 Valkyrie, 7.62×39, and .308 Win/7.62 NATO.

Speaking of ammo; I’m fairly certain that if you were to run out of ammunition in the event of a firefight, the metal casing of the Duramag might be sturdy enough to be used as a melee weapon. Now that’s what I call versatility.

Mission First Tactical

Mission First Tactical offers great quality standard 30 round magazines, but the real star of the show is their line of Extreme Duty magazines. They’re robust and meant to last when it comes to heavy use. They’re even made with a special long glass fiber polymer that is extremely durable. Sounds too complicated to me, all I know is that they live up to their name. Their magazines also have finger grooves in them, making it a nice place to hold during shooting if that’s your thing.

The Extreme Duty is also offered in a windowed variant which I think is much more user friendly than Magpul’s windowed variants. Mission First Tactical was kind enough to include numbered markers to let you get a quick read on your ammo situation. The windows are also anti-glare, so the pesky sun or bright lights won’t be getting in your way.

Mission First Tactical Extreme Duty Magazines are built for plenty of abuse, and and come in windowed and solid varieties.

One thing that I really love about Mission First Tactical’s magazines is that they have a special enhanced follower that features an enlarged bolt catch. I’ve noticed that the bolt definitely seats more positively while using these mags, not that I’ve ever had problems with my bolt not holding open. Still though, it’s nice to have that feature and not need it than need it and not have the feature.

You can find Mission First Tactical’s magazines here at AT3Tactical in standard .223 Rem/5.56 NATO, however they also have magazines chambered in 7.62 NATO on their own website.

UTG

Are you tired of getting sore thumbs after a long, manual magazine loading session? With UTG’s magazines that is a problem of the past. The UTG Windowed magazine was designed with what they call constant-curve technology, fancy words for an internal geometry that gives you a leisurely loading experience.

 The window on the UTG Windowed mag is probably one of the most generous windows I’ve yet to see. It has labels from 15 all the way to 30 in intervals of 5. Having a mark at 30 is something you, or at least I, don’t see too often. The Magpul PMAG stops at 25 for instance.

UTG’s 30 round windowed magazines have many of the enhanced features you’d expect in a modern magazine, like a round counter window and over-insertion stop.

 Fortunately, UTG also offers magazines for all of you “pros” out there, with their UTG Pro magazine. It features a high visibility follower, and high visibility it definitely is. It is perhaps the brightest blue I’ve seen in a magazine. The surface is also designed for maximum grip, and the whole thing was seemingly designed from the ground up to be a fantastically reliable magazine.

 UTG offers their standard .223 REM/5.56 NATO magazines in capacities of 10 and 30 rounds. They also offer 33 round 9mm magazines (which I will be picking up to take for a test drive in my 9mm PCC). You can also purchase bulk packs of their standard AR-15 magazines in packages of 3 or 6.

Lancer

Lancer set out to create a magazine with the perfect balance of reliability, durability, and weight. The holy trinity of aspects related to a good magazine. And they succeeded. The Lancer L5AWM is the jack of all trades of the magazine world. As reliable as steel, as durable as polymer, and as lightweight as aluminum coming in at around 4.4oz unloaded.

The Lancer hybrid magazine includes sturdy steel feed lips at the top, with a lightweight polymer body with built-in texturing.

 A unique feature of the L5AWM is a steel feed lip that encases the top portion of the mag, ensuring a nice, tight seal and no chipping, cracking, or breaking of that oh-so essential part of the magazine. The entire surface of the magazine that protrudes from your rifle is pretty decently stippled, no more accidentally throwing your magazine while doing tacticool reloads. Thumbs up from me.

Lancer offers a huge variety of color shades, including vivid translucent shades.

Plus, the L5AWM is transparent, and offered in multiple different colors including red, purple, and orange. You can also get them in regular black and FDE for those of you who don’t like fun colors. Lancer’s .223/5.56 NATO magazines are offered with capacities of 10, 20, and 30. The 30 round option can be purchased in bulk packs. Lancer also has options for .308 Win/7.62 NATO cartridge

Amend2

Amend2 took a look at magazines and asked themselves a simple question, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?”. So, they designed a simple, basic magazine. There isn’t anything wrong with that though, they are amazing options for anybody looking to add a couple mags to their arsenal.

It’s no surprise that a company named Amend2 would also print in giant lettering “made in the USA” on the side of all of their mags. It actually makes for a surprisingly aesthetic magazine in my opinion, something that I might consider using in photo ops. They also have a really bright orange 2 on the bottom of their mags. A nice little touch.

Amend2 mags are exactly what you’d expect – rugged, proudly American made, and priced right for the regular guy.

Amend2 is a family owned and operated company, so if supporting those types of businesses is something important to you then I highly recommend giving them a shot.

You can find Amend2’s magazines in 20 and 30 round capacities for the standard .223 Rem/5.56 NATO with a few color choices including FDE and OD Green, a personal favorite of mine. The OD Green version reminds me of an olive with the orange 2 on the bottom, giving this mag an olive rating of 7/10. If you really want an Amend2 magazine in a different caliber, check out their website. They have a huge selection of different styles and calibers.

Elite Tactical Systems

 After I built my 9mm PCC, I started to do some digging into what magazines I wanted to buy for it. I wanted something red, and definitely something that I could depend on. After a ton of looking around, I found Elite Tactical Systems or ETS. I saw that they offered high capacity 9mm magazines with different color options, so I bought a couple of them. I can gladly say that doing this was in the top 5 decisions I’ve ever made in my whole life. They run phenomenally and look good while doing it.

I genuinely can’t recommend them enough to anybody looking for a quality magazine. They’re built well, they’re easy to load, they shoot well, they seat well, they feel good and sturdy in the hand (if any of you have ever held a fully loaded 32 round 9mm Glock mag, you’ll know what I mean), and they look good. Can’t really ask for more.

The coupling AR-15 mags from ETS don’t require additional addons to attach – the rock-and-lock attachment is molded right into the high impact polymer body.

A little bonus for their standard AR-15 magazines is the fact that they have a coupler built onto them, letting you attach 2 magazines together for quick reloading. Definitely a useful and cool feature that you didn’t know you needed.

In addition to standard .223 Rem/5.56 NATO magazines, ETS offers 9mm solutions for Glock, the Smith and Wesson M&P, the Sig P320, the CZ Scorpion Evo, and the MP5. They also offer 10mm Glock magazines. All of the magazines mentioned above can be found in standard and/or high capacity options.

Thril

Thril magazines are… wait for it… an absolute thrill to use. Ba-dum-tss. Geared towards the needs of competitive shooters, they are checkered, they have finger grooves, they have reverse texturing for easy removal from mag pouches, and they even look competitive. While using these mags even if you don’t actually win first place, you’ll look like you did.

During a competition, time is precious. You can’t waste time gingerly placing a spent magazine back into your pouch. With the Thril PMX magazine, just drop it. It has a rubber floor plate designed to absorb the impact, rendering away any damage.

Thril is a relatively new brand, but their magazines are quickly proving to be a reliable choice for any standard AR-15.

Also, I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but these magazines look futuristic to me. Definitely a little eye-catching if that’s something you’re looking for.

You can find the Thril PMX magazines for standard .223 Rem/5.56 NATO as well as in 9mm for the MPX platform. For colors, you can find both in Black and FDE.

Safety Notice

If the following applies to you then I’m sure you already are aware of this and are using proper storage and identification means, but I feel the need to include this for any shooters looking at getting into the .300 BLK platform.

.300 BLK can fit into standard .223 Rem/5.56 NATO magazines, and it is extremely easy to misidentify which cartridge is which. So take caution in storing, organizing, and labeling your ammunition and loaded magazines. When .300 BLK is fired from a standard AR-15, a catastrophic failure would occur within the firearm, possibly leading to injury or death.

 An easy to identify tip off to this problem is if your bolt doesn’t want to close after trying to load a round into the chamber. .300 BLK is a .30 caliber projectile which doesn’t want to fit inside the .22 caliber chamber of an AR-15. Never force it in, fellas. Lest you want to turn your beloved rifle into an IED.

In Summary

There are tons of different brands, styles, and capacity options for magazines. Finding the right one for you can be tough, especially for newer shooters. There are many things to consider; metal or polymer, windowed or not, translucent, colorful, or a drab color for camouflage.

If you want to play it safe, I always recommend either the Magpul PMAG or a Hexmag, but I encourage you to branch out and try some of the other companies you might be interested in. After all, what works best for me won’t necessarily work best for you. We all have different specific applications, needs, and uses for magazines. Plus, a lot of these other companies such as ETS, Amend2, and Thril, offer a lot of really cool features that you won’t find in PMAGs or Hexmags.

I wish you all safe shooting, and have fun out there!

One Last Tip

If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.

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1 thought on “The Best AR-15 Magazine Brands

  1. Hi guys,
    I had issues with Magpul PMAG Gen3. They did not fit into the mag well of my Oberland Arms M-4. I tried several of those Gen3 magazines but seems they are too big to fit inside, even with force. So unable to use for me. Other guys recommended to overwork the mag well (make it inside bigger) but I did not do this.
    Other mags such as PMAG Gen2 work, even not drop-free and a little bit tidy. Lancer mags and mags from IMI as well some aftermarket aluminium mags work perfectly and are drop-free.
    I just ask myself of the PMAG Gen3 are produced “oversized” and not to specification?
    Thanks,
    Paul

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