Are magazines for the AR5 rifle all the same? Yes, no and maybe…There are dozens of good options out the for magazines to feed your AR15 and most will work, to some extent. There are standouts among the choices, for sure. What makes them stand out? Reliability and durability. You want a magazine that will feed reliably and do it well for a long time. While it is true that the majority of AR15 owners will never put their magazines to the true test of endurance, it is nice to know that they can.
There are three basic types of materials used to manufacture the magazine body. There are steel, as well as aluminum and finally, the latest and greatest polymer magazines. Are polymer magazines the best? Good question! Ask ten guys that run their rifles hard and none of them will agree. Much of this as to do with familiarity or what they used in real life and death battles. Seeing for yourself what works and what fails in the field of high pressure and demanding usage can make a believer out of anybody. But, two different people may come to two different realizations. What we can conclude with some sort of assurance, there are some great AR15 magazines and many, many that are less desirable for a variety of reasons.
First, let’s cover the steel body magazines. Steel is not the favorite choice for AR15 magazines, but they do have a following. In my opinion (no hate mail please), if you want steel body AR15 magazines, the Heckler & Koch “high reliability” magazine is one of the best. They are pricy, but they are strong and reliable. They have an anti-friction coating that protects from corrosion and aids in smooth reloads as well as feeding. There are other steel magazines that are good, but the HK AR15 magazines are considered the best in class.
Next, we’ll move on to the aluminum body magazines. There are TONS of different makers of these. Generally, aluminum magazines come in a dull looking dry film lube finish. That is the original finish used by the USGIs with the first M16s in battle. They are by far, the most popular magazines over the years. There has just been so many millions of these produced over the years that they are literally everywhere. They are not all equal though. The most popular and arguably the best aluminum body AR15 magazines are those made by US Government contractors for the military. For that reason, I would have to give the nod to OKAY Industries “SureFeed” magazines. They come with the familiar dry film lube as well as PTFE colors. They come with an anti-tilt follower, as most AR15 magazines do these days. The quality control is 2nd to none with each magazine getting tested in a special machine prior to leaving the factory. The rear seam on these magazines is noticeably tighter when compared to other aluminum body options! They will not come apart easily and dirt/debris will have to find another way in. If you prefer aluminum, OKAY industries is the way to go.
Let’s go over the polymer body AR15 magazines. I can already hear you guys out there. “There is only one AR15 magazine out there. Magpul PMAG. End of story.” They do have quite the following and for good reason. They are super strong and they just work. They won’t dent like their metal counterparts. They definitely will not rust. They are slightly more bulky that the metal magazines, but many do not see that as an issue. The Magpul PMAG was introduced only 14 years ago, so it is the relative new guy on the block, but it is also one of the most popular today. There are endless amounts of torture tests online for your viewing pleasure if you wish. There are other polymer body magazines now on the market from manufacturers like Lancer, also very good and a few others. The market share of the polymer AR15 magazine industry clearly goes to Magpul though.
There you go. There are many options available today for the Modern Sporting Rifle, aka AR15. Most of the different makers magazines will work just fine, but if you want the best, I believe it is Heckler & Koch, Okay Industries and Magpul Industries, in no particular order.