We certainly have multiple options when it comes to AR style magazines; it is a marketplace full of options. AR style rifles can use numerous steel, aluminum, and polymer magazines. The polymer game is definitely the most popular, and we’ll look at some solid options in this review.
The battle for the top spot when it comes to the most preferred polymer magazine for an AR style platform comes right down to side-by-side comparison, not company preference, and not relying on what some YouTube tactical professor has to say. Serpent Tactical LLC is a specialized small business that specializes in magazines, so it falls on us to prove what is in the market that justifies your investment, but also give professional feedback on the items we review and retail. We’ve put forth six magazines for this review. All are have a 30 round capacity and are in new condition.
Magpul PMAG M2 MOE (M2)
Troy Industries BattleMag (Troy)
Lancer Systems L5AWM30 (Lancer)
Magpul Dynamics PMAG GEN M3 (M3)
Heckler and Koch Polymer Magazine (HK)
Hexmag HX30-AR (Hexmag)
For the purpose of this review, we will NOT be destroying these magazines in a torture test, we’ve analyzed the quality, design, and durability of each as stand-alone magazines, and in this testing and evaluation (T&E) we’ll compare them to each other.
Part 1 - Grip Test
The Grip test is straight forward, we test each magazine for grip qualities when grabbing the magazine from the platform (test platform: SIG556) both with bare hands and with neoprene tactical gloves with a rubberized texture on the palm and fingers. The HK did very well with bare hands, beating out the Troy. Lancer was slightly better than the Hexmag in this regard. Unexpectedly, the M3 and M2 performed this test the worst. With gloves the Lancer beat the Troy with the HK closely behind. The M2 performed a little better than the Hexmag, however the M3 did not fare well in this test either.
Part 2 - Fit Test
The fit test evaluates how well the magazine sits in the magazine well, for the purpose of our test and evaluation; we used a Sig Sauer SIG556. Other platforms (ARs, etc) will have alternate tolerances that should be considered. In this case all six magazines locked into the SIG556 with ease and are considered 100% compatible. When looking at the front to back and side to side fit, the M2 is outstanding. The Hexmag has slightly more play, but fits very well. The M3, HK and Lancer all fit the magazine well equally; with slightly more rocking, but in all case still remain minimal. The Troy has the worse amount of rocking.
Part 3 - Features and Ingenuity Test
The Lancer has an outstanding feature in its integrated steel feed lips, this is critical as it addresses the catastrophic vulnerability of polymer magazines if dropped, typically in cold temperatures. The M2 gave the market the magazine covers which allow for protected storage, the M3 keeps with this tradition. The Hexmag offers a unique color identification system that is both a safety feature as well as a way to annotate what ammunition is loaded to which magazine. The Troy has an integrated pull tab on the floor plate; this can be done on the M2 as well with aftermarket parts from Magpul. In terms of features, the HK offers nothing worth noting that set it apart.
Part 4 – Color Availability
The Lancer is the best with six color offerings - Translucent Smoke, Translucent Clear, Black, Flat Dark Earth (FDE), Foliage Green (FG), Olive Drab Green (OD), giving consumers plenty of options to match their needs. The M2 and the Troy are both offered in four color variations (Black, FDE, OD) with Troy available in Tan, and M2 available in FG. Hexmag offers three color variations (Black, FDE, and OD), the M3 is available in Black and Sand, and the HK magazine is only available in Translucent Smoke.
Part 5 – Weight Comparison
Weight – the lightest magazine is the Troy (4.3oz), followed by the Lancer (4.4oz) and the Hexmag (4.5oz). The heavier options are the M2 and HK at (4.9oz) and the M3 at (5.0oz). While the differences are minimal, some consumers are absolutely intent on carrying the lightest magazines with their kit.
Part 6 - Price (MSRP) Comparison
The most affordable of the six is the M2, which still remains in the marketplace at the $10.00 mark. The M3 ($14.95) beats out the Hexmag ($14.99) by pennies based on the manufacturers website, however most Hexmags are running well below the M3 on the actual market (about $12.00 each). Troy has priced the Battlemag fairly at ($15.00), but they are less common and not as low as where Magpul and Hexmag are. Lancer ($23.95) and HK ($19.99) are in the same arena with their magazines. The only magazine not produced in the USA is the HK, which is not surprisingly made in Germany.
Part 7 - Functionality Test
Function (followers, springs, and self-lubrication) The M2 still has the best overall feel when it comes to function, it has a solid no-tilt follower, quality spring, and self-lubricates like a champ. The Hexmag brings something to the fight against it aging rival, but barely falls to runner up. The Lancer has a great spring and tight tolerances, with good self-lubricating properties, however the no-tilt follower falls under the mark just like the M3 where it is reduced in mass/surface compared to the previously mentioned magazines. The HK has a great follower and spring, but the self-lubrication of this magazine is not as good as the others above it. Lastly the Troy, a solid magazine, however the follower lacks compared to all others, and there seems to be a sense of lacking self-lubrication for this magazine making the function tighter than the others.
Part 8 - Ease of Disassembly Test
Hexmag beats out the Magpul M2 and M3 as the easiest magazine to disassemble, while the Lancer remains the last magazine that can be broken down without the use of a tool or bullet. The Troy and HK have breakdown tabs that require a tool.
Part 9 - Ammunition Loading Test
We ran a simple test just seeing how easy the magazines will load the standard 5.56x45 NATO ammunition. The Lancer with its integrated steel feed lips offers the best snap in loading without a doubt. The M2 and M3 follow with solid performing follower-feed lip performance. The Hexmag is right in the mix, however the feed lips are slightly more robust, adding what seems to be slightly (we mean slightly) more effort. The Troy outperforms the HK in this regard; neither is as solid as the magazine mentioned above, with the HK specifically being made of thicker polymer in the rear of the feed lips, making alignment of ammunition a task.
Overall the criteria we based the test on proved some interesting results when combined in a numeric value (of 66 points), and when comparing these six magazines side by side. While incredibly close, the M2 and Lancer tie at (48 pts), however we’d have to give an edge to the Lancer as the M2 is not a current production magazine. The Hexmag follows with (41 pts), impressive for the newest player in the game. The remaining magazines are the M3 (33 pts), Troy (32 pts), and HK (29 pts). All things considered, the domination of Magpul seems to show some signs of fading as Lancer and Hexmag have serious magazines that compete, not just in terms of an alternative, but intuitive features like the steel feed lips on the Lancer, and the Hex ID system that Hexmag offers. If we can make one solid assessment about the comparison, it seems Magpul made some great improvements with the M3; however they seemed to also walk away from some of the key areas where the M2 was completely ahead in the market. To wrap-up this comparison it is fair to say that each of these six magazines deliver as the top tier of polymer products on the market. They should be welcome in a consumers collection to replace standard GI magazines.
Best - Lancer Systems L5AWM30 – Grip is outstanding, the fit is average, features and colors top the comparison, weight is competitive, and the magazine loads the best. It is however the most expensive of those tested.
Magpul PMAG M2 MOE – Price, Overall Function, and Fit however heavier and lacks grip
Hexmag HX30-AR – Great fit, average grip and disassembly is easy with near perfect functional qualities, in all other areas the magazine is average in terms of comparison.
Magpul Dynamics PMAG GEN M3 – Competitively priced, however the M3 has proved to lack a collective set of criteria to lead the pack, specifically in the areas of grip, weight, and color availability.
Troy Industries Battlemag – Weight and grip, however the Troy has the most play in terms of fit, functions the worst, and disassembly is difficult in comparison.
Worst - Heckler and Koch Polymer Magazine – Superb grip with average fit, however HK struggles with additional features, color availability, and loading.