Earlier in September we authored a comparison of six select polymer magazines that fit multiple weapon systems, to include AR-15s, M4s, and SIG556s. We received feedback on multiple areas of the comparison and in an effort to complete our comprehensive testing and evaluation of these six magazines, we decided to put them through an additional set of testing.
We took a hard look at existing magazine ‘torture’ tests, and we took into account magazine use based on collective experience, the practical use of magazines, and the key areas where Serpent Tactical can provide critical inputs and feedback to manufacturers. We formulated a practical endurance phase of testing to focus on the key areas; maritime climate and cold climate tests, chemical reaction test, drop and strength tests, and range endurance tests. Quality polymers offer many benefits; these include the preservation of magazine finish (polymer vs. metal finishing) and flexibility/resistance to denting as seen in metal magazines. However, polymers can and do crack under the right circumstances and may have reactions with certain chemicals that alter the integrity or finish of the magazine altogether.
Please note that you will notice that we did not run the magazines over with a 1-ton pick-up truck, set them on fire, boil them, shoot them, or put curses on them. We focused our testing based on reality as it applies to law enforcement, military, and civilian use in a cumulative manner, nothing more.
Ultimately, each end user wants a magazine that is trustworthy, one that he or she knows will function 100% when needed. Given the number of quality magazines on the market, relatively competitive prices, it becomes difficult to single out one magazine in particular that beats all others in every category.
Magazines used are as follows;
1. Magpul PMAG M2 MOE
2. Magpul PMAG GEN M3
3. Hexmag HX30-AR
4. Lancer Systems L5AWM30
5. Heckler & Koch Polymer Magazine
6. Troy Industries BattleMag
Practical Endurance Phase - Test & Evaluation Areas (PEP T&E)
Maritime Climate Test
1. 14 hour salt water soak - this is an evaluation of the magazine springs, particularly the anti-corrosion coating applied. This test was conducted to see if any corrosion was present on the magazine springs.
2. Water drain test – magazine is filled completely after being removed from a bucket of water, and then drained from the base (timed in seconds). In this test we looked for the ability for the magazine to self-drain itself.
Cold Climate Test
3. Magazines are put into a temperature of 2 degrees F (30 degrees below freezing) for 20 minutes, after which they are dropped from 15 feet on to concrete. In this test, we evaluated the endurance of the polymer under harsh cold temperatures while also conducting a significant impact test.
Chemical Reaction Test
4. Magazines are subjected to exposure to the following chemicals; CLP, WD-40, Simple Green, and Industrial Strength Clorox Bleach. In this test we looked for discoloration, softening or cracking that would indicate a negative reaction between the chemicals and the polymers.
Simple 3-Part Drop Test
5. Magazines are unloaded, dropped from 6 feet to concrete, three trials were conducted, contact to the base, chassis/spine, and feed lips of the magazine. In this test we looked for damage to the polymer chassis due to impact.
6. Magazines are loaded with 30rds of 5.56x45 NATO 62gr ammunition, dropped from 5 feet to concrete, three trials were conducted, contact to the base, chassis/spine, and feed lips of the magazine. In this test we looked for damage to the polymer chassis due to impact and the magazines ability to retain loaded ammunition under stress of impact and impact to the feed lips.
Strength and Impact Test
7. A rubber mallet is used to impact the feed lips specifically. A total of 5 strikes were applied to each magazine. In this test we looked for damage to the feed lips.
8. Magazines are placed under a 100lb dumbbell for 30 seconds. The dumbbell is placed directly on the chassis of the magazine. In this test we looked for cracking of the magazine chassis, or splitting where the mold is pressed together in the spine of the magazine.
9. Each of the magazines are loaded into the weapon system with two trials with 30rds of 5.56x45 NATO 62gr ammunition, and one trial with 10rds of the same ammunition. In this test we fire one (30rd) magazine at a steady, medium-fast rate of fire for the entire magazine, the second (30rd) magazine by doing three-round groups, and the last (10rd) magazine doing controlled pairs. In this test we looked for the ability for the magazine to feed the weapon system efficiently, with no failures to feed, and when the magazine was completely expended, that bolt catch was actuated – thus keeping the bolt to the rear (hold open). The bolt catch test was critical as some magazines have difficulty engaging the bolt catch in some weapon systems.
10. Loading with bolt forward – magazine is inserted into the magazine well with 30rds loaded. This test evaluated the ability for the magazine to seat in the magazine well with the bolt forward on the weapon system, using minimal effort to seat by actuating the weapon systems magazine catch and magazines locking tabs.
All applicable areas of the test were completed using a Sig Sauer SIG556. For the SIG556, Sig Sauer takes full advantage of STANAG magazine tolerances – thus making is friendly to a multitude of USGI and aftermarket magazines.
Each magazine was scored using a maximum of 5 points for a total of 50. Any damage, catastrophic of not is noted accordingly.
1. Troy Industries BattleMag – The Troy scored positively in all areas of the test. The total water drain time was 6.8 sec making it the best among those tested. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 3 rounds (1x base, 1x side, 1x feed lip). The Troy fed ‘very good’ into the SIG556. No damage was incurred. Total Points - 48/50
2. Magpul PMAG M2 MOE – The M2 scored positively in all areas of the test. The total water drain time was 13.1 sec. The M2 fed ‘very good’ into the SIG556. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 2 rounds (1x side, 1x feed lip). No damage was incurred. Total Points - 47/50
3. Heckler & Koch Polymer Magazine – The HK scored positively in all areas of the test. The total water drain time was 10.2 sec. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 3 rounds (1x base, 2x feed lip). The HK fed ‘good’ into the SIG556. No damage was incurred. Total Points – 47/50
4. Lancer Systems L5AWM30 - The Lancer suffered minimal damage via a bend to the polymer lip of the chassis – forward of the follower when dropped from 6 feet, loaded on to the feed lips. Impressively, the Lancer retained all loaded ammunition during this drop test, and the polymer lip was adjusted to near perfect condition. The total water drain time was 51.5 sec making it a slower draining magazine in the test. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 1 round (1x side). The Lancer scored positively in all other areas of the test and fed ‘second to best’ into the SIG556. Total Points - 46/50
5. Magpul PMAG GEN M3 – The M3 scored positively in all areas of the test. The total water drain time was 20 sec. The M3 fed ‘best’ into the SIG556. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 4 rounds (3x base, 1x feed lip). No damage was incurred. Total Points - 44/50
6. Hexmag HX30-AR – The Hexmag suffered critical damage via a significant crack to the polymer spine of the magazine when dropped from 6 feet, loaded on to the feed lips. Moreover the total water drain time was 1 minute 26 sec – far exceeding the time of the other magazines in the test. During the three-part drop test the magazine ejected 31 rounds (1x side, 30x feed lip). The Hexmag scored positively in all other areas of the test and fed ‘very good’ into the SIG556. Total Points - 40/50
With the exception of the Hexmag HX30-AR, the PEP T&E proved that the remaining five magazines represent outstanding options for those looking for AR magazines. While none were ‘perfect’ they all performed very well, utilizing superb polymers, anti-corrosion coated springs, efficient anti-tilt followers, and engineered with sufficient tolerances. We will return our HX30-AR to Hexmag showing the damage it received; hopefully they will reinforce the polymer in the area of the feed lips, or perhaps engineer a more flexible polymer that allows for impact at 6 feet to concrete. The performance of the Troy BattleMag was not predicted. As time goes by there will be continued range time with these magazines that will test the efficiency and overall life of the magazine – if we note any significant occurrences, we’ll update our review.
Because this PEP T&E was conducted using the SIG556, it would be of additional value to conduct the same test on an AR weapon system as some areas may vary based on slight differences in the magazine well specifications, magazine release, and a different bolt system.