STANAG 4179 does not exist!

Most of you, I think, know what is meant by a term “STANAG magazine”. For those of you who do not, it refers to a specification prepared by NATO which describes the dimensions of an AR-15 / M16 compatible magazine. An example of the usage of the term is in the Magpul’s Masada spec document (emphasis added) …

Multiple ammunition magazine capability is accomplished with unique lower
receivers to accept either the NATO STANAG (USGI M-16) or the Automatic
Kalashnikov (AK) magazine. Additional lowers receivers that accept other maga-
zine types are also possible.

I received an interesting email from Roberto, a NATO employee, who explained that despite the term being commonly used, the specification does not exist. Apparently the draft STANAG 4179 was never ratified by member states and therefor it was discarded by default. If you call up the NATO Standardisation Agency (Bruxelles) and ask them for the STANAG 4179 document they will tell you that it does not exist.

This slide comes from a NATO presentation

So there you have it – STANAG 4179 does not exist! “USGI compatible” is a more correct term than “STANAG compatible” when referring to AR-15 magazines.

Many thanks to Roberto for this information.





Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Matt Groom

    WHOOPS! We can’t rely on bureaucrats to do anything right, apparently.

  • Lance

    Figures in my opion there no such thing as a NATO round either. When my father was in the Army in the 1960s the NATO idea had already been adopted. BUT American M-14s wouldnt work with British L1A1s due to that mags where not interchangeable. The French didnt use 7.62mm ammo any way. The German G-3 never was interchangeable with either British or American weapons. And some European charges of 7.62 NATO where either too hot or low for either American or British weapons. The same goes for todays 5.56mm weapons. Some contries uses weapons that use M-16 style mags BUT there ammo charges varies and verious weapons wont handle them. Many eastern European countries dont use 5.56mm ammo anyway and use there traditional 7.62×39 or 5.45x39mm ammo in there AKs only Poland went to full NATO specs.

    In my opion US and Briton should have there own allince and dump NATO crap.

  • Aurelien

    French army hasnt been in NATO for some time. Just got back in it.

    NATO wasnt a standardisation program but a way to oppose the soviets, and that’s all it was.

  • The NATO organisation has several standards approved and put things under a codenumber called the Nato Stock Number in the depots waiting to been used. The NSN is a 13-digit numeric code, identifying all the ‘standardized material items of supply’ as they have been recognized also by the United States Department of Defense. Pursuant to the NATO Standardization Agreements (STANAGs), the NSN has come to be used in all treaty countries, where it is also known as a NATO Stock Number.
    When we don’t speak about an .223 nato round because we have 28 different kinds of them in the military. We are military so we need all kind of armourpiercing, with or without tracers, heavely loaded for AA machineguns, sniper cardridges and so on from the same callibers. That is normal practice when you have standarized your small ammo suplly chain to 4 calibers: 9mm, .233, .308 and .50.
    You must know wich nsn cardridge or spare part you can or cannot put in your gun.
    So when you have a ammo box with an nsn always check what kind of stuff it is.
    Before you know your the man who was shooting an tungsten steel copper platted armour piercing incendrie round wich had to be used in an .308 minigun on an helicopter trough what was a perfect match barrel
    of your favorite benchrest rifle

  • Matt Groom

    NATO is obsolete, both as a concept, and as an organization. NATO standardization doesn’t work in practice anyway. Different countries have different needs, either real or imagined, and their different rifle designs cannot all use the same ammunition. If NATO standardization was really ever going to work, they would need to approve 1-4 different rifles suitable for every role imaginable, which would also have to be compatible with every kind of ammunition that was built. Then every single NATO member would have to agree to build those 1-4 rifles. This would apply to everything, not just small arms. This didn’t happen, therefore NATO standardization is more theory than fact.

    What it does do, however, is stifle the free market. The best ideas for various countries do not win out because nobody is allowed to experiment beyond the very narrow confines of this tiny little 2.26″ box we’ve created for intermediate cartridges. Consequently, nearly all new innovations in cartridge design out of Europe have stopped since the cold war, because there’s no commercial market, and no chance of adoption by NATO for new and possibly better cartridge designs. Just look at all the new commercial sporting cartidges to emerge in the US in just he past two years. Among them is the most popular cartidge of the future, though I don’t know which one that is.

    Also, all new intermediate cartridge rifle designs are based on the 5.56 or the 7.62×39, which are approximately the same length. All designs seem to use either M-16 style mags or AK style mags. The biggest innovation has been the inclusion of M1913 rails on various weapons. The real coup a few years ago was when Knights Armament and later others started making ARs which took AK magazines. What a revolution. These concepts, however, led directly to the SCAR program which is now shaping nearly all new small arms designs.

    Basically, if it doesn’t appeal to the American consumer, and it’s not likely to be adopted by NATO, it doesn’t get built in the first place, and we all suffer for it.

  • AK™

    I think because it’s usually the U.S.A. being the first Responders to the world’s troubles..that NATO should follow suit and their weapons should be U.S. manufactured “Assault Rifles”..

    in other words..streamline it and make it so Americans are put back to work.

  • Mittens

    “Also, all new intermediate cartridge rifle designs are based on the 5.56 or the 7.62×39, which are approximately the same length.”

    This isn’t entirely true. The 6.8 Remington intermediate, which has been adopted by some US SOF units, isn’t based on 5.56mm at all. It’s 6.8x43mm, and requires a completely new upper to use in an Armalite-based rifle, instead of just a barrel change that a 5.56mm based round would require. This is because the 6.8 Remington is based on .300 Remington, not .222 Remington Magnum. You’re actually looking for the 6.5 Multipurpose Cartridge, which as far as I’m aware hasn’t been adopted by any single country or military unit.

    And technically the 6.5 Grendel isn’t based on the 7.62 Warsaw Pact. It’s actually based on a sporting cartridge, the .220 Russian, which was based on the 7.62, but that is a pedantic note more than anything.