Aliens is my favorite action movie of all time. You’ve got Hudson running around screaming “Game over!” and Apone snarling “Nobody touch nothin’,” but I really liked the gritty combat of colonial marines vs. ghoulish space aliens.
Looking at all of the futuristic weapons used in the movie, the standard M41A pulse rifle with its 10mm “explosive-tipped standard, caseless, light armor-piercing round” was the one I always liked the best. With 100 rounds of a .40-caliber round on tap, I figured the M41A was a pretty cool infantry weapon.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the rifle was the digital display on the right side of the gun, which gave the shooter an exact magazine round count. I wasn’t sure how useful it would be while engaged in combat, but I figured it would be nice to be able to check your mag load during a pause in combat. Glancing down to see “63” on the counter sure beats pulling the magazine and trying to guess.
Though not digital (or designed for explosive tipped ammo), there is an analog equivalent for today’s combat rifle.
EMA Tactical Countdown
The EMA Tactical Countdown magazine is a polymer, 30-round magazine for the AR-15/M4/M16 platform guns. The magazines are black. While resembling any number of other polymer AR mags, the EMA has a distinctive feature that clearly distinguishes it from others.
At the rear of the magazine (facing the shooter) is a clear plastic window. Visible through the window is a simple device that gives the shooter a count of the rounds remaining in the magazine.
The indicator is marked for an exact round count, but the more useful feature is the color code. The indicator is colored red, yellow and green, which indicates an approximate round count. Red is 0-9 rounds, yellow is 10-19 rounds and green would be anything more than 19 rounds.
I believe it would be highly unlikely that under the stress of combat anyone could glance down and pick out an exact number. However, the brightly colored backgrounds do stand out, which could be useful in helping someone decide if they should reload or not.
The EMA magazine has a second window in the floorplate of the magazine. This window will not give an accurate round count, but the color-coded background will still give an approximate count.
Though not the main feature, the Tactical Countdown magazine uses an effective anti-tilt follower. I tried to get the follower to tilt or bind up, but could not force it to do so.
The body of the magazine has a slight waffle pattern offering a decent grip during magazine changes. The body is not aggressively textured, but with very sweaty hands, I had no problems with the magazine slipping around.
The magazine performed flawlessly on the range. Feeding was consistent and no malfunctions were experienced with the rifle while using the EMA magazine. Although it would be nice to give you some exciting story, the fact of the matter is boring is good.
My real concern lay with the disassembly and cleaning of the magazine. I wasn’t sure how easily the mag would come apart, or more importantly, how easy it would be to put back together.
As it turns out, disassembly and cleaning was easy. The round count is essentially a small tape measure, and unless you roughly pull on it while cleaning (damaging it), it will not give you any problems during reassembly.
I don’t know how useful the round count window is, but from the safe position in my office chair, I can see where it could be helpful in some circumstances. The only concern I have is the reliability of the magazine over an extended period of time on the battlefield.
In all fairness, my magazines functioned perfectly well, and I can find no fault with them…for my uses. If you are spending time in one of the many combat zones around the world, you will have to balance the usefulness of the round count window against the possibility of reliability issues.
(Side note for all of the Aliens fans out there… The role of Sgt. Apone was played by Al Matthews. Matthews is a former Marine with 13 combat awards and decorations. Among his other accomplishments, Matthews was the first black Marine to be meritoriously promoted to the rank of sergeant during the Vietnam War. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Matthews, and was impressed by him. His personal web site is here.
[Richard Johnson is a firearms instructor, law enforcement veteran, contributor to Guns and Patriots, and the publisher of Guns Holsters And Gear.]