Army bans non-USGI magazines

Matthew Cox reports at

Despite the success of the PMAG, Army officials from the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command issued a “safety of use message” in April that placed it, and all other polymer magazines, on an unauthorized list.

The message did not single out PMAGs, but instead authorizes only the use of Army-issued aluminum magazines. The message offers little explanation for the new policy except to state that “Units are only authorized to use the Army-authorized magazines listed in the technical manuals.” Nor does it say what Army units should now do with the millions of dollars’ worth of PMAGs they’ve purchased over the years.

This appears to be a classic case of Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome. Some types of equipment are very hard for individuals to evaluate the effectiveness of, body armor for example. Magazines are not hard to evaluate it. If a solider purchases a $15 magazine that malfunctions he can just throw it in the trash. It is crazy to think that soldiers are deliberately choosing (due to ignorance or stupidity) bad magazines.

Last year it was rumored that some Marine battalions had banned or restricted the use of Magpul PMAGs because they were incompatible with the M27 IAR, which is at least a marginally legitimate reason to ban them.

[ Many thanks to Bryan for emailing us the link. ]

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.


  • Tim V

    Because at best, PMAGS perform equally to the USGI magazine/with anti tilt follower why waste your money to be a fanboy.

    • Brice

      Interesting way of putting it, you’re right, when your mag works, it works all the time. So how can you get better than a mag that works all the time? Whether it be my aluminum green follower mags, or my 20 and 30 round Pmags, or even the POS Kel-Tec 10 rounder that makes ProMags look like titanium or something, if they feed all the time, they all work perfectly. I’ve never had a problem with PMags, but it’s not like I’m the most taticool operator anywhere. They feed and drop feed during competition but that doesn’t mean they are the only mags I will use nor will I be surprised when they eventually fail.

    • W

      not remotely. I would rather trust a magazine that is more durable and crush-resistant than a aluminum mag. Ill so far as to say the pmags are better than the HK steel magazines, which are also outstanding.

      but the contractor undoubtedly spent millions reinventing the wheel to churn out a anti-tilt follower, despite magpul having anti-tilt follower kits for a good number of years (which i fitted by GI mags with).

      A sad but funny fact is that the Soviets AKM magazines, constructed of steel, had anti-tilt followers…back in the late 1940’s LOL

  • Danger

    Well that just sucks. PMAGs are top notch. If they’re getting rid of them though, I wouldn’t mind picking up a few milsurp PMAGs. They’d probably be cheaper than the new ones.

  • MrMaigo

    sounds like a liability thing

  • wsm

    Yeah, PMAGs are top notch, like that time in Afghan they double fed my rifle, or that FTF I had from it a couple years ago…

    what nobody seems to realize, is that in the field, your mags will be constantly loaded, at least 90% of the time. The body of the PMAG is held together by the “Dust Covers”, when not in use. If you don’t keep these “covers” on, and even if you do after long enough, the mag body will separate lengthwise just enough, and then your double column of rounds will lose it’s stagger, and you are what we in the business call boned. Luckily, it only happened once on the range when I was getting my zero, and swapped back to aluminum mags once I figured out what my problem was. If you life doesn’t depend on your weapon, don’t worry, and armchair commando to your heart’s content. Otherwise, if you’re heading down range, put some anti-tilt followers in your issued mags and be satisfied because it won’t fail you.

    But nobody with an AR back home wants to hear about this because if it’s tan, plastic, and somehow attaches to their rifle, they want to have it on there regardless of practicality, durability, or function.

    • Tim V

      Funny, i heard the same thing from some of my Marines that carried PMAGS in Afgan. They ended up getting rid of them halfway through the deployment (by choice not because someone told them to :).

      • wsm

        Yea, my Marines and I had the same thing Tim, working in Marjah and up in Nimroz province around Deleram

      • Deafcat_usmc

        What marines were telling you they ditched PMAGS? I cleaned mine monthly and had zero issues….guess what, devil dog. Your mags need maintainance too! Why isn’t your platoon sgt checking your gear occasionally? I’d say they are no more or less capable mags, fella

      • armed_partisan

        It’s funny, because when I was in, there was no such thing as a PMag, and I had several aluminum ones that shit the bed on me at many an inopportune times. Those ones ended up under a the tire of the nearest hummer or five ton. Welds break on aluminum, getting dust in them will make them worthless (meaning you WILL need a dust cover, even with aluminum) and the damn things don’t feed for shit. You can push a loaded round out of a PMag with your finger, and you need an empty case to pry out rounds in an aluminum mag. Are all PMags awesome and flawless? No. Are all aluminum ones garbage? No. Shit happens with any design, and I’ve only used PMags in competition, but the reliability for me has been unmatched with PMags and certain other designs vs. GI Aluminum.

      • The dust covers provided with the PMag are for dust and impact protection when stored. They are optional to use and we have PMags loaded for years under varying conditions with no issues.

    • Charles222

      Had a complete set of PMAGs on my last deployment. Kept em continually loaded for 12 months and never had a problem.

    • W

      never had issues with my pmags and neither did the soldiers that served alongside me. They performed flawlessly in iraq and afghanistan, despite being loaded most of the time.

      Yeah god forbid you actually take them apart for cleaning…

      yes, they are measurably better than the GI mags, even the “improved one” with a tan follower. That is why they are immensely popular with trigger pullers outside the wire .

      • charles222

        About my only gripe is the transparent plastic ammo counter slot. It’s not something I’ve ever really used and I’ve busted it out on one of my magazines. Other than that I love Pmags.

      • W

        eh, i couldnt tell you about the quality of the window mags honestly. ive always bought the ones without 😀

    • I am a former active duty Recon Marine (0321) and would not allow PMag to be sold if it preformed like that.

      We have several million PMags officially deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 5 years. If the PMags were designed like this no one would still be using them.

  • spawnofbill

    As I understand it TACOM doesn’t have any actual authority, they just “advise.” Battalion Cmd’s have the ultimate authority on this sort of thing. This is not the first time TACOM has issued asinine and backwards advisories. Case in point not too long ago TACOM issued an advisory telling people they can’t paint their weapons, AFTER PEO SOLDIER SAID IT WAS ALRIGHT, as long as you followed PEO Soldier guidelines.

    So no, PMAG’s aren’t banned army wide, but now commanders who don’t know what they’re doing will probably ban them in their commands unless someone points out how stupid this advisory is.

    • Tim V

      Yes im sure commanders “who dont know what they are doing” are going to want you to carry a product that hasn’t passed any military testing and performs worse/equal then the current USGI Magazine. After all being a military commander is about letting your guys look as cool as possible and not keeping them alive and completing the mission.

      • Tyler Marcoz

        Sort of jumping to a conclusion there, aren’t you? I’m not saying they’re good or bad, mind you; I have used them only in passing and not under the sort of harsh conditions necessary to get a feel. I do think, though, that your being a bit over zealous in the hate.

        That said, if I was deployed, I’d think just using Magpuls (as in how they got their name) or Ranger plated would be a more cost effective way to get an improved mag.

  • Nater

    In my experience, PMAGs are about equal to good USGI magazine with an anti-tilt follower. Their real advantage is that you know when they’re toast generally because they crack. Aluminum mags bend, it’s easier to use a bad one. Really not a big deal if you watch them.

    The other big problem…I’d guess some of the less “well tuned” guys were buying up Promags or something awful and using them.

    • Nater

      I forgot to add that PMAGs are much, much easier to unload. I’ll usually load up a 20-30 mags before a range session, just in case I want to use them. Since I’m not insane (zombies aren’t real, the NWO isn’t going to send tanks to my town), I only keep like six loaded at any one time. How easy PMAGs are to unload compared to the USGI mags makes a big difference to me.

      Probably not a military concern, but I don’t care.

  • Dave H

    Magazine quality issues aside, it’s possible the DoD’s suppliers are complaining that they’re losing business to unapproved competition.

    • jim

      That’s most likely the case. There’s a long list of government contracting companies that don’t spend crap on inovating and developing new, better things. They better spend a little money to bribe some commanders that can enforce the old bad things on the troops. It’s going on everywhere. There’s no respect for the tax money in the military anymore. Everyone is trying to cut corners and profit.

  • Charles222

    Rofl welcome to an advisory that’ll never get enforced.

  • Tom – UK

    While from what I know from you American chaps and AR-15 shooters here in the UK PMAG’s are excellent magazines however as the article points out it does not specifically ban that brand of magazine but all non-issue magazines.

    Forgive me if I am ignorant on the subject (given I live in the UK) but this is my take on the issue.

    Given the varying quality of AR15/M16 magazines available on the US market (including Vietnam surplus magazines for example) the Army has no guarantee that their soldiers have not gone and bought a 40 year old worn out magazine to a brand spanking new top of the range magazine. Or that the gun oil used on the weapons will not cause the breakdown of some mags plastic components or be more effective at protecting the metals of some magazines than others. Weather conditions such as desert, jungle and snow are factors to consider, the Army knows how its issued magazine copes in these conditions but does it know about every type of magazine available in the US? and what about the second hand and already used magazines eg. the extreme example of a grunt using vietnam era mags.

    What they do know is that by guaranteeing the use of only issued magazines the benefits of uniformity and standardisation are maintained. The problems you know about are far more easy to deal with than those that you do not know about, while issue mags may not be the best they are not the worst either. By bringing uniformity they at least avoid jams and other issues caused by the use of poor mags, and allows for the possibility of pmags and others to become part of issued equipment or approved equipment.

  • Tinkerer

    What I understood from the article -and what haters failed to understand, or just didn’t want to understand- is that the order was to discourage the use of ANY non-standard issue magazine. And guess what? Since the PMAG does HAVE an Army-approved National Stock Number (SNS), that means that it IS an standard issue part.

    • jdun1911

      Having a NSN does not qualified for usage. With that said a lot of troops in Afghanistan are using PMAG as their primary magazine. I don’t the ruling will be enforce any time soon IMO.

      • jdun1911

        Failed at proof reading or the lack of proof reading.

        “I don’t think the ruling will be enforce any time soon IMO.”

      • charles222

        Yes, having an NSN equals qualified for issue. Units typically are not allowed to buy items without one, and having an NSN means you’re ordering it through the Army supply system.

      • jdun1911

        So all those junk foods and useless items that have NSN are qualified for issue? Give me a break. The NSN are just there to make it easy for logistics and busy works.

      • As for not using PMAGs being enforced, while they can still be ordered online, they have all been pulled off of the shelves here in the PXs in Kuwait…..

  • jdun1911

    TACOM probably came with the same conclusion as the Marine on Pmag.

    “It was found that the PMAG failed to meet DoD specifications: rough handling at -60F causes damage/cracks in feed lip; immersion in MIL-L-46000 Lubricant Semi-Fluid Automatic Weapons – LAW and 804-01-284-3982; DEET Insect Repellent causes stress crazing/cracking; and it is not fully compatible with current standard issue MOLLE magazine pouches. ”

    The Magpul rep respond by saying that all Pmag with the exception of the first gen window are DEET poof and that it will withstand -60F.

    -60F drop

    Personally I don’t trust marketing videos. It would be better if it is done by independent party with no ties and unedited videos.

    With that said PMAG are very good magazines. I have a large number of PMAG in my collection and they allwork. PMAG are not my primary magazine because they will not drop free on all AR and non-AR platform. I believe that the 3rd gen PMAG that will soon be available will fix this short coming.

    • Nater

      That is a -30F drop. There is a huge difference between -30F and -60F.

    • W

      I guess its about tradeoffs if the Marine reports about them being vulnerable to extreme cold are indeed true (though is this true with the 2nd-3rd gen magazines?). Since the Army is not currently fighting wars in -60 environments, i think the more environmentally resistant and reliable PMAG is more conducive for units operating in temperate/semi-arid/arid climates.

      Light airborne infantry/cavalry units have been using PMAGs in Alaska and they performed admirably.

      The only reason why I dont like PMAGs is that they dont allow the bolt catch lever to clear, which can possibly damage the part and bolt lugs. Of course, the magazines can be easily modified to work (ive done work on mine), though supposedly the Gen 3 magazines remedy this.

      I dont demerit a magazine on not being able to drop freely. magazines that otherwise do most of the time still place a unnecessary burden on the mechanics and structural integrity of the magazine itself, which can cause the shooter to flounder that one time his/her magazine doesn’t drop freely. That is why any respectable trainer, course, and unit teaches pulling the magazine out.

      • W

        sorry, third paragraph on comment refers to the SCAR L and 16, which i forgot to put in there.

      • AD-RtR/OS!

        “…Since the Army is not currently fighting wars in -60 environments…:
        Yes, it’s always so balmy in the Hindu-Kush in January.

    • The evaluation (not a lab test) mentioned was conducted in 2008 and at the time the clear window in the Maglevel PMag was affected by chemicals such as DEET. The regular PMag has always been DEET proof.

      This window material was switched out over 4 years ago with the M Rev PMag and since then ALL PMag variants have been 100% DEET Proof.

      Current PMags pass every Federal standard published for resistance that is applied to the M16/M4 weapon system. As part of our testing program PMags are subjected to long term direct contact with over 10 different types of chemicals required to pass these tests. For the DEET test we actually completely submerge the PMags in DEET for days, wash them off and shoot them. It has zero effect.

      Extreme cold is a tricky one. In this test, a cracked PMag that still functioned was considered a failure but a USGI with bent feed lips and non functioning due to the cold was considered a pass.

      Outside of this we have PMags functioning in places like Alaska as well as Afghanistan for over five years now with great success. Early MRevs were tested for breakage down to -30 and have steadily improved in performance/strength so it will function reliability in these extreme temperatures long after the USGI magazine will cease to operate.

      It should be noted that the PMags have been in a constant state of improvement over the last 5 years and issues cited in reports might have already be addressed or will be addressed with the new M3 PMag that is in final testing. This includes IAR compatibility and extreme temperature performance.

      • Nater

        I’d buy 10 for each member of my extended family if you were to release a SCAR-H/17S PMAG. I know it isn’t going to happen for technical and/or business reasons, but one has to try.

  • armed_partisan

    I was in the USMC during the height of the Assault Weapons Ban, which sunsetted less than a year before I got out. We had magazines that were pre-ban, meaning they were AT LEAST 9 years old by that point, which meant they had been in service at least as long as most of my staff sergeants. We had at least one SSgt who had only 8 years in. All of the post ban mags were dated, and I can assure you, they were not brand new mags. 1996 is a long time ago when you’re talking about issued equipment. I made a habit of collecting pre-ban mags in case the AWB was extended. You know why? Because the military, the USMC in particular, will NEVER retire a piece of equipment as long as it still appears serviceable.

    If it wasn’t for people stealing magazines, no new ones would likely ever get purchased, so I decided to take the ones home that had been in service since Reagan had been in the White House, because there was no reason why original Colt’s manufactured AR-15 magazines from 1976 should still be in service. But woe be unto the soldier or Marine who dares to use a brand new, state of the art piece of equipment when they could be using a worn out, disposable piece of equipment that’s older than he is. These same people issued me 55 rounds of ammo before I deployed to Iraq, but you know what? They gave it to me in brand new FN built magazines, because they didn’t have enough old POS mags sitting around.

    • AD-RtR/OS!

      “…when they could be using a worn out, disposable piece of equipment that’s older than he is…”

      such as the SAC pilot who’s flying the very same B-52 his Dad flew.

  • Reverend Clint

    living in commiefornia makes it tough to get any mags unless they are 10/30 so i have 4 pmags and a couple 10 rd aluminum mags. Never had a problem with pmags but my aluminum ones occasionally fail to feed. plus my friend had a couple preban 30 rds and they fail to feed as well. I’ll stick with polymer.

  • Lance

    I used Green follower mags in my A2 rifle for years and no problems at all. I dont know the complaints about regular Green follower mags. I understand I dont use a M-4 Carbine and use longer A2 rifle. Overall this isn’t the worse news PMAGs are good mags but they aren’t the be all or end all in AR based mags. I only looked at new tan mags and played with them by hand they look just fine the only down side is there bronze like color which may look in the shadows of a chamber like brass which may confuse a solder in the heat of the moment. But other than that I dont see how bad and or evil GI mags are. They always worked when I shot them even OLD black mags. Overall there has to be some Army regs on M-16 and M-4 accessories men can put on there weapons or we be finding men with crappy NC Star scopes and Israeli Orlite mags that are 20 years old or men using discount mags which are worn out. I know its a bummer not using your prefer AR mag, Pmags are good. But I see no horror of using standard Green and new tan mags either.

    • W

      The PMAG has a dark green follower from what Ive seen. In the magpul magazine follower upgrades, I used the yellow colored ones because they are easy to see. In my opinion, they should all be colored red.

      GI mags, whether green or black followers, do work technically, though their weak feed lips are notorious for failing and dirty magazines contribue to a vast majority of the M4’s malfunctions. anti-tilt followers are better because they keep the cartridges aligned when the magazine is dirty and/or during rapid fire. By keeping the cartridges aligned, there is less work that the buffer spring has to do. Mitigating mechanical variables is critical on the battlefield.

      Like many other soldiers in a combat environment, Ive had GI mags fail at inappropriate moments. I was so strongly opposed to their propensity to double feed and failure to feed my rifle that I used PMAGs when they first came out.

  • charles222

    Uh, yes. If they’re in the Army supply system they’re able to be issued. I;m not sure what’s so hard about this to understand.

    • jdun1911

      Being able to buy does not equal being qualified for issue. Don’t confuse the two.

      NSN is a number code system that is use within Nato and US Federal Government. It serve more or less like the typical bar code system. Unlike the bar code system, if you want to sell your product within the NATO military complex or US Federal Government you need NSN.

      Google these NSN numbers for your enjoyment:

      NSN 5820-01-548-2949
      NSN 8920-01-545-1770
      NSN 7045-01-515-5372
      NSN 7021-01-A00-0419
      NSN 6720-01-544-8843
      NSN 8925-01-578-5062

      • charles222

        Look, you moron, I know exactly how the damn NSN system works. I’ve been in the army for the last nine years and have seen NSN based ordering plenty of times. If it’s been given an NSN number then it has been tested and is able to be ordered for military use. Items WITHOUT an NSN cannot, at least not with unit funds. Take your stupid elsewhere please.

      • El Duderino

        Gotta go with jdun on this one. There are NSNs for limousines but they’re not approved for any combat unit.

        Even as a poor Marine grunt we caught wind of some crazy NSNs and wondered why we couldn’t get some of that stuff.

        The big question remains — what happens to the PMAGs in inventory? Show me the $7.99 gently used PMAGs complete with Iraqi/Afghani grime!

      • To be more on topic, check out NSN 1005-01-011-9017: Ruger Super Blackhawk. Wonder who issues single-action .44 Magnum revolvers?

    • Sid

      No, DLIS issues the NSN. That is not the same thing as “the Army has approved it for ordering”. DLIS issues the NSN for use across all services. If the SEALs wanted PMAGs, then DLIS gave the item an NSN.

      jdun1911 is correct. An item has an NSN separate of being authorized.

      Further, this discussion has ranged off on a tangent. Declaring that units may not authorize purchase of PMAGs is not the same thing as saying individuals may not pruchase or use PMAGs. There are plenty of reasons for the Army command to tell units not to order PMAGs. There may be a contractual obligation to winning bidders. The Army may already have plenty of USGI magazines and does not want to have units spending funds on them.

      I purchased my own set of PMAGs and carried them exclusively on my last deployment without issue. But this thread is tilting at windmills.

  • Jim

    Buy a Rock River Arms LAR-47 Prob. Solved!!!

  • Tim V

    So can anyone prove that Pmags malfunction any less then the USGI mags with tan follower? Is it marketing hype?

    • After 5 years of combat fielding we can show the PMag is consistently more reliable than the USGI magazine (both green and tan follower) on deployment largely due to it’s far greater resistance to impact damage affecting function.

  • eichenlaub

    They should just use those HK mags, everything HK makes is the best….

    • W

      Units do use the HK magazines. The Marine Corps “wisely” (LOL) only authorizes the GI magazines for the M27, even though HK’s steel mags were designed for the weapon system.

      When the 416 was first fielded, which predated PMAGs, its steel magazine was vastly superior to the GI mags. It was a good alternative at the time.

  • charles222

    W: Yeah, felt kinda stupid after seeing the window busted out. Oh well; eventually going to switch to a higher-capacity Pmag anyway, for my Army kit anyway. Just waiting on pricing for 40-round vs. quadmag.

  • Yoni

    I guess this also bans Emags but Magpul Emags are STANAG compliant and were approved for use by the UKMOD.

  • Timmysteve

    “This appears to be a classic case of Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome.”
    Anybody else find that funny alongside the picture with an M320 right there in the front?

  • calool

    I’m thinking this is a classic “Prius recall” situation, one has broken somewhere for some reason, in a million to one chance and someone has been hurt, now they are all being banned. It could just be because some zealot has complained because they are a gun part that goes up and down ( or some equally hilarious reason.

  • 276pedersen

    PV2 Snuffy does some dumb things. Using a PMAG is not one of them.

  • freebug

    The Pmag ban probably has to do with incredible heat issues with the M27. This weapon is to replace the M249 and operators will be sending 000’s of rounds out.

    I can see where a pmag will melt in this case.

    • I seriously doubt that is the reason why. First, I doubt the magazine would melt. Secondly, if at ALL possible, one NEVER uses a magazine on the M249. The spring on the magazine doesn’t have enough tension to move the ammunition up fast enough and the weapon jams. Doesn’t matter if the magazine is metal or a composite material.

      • Nater

        The PMAG and EMAG will both run the M249 SAW. Obviously this isn’t something you’d want to do except in an emergency, but they will supposedly work.

        The Marines banned or are getting rid of the PMAG because current iterations do not fit the magazine well of the M27 IAR. HK had to redesign the geometry of the magazine well in the IAR for whatever reason. It may actually increase reliability slightly, but I haven’t seen any testing to back that up.

      • Mitch

        “The PMAG and EMAG will both run the M249 SAW. Obviously this isn’t something you’d want to do except in an emergency, but they will supposedly work.”

        Yes, they will SUPPOSEDLY work. You hit the nail on the head when you said that isn’t something you’d want to do except in an emergency. Do you trust your life and those of your buddies that a 30 round magazine will run the M249? It is an option of last resort. Pray that it works. (Considering the stakes, this is a situation where I would really hope you were right and I was wrong….)

        I HAVE heard that the Marines have had trouble with PMAGS, however.

    • charles222

      SOCOM runs Pmags in weapons capable of the same level of full-auto as an IAR; the M4A1 and SCAR-L. Doubt the mags melt. :p

  • AR

    If the USGI aluminum mag is like a Humvee, then the Pmag is like a M2 Bradley in terms of toughness and survivability. On the other hand, a Bulgarian circle 10 waffle mag is like an M1A2 Abrahams. 🙂

    • W

      oh no…please dont compare a outstanding product like the PMAG to a mediocre one like the Bradley… 😉

  • counsel dew

    Assuming any product is 100% is the fallacy. Yes, I’ve seen the trucks running over Pmags, but I don’t seem to leave mine in the street… I could leave one in an actual fire, but it melting wouldn’t mean much to ‘real-life’ either… Shit happens. What is ‘right’ for you may be ‘wrong’ for the next person, but what is ‘right’ for them may be wrong for you… No need to get hot or upset because someone disagrees. Just be glad we all have good ootions…