Easy At-Home AK Magazine Modification – Reload Indicator

Ahh…. Reddit. Normally completely and totally useless. However, the occasionally useful nugget comes from the website and community (though I stress occasionally). The idea for the AK Magazine Reload Indicator comes from user ChrisKilo, a seemingly average guy with an awesome idea.

Ammunition status indicators are now common in the AR world, but the AK world has been slow to catch up with similar ideas. Yes, a few translucent polymer magazines have been making it out to the market recently, but even Magpul’s now successful AKM magazines do not feature an ammunition counter function. As such, the typical indication that an AK is running low on ammo is a “click” on an empty chamber or it requires removal of the magazine from the weapons system.

Basically, one drills a hole into the side of the magazine, near the top. With the magazine empty and the follower in its topmost position, mark the follower. From there, color in the side of the follower your favorite colors (Chris chose Yellow and Red for obvious reasons) to indicate that your magazine is running low and a magazine swap is advisable.

Or, follow Chris; instructions:

Open up your mag and drill your hole first. Put it back together and load 6 rounds. Make scratches to indicate which part of the follower shows, repeat this with 3 rounds. This will tell you where the diagonal needs to be. Put a base layer of white, the use masking tape to mark your line, paint the yellow, switch your tape to cover the other side and paint red. Clear coat to minimize wear and there ya go.

This method does have its issues, namely it opens up the magazine to the possible intrusion of debris, but for those who find that minor, its an excellent modification .

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • bull

    two pieces of clear tape. one on each side would lessen the problem. or maybe som plexi or something

    • Hamma Hamma

      I’m not sure how durable it would be under “hard use,” but I’d venture trying some Testor’s Clear Parts Cement to make clear windows in the viewholes, putting one extra coat of the cement over windows to make sure we have a layer holding onto the mag walls on both outside/inside, and then doing a layer of matte outdoor finishing coat on the outside of the mag over the windows as something of an adhesive protective layer.

      It’d be brittle, but at least would keep water and mud out of the hole and be fairly easy to clean with a sponge later.

      It works on my warplane models; I hope it works just as well for a real war tool.

      • tts

        You could also just make the hole lots smaller.

        Could be around half the size used in the pic and still do a good enough job IMO. Really depends on how good your eyes are and how good the light is. Even translucent mags aren’t much good for ammo indication in the dark. For me at least anyways.

        • Yeah, we definitely need magpul to get some tritium mag-springs going

          • tts

            I could see them doing a glow in the dark mag follower.

            They’d probably sell out too!

      • Laionidas

        Or just make a small plexi inlay. Friction fit it, AND glue, then add some clear nail polish as an extra protection layer.

      • Rattlerjake

        Actually put a piece of tape on the inside of the whole, then fill the hole with “five-second fix”/ “Bondic”, hit with the ultraviolet light. It should be clear and the tape can be removed. Wala, window!

  • USMC03Vet

    When I operate my AKM in wheel barrels full of mud this lifehack just causes malfunctions

    • Vitsaus

      This comment made my day.

    • muhAK


  • This is a pretty clever mod.

    Personally, a huge fan of reddit. r/guns is not terribly useful, but r/todayilearned alone is worth the trip.

    • zippiest

      You’re smart. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Know your enemy, love your enemy, kill your enemy.

    • Mc Cain

      r/guns is the single largest collection of guys who learned about guns from playing Call of Duty in their mom’s basement anywhere on the Internet.

      • The more the merrier in my opinion. Anyone entering the shooting sports, regardless of why, is a net win for everyone.

        • M40

          I used to agree with that point. However, having met a good few of these video game aficionados, consider my mind changed. Some folks just give the shooting sports a bad name. Many are just a bad news story waiting to happen. Couch commandos should stick to gaming, lest they hurt themselves or someone else.

          • Well, it’s not like the shooting sports have been known as a bastion of intellectual progress; we’ve been neck deep in morons since before the Atari was even invented.

          • M40

            I wouldn’t say “neck deep”. In fact, out of the fifty million or so shooters in America… 99.9999% of us do no harm whatsoever. Actually, we’re probably the single most harmless demographic group when you figure it in raw numbers.

          • No, I didn’t mean to imply harm, but rather just general stupidity. If we were to have an AI algorithm scrape all the comments from gun forums and blogs, and compare them to the comments from 100 other hobby subsets, my money is not on us.

          • Rattlerjake

            You obviously speak for yourself! Your “general stupidity” speaks for itself.

          • 2hotel9

            Your comments prove your point! Good job, buddy.

  • Roy G Bunting

    Visual indicators are great and all, but generally you can’t see them from a firing stance.

    Three alternate solutions:
    1: A tab on the follower and slot in the magazine. you feel where the tab is and you know how much ammo is left. The problem is that it leaves a slot in the magazine and debris. Better for home and range use.

    2: A pivoting lever from the back of the magazine well to the trigger guard. The magazine has a empty rib for this lever to access. At 3-4 rounds to empty magazine, the follower bumps the lever and the lever taps your trigger finger and then returns to a raised position. Each shot there after the lever bumps and returns to a higher position. Think “rebounding hammer”. This gives tactile feed back that it’s time to change mags. The problem is that this requires a new gun and new magazines.

    3. A similar magazine with the rib on a side. A rod that when actuated by the follower raises a yellow flag at 3 rounds that flips to red when the magazine is empty. The flag is just to the side of the sight picture.

    Feel free to develop these ideas if you are in a position to.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Or use the British Army method & just count your rounds.

      • Roy G Bunting

        That’s easy for me, because in CA my magazines only go up to 10. But with the variety of solutions to this idea, it seems that some people want other answers.

      • SGT Fish

        Or just use the army method and learn to feel the LRBHO. but that no worky on the inferior AK

    • Steve Truffer

      Zastava did a bump when the mag had 3 rounds remaining in their 999 pistol. Neat idea, but the spike was rather unpleasant.

    • zippiest

      You forgot about rigging it to ding a little dinner Bell when you’re out of ammo.

      • Sledgecrowbar

        They did that on the Garand, it was not appreciated.

  • Vhyrus

    Dear capitalist pigdog comrade,

    AK already have reload indicator. When gun ‘click’ and not ‘bang’, is time to reload.

    In short, rifle is fine!

    • Y-man

      Da, Tovarisch!

    • Mc Cain

      You tell the kaptalist pig correctly words, Komrad.

  • Captain obvious

    I am working on a mod that shoots confetti up in the air when you get down to three rounds. That’s important for all those gun battles us armchair commados get into.

    • Mister Thomas

      I know people will laugh but I had a thought to – instead of tracer rounds – to somehow figure out how to put a hole in a projectile at and angle so it would whistle as it was fired. Load the first 5 rounds with this and you would be warned that you are about to run dry.

      I figured it was impossible and went back to work. 🙁

      • jcitizen

        Yeah, and better than trying to find green tracers.

  • Bob

    It is on the wrong side. If you are true operator, then after doing some shooting, you will turn gun to look for any jamming, which in most guns will be seen from the right.

  • Nate

    I’m still waiting for one of the regular commenters to complain that this modification costs too much money.

  • zippiest

    Who’s looking at their mag when they’re shooting?

  • 2hotel9

    I drill a visual inspection hole 3 1/2 inches down from top edge of feed lip on righthand side. See the base of a cartridge? You got at least 15 rds left, see the back of the follower you got 10-8 rds left, open hole then you are under 6 rds. Just a slight tilt to the side and you can see it and still keep rifle shouldered. Easy peezy.

  • Mister Thomas

    Magpul has the small polymer window – so why can’t they just so the same thing for their AK mags? At least with the AK, you can see the side of the mag almost all the way to the top.

  • Mc Cain

    I reload when I pull the trigger on my AK and it does not go bang. It requires no labels, or windows, or modifications and I don’t have to take my eyes off what I’m shooting at down range.

  • Leigh Rich

    This would be good during a zombie attack.

  • mechamaster

    ! Warning !
    Good hack for competition / recreational / casual shooting. But not good for combat use.

  • Mark Are Reynolds Ⓥ

    From what I can see that is so far up on the magazine that it would be hidden by the well. And besides, in a firefight who is going to keep looking at the side of their magazine to see if it is low or not? Seriously? This isn’t a good idea, it’s a dumb idea. Someone should just come out with a Lancer Warfighter style translucent AK mag…”problem” solved. HEY LANCER!!!???&&&???

    • Bulgaria, among others, already makes a clear magazine.

      • Evan

        I think Poland does too, for their Tantal.

  • Guido FL

    Indeed !! Thank you.

  • Sub Genius

    I’m shooting, I’m shooting, I’m shooting, WAIT! Stop shooting to look for the yellow in the window to see how many rounds I have left. I’m shooting, I’m shooting, WAIT! TIME OUT, to look at the window to see how many rounds left. Shooting, shooting. TIME OUT!

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Applaud for a simple and good idea. I would rather to know to reload before the last round leaves the chamber because I do not full auto anything and if there is a lull changing the mag early increases security.
    That or count every round and hope my senility does not catch up with me…

  • SemperFlyBoy

    Don’t have an AK but wonder who will be closely eyeballing their magazines while engaged in a firefight? If you are that low on ammo, you better have the ammo monkey on his way back to you or you should be considering a strategic withdrawal.

  • lowell houser

    Some clear acetate and superglue will seal that hole up just fine for field use.