Senators Mistakenly Question Why US Army Won’t Authorize PMags Following USMC Adoption

Four US Senators sent a letter to US Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley on Friday, requesting to know why the US Army does not authorize polymer magazines “for use in training or combat”, given that the USMC recently picked the Magpul PMag Gen M3 as their combat magazine. The odd thing about this request is that the US Army does not, exactly, ban the use of PMags in training or combat. I’ll explain later in the post, but first, the Senators’ request:

General Milley:

We write to you today to question why polymer ammunition magazines for United States Anny rifles are not authorized for use in combat or in training. The Army and Marine Corps simultaneously issued orders stating that polymer magazines were not authorized for use in 2012. This month, five years later, the Marine Corps approved the use of an upgraded version of these polymer magazines. It is our hope that the Army considers them as well, or is able to disclose what issues they’ve found with polymer magazines so that we can make the other service branches aware.

As you may know, the Marine Corps issued guidance against the use of polymer magazines in 2012 due to their inability to function with new automatic rifles. To our understanding, the Marine Corps did this following issues with their operation in the new M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. However, the Anny never fielded the M-27 rifle, and it is not clear what specifications the previous polymer magazines failed to meet in order to be authorized for Army weapon systems. Regardless, the Marine Corps has now identified polymer magazines that are approved for their M-27 rifles, and the same M-4 carbines and M-16s the Army carries.

Reports state that the polymer magazines approved for use by the Marine Corps had zero magazine related stoppages through all of the tests carried out by the Marine Corps when combined with any ammunition tested. Additionally, reports state they also reduce damage to the chamber face and feed ramps when using M855A1 ammunition. As our national debt approaches $20 billion, ensuring the longevity of these rifles is important.

We request a response as to why the Army has not approved any polymer magazines for use in combat, or in training, and an update on if the Army is considering approving them now. After years oftechnology advancement for our soldiers, and your fellow service branches testing and approving this technology, it is our hope that the Army is also working to ensure its warfighters have the best equipment possible.

Sincerely,

Joni K. Ernst

Johnny Isakson

Tom Cotton

Jim M. Inhofe

David Perdue

The reason the Senators are under the impression that the US Army prohibits the use of polymer magazines like the PMag is because of a TACOM Life Cycle Management Command announcement made in April of 2012. The announcement references polymer magazines, and states that the authorized magazines are the familiar aluminum-bodied USGI magazines, continuing that “units are only authorized to use the Army authorized magazines listed in the technical manuals”. While this certainly sounds like black-and-white language, in a later announcement it was clarified that this was not a prohibition on polymer magazines but a poorly worded suggestion regarding what magazine TACOM recommended.

Although I realize that Senators are very busy individuals, it took me far less time to confirm that the US Army does not, in fact, have a ban on PMags (and never has) than I imagine it took for the Senators’ request to be written.





Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Rocky Mountain 9

    I think the letter is valid in its aim to clarify a murky issue. Why complain when Senators are doing something vaguely useful for once?

    • hikerguy

      Tom Cotton is a senator from my home state of Arkansas, and is a war veteran from either Iraq or Afghanistan one. I would imagine he would be trying to help with what he perceived as a situation that could benefit servicemen.

    • Major Tom

      Maybe it’ll force the Army to get off its bum and clarify the policy or just throw its hands up in the air and go “PMAG’s for everybody!”.

    • No complaints, just my assessment of the situation, which I am paid to give. 🙂

    • billyoblivion

      Because it’s not their f*king job to micromanage the army, that’s why.

      In fact it’s not their job to manage the army *AT ALL*. They write general laws for the *executive* branch to implement.

      There are a metric ton of problems facing the US right now that they could be better spending their time on than wasting a bunch of people’s time by getting them all wound up (and yes, when someone in the military gets a letter from one or more senators they get wound up.)

      • Colonel K

        Quite right, billyo. I used to waste a good a deal of my time answering similar inquires by well-intentioned members of Congress. Often theses queries originated from their constituents or constituents families, expressing their frustration at what they saw (from their limited perspective) as a failure of the massive military-industrial bureaucracy. Often by the time we could research it thoroughly and provide an accurate response, the problem was either OBE or otherwise determined to be a non-issue.

  • Joe Moore

    This is one of the most misleading articles on TFB in a while, and I’m disappointed.
    The senators didn’t “mistakenly” question the Army, but rather, they aim to clarify why the Army isn’t issuing the PMag, and instead chose to develop yet another crappy aluminum magazine to replace the other crappy aluminum magazine that they resigned from the standard crappy aluminum magazine, wasting tax dollars numerous times in the process.

    • RSG

      Exactly. They aren’t questioning whether a ban exists or not. They are questioning the army to see why they haven’t been universally adopted yet.

      • Uniform223

        From my understanding the PMAG isn’t really built to handle the M855A1… with the exception of the PMAG gen 3. The new magazines for the Army was specifically designed for the M855A1.

    • LGonDISQUS
    • Ted Unlis

      I agree, pointless poorly written idiotic articles are something you expect from TTAG, but not TFB.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      I think Aluminum makes since when weight is an issue but for training especially in the big army I don’t see how they couldn’t go with Pmags. When they’re screwed up it’s visually obvious.

      • int19h

        The difference between an aluminum USGI magazine and a PMAG M3 is ~1 oz.

        • Harry’s Holsters

          OZs = pounds.

          • int19h

            All other things being equal, sure. But aluminum mags are notoriously easy to damage – feed lips bend etc. So you’re trading 1 oz of weight per mag for a massive increase in reliability.

            Also, for what it’s worth, PMAG is actually on the heavy side for a polymer mag. Lancer A5WM is lighter by 1/2 oz.

    • Uniform223

      It’s not so much that the current USGI aluminum magazines are inherently crappy perse (though some will contend). It’s the fact that the vast majority of USGI magazines are old and worn out. The springs are badly worn out hence it’s often advised by more veteran soldiers to load the magazine to 28 instead of the full 30.
      The new magazine is supposed to remedy all the issues of the current magazine. It has a stronger springs and better followers to prevent magazine related issues. If it’s anything like the ever popular PMAG it would do just fine. From personal experience most if not all of the malfunctions I experienced while I was in was magazine related. When I used the PMAG, those malfunctions quickly ceased.

      • Bad Penguin

        Aluminum mag retaining lips start spreading from their first use. One use and they cant be used by a M-249. Steel Mags and Polymer Mags don’t have that problem.

        • Wow!

          They spread, but they also spring back while polymer does not. I never heard of the current generation being one use. If anything, I have heard and experienced (via handmedowns) that the current generation of aluminum mags far exceed anything the plastic mags can withstand. That said, plastic magazines should be cheaper to produce so I am behind producing cheaper but just as good quality mags to free up cash to spend on other things the military needs.

          A lot of things in the military are considered bad only because they are worn. The military likes to use things up until they are absolutely not serviceable which is commendable, but when it comes to our countries defense, I rather they be more wasteful and ensure that we cycle out old units frequently rather than wait until they malfunction. Then again, our budget has been going to wasteful social programs so the military really hasn’t had that kind of luxury.

  • GD Ajax

    These Senators have manufactures in their states who want some more pocket money. The USMC is desperate to get all the high tech crap it can these days. To make them seem cutting edge for the “youngins”.

    The Army however can afford to wait for technology to mature and than buy it off the shelf. Those new magazines won’t be useful when they adopt the LSAT Carbine and LMG a few years down the road.

    • Machinegunnertim

      Seems you got the Army and Marines reversed there.

      • GD Ajax

        Nope I got it right. They wanted the M27 because there was no real way to buy a new rifle to attract the 20 somethings who can’t a afford a civie HK417. USMC wants the F-35 because they want to be in the big boy stealth club. Even if VTOL is gimmick that limits bomb/missile loads.
        Marines have nothing to do with the LSAT program. All demos have been done using Army personal.

        • Ron

          The CONOPs for Marine Harrier that will carry through to F35s is short take off- vertical landing. This allows the aircraft to operate off of the LHA/Ds that Marine MEUs are embarked on.
          Having been on MEUs in country the owning of your own strike aircraft cannot be over stated, the CJFACC ATO cycle is unwieldy and non-responsive. When you own your own air, you build your operations around the capability, while the army BCTs build their operations hoping that they would air to support them.

        • Machinegunnertim

          I can tell you for sure the the Marines don’t care at all about what the “youngins” think. They don’t need to recruit the numbers that badly. THE FEW, the proud. Remember?

          The post by US above hit the nail as far as the Army dumping tons of money on new high tech projects with terrible results, sometimes no results and sometimes good results. While the Marines sit back and wisely observe. Partially because they don’t have the budget to behave that way.

          How many new weapon procurement projects have we seen go nowhere and waste tons of money?
          Model 45A
          Gyrojet Assault Rifle
          Thompson Carbine
          Heckler & Koch XM8
          Heckler & Koch XM29 OICW
          Heckler & Koch HK CAWS
          Special Purpose Individual Weapon

          How long have they been fooling around with Land Warrior and associated systems?

          Let’s give Berets to everyone!

          14.5 inch barrel carbines for nearly every soldier!

          This new digital camo will work in every environment! (Eight years after wasting $5 billion)

          I could go on and on.

    • US

      I was to say him the same, US ARMY is more high tech fan, USMC is more conservative, they have toughest men with tough gear and adopt only they need.
      US ARMY is more “videogame high tech fan”, but soldiers are………more….”young kids playing”. Marines are young kids becoming mans.

      • Ron

        That is actually not the case, the Marine Corps tends to field individual equipment much faster and more regularly than the big Army. They actually also tend to do a better job of fielding the whole of the force, instead of the Army practice of getting new stuff for 18th Airborne Corps units, and slowly spreading to the rest of the force, with the USAR and NG being at the end of the empire and getting stuff decades latter.

        • Uniform223

          I was finding ALICE gear in my and a handful of those early LBVs in the S4 shop in my first reserve unit. The active side had (At the time) high-speed MOLLE gear.

  • Bigg Bunyon

    The very fact the letter even exists shows how misleading and poorly writtre the Army directive is. There is nothing wrong with getting clarification, and the author of this should know that. In the commercial commercial field I was a part of for 32 years, it was referred to “clarification and verification” and was designed and implemented to help prevent misunderstanding, miss communications and accidents. It was all a part of a larger program known as “360 Degree Communication”.
    I suggest the author of this article do a little research on those two aspects of communication. I mean, really Nathanial F, that’s the business you are attempting to be in right?

  • B-Sabre

    TACOM is the Tank-Automotive Command, who procures tanks and other vehicles for the Army. Why would they even have a say about small arms magazines?

    • Stephen Paraski

      Exactly. A friend of mine, ex Marine Captain is currently a PM at TACOM in Warren MI and they are not testing .556×45 mags.

    • some other joe

      It was TAACOM, Tank, Automotive, and Armaments Command. The name change didn’t remove any responsibilities. And before anyone asks, no, they are not involved in acquisitions decision making, just life cycle maintenance.
      As for why they’re not testing magazines, they finished that five years ago, if any testing beyond collating maintenance reports from the field was done.

      • TACOM’s designation changed from the Tank-Automotive Command to the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command back in October 1994. This came about because the Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command (AMCCOM) was disestablished, and many of its responsibilities were reassigned to TACOM.

  • Mike Guthrie

    “As our national debt approaches 20 billion” haha you wish.

    • Dougscamo

      Yeah….think they left off some zeros….

    • Quest

      Might it be the diffrence between US and Europe number system?

      Million -> Billion (compared to) million -> milliarden -> billion

  • RSG

    First of all, the deficit is near 20 trillion, not billion. And lastly, I think this letter isn’t as much a clarification if a ban exists or not, but rather, why hasn’t the Army adopted them and actively procuring them.

    • Joshua

      Because no one has officially adopted them.

      The Marine Corps only authorized the use of, and then Magpul went all “SEE GUYS WERE THE BEST AND ONLY MAG TO BE USED!!!!!”

      • Ron

        correct , the often cited message did not direct sole usage of the M3 PMAG. but instead correct a problem ID about the middle of last year when Range Gunners started enforcing the rules that only magazines of a certain NSN could be used on Marine Qualification ranges. The problem was when ordering the authorized NSN, you no longer got the a magazine that met the description of what was authorized so Marines were turned away with system procured magazines.

        • Joshua

          I personally blame Magpul for all the confusion. I’ve seen them on numerous websites stating quite authoritatively that this memo meant the Marine Corps is pure fleeting the Pmag M3 and will no longer use GI mags of any type including the new EPM.

          This likely was also seen by the senators who wrote this memo to the Army.

      • int19h

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but between USMC authorizing PMAG, and authorizing the new Army mag for non-combat duty only, and with old aluminum mags no longer provided, isn’t it effectively a switch to PMAG? Old mags are still around, but with no new intake they will eventually cycle out of the system. New Army mags are not for combat. That just leaves PMAG.

      • lammama

        Polymer mags can’t be adopted because polymer degrades, could take 50 years, but magazines might need to be stored for that long.

    • jess

      I’m pretty sure the DEBT is near $20 Trillion. The 2016 deficit was somewhere around $500 Billion.

  • yvette99

    Apparently you’ve never dealt with any bureaucracy on this planet. “Authorizing” and “not banning” are nowhere close to being the same thing. The letter is perfectly valid.

  • Ron

    There is a difference between “authorizing the usage” of and “adoption of.”

    • Joshua

      Pfft Joni Ernst is clearly a true small arms expert with her 1yr deployment over a 25 year career in which her most dangerous TIC was some Afghans laying in the road daring them to run over the goat herders.

      How dare you question her and her $20 billion debt claim!

      • Ron

        She was deployed to Kuwait and did convey ops to Iraq

        • Joshua

          I couldn’t remember where it was. I just remember she did a 1yr deployment running convoys and her most horrible encounter was jackasses laying in the road daring to be run over.

          • Ron

            Your point was accurate just not the location of her service, she was a Transportation Corps Officer and of the signatories only Cotton comes from Combat Arms background

      • Kill Hill: Volume 1

        Her near “$20 billion debt claim” is dead nutz accurate.

        Your ideology getting in the way of the facts, hmmm?

        What gets me is that Tom Cotton signed on to this – this guy is no poser.

        He served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, and earned the following: Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal.

        And he wasn’t aware of the true policy on polymer mags?

        • Joshua

          Last I checked the debt is in the trillions.

          If only we had 20 billion in national debt.

          • Picky Picky

            Check it again, CPA.

  • valorius

    Sounds pretty black and white to me.

  • Pedenzo

    “…. the Anny never fielded the M-27 rifle….”
    “…..As our national debt approaches $20 billion,…..”

    Wow….I really hope this is the results of a crappy cut and paste on the part of TFB….and not an example of the attentiveness of the people in charge of running our country……if they can make such glaring mistakes in such a short letter…..think what would happen with a 2000 page law of some sort….anything come to mind?

    • Nope, it’s the result of my text recog program.

      • Pedenzo

        Whew….that is a relief…..I guess….

  • Mr. Privilege

    P-Mags still suck.

  • toast

    Fat neckbeard writes smug post; comes off as fat uninformed neckbeard.

  • toast

    Between this and that crap Chop Block article, I can’t give you guys clicks anymore. This site is moving towards TTAG level writing.

    • Dude

      What exactly was wrong with Andrews Article? Also hes rather a youtuber, who sometimes writes here.

  • Audie Bakerson

    Interesting Wyoming and Texas’s senators (the ones with states have Magpul’s offices) aren’t among those in the letter.

  • Russell W.

    Sitting here in Korea looking at my IOTV with pmags in their carriers and wondering what the point of this letter and article was. I remember hearing that they said no more pmags long ago and everybody went yea sure. All those who bemoan the usgi mags cause they cause malfunctions need to replace their mags. The magazine is a part and as such will wear out, but nobody wants to get rid of their precious magazines they bought.

  • FulMetlJakit

    40 round M3s on M27 with side folding stocks & ACOGs.
    #winning

  • Sledgecrowbar

    Politicians aren’t people. They may have been people at one point in life, but they stopped early on in their political careers.

    Don’t try to understand what makes them tick unless the answer is “bribery”.

  • Dirk Dasterdly

    What’s more disconcerting to me is, if this article truly copied the letter accurately, that they misspelled “army” twice as “anny” and they stated the debt is $20 billion when it’s actually $20 trillion.

    Sloppiness or laziness? Neither are acceptable.

  • Howard Juneau

    Call me cynical, but it sounds to me that these Senators have some unusual interest in MagPul. The Army and the Marines have different missions. The Marines have decided what they believe fits their mission. These Senators should allow the Army to decide what equipment fits their particular mission. What we or the Senators think of PMags is irrelevant. It’s what the Army decides. Just sayin’…

  • Kent San

    If you want to blame anyone, blame the lobbyists that put them up to it that didn’t do the work. More likely, they’re sending a message to clarify the poorly written Army directive so units aren’t confused and feel freer to order poly mags.