ARMY Tests Show PMag Superior, Led to USAF Adoption, Says Air Force Spokesperson

The US Air Force’s recent decision to adopt the Magpul PMag Gen M3 was based on Army testing conducted in 2015, according to a spokesperson for the Air Force. In a communication with Military.com writer Matthew Cox, Vicki Stein of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center said that the US Army’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines report, published by Aberdeen Proving Grounds in January of 2015, was the basis for the USAF’s decision. “When pursuing any capability based requirement, and before conducting any tests, the Air Force will first work closely with our joint partners to see if they have conducted any testing. In this instance, we utilized the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines to make our decision,” Stein told Cox.

This comment strongly indicates that the Magpul PMag Gen M3 is actually “vendor Foxtrot” from the 2015 Aberdeen tests. In these tests, Foxtrot produced far superior results than any other vendor, not only having zero magazine-related malfunctions, but also, amazingly, producing zero feed ramp or forcing cone damage in any of the sample weapons (including M4A1, M16A4, and M27 rifles). Needless to say, results of this kind are the sort of endorsement that every company hopes for.

EDIT: Magpul confirmed with TFB that they were indeed “vendor Foxtrot”.

The results of this report do raise some questions, however: If the Army knew as early as 2015 that they PMag was not only superior to the competition, but provided virtually perfect function over its lifespan with M855A1, why did they embark on a program to produce a new magazine (which resulted in the ill-fated Enhanced Performance Magazine), anyway? This question may be moot already – there is already some noise from the US Army itself about a move towards the PMag.



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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  • Patrick Reginald

    Also inb4 lancer fanbois

    • BillC

      I know, right?! But muh Lancers!

    • Lancer fanboy reporting. It’s a dark day for us. 🙁

      But seriously, Magpul has done a hell of a job.

      • Patrick Reginald

        The only reason they have steel lips is because their polymer is weaker than a dog Turd in the sun.

        • john huscio

          Saw one get run over by an F350 with no ill effects.

          • Patrick Reginald

            Oh boy!

      • int19h

        I was sobbing yesterday as I was ordering a bunch of PMAGs.

        We are a gentle bunch. Alas, cruel world…

  • Black Dots

    When talking about guns, it’s refreshing when everyone agrees that something just plain works.

  • John

    I wonder if lancer tested and at what place. Ive liked lancers and pmags the most.

    • My educated guess is that Lancers were either Echo or Kilo, but I’m not sure. I’d be surprised if they weren’t tested given the number of different brands.

  • Dingus

    In a current active duty infantry environment, i have seen many Pmags fail. The failures may be spotlighted due to the fact that we are more inclined to take note of something that has that modern high-speed aura, when it comes to failures and shortcomings. Something certainly worth mentioning is that this is in a location that sees temperatures well below zero in the winter months, which could perhaps lead to failures of the plastics otherwise un-encountered in warmer environments. But, in my opinion, something marketed as being the fanciest, most reliable bullet feeding device in existence should be tested in cold temperatures. Also, i am not saying that aluminum GI magazines outperform Pmags. Although i have not had enough failures from tan, and even green, follower GI magazines to prompt me to seek an aftermarket replacement. Even if i did seek a replacement, it is my personal opinion that an aluminum mag with a Magpul follower is the best way to go.

    • Patrick Reginald

      The only mag related failures I’ve ever had were always from usgi aluminum mags, regardless of follower type. Aluminum feed lips get knocked out of spec far too easily. Also the gen three pmags are definitely cold weather capable.

    • Duane Liptak

      Dingus, the GEN M3, the subject of all of the adoptions, performs exemplary in cold. This past winter, a month long airborne exercise with actual temps well below -30 for the duration of the exercise, and temps at exit altitude of -120, proved that not only can the PMAG perform in cold, it actually performed far better than USGI, since the springs don’t freeze to the bodies, and the polymer doesn’t stick to skin or gloves in flash freezing temps. Also…no damage or cracks, even with deliberate attempts at abuse. Even the current M2 PMAGs perform very, very well in cold. Most issues related to cold were with early FDE mags. Current MCT tan material allows a tan color, and is actually better than black in durability.

      As far as failures go…everything that’s a Class IX consumable is expected to be replaced at some point. What I can guarantee, though, is that far more USGI magazines get crushed and discarded for developing feeding issues than you’ll ever see from PMAGs having any issues at all.

      • iksnilol

        But what about shifting temps? I think there’s something to it. Hot days and cold nights is worse than cold/warm day and night.

        • Duane Liptak

          Shifting temps are irrelevant. PMAGS get bounced from -60 to +180 in normal testing, and as far as thermal expansion, metal mags change more than the PMAG material.

      • Dingus

        Judging by this comment and your comment history, it appears you have a much larger array of magazine-related testing examples from which to draw than I do! I totally agree with your statement concerning class IX items, and your judgement of the matter as a whole. I just think GI mags get an unfairly bad rap sometimes, when compared to modern polymer magazines. It is often painted as “aluminum magazines get our soldiers killed!”.

        One thing i think people do often overlook, concerning aluminum magazines, is that bent feed lips can be repaired. All it takes is a discerning eye and a multi-tool with pliers. Of course that doesn’t defeat the argument that a polymer unit wouldn’t have bent in the first place.

        • Odie Tucker

          Thats because Duane here is a subject matter expert on magazines and what makes them work and not work.

        • Duane Liptak

          Metal feed lips can indeed be bent back…sort of. Even with gages and forms, it’s nearly impossible to return an aluminum or steel mag to pre-damage reliability–but it’s better than a deadlined mag in the middle of a mission. But, if a PMAG does take enough abuse to develop a crack, it still maintains feed geometry, and runs just fine as long as it retains rounds. So…it doesn’t leave you hanging, still runs reliably, and you can survey the mag when you RTB. The USGI is not a “bad” magazine, especially with M855, M193, and other normal ammo types. It’s just not as reliable or durable as an M3 PMAG, especially when it gets fouled or dirty, which was seen in the SOCOM tests of 2015. “Good” vs “Best”. With M855A1, it’s a more significant difference in reliability, and the new EPM (which attempted to incorporate the PMAG presentation angle into a USGI body to match PMAG reliability and lack of feed ramp damage with A1) is not great with any ammunition, really.

      • int19h

        > Current MCT tan material allows a tan color, and is actually better than black in durability.

        Do the commercial MCT PMAGs (including the no-window ones) retain all these benefits?

        i.e. if I were to shop for PMAGs solely from the durability point of view, MCT is the flavor to get?

    • Dibs

      +7 for gray mags with Magpul followers. This is what is in my pouches. Lightweight, slim, fits all pouches and STANAG guns, and drops free. Also, they work well.

  • Wolfgar

    The government hates to one source anything, unless it comes with money giving lobbyist.

    On a side note, you are a very good writer Nathaniel, well done.

    • GaryOlson

      Besides perks for jerks, having single source is bad operationally. If that single source is incapacitated physically, financially, or politically, building a new source takes time. Not what you want in wartime

      • Wolfgar

        If needed, they would license other companies to manufacture them like in previous times of war. Big difference between peace time and war time manufacturing. I’m not saying your thinking is wrong, but government works from a whole different playbook than what most people think.

        • Joshua

          That only works if you have rights to the TDP, or an agreement with the company that you can source other companies to build the product if needed.

          • Wolfgar

            During WW2 they did what ever they wanted to. They confiscated men and material. You were not allowed to change jobs if they deemed your occupation was vital to the war effort. They took what ever materials your business may have had if they wanted it and the price was non negotiable. Travel was impeded with gas stamps and ammunition manufacturing for hunting was stopped.

  • Brett baker

    One Magpul to rule them all!

  • LazyReader

    The government doesn’t like to single source stuff, unless Lockheed tells them to….they must give the best handjobbs.

    • Gruntyginman

      Most systems are single sourced. What system can you name that is made by multiple primary contractors? I’m only coming up with a few naval vessel classes.

      • Major Tom

        M16’s. Made by Remington, Colt, FN USA among others.

        • Just Say’n

          ..and GM Hydramatic!

        • Gruntyginman

          Not at the same time they aren’t. The .mil puts out an order to one contractor specifically, and then moves on to another when/if there’s a re-compete.

          They don’t make big orders for both Remington and Colt(for example) at the same time, unless it’s different services doing the ordering.

          • Gecko9mm

            Isn’t this just the current climate though. I think what people are saying is that during WWII–many vendors were sourced for M1 Carbines and 1911.

        • Kivaari

          H&R

    • The military has had problems with single source magazine contracts before. Both M16 and M9 magazines.

      • Gecko9mm

        To be fair to Checkmate, they say the issue with the Checkmate mags was the due to the phosphate coating inside the mags that the contract specifically called for.

  • Vitor Roma

    Reason 1375 to be a libertarian. Ah, and to not think highly of “mil-spec” also.

    • pun&gun

      Mil-spec is a minimum standard, not a gold standard.

    • john huscio

      Except for all that “open borders” stuff……and gary johnson….

    • nadnerbus

      Reason to be pro free market. In what other country does the civilian arms market fund and produce superior materiel than the military? If the army wasn’t such a brain dead mess, they would have switched six or seven years ago. And they didn’t have to spend a penny for R&D.

      • Vitor Roma

        They love the red tape and dumb spending, it makes them feel “rigorous” and “technical”.

        This video proves it: XfAE5emMCs8

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    To quote IV8888 from their AR mag torture/reliability test from a few years back:

    “This test proved what we all already knew: that you should just keep buying PMags.”

  • Ron

    I know some guys involved with the M27 program and although the PMAG is probably the best magazine for the rifle, it still has some issues

    • CommonSense23

      No magazine is going to do anything to fix the issues with how the M27/416 operates.

      • Nicks87

        Because they have so many issues…

        • CommonSense23

          Well when you cost significantly more than the competition, break more, and have parts have a smaller life span, I would say those are issues.

          • NukeItFromOrbit

            Yet the USMC is still buying them up, and the French just selected it to replace the FAMAS, and a bunch of other nations bought it when they could have gone with M4s.

            I suppose the HK416 series does hate M855A1 until they fix it but something doesn’t add up about the other reports.

          • CommonSense23

            European nations are not going to buy Colt in any numbers. They are going to buy from European manufacturers. Those are not going to abandon their flagship rifles and start pimping AR15s.
            And the USMC chose the HK even though the FN submission was out performing it. That should have sent the single that the the M27 program was never about fielding the best IAR.

          • Brett baker

            They picked HK because it looked most like an M4. Also, remember the one poster claimed the Georgian shrubmaster M4s were pretty unreliable.

          • CommonSense23

            Yeah nobody thinks all ARs are the same.

          • Ron

            It actual was about only getting an IAR. There is some inside the service things I am not free to talk about but there is a lot of false info out there about the future of the M27 but it is not a done deal that it will be the service rifle for the GCE.

          • Joshua

            To be fair if some guy wouldn’t blow his load prematurely with those RFPs this wouldn’t happen.

          • NukeItFromOrbit

            Colt Canada has won contracts in the past from European countries, and there was the option of FN’s equally capable Mk.16 SCAR L on the market. I don’t think all of the German bribery in the world can win that many contracts without the weapon being first-rate. Is it a remarkable improvement over your standard M4? Not really. Hell, upgrade the barrel, trigger, and RAS on the M4 and you’ve got something every bit as good. But the idea that the HK416 is inferior to the standard M4? I don’t believe it. Maybe it hates M855A1 but that can be fixed.

            I don’t remember much about the FNH IAR submission. Some of the other entries definitely seem better suited for a squad automatic weapon able to provide sustained fire. The M27 wasn’t that much different from a regular HK416 which makes me wonder if the USMC was pursing it with the intention of replacing M4s/M16s with it.

          • Joshua

            You used France as an example. France only allowed Eurozone companies to compete. Colt is not in Europe.

          • Joshua

            The USMC isn’t buying anything up lol.

            But you don’t know what you don’t know, and I know you’ll throw that RFP in my face and I’ll just say right here, right now….LOL.

            Because the M27 will never be general issue in the Marines.

      • James Kachman

        To be devil’s advocate, doesn’t this fix the forcing cone damage using M855A1? Are the only remaining problems with the M27 now it’s weight, cost, and lower bolt life?

        • CommonSense23

          Parts life in general are still lower not just the bolt. The 416 lower is rated to a third of the M4A1 lower if I remember right. Also malfunction rate is still generally better with the M4A1. Most of my friends who complained about how we didn’t get 416s and quad nods, now quietly complain about wanting their M4s/18s back. Is the M27 going to get guys killed(compared to a guy with a M4A1, not a guy with a 249, that’s a whole nother argument). No. But is it going to take funding away from for less performance.

          • James Kachman

            Thanks. I hadn’t read the data from the Army test showing the M27 with a higher malfunction rate when I wrote my comment, appreciate the further input.

  • Pedenzo

    “….why did they embark on a program to produce a new magazine (which resulted in the ill-fated Enhanced Performance Magazine), anyway?”

    Uhm…..we are talking about the US Gubinmunt…..right?

  • Big Green tried for the EPM rather than buy Magpuls for one simple reason (and, no, it *isn’t* actually “Not Invented Here” syndrome *directly*).

    Big Green owns TDP for the EPM, and can contract with *any* qualified manufacturer to make them. Magpuls are made by Magpul, and if for any reason in the furture, Magpul cannot or will not sell them to DoD at a price DoD is willing to pay, Big Green suddenly has a problem — they need another magazine source most rikki-tik… but have shut every other manufacturer out of DoD contracts for an extended period. So, whatever is out on the market will have to be tested, just to find out which COTS magazine they should buy at that point.

    Personally, I think it’s a non-issue. After all, (quickly reading the main body of the report, but skipping the appendices), it looks as if vendors E and K (with text indicating vendor J should have performed better than K, and thus should be considered as well) could also deliver magazines of acceptable quality, if need be.

    • Gecko9mm

      Too much logic here. A multi-supplier/vendor approach does make sense in wartime for something that is basically a commodity. It would be like only have one fuel supplier for ships/planes that won’t give up the TDP/IP and can’t scale during a “real” war. (changed COTS to multi-vendor, multi-supplier.)

  • Tom

    It would be interesting to see what the other vendors were, looking at the incident table, and again assuming Magpul is Foxtrot, it seems some other vendors also performed very well, and it was interesting that across the board the M27 platform seemed to have more issues. The whole report is really interesting though, they put a pretty heavy amount of science and analysis into all the results. In particular the pictures on the rear of the barrel/chamber face damage for various mags was really interesting.

  • Awory

    In my experience its never been an issue getting PMAGs when you want them. Before deployment you get a big bag of money marked OCO and can go banana sandwich with it. New radio pouches, GPS watches, sure fire flashlights, new knee pads….order to your heart’s content. Problem is they usually aren’t property book items and tend to walk away with the Soldiers they were issued to.
    The DoD budget is weird, especially in the modern era. Though the official budget gets cut a bit due to sequestration the OCO is unlimited. Don’t have enough in the official budget for new F35s? OCO. Don’t have enough for base maintenance? OCO. Don’t want to make PMAG the official Army mag and make people spend their precious unit funds buying them? OCO.

    The problem is OCO isn’t steady or guaranteed. Unit not in the chute to deploy? No OCO for you. Rapid or multiple deployment unit? Sure, go ahead and order new assault packs to replace the ones we just issued. Unit commander like the Talon kneepads instead of the exact same ones you just got? Buy em up. Mechanix gloves and Gerber multi-tools for all!

    • Ron

      That is not really how OCO works, and OCO funds are actually pretty limited and you have to actually link the procurement to actual combatant commander needs.

      At the unit level it may look large, but in reality it is a very small part of DoDs budget.

  • NukeItFromOrbit

    How did the EPM turn into a disaster? Maybe it wouldn’t have matched the PMAG but how does one manage to screw up the same sort of basic aluminum magazine design the Army has had 50 years of experience with? I thought the tan follower mags were supposed to be pretty reliable anyway.

    • Performed worst of all magazines in USMC tests, and reportedly has a bunch of bad issues, like dropping from guns, losing rounds, etc.

      • Joshua

        I’m not saying the EPM is great, but i’ve never seen one drop from any guns or lose rounds.

        • Gecko9mm

          Umm, I think Nathaniel’s response is citing the test report which appears to use enough of them to be statistically valid. “I’ve never seen” is generally not going to be enough to be statistically valid unless you happen to have logged, recorded and seen this with enough to be statistically valid. And I don’t know statistics, but I do know “I’ve never had…” usually comes right after a person pulls his belt up and adjusts his hat. That’s the way I do it anyway.

          • Joshua

            I’ve seen a lot of EPM mags used and never seen them fall out of guns and lose rounds.

            They’re not perfect and without flaw, I just haven’t seen those two issues.

            But I’m not a marine and haven’t seen their testing that says it happens….then again I believe that data started with Gunner Wade who…well I won’t speak about him, but he knows less than he thinks, and makes stuff up to the press to make things happen.

          • Brett baker

            A True Marine, in other words!😁

          • Gecko9mm

            Well, what’s interesting is the number of magazines the test used. Looking quickly at it, it’s actually not like they tested 100 mags (of each make) but the ones they used went through many cycles with cleaning of weapon at intervals, etc. It makes you wonder if the quality control of that batch they ended up with was particularly bad.

  • Bob

    I am having problems Understanding the graph. Arent there a few other ones besides pmags with similar stoppages? Does the erosion levels by the pmag make it superior to the others or am I reading it wrong?

    • It’s the low erosion that is the standout feature of PMags in the test, but they also gave perfect performance with no failures to feed or bolt-over-base malfunctions, and were the only magazine to do so across all weapon platforms tested.

      • Bob

        Okay that makes sense I was Confused but didnt look at each platform. Plus the erosion results as you stated. Thank you very much. Ive really liked my Lancer but a better feed angle is a better feed angle.

  • rychastings

    nothing like market forces and competition to create good products

  • Ron

    OCO is to pay for unprogrammed needs to support commandant commanders requirements. About ten years ago, you could bill almost almost everything to GWOT, later OCO. But today, it has to actually has be used to support CCDR requirements.

    Other than theatre security and mil to mil, there is very little program for CCDRs