Gun folks have come up with numerous ways for getting a magazine seated and locked into the AR-15/M-16 magazine well. Being the simple man that I am, I prefer to boil things down to the very simplest ways possible.
Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to follow and signup for notifications!
Some magazine seating techniques are effective, while others might lead to the magazine dropping out from the mag well. The effects of this can vary in severity. In some cases, an embarrassed, bruised ego is the worst we’ll get. In such cases, we should be motivated to fix the issue. At worst, this fumble can cause us and/or our teammates to cease habitual oxygen consumption.
Today we’re talking about some magazine seating techniques that will help you be more successful.
First Step — Prepare Your Mags
Before you snatch that magazine out with your grubby mitts, you’d better have prepared it properly.
If you’re using aluminum GI magazines, you’d be wise to download them by two rounds, for a total of 28 bullets. Why? Because if you attempt to insert them into your AR/M-4 and the bolt is closed, it will be difficult because of the spring tension pushing the top bullets against the closed bolt. Your magazine may just jettison itself out the bottom of the magazine well right about the time you expect to start slinging lead (see the previous comment about getting yourself and/or teammates killed).
This factor is not as pronounced with other magazine manufacturers (specifically, Polymer Type, 1 each). However, do be aware that even magazines of the polymer persuasion will be more difficult to seat with the bolt closed if they are fully loaded. Downloading these guys by two rounds is still a good idea.
Aside from spring tension, there might be other factors that prevent our magazines from seating properly. Worn magazines could go out of spec. I.e., the feed lips and/or top of the magazine may be spread out and simply don’t fit anymore (time to discard that magazine). Magazines sometimes take a real beating, being dropped during reloads and sometimes getting stepped on. Aluminum, and even steel magazines, can only take so much of that before they give up the ghost.
Other Culprits of Improper Magazine Seating
Not all rifles are created equally. Occasionally, we might see an out-of-spec magazine well or possibly an out-of-spec magazine catch. These factors can cause magazines to drop out of the rifle when we don’t want them to.
Magazine Seating — Techniques
Grip and Withdraw
Let’s take it from the beginning with how we grip the mag when we withdraw it from our carrier—a vest, chest rig, plate carrier, belt pouch, or maybe even a back pocket. However you’re carrying your magazines, you need to arrange them for the most efficient withdrawal that you can manage. When you decide on a standard SOP, stick with it, don’t switch up.
Beer Can Grip
In most cases, I prefer to use a grip on the base of the magazine called the “Beer Can” grip, in which the magazine is grasped at the bottom with the fingers wrapped around the mag’s base. Much the same as one would grip an aluminum beverage can.
For some people, the pinkie finger wraps around the front of the magazine. I place my pinkie underneath the base of the magazine, which gives a bit more stability, in my opinion. Whether or not I get my pinkie under the base during magazine withdrawal is not paramount, as long as I get a solid grip on the mag.
The average 30-round magazine is approximately seven inches long. About three inches of that goes into the magazine well, so you have about four inches of that mag to latch onto with your paw. If you grab more than that, you will interfere with the portion that goes into mag well.
In short, you won’t be able to insert the magazine without adjusting your grip. Read that as you just botched inserting the mag and the task is either going to take more time or you’ll end up dropping the magazine. Do you have more time? Is there incoming fire? Either way, bad juju.
The Beer Can Grip helps to avoid taking too much real estate so we don’t FUBAR the insertion of the magazine.
Another method of insertion is just to cup the bottom of the magazine in the palm of the hand and insert it that way.
There are other ways, to be certain, but we’re going to Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) for now. As I see it, why complicate a good thing?
Many people will give the base of the mag a slap when it’s inserted to ensure that it’s properly seated. If it’s not seated correctly (and that does happen), they’ll slap it again. And again. And…well, you get the picture.
How many slaps should one perform? It kinda reminds me of that commercial: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? So many questions. And let’s not forget, while you’re slapping the magazine silly, what’s going on downrange? While you’re Task Fixated on beating the snot out of the magazine base, bad guys might be focusing on you and you don’t even realize it because of your fixation.
Another negative aspect of slapping the mag base is that, if the magazine feed lips are worn or spread, that slap could send a few rounds flying into the chamber area with reckless abandon—assuming the bolt is locked to the rear. Should you happen to be on the two-way range, your day just took a turn for the worse, as you now have to clear multiple rounds from your chamber.
Push/Pull Magazine Seating
A better way, I believe, is to push the magazine into the magwell and lock it in. Then, while you still have a grip, pull on the magazine to ensure that it’s properly seated. If it’s not seated, obviously, reinsert it forcefully. This technique is simple, effective, and quick.
Maintain a Stable Rifle Position
For Push/Pull (or really, any method of insertion), you will need to stabilize the rifle/carbine. Have it either on the shoulder or under the armpit with the muzzle slightly raised. Keeping the rifle in your shoulder helps keep the muzzle pointed toward the enemy and you don’t have to waste time repositioning it once the magazine is inserted.
Another way to stabilize your rifle is to pinch the stock in between the inside of your bicep/arm and your body. Turn the mag well inboard toward your loading hand to assist the loading process.
What you do not want to do is only grasp the carbine by the pistol grip. The weapon is not stable, and it will be far more difficult to seat that magazine into the mag well.
Remember to keep your eyes on the enemy when reloading. Consistency is key. Keep your rifle/carbine stabilized. And generally speaking, the Push/Pull technique is more reliable than slapping the magazine base. Practice your technique!