In theory, all AR-15 magazines are created equal. An AR is an AR is an AR, right? They’re universal. Shouldn’t all the magazines work the same? Maybe, but in reality, they don’t. And it’s not just a matter of some being metal while others are polymer. Plenty of metal AR mags have failed in combat. Ask any of the veterans around you. Maybe you’re the combat veteran who had one fail on you.
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Similarly, polymer magazine quality is hit-and-miss (pun fully intended). Some are fantastic and last forever, while others fail after the first 30 rounds. Most fall somewhere in between: good, but nothing you expect to be still shooting 20 years from now.
The ETS Gen 2 AR-15.223 / 5.56 30-Round Magazine with Coupler is built to be that one exception. It’s a magazine you’ll still be shooting 30 or even 40 years from now. How can I say that so confidently? For one, it comes with a lifetime warranty. So even if the one you have today fails—which is unlikely—you’ll get a new one at no cost.
But it’s not all about the warranty, because who wants to replace a magazine if you don’t have to? How about making one that works for a long time? ETS has you covered there, too, which is why they can back it with the above-mentioned lifetime warranty.
Let’s get down to why ETS AR mags are such a great value. Are they the greatest mags in the world? I have no idea because I haven’t tested them all. That would be expensive (but a ton of fun). But I have had my set of 8 ETS mags for a couple of years now and have shot close to 800 rounds through them, dropped them repeatedly on gravel and concrete, performed quick reloads (both emergency and tactical), and fed all sorts of .223 and 5.56 ammo of every grain and brand with nary an issue. I don’t recall ever experiencing a stoppage or malfunction with these mags. Oh, and it wasn’t all on the same gun, either.
So, yeah, I’m a fan. But I’m not an ETS Kool-Aid drinker. Why do I love them so much?
A Clear Difference
Okay, I went for the obvious pun here. It’s the dad in me. The most notable difference between ETS AR mags and almost every other magazine on the market is clear. Or rather, it’s smokey clear. ETS is known for its transparent magazines, where you can see exactly how many rounds are still left and whether you loaded to capacity without having to push down on the top round to verify. This is an especially helpful feature since most other AR mags don’t have any dots or windows to show you how full they are. Some have tiny slit windows on the sides, but isn’t fully transparent better? I think so.
These AR mags also come with a no-tilt follower for better round alignment and more consistent feeding for both loading the mag and shooting.
Keep It Clean
All magazines eventually need cleaning and servicing. For some mags, that’s easier said than done. AR mags vary in how easily they crack open at the bottom. For the ETS mags, they have a nice oversized cartridge-shaped button to push up to release the baseplate. Push it and just slide the baseplate right off. Easy, breezy. Reassembly is just as easy. Slide it back together and the cartridge button latches right into place.
In addition to easy access for cleaning, the baseplates are very “grippy” and a bit wider than some other AR mags, making them quick to grab out of a plate carrier pouch or range bag.
One measure of an AR magazine’s quality is how well it fits into various rifles. Does it wiggle? Does it shake when shooting? Does it stay inserted on the first try? Does it drop free quickly when the magazine release is depressed? These are all things I looked for when testing these mags.
Across 3 different ARs, these magazines were rock solid. They performed as expected each time, with no slippage or rattling. Under quick and dirty reloads and rapid-fire, they held firm inside the mag well, giving me confidence that they would continue to feed. I even tried to over-jam them, but rather than getting stuck or cracking, they stayed put and continued to feed the gun.
The Gen 2 part of the name supposedly reflects a change in the loading geometry to solve an issue with the Gen 1 magazines. But I have 3 Gen 1 magazines and can’t tell the difference in performance. They both work well. If the Gen 2 is better, the improvement is super subtle.
The One with the Coupler
Here is where the ETS Gen 2 AR-15 .223 / 5.56 30-Round Magazine with Coupler sets itself apart from other magazines. While most other magazine systems require an additional piece or strap to couple mags together, these magazines have connection points molded into the sides, a permanent addition to each one. No more strapping mags together or hunting for the binder on the ground. Simply twist 2 of these magazines together to set up a quick reload rig with up to 60 rounds at your disposal.
What about them staying together? Does it work? Yes, it does. I asked the same questions when mine arrived, so I put them to the test. I dropped both empty and loaded magazines on the ground and range floor, and they did not come apart once. I’ve banged on them, stepped on them, thrown them to the ground. Each time, they held tight. Apparently, this coupling is a lifelong commitment.
When coupled, the magazine to the right sits about an inch lower than the other to allow the dust cover and ejection port to operate correctly. If the mags were coupled at the same height, the ejection port would be blocked and the dust cover could not fully open. This design feature shows the care ETS takes in creating their products.
Save Some Dough
Magazines are expensive. As I tell my students, the gun is simply the entry drug into the firearms world. I compare it to ink and printers. Printers are expensive, but the ink is even worse over the long haul. So it is with guns and magazines. So when you can find great quality magazines at an affordable price, snatch them up as fast as possible. ETS Gen 2 AR-15 .223 / 5.56 30-Round Magazines with Couplers run around $19.99 MSRP but can often be found for less. They are equal to or less than most of the competition.
Made Right Here
If anyone insists that American manufacturing is dead, they haven’t looked at ETS. Each of ETS’s magazines is made in the USA and has a lifetime warranty. Break it and they’ll make you another one. It’s great to see a top-quality product coming out of a home plant.