Complete Guide (More Or Less) to AR-15 Magazines By:

metal, polymer and hybrid AR15 magazines

We are all told the better we eat, the better we feel. The same goes for AR-15 magazines. Don’t let your gun get heartburn from bad magazines because it will lead to unreliability and there is no antacid pill to cure a jammed gun in a gunfight.  

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to follow and signup for notifications!

Table of contents

  • AR-15 Magazines: Metal Vs. Polymer Vs. Hybrid
  • Parts Of An AR-15 Magazine
  • High-Capacity vs Standard-Capacity
  • What Are The Best Options?
  • Best In Aluminum: Brownells AR-15 30-Round Magazine
  • Best In Steel: Duramag SS
  • Best In Polymer: Magpul PMAG 30 AR/M4 Gen M3
  • Best In Hybrid: Lancer Systems L5AWM

There are three types of AR-15 magazines: metal, polymer, or hybrid. Metal magazines have either an aluminum or steel body. Polymer magazines have—you guessed it—a polymer body. A hybrid magazine has a polymer body with metal feed lips.

More than likely your new AR-15 came with a polymer magazine. The upside with polymer magazines is that they are dent and bend-resistant. The downside is they are heavier than metal (aluminum or steel) and the feed lips can crack. When that happens, hopefully on the range, deep-six it and buy a new one. And another check in the pro column for polymer magazines: They are usually quite affordable. The Magpul PMAG is an example of a polymer AR-15 magazine.

Available on GunsAmerica Now

  • image



  • image

    New Glock 26 Olive Drab Green ODG 9mm Two 10 Round Magazines


  • image

    New Glock 20 Gen5 MOS 10mm Auto + 3 Magazines


  • image

    Byrna Technologies BYR HD MAG 5RD (2-PACK)


  • image

    Mossberg Rimfire Factory Magazines 95702


  • image

    Byrna Technologies HD Spare Magazines AM568300


  • image



  • image



  • image



  • image



Metal magazines can be dented and feed lips can be bent. They are, however, lightweight and are not affected by extremes in temperature. Steel magazines are heavier than aluminum magazines and better resist dents and mucked-up feed lips. An example in the aluminum category is the Brownells USGI Type. A steel AR-15 magazine example is the Duramag SS, which is made of stainless steel.

OKAY Industries SureFeed magazines
OKAY Industries SureFeed aluminum magazines are no longer made. They were a benchmark in AR-15 magazine design.

Hybrid AR-15 magazines have metal feed lips that resist cracking while the polymer body resists dent. Kind of the best of both worlds. Some are translucent so you can see how much is left in the tank. Hybrid magazines are usually heavier than metal magazines. The Lancer Systems L5AWM is an example of a hybrid magazine. 

An AR-15 magazine whether hybrid, metal, or polymer has a body, spring, follower, floor plate, and baseplate. Never lubricate a magazine, doing so will guarantee the magazines will muck up when you least expect it. Polymer and metal magazines are easy to disassemble. Some are sealed, meaning they cannot be disassembled, like the TangoDown MK3 magazines. 

Magpul PMAG magazine disassembled
The Magpul PMAG magazine is simple to disassemble.

Some in the news media would have us believe a 30-round AR-15 is a high-capacity magazine when, in fact, it is the most common type, which makes it a standard-capacity magazine. When I think of high-capacity AR-15 magazines I think of the old and now discontinued 60-round Surefire metals magazines, the Magpul PMAG D-60, or the KCI 100-round Gen 2 drum magazine. Both of these are still available.

Lancer L5AWM 5-round capacity hybrid magazines.
Lancer L5AWM 5-round capacity hybrid magazines are an excellent choice for an AR-15 hunting magazine.

I use low-capacity magazines—5-round capacity—when hunting. I also like to use 10- or 20-round magazines when shooting off a bench. The long 30-round AR-15 magazines can sometimes interfere with the bench top and make shooting less comfortable.

My philosophy for which magazine is best is simple: Whatever works reliably in your gun. I know that’s a bit snarky, but it’s true. My next criterion for an AR-15 magazine is cost. I’m a frugal Yankee but that doesn’t mean I buy my magazines at the Dollar Store. Expect to pay anywhere from $11 to $20 for a 30-round magazine. A magazine is a wear-use item that eventually needs to be thrown away. I doubt many shooters wear out their AR-15 magazines. More than likely they will be damaged and fail first. That said I have some magazines that have lasted many, many years. Decades even.

This would go to OKAY Industries SureFeed magazines, but unfortunately, the company that has been making AR-15 magazines since 1973 discontinued production in 2022. I stocked up.

OKAY Industries SureFeed ar15 magazine
OKAY Industries SureFeed magazines were one of the first aluminum body AR-15 magazines.

Runner-up is Brownell AR-15 30-round magazine. I have so many of them that I include them in my net worth. My accountant doesn’t get it. Brownell mags are made to USGI specs and use Magpul anti-tilt followers. I’ve dropped these mags on cement and no feed lip dents. These cost about $11.

Brownells AR-15 30-round magazine
Brownells AR-15 30-round magazine are built to USGI specs.

The Duramag SS are made with 410 stainless steel for durability. When I first got my hands on these magazines, I loaded them up and dropped them on the cement. My wife asked what I was doing and I said it was a classified experiment. The Duramag magazines did not fail. Then, I took the beat-up mags to the range and they ran perfectly. I’m also partial to the orange follower. Not sure why? These are priced higher at over $19, but worth it.

Duramag SS AR15 Magazine
Duramag SS AR-15 magazines are constructed of stainless steel.

If you are pinching pennies, the ASC (Ammunition Storage Components) stainless steel magazines are about $18.

Duramag SS ar15 magazine
A good choice for a steel AR-15 magazine is the Duramag SS. It is tough and durable.

So I have used a lot of Magpul magazines. Mostly Gen M2, and now that the Gen M3 are available, the Gen M2 variants are a couple of bucks cheaper. But—there is always a but—the Get M3 are the latest and greatest and bulked up in areas, plus they have added front and rear texture. You can mark the magazine using the dot matrix pattern on the side to easily identify a mag loaded with defense ammo rather than target ammo, or I add a rubber band to those I train with. Gen M3 cost about $15. If you want the variant with the Gen M3 Window it is about $18. Gen M2 mags cost about $13.

Magpul Gen M2 and Gen M3 magazines
Magpul Gen M2 and Gen M3 magazines are both the defacto polymer magazines for many AR-15 manufacturers.

I have also used HexMag magazines and found them reliable and tough. The hex texture on the body offers a sure grasp. I have also used Mission First Tactical Extreme Duty Magazine and found them to stand up to abuse. Both HexMags and Mission First 30-round mags go for about $15. If you want to add three more rounds to total capacity, the Strike AR-15 Magazine has a 33-round capacity. The smoke body allows you to see the remaining round count. It also has a bump on the spine for your thumb so it can be used as a consistent reference point when drawing it from a mag pouch or chest rig. Strike mags are about $11.

HexMag ar15 magazine
HexMag AR-15 magazine is a good alternative in a polymer magazine; the hex texture is unique and offers a good grasp.

The Lancer L5AWM (Advanced Warfighter Magazine) is built with hardened steel feed lips molded into a polymer body. This offers the reliability of steel and the durability and weight of polymer. It is like a win-win. I use 5-round capacity Lancer mags in my 300 BLK hunting AR. The smaller magazine fits easily in any pocket and is compliant with some state hunting laws. I broke my own rule with Lancer mags because I like the translucent smoke body to determine round count easily. These cost about $22.

Lancer L5AWM ar15 magazine
The Lancer L5AWM is an example of a hybrid AR-15 magazine, constructed of both polymer and steel.

*** Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE! ***