Field Test Comparison: 30-Round Magazines

Today’s tactical officers use advanced tactical products, including after-market 30-round magazines for the AR-15 platform patrol rifles. LAW and ORDER sought 10 of its readers to test eight different 30-round magazines. The testers are tactical officers and tactical-minded patrol officers who used the equipment in tactical training, operations and other opportunities. They came from a wide cross-section of law enforcement, including both rural and urban departments and both large and small departments. They came from all over the country, including: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Ohio and Washington. The field test took place during late-summer, early fall, ideal rifle training season. The testing period was 12 weeks.

LAW and ORDER asked eight of the top AR-15 magazine manufacturers to submit magazines for testing and review. Each manufacturer sent a 30-round magazine for the AR-15 platform patrol rifle. LAW and ORDER asked for the magazine to be generic, universal, and fully functional in any make of AR-15 platform rifle.

The areas of evaluation rated by users included: Basic Fit & Finish; Operational Smoothness; Lock into Place; Security; Features; Durability; Functioning; and Maintenance. The following magazines were tested: Brownells’ 30-Round with CS Spring; C Products Defense’s 30-Round Stainless; D&H Tactical’s AR-15 30-Round; Lancer Systems’ L5 Advanced Warfighter; Magpul’s PMAG MagLevel; TAPCO’s Intrafuse Gen II; TangoDown’s ARC Mag; Thermold’s AR-15 30-Round. The magazines were rated using a scale of 1–5 (1 = Poor, 5 = Very Good). The reviewers were also asked for their overall opinion of each magazine. Following is a detailed description of each magazine and a summary of the results and how each magazine ranked.


Average Score: 3.7 out of 5

Using a nylon resin called Zytel, developed by DuPont after World War II to replace metal in large-scale manufacturing, Thermold began producing weapons magazines that resisted heat and corrosion, and functioned with extreme reliability. Thermold magazines rapidly became the product of choice among military personnel, law enforcement officers and sport shooters around the world. All of their products are proudly made in the USA in North Carolina. Today, many of the firearm industry’s largest and most prestigious distributors are once again able to sell the trusted line of Thermold magazines and weapons products. The AR-15 30-Round magazine from Thermold is made of polymer and the string material is stainless steel. It is a 30-round black Zytel Nylon magazine for AR-15/M-16 Firearms, 5.56 mm, .223 Cal. The MSRP is $10.00.

Even though the Thermold magazine placed last, it garnered very different scores from the reviewers depending on the category. In Basic Fit & Finish, for example: “Some edges, especially the lips, were not perfect, but it did not affect performance,” Officer Karen Bartuch, Kirkland, Ill. Police, commented. However, according to Officer Geoffrey Spickard, Ann Arbor, Mich. Police, “The feed lips are rough and poorly finished.” Other reviewers said the Thermold magazine felt “cheap” due to its construction. In Operational Smoothness, it garnered higher scores and remarks, such as “The magazine went into the mag well smoothly without any problems,” Deputy Sheriff Brad Slaughter, stated.  

In the Lock into Place category, Deputy Richard Hecht, Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff, thought it was difficult to seat when fully loaded, while Spickard found it easy to seat with 30 rounds in rifle with closed bolt. “Very minimal movement of mag when seated in well,” he elaborated. In terms of Security, scores varied again. “The magazine sealed firmly into place and never fell out” for Slaughter and likewise, it locked in place for Sgt. Sam Smith, Evansville, Ind. Police. Alternately, the mag floor plate opened by accident for Spickard.

For Features, Hecht said the Thermold mag was “more difficult to insert/extract from pouches.” However, the “ribs fit the hand well and gave a secure grip” for Officer Steve Tracy, Park Ridge, Ill. Police. Another officer described it as “great ribbing.” In the Durability category, Officer Kevin Davis, Akron, Ohio Police, gave the Thermold a 1 due to both of his samples breaking during testing: “One magazine had the feed lips break, the other fell apart upon impact with gravel from a kneeling position.” On the flip side, Bartuch had lots of scratches from hitting the ground, but the lips were intact regardless. In Functioning, most testers reported the Thermold mag performed well once loaded. Bartuch described it as “very reliable.” However, Tracy said the mags would not strip a round off the top of a fully loaded magazine 50 percent of the time. For Maintenance, Hecht said he was unable to remove the baseplate “without feeling like I am going to permanently damage it.” On the other hand, Spickard said it was very easy to disassemble and clean.

C Products Defense

Average Score: 4.1 out of 5

The combination of 400-series stainless steel and heat treatment makes this magazine one of the most heavy-duty in the industry today, with only a slight increase in weight. C Products Defense is one of the few magazine manufacturers to use the technology of fully automated robotic welding stations. This allows them to control and monitor automatically each magazine weld, ensuring that each weld is dimensionally correct. All CPD magazines feature the new “snap on” anti-tilt follower. The use of the .020 gauge material in stainless steel combined with increased interior dimensional room enhances proper stacking of the rounds and dramatically reduces failure due to jams. The MSRP is $16.00.         

The C Products Defense magazine placed fifth out of all the mags tested. In Basic Fit & Finish, several officers noted this mag felt heavier with “solid metal construction” according to Bartuch. However, Tracy said the back edge and bottom corners were “too sharp.” For Operational Smoothness, it scored mostly 5’s. Hecht elaborated: “Easy insertion and dropped free as needed.” Although for Spickard, it “sometimes wouldn’t fall free or there was a delay in pressing mag release until mag dropped from well,” he stated. In the Lock into Place category, one officer described it as a “solid lock” but some reviewers said the magazine was difficult to load with 30 rounds. “I used more pressure to load mag with bolt closed,” Sgt. Don Hensley, Warren County (Ind.) Sheriff, said.

In Security, C Products’ mag scored high. The majority of our testers had no issues and said it performed as designed. “No loose magazines or baseplates,” Hecht noted. In terms of Features, Spickard commented on the “smooth coating on exterior for corrosion resistance.” Tracy described it as “plain metal mag with utilitarian finish but that also means it’s slippery” while others said it was a basic, standard military design with no extras.

The Durability of the C Products mag received mostly high marks. Spickard explained: “No signs of fatigue/cracking/splits…very rugged.” However, Bartuch found “scratches and knicks when hitting the ground…bottom plate loosened a little as well,” she elaborated. In Functioning, C Products’ mag scored mostly 5’s. “During a five-day course, I experienced no loading or functioning issues. They performed flawlessly,” Davis stated. However, Tracy said it “would not lock bolt back after last shot.” Lastly, in Maintenance, officers’ opinions differed. Spickard said this mag was “easy to wipe down and clean the exterior” while Tracy said it was “not easy to disassemble and clean compared to much simpler designs.”

D&H Tactical   

Average Score: 4.3 out of 5

D&H Industries is a leading supplier of aluminum magazines for the M-16/AR-15 platform.  Their products are currently in use by U.S. and Allied governments around the globe. They are in the service of domestic law enforcement and also shipped as original equipment with many well known firearms. Their 5.56 NATO caliber magazines for the M-16 weapon system offers a 6061- T6 aluminum body resistance welded to U.S. Military specifications. Other features include: Magazine body available in standard Black or Grey Teflon coating, custom colors available upon request (min volume applies); 17-7PH stainless springs (checked for compression throughout the manufacturing process); Standard U.S. Military Spec Green follower or optional Magpul anti-tilt follower (foliage or yellow). It is available in the following capacities: 30-round; 20-round; 10-round. The MSRP is $16.00.

D&H Tactical’s magazine tied for fourth place with an average overall score of 4.3. In describing its Basic Fit & Finish, Slaughter noted its “smooth edges and nice welds.” Alternately, Smith said, “It’s slippery and does not have a magnesium. They’re a little flimsy.” Still, another reviewer said the “follower moves perfectly.” This mag scored high in Operational Smoothness, receiving mostly 5’s in that category. For Hecht, it had easy insertion and always dropped free. Although Bartuch agreed, she said it was “very noisy in comparison to other non-metal mags.” In the Lock into Place category, the D&H mag worked “great” for Tracy but it required “moderate pressure to seat a 30-round magazine on a closed bolt” for Spickard. In Security, most of the officers gave it a 5: “Performed as designed…no issues during testing,” Spickard noted.

As far as Features go, Smith said, “You could load 31 rounds, which is bad,” but he continued: “I like the follower. That was the best feature.” Most reviewers agreed it was a standard military design. “No extras but still performed well,” Bartuch commented. Some officers praised the D&H mag’s Durability. “The mag was dropped, kicked and thrown around with no problems to the mag cycle reliability,” Slaughter explained. However, Bartuch said after awhile they looked very used and abused: “obtained scratches and paint loss when hitting the ground.”

In the Functioning category, D&H received mostly high scores, with no functioning problems at all. “Excellent follower design,” Hecht stated. Although Tracy said it would not chamber the top round in a fully loaded mag. A lot of the testers said this mag was not that easy to clean in Maintenance, but the “smooth coating on exterior makes for easy wipe down and provides some protection from elements” according to Spickard.


Average Score: 4.3 out of 5

Brownells’ 30-Round Magazine with CS Spring is made of aluminum and the spring material is chrome silicone. All components are made of mil-spec materials and are manufactured under strict, ISO quality control standards. The heat-treated, welded aluminum body is hard-anodized for superior corrosion resistance, then given a tough, dry-lube coating to eliminate the need for additional lubricants that would attract dust, sand or dirt. The latest military-type, glass-fiber reinforced composite follower further guarantees flawless feeding in the harshest tactical conditions. Choose from a mil-spec stainless steel spring or new, high-lubricity, dry-lube-coated chrome silicon spring that’s corrosion-resistant certified to 500-hour salt spray standards, and less prone to spring “set.” All models are available in standard military Gray. The MSRP is $15.00.                       

The Brownell mag tied for fourth place, with a perfect score for Security. Opinions varied in the Basic Fit & Finish category. “Back edge along spine is sharp and bottom bent clips are too,” Tracy noted. However, Slaughter said the steel magazine is “quality with no sharp edges or burrs.” Hensley agreed: “The best mag I tried!” In Operational Smoothness, the majority of the officers had no issues. However, Yanor said inserting the mag was a tight fit and he had to force it out to remove it as well.

Brownell’s mag scored mostly 5’s in the Lock into Place category. According to Spickard, he had no problems with locking in place but did require moderate pressure to seat with a full load of 30 rounds on a closed bolt. Garnering all 5’s in Security, Yanor had “no troubles with the cycle or stoppage” on the Brownell. In terms of Features, Spickard described it as a “lightweight, no frills magazine” and Smith gave it a 5 in this category. Tracy scored it slightly lower, commenting that it had a slippery exterior with no gripping surfaces on the metal body.

Brownell’s mag also scored high in Durability. “No signs of fatigue/cracking/splits…spot welds held up under testing,” Spickard stated. For Functioning, Smith described it like this: “awesome performance” and Tracy said it was “100 percent reliable.” As far as Maintenance, Davis said the Brownell mag was a “standard military design.” For Tracy, it was “not nearly as easy to disassemble and reassemble as others.” Otherwise, Hensley gave it a 5 in that category.


Average Score: 4.4 out of 5

TangoDown’s ARC Mag has a polymer body with stainless-steel spring material, with an           anti-tilt follower. The patent-pending two-piece modular construction allows TangoDown to create the proper magazine form and they are able to achieve maximum strength and integrity when the components are molded. TangoDown can offer transparent-solid color lowers/high-tensile-strength upper sectioned magazines that avoid the brittle feed lip issue of all-single material construction. They eliminated the removable floor plate, so the magazine becomes a five-sided box. The ARC Mag takes full advantage of the latest polymers available from the aerospace industry: materials impervious to the effects of solvents & lubricants. After molding, TangoDown permanently bonds the two sections together with advanced adhesives during manufacturing, so no disassembly is possible, or required. Life expectancy for the spring is 100,000+ cycles. The MSRP is $18.50.

The TangoDown mag tied for third place overall. Reviewer Yanor gave it 5’s in every category. In Basic Fit & Finish, Hecht described it as having “crisp molding, but obvious signs of where the plastic had come out of its mold.” Another officer said the follower moved perfectly, molded parts were smooth, but “very ugly sprue/gate marks.” For Operational Smoothness, Smith gave it a 5: “It’s well made, sturdy and locks into place. It fits well in the hand.” In the Lock into Place category, TangoDown received mostly 5’s and “worked great” for Tracy. However, it took “extra pressure” to lock into place for Bartuch. Ratings for Security varied, with one officer describing it as “perfect” but “it fell out once and I had a mis-feed,” Smith noted.

In the Features category, Bartuch said she really liked the ridges on both sides of the mag. “Good for gripping and the index point for the thumb allows you to ‘feel’ your way.” However, Slaughter said the middle joint “makes it hard to place in molly mag holder and to remove from the mag holder.” In Durability, Tracy described TangoDown as “very solid with fixed bottom.” Hecht said he had no excessive wear while Bartuch found scratches on it from hitting the ground. In Functioning, Hensley had lots of misfeeds even after cleaning the gun. On the other hand, one reviewer described it as “totally reliable.” For Maintenance, “The magazine can’t be disassembled, which makes cleaning almost impossible,” Hecht stated. Still, two testers scored the TangoDown a 5 in this category.


Average Score: 4.4 out of 5

TAPCO’s Intrafuse® 30-round Gen II AR Magazine is made of polymer and it still retains the rugged mag body the original had, but with changes to the interior components to improve the overall functionality of the magazine. TAPCO made the spring out of premium 17-7 stainless steel. Second, they redesigned the shape to make it smoother, quieter, and easier to load all 30 rounds. TAPCO made changes in spring tension to cut back on the stress put on the mag body when fully loaded, making spine cracks something officers will never have to worry about. They also kept the anti-tilt design, but the new follower allows more dirt and grime to pass through the magazine so there won’t be any feeding errors no matter what kind of debris has entered the magazine. The MSRP is $14.00.

Tied for third place, the TAPCO mag scored high in several categories. Bartuch described its Basic Fit & Finish as “very good construction and perfect edges all around.” In Operational Smoothness, it received mostly 5’s, with the majority agreeing it was “fall-free” and worked as it should. However, Hecht gave it a 1 in this category because he had “multiple failures to drop free with different rifles when empty.” As far as Locking into Place, Slaughter said the TAPCO mag “locks in place and fits with the AR platform nicely.” Bartuch noted a “slight wiggle but snapped in easily every time.” For Security, TAPCO received mostly 5’s: “The mag never fell out when moving and shooting,” Slaughter commented. However, when the mag dropped to the ground on rocks, the floor plate slid open a couple of times according to Hensley.

Opinions varied on Features of the TAPCO, with some officers noting is was “more difficult to insert/extract from pouches due to the molded ridges/ribbing catching on fabric,” but Hecht continued, “These ridges also provided a positive grip.” Smith also liked the ribbed exterior: “It helped when I loaded the magazines.” In terms of Durability, the TAPCO mag showed no excessive wear even after multiple uses with full auto fire for Hecht. The Functioning category garnered different reviews from the testers. “Both mags tested had failures to feed in both rifles used” for several of the officers. Alternately, “The magazine performed very well…never had a problem with stoppages or chambering rounds” according to Slaughter. In Maintenance, Hecht said the TAPCO was “easy to clean with an easy-to-remove baseplate.” For Hensley, though, the floor plate “opens too easy. Maybe a smaller push slot would help this.”

Lancer Systems

Average Score: 4.9 out of 5

The L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazine from Lancer Systems is the only Hybrid AR magazine available today. The L5 AWM’s light¬≠weight polymer body is impact resistant from -40F to 180F, won’t dent like steel, and weights the same as aluminum. Unique to the AWM is the one piece wrap-around hardened-steel feed lip assembly that is permanently attached to an impact-resistant polymer body. The hardened-steel feed lips won’t bend, break, or deform due to rough handling or long-term storage. An aggressive surface texture has been applied to the polymer body to improve gripping and retrieval from pouches. The L5 AWM is compatible with modern weapon systems; M4/M16/AR, HK416, SCAR16, and the ARX160 to name a few and is available in 10-, 20- and 30-round capacity with a translucent or opaque polymer body. The MSRP is $16.00.

Lancer’s L5 AWM came in second place and virtually tied for first, with perfect scores in three categories, including Basic Fit & Finish. “For a plastic magazine, this one was the best assembled,” according to Smith. Similarly, Tracy noted it had no sharp edges and a great anti-tilt follower. In Operational Smoothness, the Lancer mag scored mostly 5’s. “Smooth insert, dropped free quickly and smoothly,” Yanor stated. For the Lock into Place category, Tracy said the L5 AWM locked into place every time, even with 30 rounds fully loaded. Scoring all 5’s in Security, Lancer’s mag “felt tight when in the mag well and never came loose” for Slaughter. Likewise, Spickard had no issues “when properly seated.” In Features, Davis noted it includes an easily removable base plate, while others liked its size and feel. “Texture was easy to manipulate clear sides to see ammo,” Yanor said.

The Lancer also got a perfect score in Durability. As one officer pointed out: “Awesome hybrid design using steel feed lips and polymer body.” Most officers gave it a 5 in Functioning. “100 percent reliable in two ARs,” Tracy said. However, Hensley scored it a 1 in this category. After the first shot Hensley would get double feeds, even after the gun was cleaned, all the way through 30 rounds. The majority of the testers thought it was easy to take apart and clean in Maintenance.


Average Score: 5 out of 5

The next-generation PMAG 30 Window GEN M3 is a 30-round 5.56x45 NATO (.223 Remington) polymer magazine for AR15/M4 compatible weapons that features transparent windows to allow rapid visual identification of approximate number of rounds remaining. Along with expanded feature set and compatibility, the GEN M3 Window incorporates new material technology and manufacturing processes for enhanced strength, durability, and reliability to exceed rigorous military performance specifications. Modified internal and external geometry also permits operation with a wide range of non Colt®-spec platforms such as the HK® 416 and MR556A1, M27 IAR, British SA-80, FN® SCAR™ MK 16/16S, and others. Similar to the MOE PMAG, the GEN M3 Window features a long-life stainless steel spring, four-way anti-tilt follower, and constant-curve internal geometry for reliable feeding, and simple tool-less disassembly to ease cleaning. The MSRP is $18.00.

The PMAG MagLevel from MagPul came in first place out of all the magazines tested. It received a perfect score in four of the categories. Yanor gave it an “A+” in Basic Fit & Finish, citing the ability to read the number of rounds in the magazine. Another tester described it as “smooth, radiused, perfect follower action.” In Operational Smoothness, Hecht said the MagPul always dropped free when needed, loaded or unloaded. “It performed impeccably,” Bartuch praised. It scored all 5’s in the Lock into Place category. “Excellent; even when fully loaded, the PMAG MagLevel was perfect,” Tracy stated.

Magpul’s magazine did well in Security as well. “Top round clip can be secured to the bottom of the magazine covering the floor plate release button to prevent accidentally engaging it,” Spickard explained. In Features, many officers liked the round count window, but Hensley “would like to see a rougher surface.” A lot of the reviewers gave Magpul a perfect score in Durability: “Very durable, looks brand new after much abuse,” Bartuch said. In addition, Davis said this magazine was the only one that failed to dislodge any rounds when thrown 20 feet upward and forward onto a gravel range surface. Tracy had “100 percent reliability” with this mag in Functioning. It chambered the top round without a problem. As far as Maintenance, Bartuch said the PMAG MagLevel’s ridges were very shallow so it didn’t trap dirt. Most other testers said it was easy to assemble and disassemble, with a very user-friendly floor plate release button.

Opinions and Personal Preference

Even though the Magpul PMAG MagLevel was the clear winner, a very close second place and ties for third and fourth places show how close the magazines scored in some categories. The Lancer and Brownell mags also got perfect scores in Basic Fit & Finish, Security and Durability. As with any field test comparison, however, opinions differed due to personal preference, as evidenced by the wide range of scores for each category. We extend our sincere thanks to our panel of testers. Their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Testing Panel

Officer Karen Bartuch, Kirkland, Ill. Police

Officer Geoffrey Spickard, Ann Arbor, Mich. Police

Sergeant Sam Smith, Evansville, Ind. Police

Deputy Sheriff Brad Slaughter, Denton County, Texas Sheriff’s Office

Officer Kevin Davis, Akron, Ohio Police

Deputy Richard Hecht, Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff

Officer Steve Tracy, Park Ridge, Ill. Police

Sergeant Don Hensley, Warren County (Ind.) Sheriff

Training Director Ron Yanor, Adamax Tactical Academy

Comparison of 30-round AR-15 Mags

Make                           Model                                      Body Material              Spring Material             Follower             $MSRP            Rating

Thermold                      AR-15 30-Round                     polymer                        stainless steel                standard            $10.00             3.7

C Products Defense      30-Round Stainless                   stainless steel                stainless steel                anti-tilt              $16.00             4.1

D&H Tactical               AR-15 30-Round                     aluminum                      stainless steel                anti-tilt              $16.00             4.3

Brownells                     30-Round w/CS Spring            aluminum                      chrome silicone             standard            $15.00             4.3

TangoDown                 ARC Mag                                polymer                        stainless steel                anti-tilt              $18.50             4.4

TAPCO                       Intrafuse Gen II                        polymer                        stainless steel                anti-tilt              $14.00             4.4

Lancer Systems            L5 Adv. Warfighter                  polymer / steel              stainless steel                anti-tilt              $16.00             4.9

Magpul             PMAG MagLevel                     polymer                        stainless steel                anti-tilt              $18.00             5.0

Rifles Used

  • Armalite M-15 A4, 16-inch barrel
  • Bushmaster XM-15, 16-inch barrel
  • Colt AR-15 HBAR Match, 20-inch barrel
  • Colt M4 LE, 16-inch barrel
  • CORE-15, 16-inch barrel
  • DPMS Panther Recon, 16-inch barrel
  • DS Arms ZM4 Spartan, 16-inch barrel
  • LMT AR-15 Defender 2000, 16-inch barrel
  • Rock River Model 6986, 11.5-inch barrel
  • SigArms Model 556, 12.5-inch barrel

Published in Law and Order, Jan 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated

Related Products



No Comments

Related Companies

Close ...