SHTF Prep Basics: Choose the Right AR Magazines

AR-15 rifle magazine optic EOTECH

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By Krieger

My preparation centers on addressing the worst situation possible and then working backwards towards a less hostile, less unforgiving situation. The worst situation that I can fathom would be an TEOTWAWKI, no power, minimal-to-no logistics, food or water, and exacerbated by the presence of a hostile occupying force.

In an extreme situation like that, the equipment and weapons I select are based on the ability to accomplish their tasks with minimal extraneous (needless) additions. They are as light as possible in order to reduce the expenditure of hard to replace calories. They’re durable, have interoperability across platforms, and a higher-than-normal likelihood of replacement parts or existence in storage.

An example of this applied selection criteria would be the following: The calibers I select are the most commonly found calibers in America: 9mm, 5.56mm, and 7.62 x 51mm.

If I were to apply this same thought process to AR magazines I would start with the following (non-exhaustive) criteria:

1. Durability
2. Space consumption
3. Procurability


There are several very good AR magazines out there. One of the points I like about the plastic magazines is that they provide the ability to observe the number of rounds that one still has in the magazine. That can be a huge advantage.

What allows this visualization — the composite and clear plastic that allows the rounds to be seen — can also be a huge disadvantage. This is this same plastic that in a cold environment can possibly become brittle and crack. Or, if it’s placed on a hot piece of equipment, it could melt thus rendering the magazine inoperable.

AR-15 magazines
AR-15 magazines (courtesy Krieger)

Of the two polymer magazines pictured above, the translucent magazine has a metal liner. It’s there as the contact surface between the magazine and the rifle and is the location where heat and wear and tear have the most negative effect on the magazine.

While this is an important advantage over the other polymer design, the rest of the magazine is still plastic and is, therefore, still susceptible to damage from the heat of equipment or other weapons.

Also pictured above are two versions of aluminum GI magazines. The tan magazine has a light blue anti-tilt follower. As I have been informed (I have not verified this) the blue follower’s purpose is to provide the user with the ability to easily and quickly recognize that the magazine is empty when the bolt is locked back, as well as preventing weapons malfunctions.

The “gun-metal” grey metal magazine is a standard aluminum magazine with no frills and no anti-tilt follower. I have used many “old-school” magazines without anti-tilt followers. Rarely have they malfunctioned.

Is an anti-tilt follower a great addition to a magazine? Certainly. I’ve not had enough negative occurrences to make it mandatory in my selection.

Regarding aluminum mags in general, I have found that they are extremely durable. Are they damaged and at times rendered inoperable? Yes, they certainly are. But these maladies would most likely have happened with any type of magazine.

Certainly, one does not have to be concerned with an aluminum magazine being damaged by the heat of another piece of equipment or having it come in contact with a hot barrel of another weapon. That’s very important in my selection process.

AR-15 magazines
Dan Z. for TTAG

For durability, the aluminum GI magazine wins hands down.


The consumption of space is a very important consideration. When envisioning overland movement (vehicular or dismounted) every single ounce and every single inch makes a difference.

The size of the military issue aluminum magazine is the gold standard for me. It’s hard for me to consider utilizing a plastic, or even a steel magazine that carries the same 30 rounds as the standard magazine, but whose size, when compared to the STANAG magazine, should allow it to carry 30+ rounds.

In essence, if the magazine being offered for use is bigger than the STANAG magazine, but only carries the same number of rounds as a STANAG magazine…why would I choose it? I’m not really gaining anything.

Both of the plastic magazines are larger than the STANAG magazine. Again, for the same number of rounds carried, the plastic magazines take up more room.

The STANAG mags are symmetrical in size throughout the length of the magazine. They’re neither wider nor narrower at any single sustained point of the magazine. This makes the STANAG magazines extremely easy to carry and or pack.

The AR magazine carriers on my gunbelt each carry two STANAG magazines each. Due to the larger size and asymmetrical port-to-base dimensions, the same magazine carriers don’t have the ability to carry two plastic magazines.

With regards to space consumption, the STANAG magazine wins again…hands down.


Depending on where you buy, plastic magazines range from $12 to $17 a piece…ish.

STANAG magazines
STANAG 30-round magazines can always be found at around $10 to $12, less when bought in bulk.

All of these prices seem inexpensive to me.

I usually acquire my magazines in bulk when they’re on sale at a brick and mortar store. They’re usually discounted to $11.00 for the older styled gun metal grey without the anti-tilt follower.

Point of this is, STANAG magazines are generally less, sometimes far less expensive than polymer magazines. That means I can buy more of them. Or pay the same amount and lave money left over for for more ammunition.


When considering using plastic magazines versus STANAG magazines, I find it hard to justify:

  1. Spending more to carry the same number of rounds
  2. Using plastic magazines that can be more easily damaged

  3. Losing carrying and packing space by choosing larger, asymmetrical plastic mags

For my TEOTWAWKI selection I choose STANAG mags. I make no extra effort to acquire anti-tilt over regular magazines. My choice is based on acquiring the maximum number of magazines possible.

My planning process is based on first addressing a TEOTWAWKI situation. While plastic-based magazines have served well in combat, for me and in a TEOTWAWKI situation, the STANAG magazines fit my criteria better than plastic based magazines.


Krieger is an instructor with Hybrid Tactics Security. Hybrid Tactics is dedicated to providing its customers with the highest level of security available, whether that comes in the form of personal protective details, shooting courses or cybersecurity awareness and training.

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