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Some Questions on Magazine Capacity

Some Questions on Magazine Capacity

Magazine capacity — rifle or handgun — is a concept loaded (ha!) with interesting nuances for shooters. Ever load a magazine to its stated capacity but wonder if you ought to take a round or two out to relieve some of the pressure? Do some of your magazines seem to load and seat easier than others? There’s a lot of engineering going on in these very important gun parts and, despite decades of advancements in firearms design, some of us always load up some gun magazines to below their stated capacity. Some gun magazines easily hold every round. Some not so much. Here are some of my notes on a few handgun and rifle magazines:

Wilson Combat 1911 Magazine. Argued by some as the gold standard of 1911 magazine design, the Wilson Combat magazines in my range bag easily accept and hold their stated capacity of ammo. The Wilson magazine you see here is a standard 8-round .45 ACP 1911 magazine. All the rounds go in smooth, with relatively minimal effort. And the magazine consistently feeds the rounds into whatever 1911 I’m shooting. In fact, I’ve found virtually every 1911 magazine easily accepts and holds its stated capacity of ammo. Is this the result of multiple decades of design tweaks?

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Wilson Combat 8-round .45 ACP 1911 magazine

Ruger American Magazine. A relatively new pistol, the Ruger American’s magazines call for 17 rounds of 9mm (for the 9mm pistol, of course). And the magazines seem to gladly hold all 17 rounds. Granted, the final two or three 9mm cartridges require some additional effort to insert, but they go in. A full magazine seats confidently in the gun, and then reliably feeds them up and into battery. So what’s the question here? Not all double-stack magazines (see below) do this. Why?

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Ruger American 17-round 9mm magazine

Glock 19 Magazine. This magazine has been around for years, carried and fed thousands of rounds of ammo, and works every time. Despite the constant workout, the magazine’s follower spring gets very difficult to depress when the magazine is close to capacity — this not only makes the 15th round difficult to load but also makes the full magazine difficult to insert in the gun. So I only feed 14 rounds of 9mm into this 15 round magazine. For the record, I’ve loaded the Glock magazines with 15 rounds and test fired this gun again and again — without fail. Still, my preference is to go with 14 in the 15. Lots of people carry this gun on a regular basis. What do you do when you load up your magazines?

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Glock 19 15-round 9mm magazine

On to rifle magazines…

Magpul P-Mag, HexMag, and Daniel Defense AR-15 Magazines. Here are three mainline AR-15 magazine manufacturers, each with their take on an AR-15 magazine design. P-Mags and HexMags each carry 30 rounds, the amount we’re all used to for an AR-15. But, the excellent instructors at my Gunsite Carbine class told me and the other students to load up “30 less 2” rounds, no matter what brand of 30-round magazines we were using. So we loaded to a capacity of 28. This, we learned, was to relieve a bit of the upward pressure the rounds may put on the bolt, thereby increasing reliability. Despite the ubiquitous AR-15 platform and its long history, it still seems to be a good idea to reasonably reduce the amount of upward pressure from the rounds in the magazine. Agree?

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Magpul P-Mag 30-round .223 magazine

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HexMag 30-round .223 magazine

Finally, I like Daniel Defense’s 32-round magazine. Same size as the standard capacity magazines but with with space for two more rounds. But, keeping with the instruction received at Gunsite, I load these to “32 less 2” or 30 rounds.

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Daniel Defense 32-round .223 magazine

How do you load your handgun and rifle magazines? What are your questions — and answers?

— Mark Kakkuri

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