There’s never been a better time in history to stock up on magazines for your AR-15. While there are an infinite number of companies out there with reliable products, there should be more to it than just going and picking up a 30-rounder. If you have a dedicated purpose to your training, or if you want something foolproof in the off-chance it’s needed, then you need the product that fits that purpose or goal.
Today, we’re going to take an extensive look into DuraMag and the metal magazine product line it offers. Everything AR-15 from their standard 223 aluminum magazines to their 224 Valkyrie/6.8 SPC steel mags will be tested for things like cartridge retention, durability, and overall usability. If you’re looking into purchasing magazines that aren’t the everyday PMag, this is a review you’ll want to read.
Magazines are simple pieces of disposable gear. However, the more components you can retain when replacing something like a worn-out spring, the more cost-effective you can make your mags. Metal magazine bodies are often referred to as more durable than polymer mags. From personal experience, I’ve had polymer mags split open on me during testing, and I won’t give too much away by saying I didn’t have any of those problems with these DuraMag products.
In fact, whenever I had something bust open on me during testing, it was because I overfilled the magazine and it was simple to put everything back together. Some issues chose to show themselves in the form of weird capacities and inconsistent followers, but everything concluded that these were very high-quality magazines. There were quite a few curve balls thrown in the testing, so let’s get right into the first impressions.
I love getting a magazine order in the mail. There are so many separate packages to open, so it feels like Christmas. There was nothing out of the ordinary with these mags, so there’s not much to say about visual first impressions. I will say, however, that when filling these up all the way, some of these magazines would allow one cartridge too many when compared to their advertised capacity. Some would consider that a win; having one extra cartridge in a magazine could give you an edge in case you missed a shot during a competition stage.
But when I first tried to insert these mags into my AR, there was some struggle with getting them to seat properly on a closed bolt. This is a regular thing with fully loaded magazines, but impossible when you’ve overloaded one. Regardless, this was an easy workaround by just counting up to the advertised amount and leaving the magazine be. With capacity being the main thing noticed when handling these DuraMag Magazines for the first time, we can move on to everything that was included in the package from DuraMag.
There’s a little bit for every AR-15 magazine user in this review. We’ll look at mags for weird cartridges like the 224 Valkyrie and mags for your standard 223/5.56 in different materials. Here’s the list of all the magazines being tested in this review.
- 1 Stainless Steel 30-Round 223 Magazine
- 2 Anodized Aluminum 30-Round Magazines (OD Green and Black)
- 1 Stainless Steel 20-Round 223 Magazine
- 1 Stainless Steel 20-Round 224 Valkyrie Magazine
- 1 Stainless Steel 28-Round 224 Valkyrie Magazine
When placing the order, I wanted to make sure and get a wide span of DuraMag’s overall product line so I could test consistency from model to model (capacity, material, and cartridge were the three things that differentiated the mags). Testing materials like stainless steel and aluminum were also a big priority when putting my tests together, so I knew I had to test both. After receiving everything, I instantly loaded them up to the maximum capacity and put them away for a solid 2-weeks before even starting the other tests. Here are the results from testing the Ammo Retention of the DuraMag Magazines.
Each magazine was tested in two different ways for cartridge retention in both static and kinetic methods. As mentioned above, I kept these magazines loaded and stored for 2 weeks. One of the consistent issues I’ve heard people have with both polymer and metal magazines is that given enough time, the magazine will let cartridges slip through the feeding lips under the pressure from the magazine spring alone. This would be a big issue if you stored mags to be a quick get-up-and-go solution.
I was glad to see that even when loaded for the entire testing and writing period, there wasn’t a single cartridge that came out when it shouldn’t have. But while that’s nice to know, it’s only half the picture regarding ammunition retention.
I dropped these mags more than a normal tester would. I made sure to drop these on the heel of the magazine AND the side. The goal was to see which drop would result in the most cartridges lost. Some of these magazines were loaded past their advertised capacity, so some of the cartridges lost were due to overfilling. I confirmed these findings after dropping the mags for a second round with the correct number of rounds to find that very few cartridges were lost, if any.
Each mag was dropped from head/shoulder height. In the first set of drops, I had both 224 Valkyrie magazines “explode” on me, in the sense that they came entirely apart when dropped onto the concrete. I had placed a 21st round into the 20-round 224 Valkyrie magazine, and when dropped, the whole thing blew apart.
This is why you always count the number of cartridges you’re loading, and always stick to the advertised magazine capacity. The odd part of the testing was that the 28-round 224 Valkyrie magazine exploded with the proper number of cartridges loaded. I dropped both Valkyrie magazines a second time (the 20-rounder was loaded to 20 rounds for the second set of drops) and neither magazine exploded. Maybe the 28-rounder busting open was just an unfortunate drop?
Overall, I’m very happy with how the retention tests went. When dropped with the correct number of cartridges loaded in the magazine, there were far fewer rounds that popped out of the mags. Having tested my fair share of polymer magazines, I saw no test results that led me to believe that one form of magazine was better than the other. Both types of mags had one or two occasional rounds pop out from either the heel drop or the side drop. And while the Valkyrie magazines caused some concerns when they burst completely open, there are not many situations in which these kinds of mags should be dropped when fully loaded onto solid concrete from head height. We also retested those mags and concluded that the first set of drops must have hit the exact right spot at the exact right angle to get the magazine to fly apart as it did. The nice part about this test is that it also gave us results for durability testing, so let’s look at those findings.
Not only did I test the durability of these mags through the ammo retention drop test, but I also wanted to test how durable the finish was on the anodized aluminum magazines. Throughout the drop test, I had some magazines that experienced a bent feed lip here and even a bent heel cover. This is why people prefer metal mags over polymer, because all I had to do was bend that metal back into place, and the magazine was right as rain and ready to rock. These drops could have caused splits, cracks, and general compromises in polymer mags, so it’s nice to have something you can fix and reuse.
Finally getting to the finish on the anodized aluminum, I thought it was pretty easy to expose bare aluminum when testing the finish.
You can get these mags in all sorts of different colors, and if you keep yourself from dragging the magazine into concrete or gravel, you should see the finish last a long time. That’s right, I put this mag on the concrete floor face down and dragged it 6 inches while applying slight downward pressure. This led to a pretty big gouge in the finish with some slight marks in the surrounding area. Some might consider this a fail, but I would say that that’s a pretty rough extreme to get to if you’re applying downward pressure and dragging the mag on concrete. There aren’t many applications (if any) that would cause that kind of wear. Even then, scratches are part of what makes equipment used, so I wouldn’t be afraid of getting these marked up or marred at all, especially since you can still see what color it is with a few scratches in the finish.
Each magazine was fully loaded to its appropriate capacity and manually cycled through my AR. Manually cycling an AR should be more malfunction-inducing than actually firing the rounds, which is what I wanted. The only magazine I had issues with was the 20-round 223 magazine. The follower on that magazine is NOT anti-tilt which caused one malfunction when running the feeding test.
My guess is that DuraMag didn’t have the room to make that a 20-round magazine AND have it feature an anti-tilt follower which would prevent rounds from tilting before being fed from the magazine. The only issue with that theory is that I could fit 21 rounds in the 20-rounder, which caused issues in our cartridge retention test. If I had it my way, I would make the follower have more of an anti-tilt property so that you wouldn’t be able to fit 21 rounds in the magazine.
For all the other mags, there were no malfunctions, and everything ran as intended. I also fired each full magazine through my firearms to test real cycling, only to find absolutely 0 issues in feeding. Even if the 20-round AR mag had a malfunction most likely due to its follower, it still ran 19 rounds flawlessly. While I wouldn’t feel comfortable using it in competition or any application that requires a flawless run, I don’t see any reason to toss the mag because of one malfunction. All magazines have the feeding ability to last a long time being used in my AR setup. Now that our testing is done, however, we can start getting deeper into the pros and cons that come with DuraMag magazines.
Going through multiple magazines provides a wide span of both pros and cons that can show up on some models and not others. Throughout all 6 mags that were reviewed, here is a list of the pros I found in the batch:
- Great feeding ability
- Easy to keep clean
- Durable body and parts
- No swelling from the heat
- Won’t crack like polymer will
Metal mags allow dirt and debris to fall through the mag much easier than polymer. You also don’t get the cons of polymer with metal mags which include the swelling you’ll see in polymer and the ability to crack the body of a polymer mag with a hard drop. If you need to keep magazines in your car in the summer for a long time, you’ll find yourself preferring metal over polymer for those hot temperatures. Magazine material plays a big part in someone’s ability to be confident in their equipment, and I can see why enthusiasts would choose metal over polymer for their mags.
We did have some parts bend during the drop tests. There were also a couple base plates that wiggled loose during the tests. What was surprising was that even though some of the base plates came loose when dropped, they were somewhat difficult to remove by hand when disassembling the mags. So if you happen to have a magazine floor plate walk a little on you, be confident that you can just slap that back into place with ease and there will still be enough tension to keep it in place.
As for those parts that bent, they were easily put back into place. Even the feed lips of one of the mags had to be bent into proper shape, and that was as simple as grabbing a pair of pliers and forming the mag how it needed to be formed. With polymer mags, you’d have to warranty the whole product because polymer wouldn’t take to a pair of pliers very well.
For everything that these magazines did well, the list of cons is not small by any means. For shooters who hold their equipment to the highest of standards, these are the cons they may run into with DuraMag Magazines.
- Higher cost than polymer magazines
- Magazine heel cover pops off/bends easily
- Anti-tilt follower isn’t long enough on the 20-rounder
- Capacity was incorrect on multiple magazines
These mags make me happy that I keep count when loading magazines. Out of the 6 mags that were sent to me, 3 of them could fit an extra cartridge comfortably, though this would prevent the magazine from being seated in a mag well with a closed bolt. It also caused some magazines to completely dismantle upon being dropped onto concrete. Another issue found with the OD Green Anodized Aluminum 30-Round Magazine was that it could only comfortably fit 28 rounds out of the advertised 30, which was slightly unnerving. While it’s not the biggest deal for a 30-round magazine to have the ability to sneak an extra round in, I think it is concerning when a magazine won’t get to its fully advertised capacity. I can overlook the mags that you can cram an extra round in, but a mag that’s 2 rounds short is one I’ll only use for boring bench days.
The aluminum magazines in this review did exhibit some parts being bent more easily than the stainless steel mags. This was nothing too major since you can just bend those parts back, but it was also not very surprising since aluminum isn’t as stiff or rigid as stainless steel. I’m not looking for looks or flashes when shopping AR mags, so I’ll just go with the stainless steel ones on my next order for the rigidness.
While the cost for these mags is higher than regular polymer magazines, the material, and literal flexibility allow these to last much longer than polymer. I’ve had polymer mags crack and break on me, but I’ve noticed specifically with metal mags that the bodies are very durable and last a long time. So yes, DuraMag magazines aren’t cheap mags, but for something you may not be purchasing for 10+ years and would have the same life as 3 or more polymer mags, I would say the cost is worth avoiding split or swollen polymer. This is especially important to users who like to use their mags for extremely rugged applications.
Enthusiasts looking to do some down-and-dirty training would find great applications for the DuraMag line of metal magazines. Personally, I would stick with the stainless steel mags and not worry about getting anodized and colored aluminum magazines. For shooters running drills, stages, competitions, or anything involving heavy use, DuraMag is a great place to go to source some magazines that are up for torture. If you have a 224 Valkyrie or oddball AR-15 cartridge, then you’ll love the selection that DuraMag has on their website. In the future, I’ll be adding some LR-308 magazines to my shopping list for some rugged DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) applications and will have 0 doubts when purchasing the mags I need.
I can tell DuraMag made these to run, and my tests were meant to take them past what should be expected of them. Yes, there were some minor hiccups on some of the mags and other smaller flaws to be found in others but to make it through as many hard drops as I put them through and still come out feeding as well as they did is remarkable.
While there are fewer companies out there making metal magazines for AR applications, I’ve narrowed down my list to be okay with ordering my metal mags from DuraMag from here on out. Their performance was admirable for metal vs polymer, and I could see as much application for metal mags when compared to their polymer rivals. When rolling through your magazine options for your AR platform, you have to make sure DuraMag is on the list.
Growing up, Buck was taught about firearm history and appraisal. Getting to know so many different firearm platforms eventually lead to his long-distance shooting exploration. While his main hunting past time is coyotes, he still find just as much satisfaction punching steel at distance. Every shot taken is with the purpose to become a better shooter.