Letter Re: Advice on Most Durable AR-15/M16/AR-180 Magazines?

Mr. Rawles:
I’ve read your novel [“Patriots”] three times. It rocks. I hope that you run another six pack sale soon, because I plan to buy a bunch of copies for this year’s Christmas gifts. I’ve also been working my way through the [SurvivalBlog] archives. Packed with amazing stuff–what a treasure trove! And I’m also now a 10 Cent Challenge subscriber. (I’m the one that sent you that roll of silver dimes.)

One thing that you’ve stressed that has really struck a chord with me is the possibility that a global depression might last decades, or even generations. With that thought in mind, I’ve been picking out gear that is both easy to maintain by myself, and very durable. My flashlights all use white LEDs to maximize their usable life. My watches are all Swiss hairspring [self-winding], and I’ve been told by jewelers that can be rebuilt to easily last more than a century. For tools, I’m buying all Craftsman [brand, from Sears.] For pistols, I have one Glock M21 with rail, and plan to buy two more, plus a Mini Glock [M30] for concealed carry. For my primary rifles, I recently bought three Saiga .308s. (BTW, it is neat to know that there are now reliable converted HK steel magazines available for them from one of the SurvivalBlog advertisers.) For my secondary/training carbines, I’m buying two of the [Armalite] AR-180B. But the magazines for those are aluminum [alloy]. In my mind, I can practically hear the beer can scrunchy noise those will make if they get stepped on! So my question is, is there a sturdier M16-type magazine that won’t cost a fortune if I buy two dozen of them? Thanks, – . F.T. in Kansas

JWR Replies: Although they weigh considerably more than alloy magazines, I highly recommend the Imperial Defence SA-80 magazines made in England. These steel magazines were originally made for the British SA-80 bullpups now in service in the Middle East. They are extremely durable and reliable. A fair number of them have been released as surplus. I have heard that they are a sought-after item when informal gear bartering goes on between US and British troops deployed overseas. The SA-80 magazine interchanges with all AR-15 and M16 family weapons. They will also fit the new production AR-180B model, but not the older original AR-180s that used magazines with a narrow magazine catch notch on the left side of the magazine.

Another option in steel AR-15/M16 magazines is the much-touted HK steel M16 magazine, but those presently run $39 to $45 each. (Ouch!) The gray parkerized steel Imperial Defence SA-80 magazines are available in new condition from CDNN Sports, for under $13 each. I heard from a source inside the company that they still have more than 10,000 of these magazines in stock. With a new Federal magazine ban in the works, I recommend that you stock up. The price will only go up. CDNN also has very good prices on Glock magazines (a dollar less than Midway, the last time I checked), and they are currently offering free “+2” baseplates with each magazine purchased. But if you don’t use baseplate extensions, I heard from SurvivalBlog reader Craig W. that the very best price on new factory-made Glock magazines is offered by “Sgt. B.”, over at the Glock Talk Forums. (His price is just $15.98 for most models!) I recommend that you be sure to specify the latest production Glock 21-SF 13 round magazines, since those will fit in both the new SF-series Glock 21s and in the older generation Glock 21s. (But not vice versa: The earlier-production M21 magazines will not fit in the new M21 SF-series pistols.)

For that dreaded multi-generational TEOTWAWKI scenario, buy plenty of ammo, spare parts, armorer’s tools, and a boat load of spare magazines. Even if you buy the most durable magazines available, they are still likely to get lost in combat. My general recommendation is to acquire 20 spare magazines for each rifle and 12 spares for each pistol. Buy even more, if you can afford them. The extras will make a great barter item. And with another magazine ban likely in the U.S. you can consider them an investment. (Glock magazines tripled in price during the 1994-to-2004 ban.)