Letter Re: Minimizing Magazine Confusion

Mr. Rawles:

I think your readers may benefit from a recent experience of mine at the range. I was shooting several rifles and some friends were also shooting theirs. We noticed how similar (but not interchangeable)  many of the magazines were. In a stressful critical situation it would be very easy to try [inserting] a Mini-14 magazine in a M4gery or [inserting] a FN/FAL magazine in an M1A. Obviously it is best to keep them widely separated but if unfamiliar or under-trained persons were handling them, it could be a disaster.

Our solution was to purchase a color assortment of electrician’s tape and assign a different color to a type of rifle with it’s corresponding magazines. We placed a band of tape several times around the body of the magazine at the end away from the feed mouth. We also placed a color band around the wrist of each gun stock with the color matching the magazine color just in case someone who was not as familiar or nervous in a critical situation from putting the wrong magazine in a rifle rendering it useless. Some recently purchased synthetic mags proved very difficult at a glance to determine which rifle they belonged with.

I think the same problem may arise with handguns as well and I intend to do the same coding system with them. One will have to be careful not to get the tape where it will interfere with seating the magazine into the pistol. I would be interested if anyone has found another solution. Thanks for your blog. – Marty, a Montana Prepper

JWR Replies: Similarly, the base plates on pistol magazines and the adjoining area on pistol grips can be painted various colors.

Of even more importance is not co-mingling 20 and 12 gauge shotguns! If you own any 20 gauge shotguns, I recommend that you set aside those guns and all your 20 gauge shells for “hunting and target shooting only”. Keep them locked away in a vault, if and when times ever get inimical. Leave out only your 12 gauge guns and 12 gauge shells. This will greatly reduce the risk of the dreaded 12-20 burst. Yes, for many years 20-gauge shells have been made made only in yellow, but in the excitement of a defensive shooting situation–especially in low light–mistakes can happen. (For those not familiar with the phenomenon 20 gauge shell will often go part way down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun. If a 12 gauge shell is then chambered behind it and fired, then “ka-blam!”)