What is “fire power?” That has been a source of debate with many gun writers and shooters for a lot of years. Now, while I’ll readily agree that, no handgun can really give you “firepower” – I believe a semiauto rifle, like an AR, AK, M1A and many other similar rifles can lay down a deadly stream of bullets towards the bad guys. Some gun writers believe that only a select-fire or full auto rifle or light machine gun can lay down some firepower, while others believe an Apache attack helicopter or jet fighter equipped with 20 or 30mm automatic cannons can truly lay down “some serious firepower. ” I guess it depends on where you’re standing at the time – on the giving end or the receiving end of the gun.
I know I can empty a 30 round magazine from an AR or AK in a few seconds, while that isn’t automatic fire, it is sure enough fire power to make the person on the receiving end, wish they were some place else. Ask the person who is getting shot at, with a 30 round magazine, if that isn’t fire power – bet they’ll say it is.
There are some magazine makers, who just flat out manufacture poorly made magazines, and people continue to buy them, for some strange reason. Without high-quality magazines in your firearms, you may only be left with a single-shot firearm because the money you think you saved, by purchasing a cheaply made magazine, won’t function in your firearm – and that is not a good thing in my book. I rarely purchase any aftermarket magazines for my firearms – there are a few exceptions – but for the most part, I like to stick to factory-made magazines. Now, that isn’t the case when it comes to magazines for ARs, AKs, M1As and many other modern sporting rifles – most of those magazines are indeed what are called “aftermarket” they are made by a vendor who isn’t actually manufacturing the rifles.
I’ve also found that, when it comes to AR-15 magazines, many makers who manufacture magazines that hold more than 30 rounds are just marketing a gimmick. Most of those magazines simply won’t function properly – even if you only load 30 rounds into a 45 round magazine. There are also some drum-style magazines that are actually two drums that feed into your AR, that hold 100 rounds of ammo. I’ve tried several over the years, and I haven’t found one that I’d be willing to be my life on, and neither should you. [JWR Adds: In my experience, Beta C-MAG 100 round drums do function as advertised, but they rattle like a maraca when loaded, so they they should mot be considered for any sort of dismounted patrolling. ]
The good folks at US Tactical Supply told me about some 50 round drum magazines that they are selling, and if you’ve followed my articles over the past few years, you know I think very highly of the products that US Tactical Supply sells – they only carry the best-of-the-best in my humble opinion. And, they have customer service that is second to none, too. I made a trip to US Tactical Supply and was provided two “X Products” 50-round drum magazines for testing for SurvivalBlog readers. One of the X Products magazines is for an M14 or Springfield Armory M1A .308 rifle, the other is a 50-round drum magazine for the AR-15 style of rifle. X Products magazines are completely made in the USA, which is always a selling point in my book. We can compete against foreign-made companies and produce better products, too.
First up is the X Product 50 round drum for the M1A – this magazine is actually shorter in length than a standard 20 round .308 magazine is, and it is much shorter than the 30 round magazines – most of which don’t work. However, US Tactical Supply does carry the Checkmate Industries (CMI) brand of 20 and 30 round magazines for the M1A that do work. (Most no-name 30-rd mags simply are junk. In contrast, the Checkmate 20 and 30 rd mags are the best you can buy in my humble opinion. However, if you want more than 20 or 30 rounds of “firepower” for your M1A or M14, then you have got to check out the X Products drum mag.
Granted, any .308 semiauto rifle is going to be a bit heavy to start with, then throw-in a drum magazine, with 50 rounds of .308 ammo in it, and you are adding close to another 5-pounds of weight to the rifle. There are always some trade-offs in this sort of situation, and only you can decide how much weight you are willing to pack in your long gun. For me, this is a no-brainer – 50 rounds of .308 without having to reload is the way to go when a fire-fight breaks out. The X Product drum magazines are manufactured out of steel and Aluminum – no plastic parts at all. And, as already noted, these M1A magazines are not as long as 20 round magazines are. Plus, you can actually carry your M1A sling-arms without the drum interfering with your body.
There is also a spring-loaded “winding key” on the front of the magazine, as you place a round and are ready to push it into the magazine, you simply turn the “key” so the round drops right in – do this 49 more times, and you are ready to rock ‘n roll. I will admit, the winding key is a bit stout, then again, the spring that pushes the rounds up, so the drum magazine can smoothly AND reliably feed those rounds into the M1A must, out of necessity be strong. The X Products 50 round drum magazine is rated to feed 950-rounds per minute – if you can pull the trigger that fast, and reload the gun that fast. I tested this magazine in a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM, and the magazine fit perfectly and fed every round without any problems at all. Okay, we are talking very serious firepower here, and I don’t care what your definition of “firepower” might be – 50 rounds of .308 on-tap, without having to reload is mighty impressive in my book.
I tested .308 Win/7.62 NATO FMJ military surplus ammo, as well as from Black Hills Ammunition 168 grain Match Hollow Point and their 175 grain Match Hollow Point, and from Buffalo Bore Ammunition their Sniper 175 grain JHP and their 150 grain Barnes TTSX poly tip load. I had zero feeding malfunctions using any of this ammo. I was a bit concerned about the JHP and poly tipped ammo feeding through the X Products mag, but every round fed without fail. I reloaded the 50-round drum magazine four times, for a total of 200 rounds down range – this wasn’t a test of accuracy – it was only to test the reliability of the magazine. I will readily admit, but the time I was loading the magazine for the third time, my hand was getting tired from winding the magazine to load it.
Enter the X Products 50 round drum magazine designed for AR-15 style rifles, this one is quite a bit smaller than the mag for the M1A type of rifles, and the spring on the “winding key” wasn’t nearly as stout – but still stout enough to push those rounds up as fast as you could pull the trigger. During my testing, I used Winchester 55 grain FMJ ammo, and from Buffalo Bore I used their 69 grain JHP Sniper round. From Black Hills I had a wide assortment of ammo to shoot, including their 55 grain FMJ reloads, 55 grain FMJ brand-new ammo, 52 grain Hornady V-Max, 52 grain Match Hollow Point, 55 grain Soft Point, 60 grain Soft Point and their 68 grain Heavy Match Hollow Point. And, I mixed this ammo when loading the drum magazines, and once again, no surprises, every single round fed perfectly.
During the time of the great ammo drought of 2013, I’m having a difficult time getting all the ammo samples I want for my shooting articles, and I have been restricting myself to only shooting about 200 rounds during a firearms test. However, I got completely carried away with my DPMS “AR” and fired more than 400 rounds though the gun, using the X Products 50 round drum magazine – it was a total blast, literally, being able to lay down that kind of fire power, without having to reload. You can fire up to 1,100 rounds per minute using the 50 round drum magazine – that is fast enough to keep up with just about any full-auto M4 rifle in my humble opinion.
The X Products drum magazines are coated inside and out with Cerakote for friction reduction, and to provide the reliability you demand, without using any lube, that can cause problems. The X Products drum mag is also 4-5 inches shorter than the Surefire quad stack magazine. Honestly, with this mag loaded in your AR-style rifle, it is really compact. This is “the” magazine you want stuffed in your AR, if you are using it for a house gun – if you can repel attackers with 50 rounds available, then you are in deep, deep trouble, and probably can’t save yourself. BTW, the AR mag is built entirely of aluminum with no plastic parts to break.
The only negative I could find with either of these X Products drum magazines is that, you are having so much fun, you are burning-up a lot of ammo in a short period of time…I don’t care what other gun writer’s or armchair experts might say, 50 rounds of ammo on tap, without a reload is firepower in my book, and if you are on the receiving end of that many rounds flying at you, I’m sure you’ll agree with this finding as well.
Now, quality never comes cheap, and the price for the M1A/M14 X Products drum magazine is $275 and for the AR drum magazine the price is $210 Now, I’m not advocating that you purchase half a dozen each of these magazines. However, what I would suggest is that, you purchase one or maybe even two of these magazines. If you are a police officer, in the military or a Prepper, load one of these 50 round drum magazines in your rifle, and then use other “standard” magazines for your reloads. If I got into a fire-fight, it would be VERY reassuring to have 50 rounds of ammo available during that crucial initial engagement, without having to reload. Laying down a lot of bullets at the bad guys at the start of a gunfight can make a big difference in my book. Keep their heads down, while you move from one position to another. Fire and movement!
These are the magazines you want in your gun – at the start of a fire fight! – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio
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