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Metal or Polymer Mags?

3857 Views 36 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  jekbrown
This is one of those basic questions about what to get like AK47 vs. AK74. I would not be asking except for a video by the Kalashnikov Group about the AK 103. In that video they said the polymer mag was better in every way to the metal mag. Is this true in your experience? Tell me what you think.
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metal mags are most durable but prone to rusting as there is a lot of crevices and captive areas for moisture to accumulate.
i live in the north east and i literally have not seen a rust free steel AK mag in 15 years. people park them, paint them, oil them, just to keep them from rusting. another downside that they are heavy as hell.

polymer mag are god because lighter, almost impervious to rust and for the most part as good as steel. not as durable under really abusive use and usually good ones are twice or more as expensive as steel. there is a much wider variety of poly mags. ranging in price and quality. with these you really need to pay attention not to buy garbage unknowingly. with steel on other hand, they will be always good enough.

you can be sure in k-var/arsenal 'waffle' mags. those are arguably best poly mags on the market.
x-tech is also makes good mags. there are some commercial bulgarian polymer mags that come with metal reinforcements in the lugs and feed-lips those are probably cheapest out of the bunch but still good. some people swear by mag-pulls but i'm dubious to their long term durability. i heard of plastic unreinforced feed lip fatigue and personally never bought magpul.
there are also ac-unity. probably most inexpensive mags that aren't garbage like pro-mag. good range mags. too recently on the market to say about long-term durability but out of the box quality is phenomenal considering the price.
Great run down dneprOmike, thanks.
I've seen 'metal magazines' used in Airsoft. Real AKs need to use steel mags.

AC Unity are junk. They will absolutely shatter when full and dropped on the feedlips. I've seen a video where the Poly Bulgy mags cracked but worked because of the feed lip reinforcement. Yes B Waffles are likely the best but $50 is ridiculous for 95% of folks when steel is out there for 1/3 of that. I have MP also, but they are thick for most mag wells. Xtech and Palm are GTG. Not exactly B Waffles but good enough for serious use.

I need to get and test PSA mags - I've seen them tested by MrGunsngear and they seem the best US made ones.
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I do like the AC unity mags for the VZ 58, but even those fail - the AK ones use very fragile polymer - at least the ones I've tried.
My most reliable 20 round mags for the range are polymer MP and steel Hungarian “tanker” mags. If I am using 30 round mags, I prefer any of the steel Eastern Block surplus, especially Yugo and Romanian for my SAR-1, MD65 and MAK-90.
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Fav steel is Chinese. Flat backs are the way.
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Steel, buy’em cheap n stack’em deep. Haven’t run into a problem that I couldn’t fix on a steal mag.

Nothing against polymer mags but good ones can be pricey and if you break it you have to throw away.

I have scraped half a dozen polymer mags over the years but have never scrapped a steal mag.
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Bakelite 30’s and a few 40’s. Circle 10 Waffle mags are great too.
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I have both, but prefer steel.
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Really any good condition Soviet, Chicom or COMM Bloc steel mag will serve you well. Also, a quality poly mag will do the same.

Very timely thread. I'm bored and messing with my range use mag storage. Like others I've focused on less rounds for training. No need for all these mags if I'm shooting much less. How about some pics of my favorite mags in 7.62x39?

Left to right steel mags, Soviet, DDR, Chicom, Polish and Romanian. I left out my Hungarians, oops.

I don't care for the bolt slam home feature on Yugo type mags but they used to be cheap and well worth it.
Yugo on the left, newer Croation on the right,

If you would like to get some cooler mags, Soviet Aluminum and Slab side is the way to go.
Left is a Aluminum right is a Slab,

This would conclude my steel mags in x39 except for my Soviet and Romanian 40 round mags. Soviet Molot at left, Romanian at the middle and a surprise Romanian 75 round top loader drum at right,

Some typical Bakes. A Izhevsk on the left, Tula in the middle an a Molot 40 round on the right,

For true poly mags I really like the Bulgarian mags from Gun mag Warehouse, they have metal reinforcements and I think they would make for a solid duty or hard use mag. Bulgarian mag on the left. The next two I would not recommend except for rang use.
European but not sure in the middle. Right is an all plastic Polish translucent mag,

All the above are not safe queens. I have similar mags tucked away for that. These were my range use mags. I don't beat them. I would recommend any of the above but the last two for hard use.
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This gets asked once a week, so I'll copy paste what I always saythere are tons of good mags out there.

  1. Surplus Steel. If it in good-great condition these are your best bet. Time tested, excellent mags. Make sure they're from a country that fielded AKs... don't get Korean or Croatian mags..places that never even fielded the gun and are notoriously shitty
  2. Bakelite. HOWEVER, I don't actually recommend them unless you know what you're getting into. They're just as reliable as surplus steel, but they're now pretty much collector's items and going for STUPID money. They're basically 1960s plastic mags that are now highly sought over because there isn't as much of them anymore. If you find a steal on them ,sure. but if you just want a good mag then there are way better options for better prices out there.
  3. next on the list is the best of the best Polymer mag... the Bulgarian Circle 10 mag. $50 a fucking mag, but excellent battle tested polymer AK mags. PROBABLY the best out there.
  1. Now there's a host of commercial mags out there that are EXCELLENT, even if they were not fondled and blessed with holy water by Mikhail K. himself. One of the best is Bulgarian new production steel mags (usually you see them at Atlantic or Gunmagwarehouse)
  2. Bulgarian polymer mags with steel reinforced feed lips and lugs. These are made by ISD, the same company that makes the new production steel mags as well. Be careful they also make a version WITHOUT steel lugs and only steel feed lips too.
  3. Pmag gen 3s... very good mags with steel lugs (front and back) but no steel feedlips. Great mags, work extremely well, and as long as you don't drop them on their feedlips in some sort of brutal torture tests, will work FANTASTIC.
  4. I know I'll get some hate for this, but PSA made a polymer mag that is a clone of the Circle 10 mags. Full steel reinforcements and built like tanks. The gen 1 waffles are sold out, but they are making a gen 2, and they also make a 103 slabsides mag that is fully reinforced. Same mag, just slabside vs. waffle.... We've been beating the hell out of them at the files and myself personally and I love these things to death. They're my go to at $20-$25 each.
  5. X-tech Tactical steel reinforced mags and U.S. Palm steel reinforced mags. Same thing, really good commerical polymer mags and some of the best polymer mags on the market. Mabye not battle tested, but hold up REALLY well by high volume shooters
  6. Toth Toole waffle mags. Another clone of the Bulgy Circle 10. These were GREAT when they were $25, but now at $45 they're barely cheaper than OG Circle 10 mags so their value to cost isn't as good as they could be like the PSA mags
  7. Serbian new production steel mags. you can get em from Zastava direct, or from Lead-Star arms in 10 packs for like $125....
  1. Now we have the "good" ones that are solid range mags, but not AS durable or as high speed low drag as the rest. Starting it off is the ISD Polymer bulgarians with steel feedlips. No steel lugs, but otherwise the same. Solid mags, just don't rip them in and out of your gun. The ones with steel lugs AND feedlips usually are only a buck more than these so I don't recommend simply because you can get better for so cheap
  2. Gen 2 pmags. No steel reinforcements anywhere. Honestly, for 99% of people these are still good, but at their price you can find the steel bulgys and the polymer bulgies on sale for nearly the same price, so unless you're given, traded, or get them dirt cheap I don't reccomend spending coin on them (though if you get them with the purchase of a new gun don't throw them out.. use those bitches)
  3. Tapco Slabsides. I know they're out of production right now, and Tapco isn't usually synonymous with high quality, but their slabsides mags just WORKED. basically Pmag gen 2s from Tapco and looked like 103 clone mags. I still have 51 of them in deep storage and beat the hell out of them because I got them for $5 or less. Never a malfunction in years that wasn't my own fault or just a fitment issue (seriously, I can count on one hand the malfunctions I've had with tapco slabsides in years of using them)
  4. U.S. palm mags without steel reinforcements or the X-tech tactical without steel reinforcements. Like the rest, good mags, but no steel reinforcements at ALL makes them not really worth it when you can get other better options for a few bucks more (at most)
The Bad
  1. Croatian mags. Some people get them to work well, others have to file on them and still get issues.
  2. Korean mags. They're OOOOOK but not something I'd every trust except as a disposable mag.
  3. A/C unity gen 1 mags. They're ok, but pure chinzy range mags. Ironically they make a gen 2 mag that gets good reviews so far, and their 5.56 and VZ.58 mags are actually rather good. I just wouldn't get their regular 7.62x39 AK mags

    I'm sure there's more I missed, but this is a general idea based upon the majority of generally accessible mags out there.

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Just dropped an ISD (steel reinforced) mag fully loaded onto lips on concrete from shoulder height 5 times. This SEEMS to be ‘the latest’ torture test. The polymer feed lips cracked on one side but because of the steel reinforcement, it seems to hold rounds and functions. Maybe I’ll drive over it and see what that does.

do AR guys do this?

The AC unity mag is junk. Plastic is toy like. The VZ58 ones are better but the lips will eventually fail with drops on them.
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Roger - this is a VZ mag test, but note how the INVINCIBLE ALMIGHTY Bulgarian $50 mag bites the dust. Steel reinforcement actually hurt this one.
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While the above video is about the VZ 58, it is very revealing about other magazines including the vaunted elite and very expensive Bulgarian waffle Mags. I just got some Palmetto State reinforced polymer mags and would say that they probably are the best, followed by the slab side Bulgarian polymer mags that are reinforced. so glad I never got the Bulgarian waffle mags. I’m a fan of Chinese steel mags, but I think the Palmetto state and low price Bulgarian‘s are very good.
It's not so much the magazines, nor the materials used in the construction of such. It's the humans, the engineering, and the formulas utilized for production.
AK47 magazines have been around a lot longer than the AK74 mags. There was a transition period for eh AK74 mag from metal to polymer. Matter of fact actual metal 5.45x39 magazines are rare these days.
While the science of polymers is ever evolving, stick to foreign made polymer mags since they've been doing it for a lot longer. That and anything made in the USA is inferior since we're a lazy society and rather have cheap stuff than quality even if our lived depended upon it. We are also a 'disposable' society. The foreign countries that have seen wars over the years consistently actually KNOW what lasts, works, and how to do it! We are a nation of contractors and bidding for government $$$.
The Germans, Russians, Bulgarians, Romanians, etc.......learned plenty about war and gear and supporting their military.
The USA? We sent our people to Viet Nam with experimental shit and compiled the data so 40 years later we figured out how to save more lives?
Think about it for a minute. American manufacturing excels in one thing and one thing only. Pillows. Mike's pillows.
Everything else is farmed out or its made with or on foreign machinery and equipment.
Polymers? Sometimes can be stronger than steel, but sometimes compromise. Then there is the supply chain issue or the mixture or colors and all sorts of variables here in the USA.
Factory workers going for bread and bologna produced better products than those who went to work for paper they could take to market and trade?
There's a lot more to all of this BTW.
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I know what I see. That Bulgy waffle mag crapped out on drop 2. I’ve done that test with the cheap Bulgarian mags and they did better. The Czech SA was impressive. This is fairly revelatory to me - If I heard it once, I've heard it 1000 times that the Circle 10 mags were the unquestionable gold standard.

If you watch 2 vids from Mrgunsngear this is the second:

The old and new Tapco's (now defunct) both took very tough abuse and still functioned - again better than the Circle 10s in Dan Brown's test.

So, while i certainly respect Warsaw Pact countries ability to turn out low tech products that are tough, I wouldn't necessarily discount America's ability to reverse engineer to a more than acceptable degree.

Actually, the Tapco's did better than the Magpuls in Brown's test - at least the mag drop test. I have some Magpuls and wish I bought more Bulgy commercials instead.
Love me some steel mags

I have a dozen 30s and 40s in steel from all over the world. I’d take Korean steel over most poly, and that’s BEFORE factoring the price. In fact I think I have five Koreans.

Surplus steel is great, (field) repairable, and cheap
I prefer polymer… similar with AR magazines. I’ve been meaning to get some metal magazines for both AK and AR, but haven’t really had the funds to do that when I have a few other things to do.
I prefer polymer… similar with AR magazines. I’ve been meaning to get some metal magazines for both AK and AR, but haven’t really had the funds to do that when I have a few other things to do.
shoot man, price out some milsurp steel. 2,3, sometimes 4 steelies for the price of one good poly mag.

all of my mags for my ARs are steel except for one magpul, my beowulf mags are plastic because I couldn’t find any steel, all of my AK are steel except three, all of my shotgun mags are steel, and I can’t find any mags for my elite 110 precision.

I suppose all of my Glock mags are poly, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a steel one of those
Bulgarian cheap steel reinforced commercial mags outperformed the vaunted waffle mags here:

At least for the drop test. Think about it - you can buy three of these for the price of ONE waffle mag, and probably better or as good for SHTF.

Also, WRT polymer strength, I've now also seen a 20 FT drop test with AR ETS mags fully loaded with no cracks (after several lower drops) - so I'd say we Americans might be learning a little about polymer.

While the best may be PSA mags, they have some fitment issues (hard to remove) with tighter mag wells - like Romanian.

So you CAN get a GOOD polymer mag for the same as a decent non KCI steel mag.

Steel Chinese are still likely my fav overall - but I likely won't buy them now that they are over $40 a pop.

Just happy I never wasted money spending more for Bulgarian Waffles.
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