Daniel Defense AR-15 Magazine

By Alton Chiu

Daniel Defense (DD), with their 32-round polymer AR-15 magazine, enters a saturated market where a plethora of other options already exist. Given the MSRP of $20, one may be tempted to bypass this option as another overpriced “Tactical Tupperware” when Okay Industries USGI aluminum magazines can be had for about $10 and Magpul Pmags for $15. Instead, the DD magazine warrants serious consideration by distinguishing itself with a well-designed form and durable construction.


The most important function of a magazine is to feed the firearm, so it is only fitting that this is the first item discussed. As expected, the DD magazine fed flawlessly even when the author applied pressure from different directions in an attempt to induce malfunction. Feeding is accomplished by three components: follower, spring and feed lips. The following paragraphs deal with the first two items, while the last section is devoted to the third.

The magazine follower functions by evenly directing the spring pressure to push the column of ammunition towards the bolt for feeding. An improvement upon the original USGI magazine is the anti-tilt follower where it is given extra-long “legs” in order to prevent it from canting longitudinally or laterally where it can bind and impede feeding. The DD follower is designed in such a manner, but while the front “legs” are as long as that of a Magpul anti-tilt follower, the rear legs are the same size as the old USGI follower. Despite the author’s best efforts, he could not induce tilt and binding in the DD follower, and he did not suffer such a malfunction during testing. It is noteworthy that the DD follower has a 45-deg chamfered front, and the followers from USGI, DD, Magpul and Lancer magazines do not interchange with each other.

The magazine spring must be strong enough to push the next round into position in the split second between the bolt clearing the magazine in its rear traveling ejection phase and it coming forward again during the feed phase. Complicating this is the fact that spring force is proportional to the compression distance (F=kx), which means a spring strong enough to reliably feed the last round will exert a vastly higher force to the first round of a full magazine. The author did not observe any feed-lip spread due to such force with the DD magazine.

In comparison with the USGI magazine spring, the DD spring is the same diameter but is shorter despite having a longer magazine body. However, the wires are bent to form a marginally tighter loop with the DD. The author successfully used a USGI spring in the DD magazine, and it held 32 rounds, inserted over a closed bolt and fed perfectly from the first to last round. Nevertheless, one cannot know for certain whether such a combination would weaken the spring or other components over time without proper engineering data.

Drop Test

Durability is paramount for the consumer, not only due to replacement cost, but also due to the ever-present threat of civil rights abrogation in the style of the 1995 Clinton-era Assault Weapon Ban. The most common and structurally stressing case for a magazine is from being dropped during a reload with either the feed lips or the base plate retainer impacting a hard surface.

The Daniel Defense magazine feed lips are integral with the body and are molded out of the same carbon-fiber reinforced polymer. When the author pressed hard into the feed lips, he felt a small amount of give which should cushion against a dynamic impact load which can generate almost twice the stress of a static load. A common failure point of USGI magazine in such impacts is the rear of the feed lips because stress is concentrated at the sharp corners there. To prevent such failures, DD rounded the edges of the cutout for the bolt lugs, and they also gave a ramped transition to the area between the end of the feed lips and the start of the rear spline.

To test out these engineering improvements, the author dropped a fully loaded magazine feed lip first onto a rock from chest height to simulate a fumbled magazine change. All the ammunition was retained, and the magazine suffered a gouge at the rear of the feed lips, but it continued to function properly. The feed lips did not crack or spread. The shock absorbing properties of the polymer acted like a spring to help convert kinetic energy of the impact into potential energy through elastic deformation. If the impact exceeds the yield strength, the extra energy is converted into internal energy which leads to strain hardening and ultimately to fracture. The DD magazine showed itself resilient to feed lip damage.

A magazine being dropped on the base plate retainer, such as from an improperly seated magazine falling out of the rifle, is another scenario that tests the structural soundness. As such, the author dropped a fully loaded magazine, retainer first, onto the ground from chest height. The magazine retained all of the ammunition, and nothing was damaged aside from some light marring of the retainer. Upon disassembly, the author discovered that the bottom two rounds of ammunition were dented just below the shoulder. The author surmised that inertia kept the ammunition travelling downwards when the magazine body impacted the ground, and the weight of the column crushed the bottom two cases. At any rate, both rounds passed the case gauge and successfully chambered in a 223-Wylde barrel. The DD magazine did not suffer when dropped on its base plate retainer.

Dimension and Handling

The 32-round DD magazine is slightly taller than a standard USGI 30 round magazine but is shorter than one with a Magpul Ranger Plate. It has two distinct thicknesses: the top part going into the magazine well of the rifle measures about 0.880 inch, and the bottom part gradually widens from the step at about 0.930 inch to about 0.950 inch near the base plate with the base plate retainer being about 1.095 inch. For reference, a USGI magazine has a uniform thickness of about 0.885, while a Lancer L5 magazine is about 0.905 inch at the steel feed lips and about 0.955 inches at the ribs of the magazine body.

The small dimensional differences did not adversely affect function with a rifle or fit with the author’s G-Code Kydex magazine carrier after adjustment of the retention screw. Notably, the slimmer non-snag profile of the DD magazine allowed the author to utilize it in a tight fitting pouch such as the Eagle M-4 double magazine pouch.

A pair of USGI magazines was a tight fit inside the Eagle magazine pouch but could easily slide in and out especially given the Teflon finish on the magazines. As previously noted, the Lancer L5 magazines were wider and featured ribs on the body. This combination gave an overly tight fight which caused them to be difficult to insert or withdraw. Indeed, trying to extract one magazine usually resulted in both exiting the pouch. The DD magazines with their slimmer tapered profile and non-snag design were an easier fit in the pouch. Since they are thicker than USGI magazines after all, the addition and removal from pouches were not as smooth but were still notably easier than the Lancer magazines. The additional height of the DD magazine did not pose a problem with closing the pouch given that it could comfortably accommodate the taller USGI magazine with the Ranger Plate combination.

After some experimentation with the Eagle pouch, the author preferred to store the USGI magazine with the Ranger Plate in front as the first magazine and to keep the DD magazine closer to the body as the second magazine. Since the USGI magazine with the Ranger Plate was already taller, the extra height of the DD magazine was inconsequential while its extra two-round capacity was welcomed. The clearance to the Ranger Plate and slickness of Teflon USGI magazine body allowed the author to pinch and extract the first magazine quickly while the aggressive texturing of the DD magazine afforded a firm grip for the next magazine change. However, it was found that while the flap would fold over a DD magazine under gravity, the Velcro did not always securely close.

As previously mentioned, the DD magazine features aggressive texturing to facilitate a fast and secure magazine change. The front and rear of the magazine have large horizontal ribs, and the body has small rises that grip the hand firmly but comfortably. The base plate retainer was also designed to ease magazine changes. Unlike the Ranger Plate, the loop in the DD retainer was not designed for the user to hook a finger through nor to pinch between the index and middle fingers. Instead, it allows the user to add a para-cord or duct-tape loop in the fashion of the original Magpul.

Shooting Impressions

Unsurprisingly, the DD magazine fed and functioned without problems. And instead of droning on about its boring reliability, the author would like to highlight design features and quirks of the magazine.

In a prone position, the rifleman can find support with a bipod, sling or well-placed objects such as a fallen tree trunk. If those options are lacking, the magazine is always available as an expedient monopod. The DD base plate retainer features a flat surface at the rear that is angled to place the rifle parallel with the ground. When used as a monopod, the magazine placed the rifle higher off the ground than the author was used to when using a sling. However, the higher position had the benefit of reducing the amount of dust agitated by the muzzle brake; this afforded a better view of the target when firing multiple rounds. Despite the additional loads when used as a monopod, the author did not experience any misfeeds.

The left-handed author noticed a quirk with the magazine mold that affected his magazine changes. As a southpaw, the author has learned to grip the magazine body with his support hand and press the standard magazine release with the thumb while removing the magazine. In contrast with the right-handers, the magazine release is not fully depressed while the magazine exits the rifle but rather is drug across the side of the body after it clears the catch and the thumb leaves the button. The molded “DD Magazine” logo (above the cutout and just below the feed lips) forms a small depression that the magazine release can snag and would require extra effort to remove. In contrast, USGI and Lancer L5 magazines featured a smooth side and required little effort to remove even with the magazine catch dragging across it. It should be noted that, with the release fully depressed, the empty DD magazine falls free of the rifle from gravity as one would come to expect.

The author did not conduct a sand test where a copious amount of debris would be poured into the magazine and then function-tested, as it is an unlikely use case. Faced with such severe conditions, one might be better served to use a fresh magazine or clean the fouled one first. The author did note the ease with which the DD magazine could be disassembled. Like other polymer magazines introduced in recent memory, the base plate can be depressed with the tip of a bullet, and the retainer slides out for access to the internal components. In contrast, USGI magazines require a tool to pry loose the base plate which could be bent if excessive force were used.

Inevitably, one would encounter situations where the magazine would have to be emptied without utilizing the trigger. The author noted that it was significantly easier to thumb the rounds forward and out with the polymer lipped DD magazine than the steel-lipped Lancer L5 or the aluminum-lipped USGI magazines, especially with the magazines at full capacity.


The Daniel Defense magazine represents a worthwhile evolutionary step in feeding the AR-15 family of firearms. A trapezoidal shape and non-snag profile ease the insertion and removal from a pouch. A well-designed flat at the base plate retainer allowed the magazine to function admirably as a monopod. Carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, in addition to well-considered engineering changes, add structural strength that help the magazine survive being dropped from chest height onto either the feed lips or the base plate retainer. Lastly, DD offers a 10-round-restricted capacity version for citizens living in states where the Bill of Rights has yet to be ratified. The DD magazine is a well-engineered, ergonomic and durable magazine.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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