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HEXMAGS: Ammunition Feeding Devices for Today’s Modern Sporting Rifles

Photography and Story by Will Dabbs, MD

It is always the weakest link that determines the strength of a complex mechanism. If you run cheap milsurp corrosive ammo that was loaded during the Spanish-American War through your $4,000 precision rifle, you should not expect particularly impressive downrange results, no matter the gun’s rarefied price tag. The worst component of a system will always define performance.

As regards modern firearms, this limiting reagent is frequently the magazine. In 1956, Gene Stoner and some others thought up the world’s most advanced infantry combat rifle. Drawing from cutting-edge materials science and engineering pioneered during the meteoric development of warplanes from the most recent World War, Gene and his buddies changed the way the world made guns. The receivers were aircraft aluminum rather than forged steel. The furniture was space-age polymer rather than oiled walnut. The magazines were stamped from thin aluminum and originally designed to be disposable.

Now fast forward more than sixty years, and Stoner’s black rifle is almost unrecognizable from that original AR-10. Operating systems can be had in several different flavors, while forearm rails are de rigueur and sport everything except tactical barbecue grills. Stoner’s black guns now range from pocket-sized pistols to long-range precision boom sticks. Throughout the remarkable evolution of the rifle itself, the magazines remained almost—but not quite—disposable.

Origins

Those first AR-10 mags were stamped with a curious waffle pattern to enhance their rigidity. They weighed about nothing and really were intended to be discarded on the battlefield. When the AR-15 came along in 5.56x45mm, the magazines were duly shrunken to accommodate.

Those earliest AR-15 magazines looked like waffles as well. Those first few original AR-15 waffle mags are valued collector’s items these days. The more common versions carried 20 rounds, sported the familiar longitudinal groves and incorporated wretched skinny cast aluminum followers. Around 1970, these magazines were stretched to accommodate 30 rounds, but they still used those same despicable followers.

These early components were bad to tilt and caused bolt over base malfunctions. I experienced dozens of them in the M16A1 rifles I ran as...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N2 (February 2018)
and was posted online on December 22, 2017

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