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.


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 a soldier back in the day. Throughout it all, the technology that went into these ammunition feeding devices was really not all that much improved over those first few original disposable versions.

Nowadays, somebody has finally invested a little time in bringing the humble AR-15 magazine up to the rarefied standards of the rifles that currently use them. Polymer magazines that were revolutionary in the Austrian Steyr AUG when it debuted in 1977 are commonplace now. The remarkable advances in computer modeling, modern synthetic fiber-reinforced polymers and 3-D printing bring us some superlative new designs.

The Humble Hexagon

A hexagon is a six-sided polygon wherein the total sum of the internal angles adds up to 720 degrees. The method of producing a perfect hexagon using a compass and a straight edge can be found in the 2,300-year-old tome Euclid’s Elements. Within it, the Greek mathematician Euclid explored number theory, incommensurable lines and his own eponymous geometry. Euclid’s Elements has been described as the most successful and influential textbook in all of human history.

While this shape is found in board games, composite structures, and spacecraft components, it is also an integral part of nature. Bees craft their combs of thousands of perfect little hexagons. My farm dog, Dog (both her name as well as her species), was kind enough to bring me a demised armadillo a couple months back. While my respect for her pugilistic capabilities is such that I seriously doubt she bested the beast herself, she was mighty proud of her roadside find. As I dutifully removed the carcass to our backyard pond so it could become a feast for the neighborhood turtles, I couldn’t help but notice that the inside of the creature’s remarkable armored carapace was comprised of countless little hexagons. Apparently, even God likes this particular geometric shape.

The Hexmag Story

Hexmags first began as a 3-D printing exercise in 2013. The guys who made those first Hexmags were gun nerds just like the rest of us. However, they had a dream. They wanted to craft the next generation polymer M4 magazine and right all the wrongs of the previous designs. Their latest Series 2 Hexmag hits that mark.

Designing a reliable and robust magazine for the most popular combat rifle in the free world is a daunting task. Tiny little eccentricities in geometry have a profound impact on function. If the items in question were sneakers or fidget spinners, that would not be a particularly big deal. When the failure of this component to function as advertised can potentially cause the death of some cop, soldier or civilian caught in the midst of a gunfight, the stakes are incalculably higher. Additionally, the final design had to reconcile robustness with lightness, two attributes that frequently seem irreconcilable.

Typically, 3-D printers lay down thin layers of heat-sensitive polymer material to produce complex shapes as imagined within a computer controller. Such devices are used to design spacecraft components, artificial human organs and children’s toys. My daughter’s boyfriend (both she and he are aerospace engineers) has a 3-D printer that churns out intricately detailed pancakes. 3-D printers have revolutionized the way we prototype things.

Once the 3-D printed Hexmag prototypes were shown to be effective, the resulting design could be mass-produced. Using a proprietary Information Age fiber-reinforced polymer called PolyHex2 as a base material, Hexmag components are now hugely more robust than those original early aluminum AR-15 magazines. This polymer is innately weather and corrosion resistant while remaining easily formed into complex shapes. Hexmag can also produce this material in whatever colors they might desire.

Beneficial Polychromia

We all need a handy way to differentiate our magazines at a glance. As America’s black rifle has evolved, so have the risks associated with mixing up the wrong ammunition for the right rifle. The .300BLK round is, in essence, a lightweight .30-caliber bullet loaded into a modified 5.56mm case. The .300BLK can be loaded to either subsonic or supersonic specifications and significantly broadens the horizons of America’s favorite rifle. However, if you get in a hurry and slam a .300BLK round into a 5.56mm chamber with enough force to set the bullet back, you have just transformed your favorite black rifle into an explosive device. The new Hexmag HEXID system helps you to avoid that.

The Hexmag chassis is available in four different colors. The HEXID system offers eight different, brightly colored followers along with corresponding disassembly buttons. The followers are all no-tilt, and the oversized disassembly buttons allow disassembly using nothing more advanced than a human finger. They also offer an obvious splash of color in the base of each of your magazines. Now by matching your ammunition to a certain color you can always tell at a glance what sort of ammunition is loaded into your Hexmags. Whether your Hexmags are stacked in the gun safe, tucked into your range bag or packed into your magazine pouches, the HEXID system instantly tells you what is where.

Ammunition Magazines and the Death of Freedom

Not since 1865 has there been such a schism in American culture. Down here in the Deep South, where I live, there are literally no extraneous gun laws. We are stuck with our ample collection of federal regulations, but, at the state level, we take our freedom pretty seriously. Mine is one of eight states in our Great Republic that allows a law-abiding citizen to carry a handgun without any ancillary documentation. Our crime rates are also massively lower than in such socialist bastions as California, New York and New Jersey.

A great metric concerning how free a state is can be found by a quick perusal of their gun laws. If a state does not trust its citizens with standard-capacity magazines and collapsible stocks then I choose not to live there. However, many of my fellow Americans are indeed enslaved in these draconian locales. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C., restrict magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Colorado and New Jersey set that number at 15. For my unfortunate comrades residing in these desolate spaces, Hexmag offer reduced capacity magazines in 10- and 15-round capacities via their patented True Riser system. They also retain the traditional 30-round magazine geometry so you guys don’t have to hit the range feeling like you’ve had your testicles surgically removed just because you happen to live in a crappy state.

Grip Tape and Mag Fashion

The magazine bodies of all Hexmags are liberally adorned with interlocking hexagons that make these devices easy to grab when sweaty or terrified. Hexmag also offers the coolest adhesive material, called Grip Tape, that fits into these blocks to add even greater purchase. Grip Tape comes in a variety of hues, including clear. Even if the more practical aspects of this material do not interest you, the fashion potential is all but limitless.

You can cover an entire magazine with the stuff or use it in certain hexes to make cool shapes. A Christian cross is easy, as is a disco-dancing stick figure. Once you have the grip tape where you like it, set the stuff with a hair dryer or a heat gun, and it is there for good.

Don’t hate. It sounded silly to me as well right up until I tried it. Now customizing my ready magazines is simply great fun.

Ruminations and Other Stuff

Hexmag also makes a pivoting AR pistol grip called the Hexmag Advanced Tactical Grip. This inspired widget lets you select one of three different grip angles to best suit the rifle you are running. A compact carbine or PDW needs a grip that is nearly perpendicular to the bore axis for best control. A long-range precision gun that will be run from prone benefits from something more rakish. A typical rifle-length carbine needs a spot in between. The three angles available are 17, 25 and 33 degrees. The Hexmag Advanced Tactical Grip lets you choose. It also naturally accepts Grip Tape applique material.

The Hexmag Tactical Grip is an over-molded rubber AR grip that fills your hand better than the originals. It also incorporates properly oriented finger grooves. Hexmag Rail Covers come available for M-LOK Wedgelok, KeyMod Wedgelok, and Picatinny rails. They can also be had in black or FDE (Flat Dark Earth).

Hexmags include an innovative high-friction surface for easy manipulation, a non-tilt follower and tool less disassembly. Heat-treated 17-7 PH stainless steel springs allow you to store the magazines long-term while fully loaded. Series 2 Hexmags also accept stripper clip guides for fast reloading. As if that were not enough, they produce Hexmags in .308 for the AR-10 rifle as well. These .308 magazines are of the SR25 configuration.

Hexmag offers relentless quality, cutting-edge technology, innovative design and a price lower than the Other Guys. They also offer a lifetime warranty. Customizable, reliable and awesome, Hexmags are tomorrow’s black rifle magazines.



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


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