During the first ten years of my military career—starting just in time for the first Gulf War in 1991—if you wanted to increase ammunition capacity or enhance your M16A2’s magazines in any way, you basically only had the same options as the very first soldiers who used the M16 back in the late 1960s and 70s in Vietnam. That was 550 cord and 100 mph tape (nylon cord and basically green duct tape).
The 550 cord was used to put loops on the mags to help pull them out of ALICE pouches, and the 100 mph tape was if you wanted to tape two mags together. Luckily for everyone, in 1999 Magpul created the Magpul (a rubber pull tab that slips over the bottom of the magazine) to take the place of the made-up 550 loops. Since then, a whole industry of magazine accessories has exploded out of their success.
Today there are just as many magazine accessories as there are versions of 30-round AR magazines. So the question is, does one really need to plus up their AR mags with aftermarket base pads and other accessories? Or is using quality AR 30-rounder mags enough? The quick answer is, there are benefits to be gained from outfitting magazines with add-on items. Just changing out the base pad on a magazine can make room for more rounds, offer a positive grab point, or even provide a stable shooting platform.
MY TOP PICKS
Obviously if I’m going to cover magazine accessories, I should start with Magpul’s offerings. In addition to their original Magpul, they have base pads perfect for upgrading standard GI-type mags.
Looking to save your magazines from getting beat up from being dropped on the ground during reloads? Their L-Plate is a rubber base pad that replaces the aluminum bottom floor plate. It provides a bumper pad that helps cushion the mag when impacting the ground or any other hard surface.
A step up from that, Magpul’s Ranger Plate not only provides a bumper pad but also a grab loop to help grasp the magazine from pouches. It’s also available for PMAGs.
The next item was first covered here in S.W.A.T. back in 2012: the Crye Precision MagClip. It’s the perfect accessory for mounting or stowing a magazine for a rapid reload. Basically, it’s a giant clip that lets you clip a magazine onto a belt, MOLLE webbing, pocket, etc. I especially like the fact that when using one, you can stow a mag in a pants pocket and not have to worry about digging around deep in the pocket to retrieve the magazine.
With the clip holding it high in the pocket, especially when worn in a front pants pocket, it allows for a very fast reload. This is a great item for shooting competitions like 3-Gun. If you don’t have enough magazine pouches on your belt for a stage, just clip on an extra one using a Crye MagClip-equipped magazine. Put in the right spot, it can be retrieved just as quickly as a mag from a mag pouch.
Next up is an oldie but goody—double magazine clamps. Need a spare magazine super close at hand? What better way than having one right next to the magazine that’s loaded in the AR? Since 2004/2005ish I have been using a plastic one from First Samco that is unfortunately not produced anymore. But don’t worry, at least half a dozen different variations of double mag clamps are out there.
What’s good about the First Samco clamp is it works with just about any magazines. Currently I use it to clamp two Gen M2 PMAGs together. Another double magazine clamp I use is from Thor Defense. It’s a metal clamp that works best with aluminum GI-style magazines.
The Thor Defense clamp is normally sold as part of a kit that also includes a double mag pouch, a Magpul and a rubber dust cover to put on the mag that’s not in the rifle. It’s actually a military surplus item sold as a CQB kit to enhance soldiers’ ability for rapid reload in close quarters.
You can regularly find full Thor Defense Multiple Magazine Holder CQB kits on Ebay for as little as $10. That is an outstanding deal, considering you get the extra items along with the clamp. That’s why I own several of these—too good of a deal to pass up.
Looking to increase the number of rounds in existing magazines? The most popular extended base pad out right now is from Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), which offers a bomb-proof aluminum base pad (Magazine Extension) for Magpul PMAGs. It works with both standard 30-round PMAGs, bumping them up an additional five rounds to 35, and six rounds in 40-round PMAGs for a total of 46 rounds.
What’s also great about TTI Magazine Extensions is that they only add about an extra half inch of length to the magazine, making it better suited for shooting prone than using a full-size 40-round mag. If carrying as much ammunition is the goal, you can always clamp two 30-round PMAGs together with TTI Magazine Extensions, which would give you 70 rounds on hand and not be too unwieldy.
Last but not least, need help stabilizing the rifle when shooting prone or off a bench? MagPods are the ultimate base pad for turning an AR magazine into a monopod. MagPod base pads basically have a little “leg” that sticks out longer on the front of the base pad that fills the gap at the bottom front of the mag created by the curve in the magazine body.
This solves the issue of just the rear of the magazine touching the surface one is shooting off of, which can permit some front to back wobble, (basically it’s a pivot point). With a MagPod-equipped mag, there is solid contact at the front and back of the bottom of the magazine, leaving no room for the rifle to move up and down. This allows for a much steadier rifle, which in turn can help one be more accurate or faster picking up targets, or both.
I always have at least one Cyre Precision MagClip-equipped magazine on me during any rifle competition. During my overseas deployments, I did from time to time roll with a double magazine clamp just to have a spare 30-round mag close at hand.
Had I known about MagPod base pads at the time of my last combat deployment in 2015, I would definitely have utilized them, because they would have made shooting my rifle off walls or piles of rocks and rubble much steadier. Whatever your need — to increase ammo capacity, speed up reloads, or shoot more steadily — chances are a magazine accessory exists that is perfect for the job.
To see these accessories in use, watch the video here.
Jeff Gurwitch is a retired Special Forces Soldier who served 26 years in the United States Army (18 years with Special Forces). He served in the First Gulf War, three tours OIF, and three tours OEF. He is an avid competitive shooter, competing in USPSA, IDPA, and 3-Gun matches.