Magazines are like good looks and money, you can never have too much. That said, regardless of the rifle, if magazines exist for it, some of them are terrible. This is hard to believe for AK owners, who have only ever seen their rifle run flawless, but there are in fact, AKM magazines of questionable quality and reliability. So how does a new, or uninformed shooter distinguish between gold and crap? There are a few solid guidelines to follow, but as a general rule, “Don’t be a Guinea Pig.”
Sound strange? Read on. Shooters looking for a quality magazine shouldn’t go out and buy the latest, greatest type until it’s had a few weeks to get the design kinks out. Even Magpul, maker of some of the highest quality aftermarket magazines on the planet, had few hiccups with the introduction of their Glock 17 mags. So read on as I reveal six AKM magazines shooters can trust their lives to.
That’s a big claim, so the magazines in this list are no joke, they’ve either been through combat or are designed for it. One thing to keep in mind though, is that magazines are disposable; no magazine is designed to be used 10,000 times without issue. Although, with minor preventive maintenance like cleaning, quality AKM magazines will outlast their owners by decades.
Hungarian Tanker Mag
This brings me to number six. One of my favorite magazines for the AKM or AK-47 ever made is the Hungarian 20-round so-called ‘tanker mag’. This stubby magazine sacrifices ten rounds to achieve a much smaller profile than its banana-inspired full-sized brother. Built from folded steel, these short mags are strong enough to be used as makeshift hammers in a pinch. Additionally, they make ideal counterparts for underfolding AK rifles, where their shorter length makes them much more maneuverable either indoors or inside a vehicle. My personal truck gun is a custom side-folding SAR with a Hungarian magazine full of 20 rounds of Hornady TAP.
If you need to shoot from the prone, a bench, or simply want a more compact option that greatly increases the maneuverability of your favorite Kalashnikov, there’s no better magazine out there. It might cost shooters ten rounds, but you can always bring more mags.
Soviet AG4 “Bakelite” Magazines
What do ICBM warhead caps, billiard balls and old radios have in common? Bakelite. The pseudo wood-colored stuff making a comeback as hipster jewelry was once a cutting edge polymer. While so-called Bakelite magazines are actually constructed of a similar AG4 polymer, most shooters simply refer to them as Bakelites. Though they may feel somewhat fragile, they’re actually quite durable and, equally important, most feature steel locking latches.
Another cool property of the plastic? It’s resistant to most solvents and doesn’t conduct electricity. While the later is unimportant to shooters, the former is a God-send. The biggest advantage of this magazine is its lightweight construction, coupled with near-steel magazine durability. One understated benefit of the mag is the incredible cool-factor. Shooters looking to recreate the feeling of battling invading hordes of Soviet soldiers in Red Dawn need these magazines if they intend to cry out Wolverines!
ComBloc Steel Magazines / Gibbs Matra Magazines
Classic cool, stupid durable, inexpensive and doubles as an entrenching tool in a pinch. The original all-steel, 30-round AK magazine sets the gold standard for reliable ammunition feeding. Mil-spec mags are available from dozens of former Soviet satellite nations and members of the Warsaw Pact, which is fantastic news for shooters still living behind their own iron curtain of AWB legislation, as pre-ban magazines are still very easy to find.
Shooters not enamored with buying used mags, finally have a similarly-priced option built stateside. Originating out of wild, wonderful West Virginia, Gibbs Rifles Company has been around for decades importing and building products. Their most recent venture is a new-production, Bosnian-made steel 30-round AKM magazine. It functions with the same dogged dependability as the original, but with a glossier finish and much cleaner welds.Though the biggest difference is the inclusion of a last-round bolt hold open feature. The only downside to either of these magazines, is they don’t give shooters any points towards 922r compliance.
Magpul PMAG Gen I
Magpul is synonymous with quality aftermarket parts. It’s also synonymous with mall-ninja. Though who can blame those over-equipped mall security guards when a company makes such good kit. The newest edition to their line of military-tough, polymer magazines is the PMAG 30 AK.
Designed after the wildly successful M16/AR15 PMAG, the AK version features the same ultra-durable lightweight polymer construction. Devoid of any superfluous additions or features, the AK PMAG is a no-nonsense polymer AK magazine built for serious use at an affordable price-point. The magazine would be all-but-perfect if it included a steel reinforced locking tab. Thankfully the second Generation AK PMAGs will feature this addition.
US Palm Polymer AK30
The first time I saw industry newcomer US Palm’s products at SHOT Show, I didn’t know what to make of them. With their decidedly un-AK appearance, I was on the fence about them. Then I actually ran a few in my favorite rifles.
Lightweight and extremely durable, US Palm’s polymer bodied magazines feature steel reinforcement that puts them ahead of both all-steel and all-polymer magazines. Available in four different colors, these mags are as attractive as they are durable. Though they sport more than just good looks. They include some pretty awesome features, like the ventilated, anti-tilt follower that allows trapped debris to be shaken loose from the magazine body without disassembly. Which is good, because the magazine can’t easily be disassembled since the baseplate is semi-permanently attached.
They may have a higher price tag than surplus or all-polymer magazines, but these aren’t designed to compete with either. They’re designed to give a shooter the best, most durable magazine available made entirely in the United States.
Bulgarian Circle 10
One of the finest 7.62x39mm magazines ever devised, is built in the relatively small country of Bulgaria. Known for their high-quality AK rifles that rival the quality of Russian-made variants, the Bulgarian arms factory Circle 10 also produces polymer magazines. Featuring a polymer body with steel reinforcements, the Bulgarian Circle 10 magazine is a favorite among purist collectors and AK aficionados.
These magazines are easily identifiable by their waffle-patterned body and stamped number 10 inside a circle (Hence, Circle 10). Russian 5.45mm magazines had been doing this for years, but since Bulgaria persisted retaining it’s 30-caliber AK rifles, it wanted a modern 7.62x39mm polymer magazine. The result is arguably the finest polymer AK magazine made. The only problem is price and availability.
Since these magazines are current production, and imported from Eastern Europe, they occasionally suffer from spotty availability. The other issue is price. The price of these magazines has risen considerably since their initial importation. In all fairness, inflation plays a big role in this, but it still makes the magazines prohibitively expensive for shooters who like to buy a half dozen mags.
The good news is that unlike many semi-automatic rifles, with the AK there are more good choices than bad ones when it comes to magazines. That doesn’t mean any AK magazine will run perfect, but if a shooter chooses any of the ones listed above, and does the bare minimum of preventative maintenance, they’ll last a lifetime. The only problem remaining, is finding enough ammunition to fill them all.