Six AK Mags You Can Trust Your Life To

Magazines. When it comes to the AK, people tend to assume they all work the same. Not so.

Magazines. When it comes to the AK, people tend to assume they all work the same. Not so.

Buy AK mags on GunsAmerica: /AK Mags

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.

A Hungarian tanker mag next to a 30 round mag. What you sacrifice in capacity you gain in maneuverability.

A Hungarian tanker mag next to a 30 round mag. What you sacrifice in capacity you gain in maneuverability.

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.

The Bakelite mags are both nostalgic and functional. And there's no matching the red color of the originals.

The Bakelite mags are both nostalgic and functional. And there’s no matching the red color of the originals.

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!

The Gibs Mantra--new mags with a classic look.

The Gibbs Matra–new mags with a classic look.

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.

A Magpul AK mag--just as reliable as the mags that built Magpul's reputation.

A Magpul PMAG 30 AK–just as reliable as the mags that built Magpul’s reputation.

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. These are great American made AK mags.

US Palm. These are great American made AK mags.

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.

The waffle pattern on a "Circle 10" is easy to spot.

The waffle pattern on a “Circle 10” is easy to spot.

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.

A steel locking latch on the Circle 10.

A steel locking latch on the Circle 10.

Why do they call it a Circle 10?

Why do they call it a Circle 10?

The bolt hold-open feature is a plus on the Gibs.

The bolt hold-open feature is a plus on the Gibs.

A Gibs in a PTR.

A Gibs in a PTR.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Michael September 27, 2017, 4:26 pm

    Bulg Circle 10, E German bakelite and Russian plum and bakelite are three of the top mags for AK 74. Love them all but for now I only have only Circle 10 and E German bake. Will add Russian mags when brand new available. I dont like used mags. I Always get brand new mags only.

  • EdMan August 17, 2016, 8:03 am

    I like my Yugoslavian steel mags. they are also reliable as heck and they have the bolt hold open on last shot feature which is a pretty good idea in my opinion as it allows the shooter the ability the see when his firearm is out of ammo. Of course this is not really a deal breaker for any gun owner especially AK shooters but its a nice thing to have in situation where one is in a fire fight scenario and they try to out flank the bad guys only to press on the trigger and it goes click…not bang.

  • Richard Tahan December 9, 2015, 6:53 pm

    I have a AK-47 Saiga 7.62X39 Russian made by IZHMASH and tried Tapco magazines but the ammo doesn’t slide into chamber bore and damages the round. At first the magazine would not lock and I had to modify it so it would lock in place. Now a round will chamber but hits the inner face below chamber bore therefore not inserting the round to be fired and damaging the round, looking like a 5.56 round. What type of magazine best fits my Saiga AK?

    • Eric April 9, 2016, 5:26 pm

      You might need to install a bullet guide. I had to install one on my Saiga ak 74. I had it break on my Ak47. It very well could be the magazines. But, I threw some of my ak 74 magazines away, because I thought they were shit, not feeding properly, but, it was because I didn’t have a bullet guide.

    • Drew Asaurus May 29, 2017, 11:38 pm

      You need to convert your AK to take regular mags. The saiga mags are slightly different on the front, the metal part goes a little higher on the saigas, you can buy converted mags, but they’re expensive af. I paid 30$ for a 10 rounder and 60$ for a steel 30 rounder, so it’s definitely worth getting the magazine conversion. Idk how old this post is, i was just giving my .02✌🏿

  • Winston July 28, 2015, 1:49 am

    “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!” Red Dawn was a truly terrible movie. More accurately, invading hordes of NATO nazis might see those AK74 mags if they ever got close enough after crossing the Russian border- which is unlikely.

    • Check Czech January 11, 2017, 5:09 am

      “invading hordes of NATO nazis might see those AK74 mags if they ever got close enough after crossing the Russian border- which is unlikely.”
      ———
      Still unlikely?

  • David July 27, 2015, 7:01 pm

    For any wondering about the top right pic at the bottom of the article that asks why the Bulgarian polymer mags are called a Circle 10, the reason is that it’s the factory mark Bulgaria adopted for its’ arsenal, which was named State Factory #10 when it began production in the mid 60’s.

    They’re still some of the best mags out there IMO. A little costly but available, very reliable, comfortable compared to their ribbed metal counterparts, easy to grip even when wet, and will hold together if dropped on a hard surface when loaded (as Jorge mentioned). The Circle 10’s are my second favorite mags, only trailing behind to the nearly impossible to find Izhmash AK-100 series polymer magazines.

    On the issue of some polymer mags shattering when dropped on a hard surface; if you’re curious and don’t want to try it with your own mags, K-Var has a good video in their Circle 10 Magazine section…or search YouTube for “ARSENAL’S MIL. SPEC. MAGAZINE DROP TEST”

  • Mike July 27, 2015, 1:45 pm

    Nice article, but there has been two mags that should have made the list to bump two out or rename the article, “Top eight AK Mags”.
    The Chinese smooth rib and chrome follower were the standard when you could find the. Easily. Now they’ve gone to the way side of highly collectible items. The second magazine would be the Yugoslavian mags, not only are they robust as hell but they are the makers of the original bolt hold open follower.
    In all fairness the article should have divided into two categories: best foreign MIL-SURP and best American made 922r compliant magazines.
    Just my 2/100ths of a U.S. of A. Dollar input.

  • Denis Cleaver July 27, 2015, 12:54 pm

    I have been using the US PALM polymer 30 magazines for some time now. They work fine. the only problem I have is that the LULA loading tool will not fit over the top of the mag so that it will fit over the mag latch on the back of the magazine. The bottom rear of the LULA get “hung-up” on the moulding of the mags rear and will not secure itself. The tool can still be used but the user must hold it in place for both hands to load the mag. US PALM should remedy this condition. Other than the non fit condition when using the LULA tool, these are excellent mags.

  • Wil Ferch July 27, 2015, 8:05 am

    You forgot to add the East German bakelites in within the Russian bakelite category….these are just as good…maybe even a tad better with a slightly better finish. Both are really equal and should have been included in the list.

    The short answer is that most Military Surplus Combloc mags are the ticket….they are military grade and have withstood the test of time and use. Even those from China, etc….which also weren’t mentioned.

    For those of us that live in restricted states allowing only 10 rd mags….this is a problem, as the Milspec tanker mags holding 20 rds is still “too big”, let alone the regular 30 rd mags. I have used Tapco 10 rd mags…as well as modified OEM Russian Saiga mags…..both quite successfully and reliably. Downside is the plastic mag latch tab for both, and *maybe* the lack of body-steel reinforcement….but otherwise these have proven to be fully functional and acceptable. Also work very well where the “tanker” mags are used, …in close quarters…. or off a bench where the hang-down length needs to be short.

  • Wil Ferch July 27, 2015, 8:03 am

    You forgot to add the East German bakelites in within the Russian bakelite category….these are just as good…maybe even a tad better with a slightly better finish. Both are really equal and should have been included in the list.

    The short answer is that most Military Surplus Combloc mags are the ticket….they are military grade and have withstood the test of time and use.

    For those of us that live in restricted states allowing only 10 rd mags….this is a problem, as the Milspec tanker mags holding 20 rds is still “too big”, let alone the regular 30 rd mags. I have used Tapco 10 rd mags…as well as modified OEM Saiga mags…..both quite successfully and reliably. Downside is the plastic mag latch tab for both….bit otherwise these have proven to be fully functional and acceptable. Also work very well where the “tanker” mags are used, …in close quarters…. or off a bench where the hang-down length needs to be short.

  • Sowega July 27, 2015, 6:27 am

    I’m disappointed that there was no mention of the Tapco polymer mags that help make imported AKMs and SKS rifles 922r compliant.

    • JZ July 27, 2015, 7:54 am

      +1 on tapco although I noticed Gibbs a month or 3 ago and wanna check them out soon firsthand, can’t go wrong with the steel and if you can get new manu with excellent quality so much the better. Price seemed pretty reasonable.

    • Jorge July 27, 2015, 10:41 am

      that’s because Tapco mags aren’t something to trust your life with. While they may be fine for the range, they are absolutely not a top quality magazine. Drop a loaded one on concrete if you don’t believe me.

    • Mike H October 27, 2016, 6:15 pm

      Tapco mags are garbage. I got some one time with other items in a bulk purchase. I just put them where they belong: In the trash can.

    • Dan November 7, 2016, 2:11 pm

      Tapco mags do not have steel reinforced locking lugs and will wear out before other mags. Also quality is not great.

  • Slim July 23, 2015, 12:08 pm

    Mags yes AK not me. Did y’all see Iraiveteran8888 melt that AK barrel after 2?? Something rounds? The AR-15 went 800+ rounds before going down. Put that in your commie pipe and smoke it.

    • John July 27, 2015, 9:58 am

      So, they had a pencil barrel AKM versus a heavier barrel AR. Even if the out-side diameter of the barrels were the same, the AR barrel was still thicker because the .223 caliber is smaller than the .310 caliber of the AK. So, a heavy barrel will always outlast a thinner barrel. Also, the AR had a open, free-float hand-guard that allowed more air to reach the barrel. The AKM uses thick wood hand guards that insulate the barrel and hold the heat in. Seems like it wasn’t an even playing field to start with. Try a pencil AR barrel and put a open tube hand guard on the AKM and try it again. My guess is, with conditions closer together, the difference would be much closer. In either event, neither gun was designed as a machine gun. Real machine guns have heavy barrels that can be switched out easier. AND was he able to get the AR back in service by banging in on a tree like he did the AKM? NOPE.

    • cwh December 12, 2015, 8:06 pm

      I love the fact that they fixed the AKM with a hammer and a tree. I’m now running an OPAP and loving it

    • Nate May 13, 2016, 7:35 pm

      Spoken like Uncle Sam’s personal jackboot licker.

  • Will Drider July 22, 2015, 10:53 pm

    Excellent Top Six article and photos. Now if they made “fatties” to stop the wobble from badly cut magwells, or inadequate wobble plates/dimples. Composite mags tend to eliminate more wobble then metal mags.

  • Aaron July 22, 2015, 8:53 pm

    There is a benefit to polymer locking tabs. It’ll fit more variants (through shaving due to friction).

    Won’t last as long, though.

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