For my money, one of the killer apps at the 2011 SHOT Show was the SureFire Mag 5 60-round and 100-round quad-stack magazines for AR-pattern guns.
They originally said they would ship shortly after SHOT, but issues with mass production resulted in a delay of several months before they were available on the open market.
Finally, in September of 2011, I received the 60 round magazine that I’d had on pre-order since shortly after SHOT, and I have to admit to being quite pleased with the result.
The packaging is fairly unassuming. No pomp or circumstance. Just a plain clear plastic bag, a minimal instruction sheet, and the magazine.
I’ve now run this magazine at two local tactical rifle matches, as well as two range sessions, and so far, the results have been solid.
Now, this is a preliminary review, and I have little doubt that further testing will be required to truly gauge the reliability of this product, but so far, in the AR-pattern rifles that I’ve used, the new Surefire magazines are lighter, easier to use, and just as reliable as a traditional 30 round magazine, with double the capacity.
They’re also lighter, shorter, and have a higher capacity than the after-market double-stack magazines available from places like Nordic Components and Tripp Research.
That said, the cost of the SureFire magazine is much higher, with them selling for around $130 online. Now, for that cost, you can just about buy ten standard 30 round magazines, and about the only advantage it has over two standard magazines is the ability to eliminate a reload, which, depending on your skills, can be done in two seconds or so. On that basis, the SureFire Mag 5 isn’t an item that I would recommend as a necessity, especially for a first time rifle buyer.
But if you’ve already kitted out your rifle the way you’d like, are sitting on a pile of magazines, and regularly shoot in situations where two seconds can make a difference, for instance, at a 3-Gun match where such a magazine would be allowed, this magazine may make for an excellent addition to your range bag.
From a size and weight perspective, the empty magazine is surprisingly light (as is the loaded one, more on that in a minute), and it doesn’t feel large or awkward in the hand.
Interestingly, the 60 round magazine is not obtrusive, nor does it seem to add much felt weight to the rifle. In fact, compared to the 40 and 50 round magazines from other makers, weight-wise it feels lighter, even when fully-loaded.
When testing the magazine, it’s height in relation to other >30 round magazines made a difference as well. When running drills on a VTAC wall and shooting through low ports, the gun didn’t always need to be canted or shot from rollover prone to engage a target, so when using this magazine, there’s a minimal need to adjust shooting technique to accommodate the new magazine.
There are a couple of downsides, however. When loading the magazines, the first twenty rounds or so are very easy to load, the next two or three after that can be difficult, to the point that I thought there was a problem with the magazine the first couple of times, and then after that point, loading becomes easy again. Also, if you drop a partially-loaded magazine, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll turn into a .223 caliber pepper shaker until you pop the base of the magazine to get the follower to jump into place. Due to the design, there is no anti-tilt follower.
Also, while my magazine has run flawlessly, not all of them have been reported to do so. I’ve witnessed some issues with the magazines working in a Bushmaster ACR, and know of one that had such trouble that it had to be sent back to SureFire.
But those can be filed under standard teething problems. It’s always prudent to take a piece of new gear, especially something like this, and test it thoroughly before using it for serious applications like 3 gun or defensive uses. All in all, while I don’t think the SureFire Mag5-60 and Mag5-100 are required equipment for every AR15 owner, I do think they will prove to be a game-changing piece of equipment in the long run, especially given SureFire’s reputation for attention to detail and high-quality equipment.