Magpul Industries hits the battlefield


Magpul PMAG 30 Gen M3

Most publicity about defence projects goes to large items, like new aircraft projects or warships. It’s easy to forget that small items are important to the military too, and when bought in large numbers they can add up to expensive, major procurement deals.

It’s not always easy to get rifle magazines out of a pouch, especially when everything is wet and you’re wearing gloves. Soldiers often tape loops of string or webbing to the base of their magazines to make it easier to get them out. That works, but eventually the tape has to be removed and the adhesive cleaned from the magazine. It’s also not unknown for the loops to rip away from the tape and come off in your hand, leaving the magazine in the pouch and you with a surprised look on your face.

These magazines don't have Magpul loops
L1A1 magazines with string loops

In 1999 Magpul Industries came up with something new. It was a heavy rubber band with a built-in loop that could be fitted round the base of a standard 5.56mm rifle magazine, and they sold thousands of them. Next came versions to fit 7.62mm rifle and 9mm pistol magazines and these were equally popular.

Magpul quickly diversified into other areas and began producing followers for M16-type magazines. The standard follower is prone to tilting inside the magazine body and causing a weapon stoppage, but the Magpul one doesn’t do that. Next the company released new stocks for M4 carbines and a range of other weapons.

In 2007 Magpul came up with a  winner by developing the PMAG, a polymer magazine designed for the M16 and M4 with an advanced internal design and moulded-on loop. This quickly proved to be both stronger and more reliable than the standard lightweight aluminium ones and was bought in huge numbers by US troops. It’s also less than half the weight of a metal magazine, which starts to make a difference when troops are carrying twelve or more magazines.

Because the PMAG was designed specifically for the M16 platform it wasn’t compatible with most other rifles using NATO STANAG-4179 magazines, so in 2009 the EMAG went on sale. This was based on the PMAG, but slightly altered to make it STANAG-4179 compatible; of course this means it can be used on an M16 or M4 as well. The EMAG became Magpul’s first big military success when a million were ordered by the British Ministry of Defence in 2010, for delivery over the next four years. The first 100,000 were issued to British troops in Afghanistan in 2011 and have become extremely popular.

The latest generation of magazines is the PMAG 30 Gen M3, which adds new safety and reliability features and is fully STANAG-4179 compliant. Magpul are working to have this design certified by the US DoD, which would remove any limitations to its use by US forces.

Although Magpul’s products are small items with a relatively low price tag they are likely to be bought in large numbers, making for high value orders. The UK EMAG order totalled £13 million, small change compared to an F35 but still a fair chunk of money.

Large equipment projects make headlines, but a huge percentage of defence spending goes on small but vital items like magazines. In today’s lower intensity wars these items also make more of a difference to the troops on the ground than whether their air support if provided by an F16 or an F35.