I remember my first AK, right after the sunset of the assault weapons ban in 2004. Romanian WASR-10, canted sights, sloppy magwell, trigger slap and all. In all her glory, she was as roughshod as they came, but she was mine, and I was happy. Complete with a case of 7.62×39 and five surplus steel magazines for an extra $100 from an old Vietnam vet, I strolled through the door of that gunshow out a princely sum of $450. And boy, did I have some things to learn. Learn I did. But times changed a bit in the past 14 years, especially in the gun world, some for the better and some, not so much.
One of the issues that always plagued the AK was the magazine- not the design, but finding a good one. Sure, there was the surplus market and you could pick up a crate for pennies on the dollar. After a good scrubbing to kill off that cosmoline, some of them would be ok and some of them were trash. But that’s what you got with surplus, a roll of the dice. As the AK got popular primarily due to inexpensive ammo, so did the demand for good magazines. At today’s prices on them, I don’t think they represent any sort of value for a shooter looking to stash some away.
Like the AR, polymer magazines really began to take off due to their lighter weight and nicer appearance. Plus they tend to not make as much noise in the woods. And for a long time there was a few options on the table; some good, some not so good, but in the end you got what you paid for. Although the AK market has slowed a bit in the US from what it was between 2008-2012, one company has developed a really good option and one that I think, for both the money and the durability, is the best on the market. The XTech Tactical Mag-47 represents a real step forward in the AK magazine market and it should be on your list for the best option on the market when compared to its closest rivals, the Magpul Gen 3 and the Arsenal Circle 10.
Minimum Qualities That Make A Good Polymer AK Mag
An AK mag is a different animal from the AR-15. Because of the way the magazine locks into the magazine well, a polymer magazine has to have steel reinforcements on both the rear locking lug at the magazine latch and the front lug where it locks into the magazine well. This is an absolute minimum for combat reliability. While other polymer magazines on the market my function just fine on the square range, I wouldn’t rely on them in a field environment.
The Russians learned long ago when making AK magazines from Bakelite that steel reinforcement was a must for combat reliability. Why? If the magazine gets jarred in any way, that polymer is the only thing keeping your magazine seated in the weapon. I don’t like that, and neither should you. So if it’s going in a weapon you might have to stake your life on, and that’s every weapon I own, So for me, aside from steel surplus, the only real options are Magpul’s Gen 3 Pmag, Arsenal’s Circle 10, and XTech’s Mag-47.
The Gen 3 Pmag
Several years ago when Magpul announced their AK Pmag many Kalash shooters got excited…only to be let down by the magazines being all-polymer. I can tell you from experience with both the AR-15 and SR-25 Pmag in combat that the polymer can be a bit brittle especially in cold weather. I’ve cracked feed lips and sheared the locking tab on the SR-25 magazine. That translates to a very bad thing for the AK mag. They knew it too, and launched the Gen 3 to correct the flaws.
Featuring a steel lined locking lug in the front and rear, the magazine is a step up from the earlier and cheaper incarnation. They fit and function fine, and I’ve never had an issue with them. The potential problem I see though, keeping in mind the brittleness of Magpul’s polymer, is the feedlips could shear. A lot of wear and tear is placed on the feedlips in the AK action. And again, while I haven’t had an issue with mine, not having that steel reinforcement doesn’t give me the highest level of confidence. So while I think Magpul makes some great products for the AR market, they’ve still got some improving to do on the AK.
The Arsenal Circle 10
Long considered the gold standard of AK magazines, the Arsenal Circle 10 has been the magazine of choice for serious shooters. It’s the actual military issue magazine for the AK-103 platform, meaning it’s been through the rigors of military certification testing. In addition to having steel lined locking lugs, they also feature steel lined feed lips, which makes them as robust as the surplus steel mags while reducing weight. The ones I’ve had over the years have been excellent.
There’s a couple of downsides though. The first one is that as all AK shooters know, and I learned over the years of owning at least a dozen variants, is that tolerances can be a bit different for each rifle- especially if they’re from different countries of origin. They don’t fit in every AK I own right out of the box- I’ve had to shave a bit of material off the lugs and lips to make them work across each carbine. That doesn’t bother me as I’ve got 14 years and thousands of rounds out of it…I can diagnose small issues. But it might matter to you.
The second issue is cost. As the AK has become more popular, everything has went up. Surplus steel magazines that used to be pennies on the dollar are drying up and on any given day will cost at least $10, with no guarantee they’re serviceable. The Arsenal mags today are nearly insane in cost, being right around $45 as of this writing. Magazines should be considered somewhat expendable, and at that cost, it’s pretty outrageous. So while they might be the gold standard, they’ll set you back a few pieces of that gold to get a combat load of them. But if you wanted combat reliability, cost came with the territory. That is, until now.
Enter the Xtech
Jeremy Deadman and his crew out in Arizona saw an opportunity in the market and designed the XTech Mag-47, implementing all of the same features which make the Circle 10 so reliable and even improving on it. Coming in two follower designs, one with a bolt hold open, one without. How do they function?
Right out of the box the polymer feels sturdy- much less brittle than the Magpul. The lockup is tight, but not overly so. There’s no need to shave any material off anywhere across the three AKs used in the testing- two Romanian, one Hungarian. The mags load easily with no felt binding or feeding issues all the way to the 30 round mark. That’s important as a lot of AK magazines, even surplus ones, can get tough around the 25rd mark. Since they were provided for review, I felt like tossing them around on concrete for a bit. Fully loaded mag, dropped feedlips-first on the floor from six feet. The magazine didn’t lose any rounds and didn’t look like it took any damage. So let’s do it again. Since it still hasn’t lost any rounds, lets go out and put a few through it.
But before we do, let’s dump them, fully loaded, in a mudhole. Submerged in nearly-frozen mud, icy water and leaf debris. Pulling them out, they’re covered in mud and water. Do they function?
Locking the first one in, I fire all thirty rounds to the end. No stoppages. I rock the second mag in place, fire all thirty rounds. No stoppages, with the bolt-hold-open follower holding the bolt securely.
Overall I’m impressed with these mags. They are every bit on par with the Arsenal Circle 10 and exceed the Magpul Gen 3. With their over built design and capability to stand up to serious field conditions, I have no reservations running these exclusively with my weapons and I plan on stashing a case or two in the near future. But the best part about the Mag-47: it’s made in the USA, by Americans. Going for $27 on XTech’s site, they’re a bargain compared to their closest competitor and outclass everyone else. If you own an AK, you need a few of these mags. It’s that simple.
If you’re interested in an AK-specific class, I’ve got one on the schedule in February. Even if the Kalash is not your first choice for a weapon, the Russians building a lot of them in Venezuela; you might want to get familiar with them, just in case.