Gear Review: Surefire MAG5 High Capacity Magazine

The entire point of a detachable magazine is that you can quickly reload your gun when time is of the essence. But what if you didn’t have to reload as often? What if you could carry 60 or even 100 rounds in a single magazine that attaches to your gun in that old familiar way? Surefire, makers of excellent flashlights and OK silencer, recently started shipping their latest creation which does exactly that — the MAG5.

“Big” magazines are nothing new. In 3-Gun competitions it seems like 40-50 round magazines are becoming standard equipment as stage designers keep designing stages requiring just over 30 rounds for completion. The usual way this is achieved is by either “coupling” two magazines together one on top of the other or making a longer magazine, such as Lancer’s L5C with a 48 round capacity.

The issue with these magazines is that they’re still only “double stacked,” so they extend FAR beyond the normal AR-15 magazine length and tend to get in the way of things. The only alternative until recently has been “drum” magazines such as the BETA C-Mag which requires lubrication and has been prone to failures.

In June of 2010, Magpul announced that they were designing a magazine in the style of the Suomi “coffin” magazine. Instead of a standard “double stack” design, with two stacks of rounds staggered inside the magazine, a “coffin” magazine stacks them 4 rounds across. This makes the magazine much shorter, but also twice as thick.

Not long after Magpul dropped their press release Surefire announced that it was making a set of coffin magazines as well. Which was a surprise, as Surefire is best known for their “tactical” flashlights and not necessarily their firearms equipment. I was skeptical that they could produce a quality product when under the clock to beat Magpul to market. Naturally, I had to find out if it works as advertised.

Surefire sent me the 60 round version of their magazine, although a 100 round version is also available. Despite choosing the “smaller” of the two the magazine is still much taller than a standard AR-15 magazine (a Magpul PMAG is shown for comparison). This is both a blessing and a curse — while the magazine can now be used as a convenient monopod in the event you need to fire from the prone position, it also makes the gun slightly less maneuverable.

Only slightly, though. The fact that the magazine doesn’t extend very far past the edges of the gun means the rifle is still able to “slice the pie” as efficiently as it does with standard magazines, but the low ready position might be a little more uncomfortable than normal.

That fatter design also means it won’t necessarily fit into your existing gear. Chest rigs and belt holsters are designed with standard double stack AR magazines in mind, but these quadruple stack magazines either won’t fit the factory pouches or are very uncomfortable to wear in a belt holster (as it holds the magazine flush against your body and the edges of the magazine tend to dig into your back).

Pouches that used to be 2 magazines deep can be modified (cut) so that the gigantic magazine fits, but in my opinion it makes the most sense to start the stage with the coffin mag and then switch to 30-round magazines once that runs dry. Especially with the cost of the magazine it doesn’t make sense to me for competition shooters to have more than one.

Unless they custom build some holsters or shoot excessively high round count stages, that is. 40 rounds is the most I’ve ever had to fire from my rifle in a single stage, FNH 3-Gun Championships included.

But how, exactly, does it work?

The Magpul design called for a follower shaped like two 5.56 rounds that separated once it was past a certain point, but the Surefire magazine simplifies that design by using two followers instead of one. While the first 10-15 rounds are being loaded the first follower is being used and all proceeds as a normal double stack magazine.

Once the follower hits the point where the magazine balloons outward it marries up with the second larger follower and they proceed together to the bottom of the magazine. When the two followers meet a thin metal partition separates the rounds into two channels, essentially turning the magazine into two double stacked magazines side by side feeding into a common orifice.

It’s a brilliant solution to a complicated problem.

The real question is how well it works, and to answer that question I took it out to the Clark Brothers Range in Warrenton, VA and dumped hundreds of rounds of 5.56 NATO ammunition (American Eagle 55gr supplied by Federal) and .300 AAC Blackout through the magazine. Not once did the gun have so much as a hiccup, and all 60 rounds loaded every time. And even when fully loaded the gun didn’t seem to be overly heavy thanks to the lightweight construction of the magazine.

I came into this review expecting these magazines to be nothing more than an expensive gimmick, but much to my surprise not only were they reliable and easy to use but they were useful.The Surefire high capacity magazines give you the ability to fire 60 or 100 rounds without reloading, a capability that could either save your life in a combat situation or save you precious seconds in a 3-gun competition. Heck, I can think of 3 stages off the top of my head where having only 30 round magazines left me at an extreme disadvantage compared to the rest of the field.

For me a 60 round magazine seems sufficient given the added length that the 100 round version adds to your gun, but the temptation to buy the 100 round version simply to wave it in the face of certain politicians is hard to ignore. Either way I think I just found another item for my Christmas list.

UPDATE (March 2014): In the years I’ve had this magazine, it has only malfunctioned once — using subsonic 300 BLK rounds that weigh four times as much as normal 5.56 rounds. The magazine works in all conditions, and performs its job flawlessly. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Surefire MAG5 High Capacity Magazine

Specifications
Magazine Spec: STANAG 4179
Material: Aluminum
Capacity: 60/100
MSRP: $129/$179

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
All ratings are relative to other similar products. Overall rating is not mathematically derived from the constituent ratings.

Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s a tad long, but once you get used to it you don’t really notice a difference. The 100 round might be a little more annoying, though.

Ease of Use: * * * *
It loads and unloads just like a standard AR-15 magazine. The issue comes when you want to try and clean the magazine, as disassembly is a pain in the ass thanks to the multiple springs and the way they’re set up.

Reliability: * * * * *
After years of abuse, the magazine still functions perfectly. The only caveat is that it sometimes has problems with extremely heavy 300 BLK rounds, but if you’re just running 5.56 you shouldn’t worry.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
It’s a solid product that gives competition shooters an edge and has definite military and law enforcement applications. It blows the current competition out of the water in terms of extended AR-15 magazines, and since Magpul’s version has yet to see the day of light it looks like Surefire’s position at the top is secure for now.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

33 Responses to Gear Review: Surefire MAG5 High Capacity Magazine

  1. avatarKirk says:

    I think I just saw Sen. Diane Feinstein’s eyes bug out of their sockets…

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      I think I just saw Diane Feinstein buying one, telling the salesman “I have special concerns because of my prominence, but ordinary people really shouldn’t be allowed to buy these!”

      • avatarMac Daddy Pat says:

        Ropingdown ordinary people really should be allowed to buy these!” No reason for restriction due to the fact you are lucky enough to live in America. If you want to government to control your life, there are plenty of countries that would happy to oblige you and you have the freedom to relocate their due to the fact you live in America. I hope you’re not an overbearing, controlling, poor self esteemed individual who is mistakenly got a job in Law Enforcement. Please read the Constitution in reference to freedom and if you have time maybe the Bible in reference to making decisions as an individual concerning right and wrong. GOD BLESS AMERICA and the freedoms we enjoy. Merry Christmas from a fellow firearms lover.

        • avatarJan says:

          You really should turn on your sarcasm radar every time you visit this site.

          @Ropindown, Winestein did not purchase the magazine. She just issued a government contract to deliver to her address.

  2. avatarBen Eli says:

    Pretty nice, steep price though.

  3. avatarJTB says:

    I knew leghorn wrote this when he said surefire suppressors were just “ok”. I guess the trip to AAC indoctrinated you. Surefire suppressors are top of the line and much better than just “ok”.

    • Top of the line… according to who?

      Seeing a cross-section of an AAC silencer and a Surefire silencer side by side was quite enlightening on that matter for me, but I’m always open to changing my opinion if new information presents itself.

      • avatarJTB says:

        The information I can give you is that they are very quite. I have heard them used. I am not saying AAC is worse, in fact they might be better. I just don’t think Surefire makes just “ok” suppressors.

      • avatarRopingdown says:

        SOCCOM recently contracted with SureFire for several thousand suppressors, but what do they know, eh?

        • avatarJoe Grine says:

          Given that military contracts are solid gold for any company that can manage to get one, it would not surprise me if Surefire (or any other company for that matter) would GIVE away a few thousand suppressors just for the PR. Just look at how many companies claim to make knives used by Navy SEALS.

        • avatarGossven says:

          All that really means is that Surefire gave SOCOM the best deal on several thousand suppressors.

        • avatarMac Daddy Pat says:

          As a police supplier, I can assure you it is all about low bid. The Inspector General is real touchy about the bid process and FBI loves to help. They are very competitive.

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          I agree. Surefire suppressors are excellent.

  4. avatarMike OFWG says:

    Nick , did you purchase the ammo at Clark Brothers? I have used that range and I recall they have a rule about using only ammo purchased from their store. Did you have a waiver, or did the Federal ammo come from them?

    • The guys at Clark Brothers let me use whatever ammo I want thanks to being a TTAG writer, but I still have to use their targets. I wish they sold .300 BLK ammo…

  5. avatarKevin says:

    I’ve seen people use them in classes. The main issue noted is that they are very heavy when loaded, and if you speed reload as part of drill when the mag is full the impact on the deck will do bad things to an unprotected mag in short order. Other then that they work fine. And you can fit an old school magpul over the base if you work at it.

    • avatarTW says:

      If a MAGPUL in 7.62MM is used over the magazine body base, it will fit well, be very snug, and help proect the base when/if a fully loaded mag is released and not captured before it hits the deck.

  6. avatarRalph says:

    I’d love to have a couple of these for my AR, but as you might expect they’re illegal in Massachusetts because of our @#^&+$! “assault weapons” ban.

  7. avatarTodd94590 says:

    Ditto here in Kallyfornia. Maybe if I buddy up with Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, or Nancy Pelosi, they’ll change their min….. never mind.

    serious question for someone who might know: I have relatives in states where this can be legally bought. what are the (simple) legalities, logistics, etc. if one were to be sent to me through the mail (ups, usps, fedex, etc.)?

    –I have heard that if the unit is disassembled & sent, there are fewer issues/implications, but do not know.

    • avatarJP says:

      I’m not a lawyer, and this is just my current understanding of the law but I would advise:

      You can’t do it legally. Technically, if you have owned a ‘hi-cap’/standard capacity mag since before the Kalifornia AWB went into effect, then you can rebuild it. In fact some websites will sell and ship you a complete, new, disassembled mag as a ‘rebuild kit,’ (Rainier Arms charges an extra $5 last time I checked) but if you put it together and you’re caught with it, it’s on you to prove that it IS in fact an old, rebuilt mag that you have owned for the appropriate amount of time. And YOU have to have owned it since before the AWB as they can’t even legally be sold or given to anyone else in the state, the laws are similar concerning full-autos, SBRs and standard weapons that meet the ‘Assault Weapon’ criteria (non-compliant AKs, ARs, ect).

      Back to the mags, I would imagine that is extremely difficult to prove, even if it’s legit. Since the quad mag is just now coming to market, that would be impossible and you’d get slapped down, though I don’t know what the specific penalties are. Just 1 guy’s, lengthy, understanding.

    • avatarTW says:

      Be careful, disassembly voids the warranty if detected. And reassembly, if not done correctly, results in operational failures such as unable to load past 10 rounds, and then failures to feed. When reassembled correctly, there are still potential legal issue if, during use the magazine, it was discovered by, or repored to law enforcement officials. Kallyfornia is a great example of why term limits need to be implemented…at the State level as well as the Federal level.

  8. avatarTodd94590 says:

    understood.

    (could probably have one, just never let a rangemaster “see” it, or for that matter, never break it out with any other prying eyes)

    just bought the S&W15 AR .223, got it scoped in 100 yards… just hate the limit of 10 per mag…. so, bought multiple magazines.

    I always do wish to follow the law, no matter how freakin’ silly they tend to make it — just the thought of having 60 or 100 before having to change magazines brings out the “Tim-the-Toolman Taylor” within me.

    once my youngest gets through college, I’m outta this state, back to my midwestern upbringing (gunracks in the back of pickups @ high school– those were the days) guess that ages me a bit, too.

  9. avatarMatt G. says:

    I’ve seen one of these jam up and leave half the rounds down in it, so odd have to test it alot before I trusted one. But I think I’ll just wait for the magpul version, the polymer seems to slip rounds through it much more smoothly.

  10. avatarGabba says:

    Spectre doesn’t even get a mention?

  11. Magazines holding over 30 rounds are illegal in Ohio, despite this being a fairly gun-friendly state.

  12. avatarTSgt B says:

    JoeFrom Sidney: You are wrong, friend. It is ENTIRELY LEGAL to own a magazine capable of holding 31 or more rounds in Ohio. It is ILLEGAL to LOAD more than 30 rounds into it. Under Ohio Revised Code section 2923, anything with more than 30 rounds IN THE MAGAZINE is considered a machine gun (unless you’re one of the “Only Ones”, that is).

    I’ve done a helluva lot of research and study on Ohio firearms law. I’m the guy that challanged Toledo’s illegal CCW ban with my “Pistol Packin’ Picnic” in April 2005.

  13. avatarcmhatem says:

    section 2923.11 subparagraph (E) of the Ohio Revised Code.

    (E) “Automatic firearm” means any firearm designed or specially adapted to fire a succession of cartridges with a single function of the trigger. “Automatic firearm” also means any semi-automatic firearm designed or specially adapted to fire more than thirty-one cartridges without reloading, other than a firearm chambering only .22 caliber short, long, or long-rifle cartridges.

    Now, “specially adapted” means having the magazine inserted, not necessarily loaded. I do not think you want to be on the wrong side of an aggressive prosecutor with an argument like “but I only had 30 rounds in it”

  14. avatarg says:

    Great product, but yeah… the price. I wonder if when a Magpul version drops, the competition will lower the price.

  15. avatarcam says:

    How do they do in 454 socom

  16. avatarMarcus Aurelius says:

    I’m going as a 60 round magazine for Halloween, bet something gets locked down.

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