My thanks to TypeAy for forwarding this story about improved M16/M4 magazine followers and springs. http://www.defencetalk.com/improved-magazine-increases-weapons-reliability-23413/ The "Tan is the plan" ditty is both a hoot and insulting to today's professional soldiers (shades of the Vietnam era comic books for draftees).
The Army is currently procuring the first half million of these mags of a planned 7 million buy. For the Threeper, who doesn't have access to the military supply system, you should at least retrofit any mags you have with black followers to the green type. Many soldiers also buy P-Mags out of their own pockets now instead of relying on the issue mags.
There is another story here http://peosoldier.armylive.dodlive.mil/2009/12/14/armys-improved-magazine-increases-weapons-reliability-%E2%80%9Ctan-is-the-plan%E2%80%9D-for-the-new-magazine/ about these new mags which says:
They are currently free issue for deploying units and those in theater. Future requirements will be met in pre-deployment CONUS fielding. Starting this month, all weapon fielding events will include improved magazines. All units operating in either OEF/OIF theaters should contact their chain of command if they have not already received their improved magazines. The Improved Magazines are available in the supply system now for replenishment and can be requisitioned under the NSN 1005-01-561-7200.
This story also includes a snippet about a new magazine feed lip wear gauge:
To ensure the magazines that are in the system are up to standard, PM Soldier Weapons will be making a magazine wear tool available this fall that eliminates guess work when it comes to identifying unserviceable magazines. The tool will enable armorers and supply supply sergeants to precisely gauge whether the separation between the magazine feed lips are within specifications – a critical parameter for magazine performance.
Here is a picture of the tool:
The Army issues tan "no tilt" followers on all of it's new M-16 / M-4 magazines.
Expect to find green follower mags HEAVILY discounted. (They work just fine)
Black follower mags will probably go the way of Dodo bird, or be priced to steal.
The story from Army News:
Improved magazine increases weapons reliability
Army News — By US Army on December 17, 2009 at 6:19 am
PICATINNY ARSENAL, NJ: The Army has begun fielding a new 5.56mm 30-round "improved magazine" that delivers a significant increase in reliability for M-16 and M-4 weapons.
Bolstering the already high reliability ratings of the M-16 and M-4, the improved magazine reduces the risk of magazine-related stoppages by more than 50 percent compared to the older magazine variants, according to officials at Program Executive Office Soldier.
Identified by a tan-colored follower, more than 500,000 of the improved magazines have been fielded to units in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States.
"With the improved magazines, we're taking weapons reliability up another notch," said Lt. Col. Chris Lehner, product manager for Individual Weapons. "By incorporating a heavier, more corrosion-resistant spring, along with a new follower design that does not tilt inside the casing, our engineers were able to develop a magazine that presents a round to the weapon with even greater stability. Increased magazine reliability results in overall improved weapon system performance."
Currently, there are three different types of magazines in the supply inventory that can be identified by the color of the follower. The new, improved magazine follower is tan. Magazines with a green follower are strong performers and are acceptable so long as they are serviceable, but should be phased out from the force as the improved magazines are received. The oldest magazines have a black follower and should be turned in to supply sergeants.
"Soldiers can remember it like this: 'Tan - is the plan. Green - start to lean. Black - take it back,'" said Lehner. "While the improved magazines increase reliability to an even greater degree, the new magazines by no means reduce the importance of Soldiers keeping their weapons clean and lubricated appropriately for the environment. Also, Soldiers must be proficient on conducting immediate action (SPORTS) if their weapon has a stoppage."
A significant portion of the system reliability gains are the result of the redesigned follower. The new follower incorporates an extended rear leg and modified bullet protrusion for improved round stacking and orientation.
The self-leveling/anti-tilt follower minimizes jamming while a wider spring coil profile creates even force distribution. The performance gains have not added weight or cost to the magazines.
To see a computer simulation of the improved magazine in action, visit the PEO Soldier blog at http://peosoldier.armylive.dodlive.mil.
LATER: Ranger Rick offers the following thoughts.
There are two reasons the Army has problems with magazine reliability.
1. The Army is not good at little basics like magazines. When RR deployed he threw away the issue springs in his M9 pistol and M4 carbine and replaced them with Wolff springs to avoid potential problems. In his experience, most Army units make no effort to separate magazines used in training from mags used in combat. Thus, often there is no way of knowing how much wear the mags have had prior to deployment. Combat mags should be kept separate from training mags.
2. When you are carrying in Condition Three ("Amber" in the Army parlance) -- full magazine of 30 rounds but no round chambered, the bolt over the thirty rounds over-compresses the magazine spring. This leads to feeding problems. He often loads only 28 or 29 in the maga to avoid this problem. This tracks with troop experience in Vietnam who would only load 18 in their 20 round mags.
Ranger Rick suggests that anyone who has the resources should replace their black followers with green and their issue springs with Wolff springs. This should prevent any problems. Unlike the Army, I wouldn't think that Threepers should have to segregate training mags from combat mags, but you should surely rotate them out on a regular basis.