Monday, December 21, 2009

Praxis: Improved M16/M4 Magazine Followers and Springs.

My thanks to TypeAy for forwarding this story about improved M16/M4 magazine followers and springs. 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 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:


Typeay's comments:

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

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.


Black Flag 14 said...

I find it nothing less than hilarious that four decades on, people are still doggedly determined to polish Eugene Stoner's turd, whereas those of us who appreciate reliability and durability choose Kalashnikov's masterpiece, which remains, with other than a few tweaks to streamline the manufacturing process, or adapt to a specific function, essentially unchanged for over half a century.

Anonymous said...

Magpul makes a gray/green improved follower that comes in a 3 pack for around $6.50 I replaced all of my old followers with those and they work like a charm. USMCinSC

Anonymous said...

I know you'll be too busy, but possibly some other reader can answer.

Apparently the M16 magazine springs can be replaced (Wolff, in the article itself). But can a civilian purchase the green followers to keep ones mags up-to-snuff? If so, where?

B Woodman

Sean said...

Rehabbed all my old mags last year, and my peoples mags too. You can buy cheap, older aluminum or steel mags and rehab them with the new followers and springs, and whammo, you got meat.

Carl said...

Most of my mags are upgraded, but this reminder will help motivate me to complete the process. Thanks!

Unknownsailor said...

B Woodman,

Buy Magpul improved followers, and skip the green followers entirely.

Other magazine tips:
1. Number your magazines, so you can tell which one throws malfunctions.
2. USGI thirty rounders get loaded to 28, so you can insert a magazine reliably on a closed bolt.

If you do find a magazine that causes malfunctions, flatten it. They are a wear item, and are replaceable.

Anonymous said...

C-Products has upgraded followers and springs, and good steel mags:

Here's a Magpul follower, per random Google-dredged link:

Overall, I like Magpul mags the best, follower and all. Unlike in the election time period, they're finally available again.

If I may usurp Mike's soapbox briefly for the benefit of newcomers to the AR/.223 platform...

1. Folks, please read this:

The .223 is a weak (but easy to shoot and carry) round, and it's important to understand the interplay of the variables on its downrange performance.

You should be informed about: energy, velocity, fragmentation, ballistic coefficients, sectional density, twist rate, barrel length, and the relationships between those parameters.

2. Master the internals of your rifle. It may look intimidating, but in actuality it's easy given a few special (but inexpensive) tools. Far better to do it now than later.

My most sincere recommendation is to build an AR completely from scratch, or to disassemble completely and reassemble an existing one.

You need to know how it works to be able to reason intelligently about performance issues or problems, and to correct them yourself. Besides, a big appeal of the AR is its LEGO-like modular nature and the vast cottage industry for specialized parts, and it would be a shame to miss out on that.

3. The AR/.223 is not exactly a sniping platform. Keep your build simple and light, as the best use of this rifle is on the move at <200 yards. In other words, a 24" bull barrel with a free-float tube crammed with accessories is completely missing the point.

4. For long range work, consider the AR in .308 or 6.5 Grendel, or indeed (better yet?) a non-AR altogether.

The Grendel option has much to recommend it. All you need is a barrel + bolt + magazines to use with standard AR components. The .308 AR is a somewhat different animal. Of course, .308 ammo availability is infinitely better than for Grendel, but at this point you'd probably be interested in handloading anyway.

Just some thoughts, hopefully of use...


Anonymous said...

DSG Arms is offering a deal on "Gen 1" PMags (with windows!): 10 for $99.95 shipped!

Go here:

They were offering 10-packs of non-windowed Gen1 PMags for $90 shipped (now sold out), and I ordered two packs. I received magazines in the mail that I had been paying $13 each for, and couldn't be happier.

Too bad I don't need any more mags, otherwise I'd be leaping on this as well.

And to make the deal even sweeter, here's a $10 off code if you order at least two packs:

Code: AR1510off

This discount code will allow you to save $10 on every purchase that sub-totals $150.00 or more.

Anonymous said...

Dahnke sehr.

B Woodman

Patrick Henry said...

One note for those I know will ask...

The old saw about storing loaded mags weakening springs is nonsense.

It is compression/release cycles which fatigue springs, ergo loading and unloading mags will do more harm to them than leaving them loaded, but most of us will never shoot enough ammo for spring fatigue to be a problem...

I agree with the "flatten problem mags" advice above - with one caveat: Clean the mag thoroughly and test with a KNOWN-good (IOW "working fine in another mag") spring and follower. If the mag still malfunctions with known-good innards, demolish it.

Don't be tempted to save it - if it doesn't work reliably, demolish it to be sure it doesn't find its way back to your working-stock.

The worst possible outcome would be to mix it up and "find" it again in a critical situation... Be safe - WRECK it!

pdxr13 said...

If the US military didn't use the M-16/M-4, how many folks would have decided to use that jam-o-matic Stoner design? I'm guessing just a few gadget freaks.

But, the US military has chosen the design and the little 5.56mm as the basis for a light-weight battle rifle and for high-volume SAW. They have spent billions on the platform, and now it's not a fresh turd, it's a triple metal-plated cryogenically processed failure-fixed rail-covered high-tech high-skill needle carbine mostly cured of the original smell. The best custom made ones are very good under 300M, and won't let you down as long as she's shining clean and just barely lubed every shift before and after. Use the low-fouling ammo in green or tan-follower mags, minus 2 rounds and tapped back, and all will be fine.

Does anyone think of this rifle like I think of Foreign Military Sales of the F-16? Needs much specialized support, special imported ammo, and service by readers of technical Gov't English T.O.'s (a language that only superficially appears to be English), or native troops are seriously degraded in 90 days.

SKS/AK rifles just aren't like that. A monkey with a set of tools can make and repair the ComBloc rifles, and if a country wants to spend more on better long-range arms the Belgians are pleased to license/sell a FAL factory to a country. Training costs more than rifles, and untrained troops are just as effective with the cheaper models.

Unca Sam paid me to handle this rifle, everybodys brother and Bubba has one. Why would I want to miss out on having a support network like that? I'd just as soon type everything on a Macintosh (oops, Mac #7 right here) and pretend that Microsoft is a minor player in the OS biz (after CP/M).

Everyone should have the best AR-15 they can afford, 20+ better-than-GI magazines, web gear, and pallets of ammo, if only so the GF or wife will come out to shoot with you.

Pat H said...

This new follower is apparently quite similar to one currently made and sold by Magpul Industries. These are available at Brownells for $6.00 per three pack retail. It's pretty easy to see the anti-follower tilt features in this view.

The Mil-spec green follower is likewise available at Brownells for $1.25 retail I think and is a retrofit for the black followers as far as I know.

If the older black follower mags can be acquired at a low price, rebuilding them is pretty cost effective.

Dakota said...

I have found the magpul mags do not work in all pouches. My vest which holds 2 30 rounders will not take 2 magpul mags, they are very reliable.

As to B F 14 .... I will agree with you to a point. I will get you with my AR way before your "minute of bucket" A K. I enjoy accuracy .... I am old and don't like wasting heavy ammunition on poor systems that were meant for 150 yard engagements. I own ARs in 223 and 308 and they are flawless..... shine your own turds.

Skip said...

Is OK if I don't join the tacticool crowd?
All of my bolties shoot in freezing, dirty, conditions at sub MOA out to whatever I can see. YMMV

Unknownsailor said...

The M-16/M4 doe NOT need to be spotlessly clean to work reliably. This is old word-of-mouth TTP that has been proven to be worth exactly that. This information is just like the old wives tale of misaligning the gas rings. The rifle will work with just one gas ring. Leave them be.
Same with the carbon on the bolt tail. It doesn't affect functioning, leave it be.
The system needs preventative maintenance (extractor springs and inserts especially) and must be properly lubricated. The wetter the better.
CLP will work, but Slip2000 works better.
I know a traveling carbine trainer that has well over 25k rounds through a Bravo Company rifle that has never been cleaned. Any stoppages to date have been attributed to bad ammo or marginal magazines.

Sean said...

Yo, Black Flag 14, I have actually killed several carriers of the vaunted AK-47, using the M-16, with standard ammo, whilst up agin said commies in a fire-fight, so please, spare me your kudos to Kalishnikov. It ain't neccessarily so. Goes double for SKS, PKM, PKS, RPG-2, RPG-7, etc. Know how I did it? Aimed, single shot fire. The AK is no turd, and the AR-15, is no slouch. See you at the top.

Anonymous said...

No need to buy an AR for the wife/gf when an AK-74 is available at 1/2 the cost of an AR and 5.45 ammo is 1/3 the cost of 5.56.

Black Flag 14 said...

Yeah Diesel you're right, it's just word of mouth that the M16 is an unreliable piece of crap, and also the conclusion of many studies, and the opinion of many experienced warriors and armorers, including myself in the armorer category, with a desert deployment under my belt, and many, many memories of spotlessly clean M-16's simply refusing to function because of a tiny bit of dust. My last AK went 2,000 rounds before I had to clean it, and then it just needed a good wire brushing. AK beats M16 every time for reliability.

Anonymous said...

I dunno; I've got 50+ orginal 20rd Colt mags that are probably older then most of the folks on this blog(heh), and although I don't shoot all that often I've never had one fail to feed all the rounds. Maybe it's a full auto thing?

Respectabiggle said...

Ain't is great that we have so many options to choose from?

I like FALs like Ol' Dirty . Yes, I do.

Sean said...

Getting down to cases, Black Flag 14, you said armorer. How much trigger time did you have with the bad guys? As I recall, armorers do not lead patrols. I'd love a reference to your numerous studies. And you avoided addressing what I said about actual use up against the AKs,SKSs etc. I will tell YOU something about reliability. I was in at least 25 shootouts in Viet-Nam, and never, not once, did my M-16 malfunction. I had one malfunction while shooting in Germany, on a live fire course, and it was a round not entirely seated. Pull the charging handle, hit the forward assist, bang. It's why they call it immediate action. A little speck of dirt caused a malfunction? I've carried some very dirty M-16s, they worked just fine. Tell me all about your combat experience as an armorer, I'm all ears. And while you're at it, I do hope to hear you have a combat arms MOS. Mine's 11B4RX.Means infantry, Redeye, and Drill Sgt. qualified. Also qualified w/ Dragon/Tow. CIB. Your turn.