Rifle Mags Measured In “Footpounds”



M14 Mags. polymer Thermold 20 rounders on the left, steel Check Mate Industries 20 rounders on the right.

I hear all the time about guys trying to lighten their combat/Survival loads, and sometimes it leads to ridiculous measures. Although there are some things that can be done to reduce those “Footpounds”, sometimes, you have to just flog your “Inner Pussy” till it goes back in and do the deed. One of the things that has made a big difference in the weight of those loads is the availability of polymer mags that can replace the steel mil issue ones. There are a number of manufacturers out there, but only a few have a good rep for reliability and durability, and the two I have actually used that have been reliable are Thermold and Magpul (I’ve haven’t used US Palm, but I have heard nothing but good about them). The Tapco mags I’ve used were in an AKMS, and they were hit or miss on the reliability and durability scale.

Although the Magpul mags are available for the AR, and I use them like many others people out there. The difference between the GI aluminum mag weight, and the Magpul polymer weight isn’t much, and the point of this article is to show the big difference between steel and polymer mag weight. There are two weapons that I use that the regular mil issue (“mil issue” is an important distinction. Some steel mags like promag, or the Korean ones are lighter and less robust and reliable than mil issue mags) mags available for them are steel, the M14/M1A, and the AKMS. While you are not going to find a polymer mag that is more durable, and generally repairable, than steel, the trade off between steel and polymer is significant, and if possible, you should look at getting some of the polymers for those weapons systems if you are trying to increase your round count that is carried, or reduce your overall weight.


AKM mags, polymer Magpul 30 rounders on left and steel mil issue 30 rounders on the right.

The way I conducted the weigh-in was as follows. I assembled 8 steel twenty round mil issue M14 mags, 8 polymer Thermold twenty round M14 mags for the M1A weigh-in. For the AKMS, I collected 6 steel mil issue AK mags, and 6 Magpul polymer AK mags. Why 8 M14 mags but only 6 AK mags? The mags were measure in bulk (by there “Basic load” total weight) to get an overall weight of the group of mags being weighed. I consider 8 twenty round mags ( 160 rounds) for the M14 to be my minimum basic load that is carried, and for an AK I consider 6 thirty round mags ( 180 rounds) as the minimum basic load I would carry (not counting the mag in either weapon). I consider 180 rounds as the minimum I would carry for a battle rifle, and 210 rounds as the minimum I’d carry in an assault rifle.

The totals are as follows:

Steel mags:

  • M14/M1A: 8 steel CMI (check Mate industries) twenty round mags weigh 12 pounds
  • AK: 6 steel thirty round mags weigh 10 pounds

Polymer mags

  • M14/M1A: 8 polymer Thermold 20 round mags weigh 9 pounds
  • AK: 6 polymer Magpul thirty round mags weigh 8 pounds


So how does this round out in the “Footpounds” department? Well, for something like the M1A, it means if you go with polymer, you can carry two extra 20 round mags (since the steel mags weigh 1.5 pounds, and the total polymer weight of the basic load is 3 pounds lighter), or 80 extra loose 7.62 Nato rounds. For the AKM rifle, you can carry one extra 30 round mag (since the steel mag “Basic load” total was two pounds heavier, and the polymer mags weigh 1 1/3lbs.) or 80 extra loose 7.62x39S rounds.

If you do as some suggest, and carry 4-8 extra loaded mags in your ruck, your weight savings, or extra rounds/mags count really starts to go up. Just for the M1A alone, if you carry 16  mags, now, with polymer, you can carry 160 rounds of loose extra ammo or four extra loaded 20 round mags for the same given weight that you would have with 16 steel mags, and all you are doing is making a mag material construction change.

I have heard some talk about the Thermold mags being junk, so here’s MY experience (YMMV). I have been using Thermold M14/M1A mags ( I purchased 3 at that time) since 1993, and I have never had an issue with them. I recently purchased a number of them for the M1A, and the results have been similar. I have never used Thermolds in an AR, so I can’t speak to their reliability or durability, but honestly, when it comes to AR mags, why wouldn’t you go with Magpul? They are cheap and readily available, and have all kinds of glowing recommendations by their users, of which I am one. The Magpul AK mags I purchased for my AKMS have worked flawlessly, which is something, as I said earlier that I can’t say about the Tapco polymer mags. This obviously isn’t the “Be all, End all” of the issue, but I hope my $.02 has helped you out.



American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE


15 thoughts on “Rifle Mags Measured In “Footpounds”

  1. All my mags are metal. Don’t sneer at anyone who uses plastic mags, just don’t care for them myself.

    Spare ammo… Carried mags for basic load (M14/M21 was 140 rounds — 7 mags); extra ammo in bandoleers in 5 round stripper clips. Charger on “Inspector Gadget” necklace.


  2. JC,
    I always appreciate your blogs. This one set me off a bit, not at you but at others who complain of weight. My father was a corpsman in the Pacific, and when he heard that one of the justifications for going to the M-16, 5.56 was that it would reduce weight and they could carry more ammo, he flipped out. His statement was that BAR gunners carried chest rigs which with 6 pockets of 2 would carry 12 steel magazines of 20 rounds of 30-06 and the support to that gunner likewise carried the same chest rig with 12 mags plus their own weapons and ammo. Fast forward to my time in Afghanistan as a DOD contractor under NTM-A performing police and security work. We always carried what we were issued or given. In the beginning we carried US GI aluminum mags. However we always kept two sets, one for quarterly quals which ended up being dropped a lot at the range the others we carried for duty. Then the PX started carrying Magpul mags. Well the pouches were intended to carry aluminum mags and would not carry two Magpul. So we carried Magpul in the front and the GI mags in the back. It also gave you “a feel” when you were down to half your ammo.
    The feed lips on the GI mags would bend when dropped on a hard surface and might not feed. We had Magpul driven over by our 1 ton up armored Ford 4×4 to level 7 and still function. Not so with the alum mags. Some of us carried 8 mags on our body and some carried 10 mags. I carried 8 mags because I carried my M-9 in a Blackhawk chest holster, two spare M-9 mags first aid kit and two knives on my vest which was standard interceptor vest with ceramic plates, but when ever I had to convoy or fly out of base I carried a ruck with 12 additional loaded mags for a total of 20 loaded mags. Ruck also carried two liters of water, one MRE, two pair of spare socks and two pair of underpants and toilet paper plus a couple other essentials. Realize as security we were reactive only (defensive) and were never authorized for offensive unless it was while we were acting as a QRF in which case we always packed M249 with short barrel (easier to exit up armored vehicle) and a M240B plus are regular weapons, M4 and M9. But that is another story.
    Bottom line, everyone who cries about weight needs to do more work outs. Legs, shoulders, chest, back, the core (stomach). If you can’t run, walk long distance. ETC.
    Last but not least, I was the oldest (with my company, the largest of it’s kind in Afghanistan) to complete advanced convoy operations and they told me also the most beat up. But I passed. I was there from Dec 2010 to Dec 2012 and I was 60 to 62 years of age during that time frame. I can send pictures if you don’t believe me. Oh yeah I still work out and now that I am home I carry a BAR magazine pouch with 12 M-14 GI or Springfield 20 round steel mags (M-14) or Magpul AR mags for my LWRC REPR 7.62×51. I still have and pack an interceptor vest and I still have a couple rucks ready to go with more steel mags for the M-14 or Magpul for the AR platform.
    If an old man can work out and gut up, I don’t understand the problem. I seriously do not understand. Keep up the good work and watch your back trail. Cheers, LP

    • I completely agree Brother, but options and having informed gear selection is why I do this. No one will ever accuse me of going light, but I do like the extra ammo for the same weight options. Polyner nags offer.

  3. Pingback: Two From MDT | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. Promag and Tapco. The people that make them should be slapped, hard. I have regretted ever buying either of them. They don’t work, or they don’t work consistently. Never any problems with Thermold or Magpuls. Still have and use the first ones I bought. Haven’t bought a Promag, or a Tapco in quite a while, but the last ones I had, I didn’t try to re-sell, I executed them with a 30.06 at the range. Junk. Crap. People that make shit like that assholes.

    • The only reason I even have a Tapco mag is due to that being the one that came with my AKMS. I never know if it will work or not, so it is my “malfunction drill” mag. I know I can rely on it to give me plenty of drill practice, LOL.

    • I concur. I do not own either Thermolds’, Tapcos’, or Promags’. In my younger days I tried them. Most did not work. I simply pitched them. Magpul is the only company which produces aftermarket mags which I have found to work first time every time and withstand a bushel of punishment. Only problem overseas was that issued pouches would not hold two Magpul but would hold one GI and one Magpul. Sooo for me it is original factory mags, GI issue steel mags (M14, FN, H&K etc.) or Magpul. Stay alive when the time comes and stay with original or Magpul. If you are worried about the 3 to 5 extra pounds … more workouts, more walks with full ruck, etc. is required of you. I only had to weigh in a couple times with my kit, ruck, vest, weapons etc. as I was traveling via charter. See my earlier response to this article. I weighed an extra average of 50 to 55 lbs. I was DOD security contractor and I was between 60 and 62 years of age while in Afghanistan. More workouts and use what works without concern of price or weight. Did I mention working out and staying fit?

  5. Both my father and I have M1A Scouts. We purchased over a period of time several Thermold and steel mags. My rifle will not function with the Thermolds and his will function with a select few. It tends to get down to the last three to five rounds and then the bolt will not feed the last ones in. So I have stuck with the steel mags because that is all my rifle will function with. He still uses the Thermolds that function and the rest have gone into a bag for bench shooting. So the moral of the story is test it before you carry it.

  6. Not directed at anyone, but 1 thing we all need to keep in mind;

    Not everyone CAN work up to the point of carrying an extra shitton of ammo. Some folks have lifetime injuries or are getting old beyond the point of significant improvement. Not using that as a personal excuse, as I do exercise regularly to maintain and improve myself, but the day is (too) fast approaching where I wont be worth a shit to anyone except as a driver (wife says that’s questionable now, but I’ve driven exactly this way since I was 15) or in a static position.

    You take the hand you are dealt, stfu, and do the best with what you have. That’s Life.

    • Understand full well. I still have a partially torn rotator cup. And a knee that some days gives me fits from a bad PLF. Primary item that I try to explain to lads within our group of merry men, we need good solid support elements. For every person with a rifle, there will be a need from 8 to 12 supporting them. Logistics, which most think of as purchasing off the internet. Once things go to crap, food growers, bio-diesel producers, cattlemen, medical, communications and electrical repair will all be part of logistics. Communications requires active listening to assist the Intel folks. Plus ability to perform proper analysis, Operations is much more than shouldering a weapon with lots of ammo. That is necessary however … and for those who have not been there it is not TV. Safe houses and farms and shops is more important then folks understand. Home will be a distant memory though you may only be 50 miles away. Where does a support unit produce those things used up in the field, uh a shop. Food from farms and not from Safeway. Transportation of field folk from point A to point B without getting picked up. Moving weapons, medical services and what have you. Public affairs, where is the counter-intelligence put together? A good support person is worth their weight in gold. Problem with some hell for leather young people they want notoriety. There is no room for them as a support person. But older folks or those disabled who can keep their mouths shut and appear as part of the system (cover for status, cover for action) that can provide any of the many services needed will be the real unknown hero’s. Their weapon will be something for close range with extensive fire power leaning against their desk, on top of the shop table or next to the milking machine or strapped over their shoulder in the garden.
      If there are 12 rifleman (read families) Squad size in the field who have to be moved, housed, fed and showered, medical treatment after action, equipment replaced or acquired, placed on target and then extracted, Intelligence, comms, planning (A, B and C) … sooo how many people will it require to perform all of these very necessary services and materials? hmmm?
      Pick a slot/skill you are good at and leave the high speed shit to the youngsters and those who are capable of going out with hardened hearts.
      But be ready at your safe house in case you screw up or some one rats you out. Bottom line is that your skills are necessary, but may not be where your heart is.
      Cheers, LP

  7. I have never had issues with Magpul,work great every time so far thru some years.

    I agree totally with patrols comments regarding support,mentioned in challenging times wether man made or natural everyone can help a few weeks back here,everyone learning a few new skills ect. also always a good thing as time permits.

  8. My basic load to contact (expected) is 160rounds of 3006 in pouches + 2 bandoleers that give me 256 rounds @ 17.36 pounds. The M1956 web pouch will hold nine M1 clips to a side + one in my rifle and one in my hand/pocket.= 160 rounds. Despite what the internet gets wrong. The “56” webgear was not developed for the M14. It was developed for the M1 rifle, which remained in service with the bulk (+80%) of the “regular” US armed forces until replaced by the M16. The four division sized units that did draw full issues of M14’s began drawing M16 rifles less than 4 years later. One unit, the 1/22 ID had the M14 in its arms rooms for less than 2 years! (they drew M14’s in august 1964 then turned them in, and drew M16’s in may 1966 30 days before shipping for Vietnam) WW2 small arms remained in service with most of the “regulars” until 1966, and with the guard and reserves until 1970. M14’s were issued in the smallest numbers, and had the shortest “general issue” service life, of any American made service rifle in our history. It also saw the smallest numbers made, and more perplexingly the smallest number of manufactured weapons actually issued, as 40% of the output never left the depots or were sold without ever entering US service.

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