AK Mags…and Assorted Tomfoolery.

A recent conversation on a certain brand of US manufactured AK pattern magazines on one of the P&S facebook groups prompted me to pen this article. So…here she be. Due to length considerations I can’t get into serious detail on a few items I would like to touch on.

Urban legends abound. Like in all things consider the source. If you make purchasing decisions based on whether or not you can do pushups on your rifle then you can stop reading right now. Magazines serve to present ammunition to the bolt in order to complete the feeding step in the cycle of operations. MAGAZINES ARE EXPENDABLE ITEMS, so are the guns they feed. Full stop.

There are millions of out of spec magazines in the world that can be used as a shakeweight and won’t feed worth a fuck in your gun.

I am aware of three countries that had Armorers manuals and depot level overhaul information published and only two of them have been translated to English (Russia and East Germany). East Germany manufactured an excellent armorer’s kit with several tools for gauging and repairing various doohickeys on their versions of the AKM/RPK/and AK74 TO INCLUDE THE REPAIR OF STAMPED STEEL MAGAZINES. I want one BADLY.

There are several parts of the Kalashnikov that need to be manufactured and assembled correctly and then gauged periodically in order for the weapon to function for any length of time. Several of them concern magazine fitment and function.

If interested in that type of thing google it for the next couple of years on Afghani internet while trying to unfuck connex boxes of AKM’s and magazines in your off time and you can probably piece together some valuable and lots of not so valuable information. The guns and magazines need to be built correctly in order to function for very long. Lots of them are not.

In my experience AK magazines which cause the most problems are the ones that most people think are good to go. The stamped steel surplus “Milspec” AK magazine.

Pros: Widely available, cheap

Cons: Built to what spec? Huge variations in front and rear magazine latch geometry in combination with shitty or worn out guns causes obvious issues. Probably issued or bought with 45 year old magazine springs that need to be replaced. Easily dented magazine bodies and followers which allow the follower and round stacks to stick and make gun no workie. Heavier than other options. Can run fine one day and then take a hit that will render the magazine inoperable without any outwardly obvious signs the magazine needs to be replaced (getting dented from a team mate throwing a 5 ton floor jack on top of your go-bag….etc).


I have seen the most consistent locking lug and feed lip geometry (which translates to working correctly in the widest range of guns) in stamped magazines from Poland/East Germany/and Hungary.

Polymer/bakelight/plastic? Magazines

Pros: Harder to damage enough to get the magazine to stop functioning. Lighter weight (spend several years wearing armor and kit jammed with AK mags both OCONUS and stateside and this becomes important). When damaged will frequently continue to function good enough for government work. When damaged to the point they will not function correctly they are easily identified (Cracks in the bodies/feed lips/latches etc).

One thing you can fairly easily gauge yourself with a minimum of tooling is the distance between feed lips. I have found most 7.62 guns will function (at least for a while) with magazines slightly above and below this spec if the host gun is good to go. The MAX spec is the more critical of the two. FYI lots of steel magazines will exhibit a slight taper as they are not manufactured with much care.

East German GO/NO GO spec for feed lips (measured between feed lips)

MIN: 12.5mm or 0.492in for countries that have landed on the moon.

MAX: 12.8mm or 0.503in

I grabbed 7 mags out of my training pile today and a set of calipers and grabbed some measurements. The results were interesting to say the least. They all run in my gun. They might not in yours.

From left to right



Early PMAG® 30 AK/AKM MOE®x2

Milspec stamped steel magazine x3

Bulgarian Circle 10 Polymer milspec magazine x1

Early US PALM AK30 magazine x1

I took measurements both loaded and unloaded to determine degree of feed lip swell while loaded. The results follow.


Both magazines measured 0.47in unloaded and 0.48in loaded

Feed lip swell of 0.01in total

Milspec mags

Mag 1 unloaded: 0.48in /Mag 1 LOADED: 0.52in/

Mag 2 unloaded: 0.49in /Mag 2 LOADED: 0.54in/

Mag 3 unloaded: 0.49in /Mag 3 LOADED: 0.53in/

Feed lip swell

Mag 1: 0.04in

Mag 2: 0.05in

Mag 3: 0.04in

Bulgarian Circle 10 polymer milspec magazine

Unloaded: 0.51in

Loaded: 0.54

Feed lip swell of 0.03in

US PALM AK 30 magazine

Unloaded: 0.48in

Loaded: 0.51in

Feed lip swell of 0.03in

So…in short the only magazines that DID NOT gauge oversize were the MAGPUL PMAG® 30 AK/AKM MOE® magazines. Well done MAGPUL.

These dimensions along with others involving magazine catch geometry, selector stop plate and receiver thickness/trunnion to magazine well length/and more will play a part in whether or not your gun will run correctly and for how long it will do so. Just some things to consider.





Buck Thomas
Contributor at Primary & Secondary
Former Infantry jarhead (0311) and Scout Swimmer in an Amphibious Raid unit.
Spent 11 years deployed as an OCONUS security contractor working PSD/Static/and training and mentoring of host country national security forces contracts.
2.5 years at a conus training center as the lead firearms instructor/Armorer/and Rangemaster. Also taught Mindset/SUT/PSD formations/immediate action drills/Security and precision driving/etc.
Has trained with LAV/Pat Rogers/PFT/McMillan sniper school/Cheytac/Gunsite/Frontsite/and others in the civilian sector.
Is currently writing a book and considering his options for employment which boil down to rolling back OCONUS or a possible career change to a practitioner of the custodial arts in Montana.


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