I have a long time love-hate relationship with plastic AR15 magazines. Back in the early ’90s I jumped onto the bandwagon and picked up some Israeli Orlite and Master Molder Thermold 30-round magazines.
I don’t even want to talk about the Orlites other than to say I still have one just to show students. The Thermolds that I had worked well until one day at training when a half-full magazine hit the concrete. The base plate came off, the spring and follower launched, and the rounds rolled out of the magazine body onto the ground. Since then I have seen that happen to other shooters under similar circumstances using the old Thermolds. When the original Magpuls first came out I got a bunch of them and put them on my magazines. I installed the Magpul long ways; that is where the pull tab runs from front to rear of the magazine. In this configuration the base plate cannot come off of the magazine.
I set up all of the Thermolds that I used this way and it solved the issue. To this day, regardless of who made it or what design the magazine is, I install a Magpul this way to eliminate any concern.
Polymer magazines are now the norm on modern patrol rifles. The SIG 550 series, H&K G36, Steyr AUG and others use polymer magazines. Modern improvements over the last 20 years have led to some great polymer magazine designs for the AR15. One example is the Lancer Systems L5 and L5A, but even this design has been eclipsed.
I have been using original Lancer L5 magazines since they came out in 2009 and found them to be reliable and well made. In 2010, Lancer came out with the L5A version to address some issues with the original design by reducing the size of the side ribs, which caused issues for some users. The changes between the L5A and the AWM are much more than a simple change to the side ribs; Lancer made some significant changes in this new version.
After receiving a Lancer Advanced Warfighter Magazine (AWM) sample to test, I compared the new AWM to the first L5 that I had purchased back in 2009 and noted several design changes. I noticed the original L5 had a rubber bumper base plate, but this feature has been omitted on the AWM. The design of the base plate, including how the plate is held in place on the magazine, was changed significantly. This change makes disassembly much easier and in line with other designs. As an LE Armorer it is much easier on my officers and me if their handgun and rifle magazines disassemble the same way; the AWM accomplished this.
The old base plate had a series of small holes and rectangles in it that could fill with dirt when used outside. The AWM omitted these holes and that issue was resolved. The one piece wrap-around steel feed lip unit is significantly larger and more robust on the AWM versus the L5. It wraps around the rear of the magazine and extends to the front. The steal is now on the outside of the top of the magazine versus being mostly inside the polymer body, and is hardened and coated in PTFE for corrosion resistance. The top rib has been lowered and does not protrude as far, but is thicker and smoother. The rest of the reinforcing ribs follow the same pattern.
The follower has been completely redesigned but does not include the long front or center post found on other anti-tilt followers. The AWM has several new features, such as texturing to the front half of the sides of the magazine body and along the bottom of the magazine body to improve grip when drawing the magazine and reloading.
Lancer states that the AWM, unlike the L5 and L5A, is now impervious to DEET and features both a constant-curve magazine body and non-tilt follower for reliable feeding. Lancer describes the AWM as a hybrid magazine because of the combination of the steel feed lips and polymer body.
The AWM is designed to NATO 4179 STANAG magazine standards. Lancer states it will work in weapons such as the M4/M16/AR, HK416, SA80, SCAR-L and ARX160. I have used this magazine in six different AR15 lower receivers made by different manufacturers, as well as an FN FNC, and it fit and functioned flawlessly in all of them.