STANAG magazine

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Two STANAG-compliant magazines: A 20-round Colt-manufactured magazine, and a 30-round Heckler & Koch "High Reliability" magazine.

A STANAG magazine[1][2] or NATO magazine is a type of detachable firearm magazine proposed by NATO in October 1980.[3] Shortly after NATO's acceptance of the 5.56×45mm NATO rifle cartridge, Draft Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4179 was proposed in order to allow NATO members to easily share rifle ammunition and magazines down to the individual soldier level. The U.S. M16 rifle magazine was proposed for standardization. Many NATO members, but not all, subsequently developed or purchased rifles with the ability to accept this type of magazine. However the standard was never ratified and remains a "Draft".[4]


The STANAG magazine concept is only an interface, dimensional and controls (magazine latch, bolt stop, etc.) requirement.[2][5] Therefore, it not only allows one type of magazine to interface with various weapon systems,[2][5] but also allows STANAG magazines to be made in various configurations and capacities.[2][5] The standard capacity of a STANAG-compatible magazine is 30 rounds of 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition. There are also 20-, 40- and 50-round box magazines,[5] as well as 60- and 100-round casket magazines,[6][7] 90-round snail-drum magazines,[8] and 100-round saddle-drum magazines.[9] There has also been a 150-round saddle drum magazine produced.

Issues and improvements

Close-up of SA80 with plastic Magpul EMAG. Note: clear viewing window

The STANAG magazine, while relatively compact compared to other types of 5.56×45mm NATO box magazines, has often been criticized for a perceived lack of durability and a tendency to malfunction unless treated with a level of care that often cannot be afforded under combat conditions. Because STANAG 4179 is only a dimensional standard, production quality from manufacturer to manufacturer is not uniform. Magazines have been manufactured with lightweight aluminum or plastic bodies and other inexpensive materials in order to keep costs down, or to meet requirements that treat the magazine more as a disposable piece of equipment than one that is supposed to stand up to repeated combat use.

As a result, in March 2009, the U.S. military began to accept delivery of improved STANAG magazines.[10] To increase reliability, these magazines incorporate heavier, more corrosion resistant springs and new tan-colored anti-tilt followers.[11] In addition, many commercial magazine manufacturers now offer improved STANAG-compatible magazines. These magazines are made from high-grade stainless steel bodies, rust- and set-resistant chrome-silicon springs, and anti-tilt followers. There are also highly reliable polymer magazines, some with view windows, others are translucent.


Firearms compatible with STANAG magazines

AR-15/M16 type rifles

Non-AR-15/M16 type rifles

STANAG magazine convertible rifles

Magnolia States Armory offers an adapter that allows the use of STANAG magazines in 5.56mm Galil rifles as well as one that works in a variety of 5.56mm AK-47 type rifles such as the Saiga, WASR3 and Norinco rifles.

Additional information

The "RAM-LINE 30-round COMBO MAG" is a uniquely notable STANAG magazine. These commercial translucent plastic magazines can be used in both AR-15 type rifles and Ruger Mini-14 type rifles.[14][15]


  1. Rottman, Gordon L. (2011). The M16. Osprey. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-1849086905. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Dockery, Kevin (2007). Future Weapons. Penguin. pp. 125–126. ISBN 9780425217504. 
  3. Watters, Daniel (2000–2007). "The 5.56 X 45mm Timeline: A Chronology of Development". The Gun Zone. Archived from the original on March 16, 2015. 
  4. Arvidsson, Per G. (2008). "NATO Infantry Weapons Standardization" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 1, 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Rottman, Gordon L. (October 20, 2013). The Book of Gun Trivia: Essential Firepower Facts. Osprey. ISBN 9781782006206. 
  6. "Magpul Invents New Quad-Stack Magazine for ARs". Accurate Shooter. June 9, 2010. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. 
  7. Crane, David (December 3, 2010). "DR Exclusive!: SureFire MAG5-60 and MAG5-100 High Capacity Magazine (HCM) "Quad-Stack" AR Rifle Magazines: 60-Round/Shot and 100-Round/Shot AR (AR-15/M16) 5.56mm NATO Box Magazines for Significantly-Increased Firepower during Infantry Combat and Tactical Engagements of All Sorts". Defense Review. Archived from the original on March 21, 2015. 
  8. Crane, David (June 21, 2009). "MWG 90-Rounder Snail Drum Magazine: 90 Rounds of Immediate 5.56mm Firepower for Your M4/M4A1 Carbine (or AR-15 Carbine)". Defense Review. Archived from the original on March 27, 2015. 
  9. The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15. Patrick Sweeney. Gun Digest Books, September 9, 2005. page 106
  10. Brownells shipping M16 magazines with anti-tilt follower to military - The Firearm Blog, June 13, 2009
  11. New US Army M16 “Tan” Magazine - The Firearm Blog, December 16, 2009
  12. "SAR 21 Product Brochure" (PDF). ST Engineering. Retrieved September 11, 2007. 
  13. "Steyr AUG NATO Conversion kit - AUG Accessories - Accessories". Retrieved November 15, 2014. 
  14. SWAT magazine, March 2002, article titled: “Ruger Mini-14 vs. the AR-15" page 42-45 "Incidentally, Ramline magazines work in both Mini-14’s and AR-type guns with no modifications necessary—a bonus for those who own both type of rifles."
  15. For images of "RAM-LINE 30-round COMBO MAG fits Colt AR-15 and Ruger Mini 14" and packaging