Live in a restricted magazine capacity state (ban state) where you’re forced to choose between new low-capacity magazines and 30+ year old “pre-ban” mags for your 5.56/.223 AR platform rifle? Here are your options*. (For the purposes of this article, we’re assuming you live in a state or municipality which has a limit of 10 rounds. Even lower capacity (5 round) options may exist for the options mentioned below.)

10-Round Shorties
The first and most obvious option is to go with the short, 10-round mags. Examples like the Lancer L5AWM® 10 Round, Magpul’s PMAG® 10 AR/M4 GEN M3, and Duramag’s 10-Round Stainless Steel mag, are solid options.

Pros & Cons
Pros: they’re readily available and are identifiable as low-capacity magazines. Cons: they lack the classic profile of the “standard capacity” mags so are less desirable in terms of appearance, and they’re near Impossible to use in most magazine pouches for training purposes (too short to grab).

10/30 Neutered
These resemble the standard capacity mags we all love, but they’re modified (neutered) in some way to accept just 10 rounds (different manufactures use different techniques to achieve this). Examples include Magpul’s PMAG® 10/30 AR/M4 GEN M3, Lancer’s L5AWM® Limited – 10/30, and the HEXMAG AR-15/M4/M16 Magazine (Series 2 / 10 rds).

Pros & Cons
Pros: they look like the modern standard capacity magazines for this platform (the .223/.556 version anyway) and allow the user to get the look and feel of the standard capacity mags while still potentially being in compliance*. In turn, they work well in mag pouches for training. Cons: other than being neutered, they might attract unwanted attention as being incorrectly seen as “high capacity.”

“Pre-Ban” Mags
Whether commercially made or USGI surplus, these are usually what many AR operators in ban states turn to for that authentic appearance, feel, and most importantly: function—true standard capacity. When I say pre-ban, it’s because some restricted capacity states have grandfathered in the ownership of standard-capacity mags, as long as they were made (or in some cases possessed) before a certain date*. For the purposes of this article, pre-ban mags will be those produced prior to September 13, 1994 (the now defunct Federal Assault Weapons Ban’s cutoff date for a magazine to be considered compliant). Consult your state and municipal laws regarding magazine capacity restrictions to see what dates (if any) are used to consider a magazine pre-ban and whether these mags are transferable—I’m not a lawyer nor can I know all the ban state laws.

Commercially made pre-ban AR mags are typically less common; it’s the USGI Vietnam-era 20 rounders and the newer 30 rounders that replaced them that are likely to be encountered. I won’t go into how to identify a commercially made or USGI pre-ban magazine as there are sources all over the internet that go into this in detail. You’ll have to do your own research.

One thing is for certain, these magazines are decades old. At the very least the springs should be replaced and the followers as well. Watch for damage to the mag bodies especially dents and loose spot welds. Pay close attention to the feed lips where cracking, chipping, and spreading can be issues. Pre-ban magazines are expensive because they’re desirable and there’s a finite supply. Again, buyer beware—do your research.

Pros & Cons
Pros: true standard capacity, ability to run them in most mag pouches, and possible compliance with the law* (again, look into this yourself). Cons: pre-bans are like gold and are priced accordingly. As mentioned above, some of these mags can be old and tired—and others are beyond repair as they were never designed to last forever. On rare occasions “new old stock” examples can still be found, but at a hefty price.

* Always check your state/local laws to see how your magazine capacity restriction law is written to be sure magazines are in compliance with that law. This article should not be considered legal advice.