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Review: US PALM AK30 Magazine

The AK-47 has long lived in the shadow of the AR-15 in the minds of most American shooters. Much of what we think of the AK is clouded with myth, misinformation, and exaggeration. That is all beginning to change. There are a number of high quality AKs available on the market right now that are really beginning to challenge what people think they know about the rifle, and there are a number of American manufacturers who have stepped in to fill the void of American made accessories for this foreign rifle. One such manufacturer is US PALM and they have released no more controversial product than their AK30 Magazine for the AK-47.

I have tried to keep track of all of the conflicting reports on the AK30 since its introduction because I have been very supportive of US PALM’s efforts as an American company that is innovating the AK. Some very serious users have reported good things about the magazine. Some have reported short comings. We have really arrived at the point where it is difficult to sort out the real story so when US PALM offered me a chance to check out the latest version of the AK30, I jumped at it.

This review will cover my initial impressions of the magazines. I have 390 rounds through 3 different magazines at this point (210 through one, 90 through one, and 90 through the last) which is admittedly not enough to get the full picture. I have also put them through countless dry fire cycles. My plan is to share some initial thoughts on these magazines and share what I have learned so far. Then, I hope to be able to share updates as the round counts grow.

Price and Short Sightedness

There is one thing that I would like to address right up front. As a policy, I generally do not talk about what an item costs on Jerking the Trigger. I prefer to let you, the reader, decide what something is worth instead of telling you what I think is expensive or inexpensive. In the case of these magazines, I feel the need to address cost because so many people dismiss the AK30 magazines without trying them due to their cost of around $30 a piece (though they are often on sale at various places for less).

The main argument is that 2-3 steel magazines can be purchased for the cost of 1 AK30. I think that this is extremely short sighted and AK users should know better. How many times have AK users had to buy all of a certain kind of magazine, ammo, or small part before importation ceased or the surplus ran dry. It happens all the time. US PALM AK30 Magazines are made here in the US. When they run out, they make more.

When you buy a surplus AK mag and you take it home only to find that a magazine spring is rusted to the point that is breaks when you load the magazine (yes, it has happened to me), you are stuck. If you are lucky, the place that you bought it from will replace it. The same thing is true when you get a magazine that has been subtly misshapen enough that the follower binds (yes, it has happened to me). The same thing is true when you get a magazine that just doesn’t work (yes, it has happened to me). If that happens with an AK30, US PALM falls all over themselves to make it right.

That is the advantage of dealing with a US company. It costs more, but in some senses it is an investment in the future of the product that you are buying. That may not be enough for some users, but that is not the only thing that the AK30 Magazines have going for them.

Honestly, I think much of the hubris around these magazines stems from people who are slow to accept plastics as a replacement for metal. The reality is that plastics are not just a cheap replacement for metal but are actually better for some applications. Plastic doesn’t dent and deform like metal, it doesn’t rust, it can be colored, and it weighs less. Plastic is here to stay and I, for one, am glad.

Weight

Holding an AK30 magazine for the first time is kind of surprising. They look like they would be heavy but they are surprisingly light weight. I think that may be one of the better compliments that you can pay this magazine. It is obvious that work went into making this magazine durable, but at the same time, weight is kept to a minimum.

I weighed 4 additional types of magazines that I own in order to compare the weight of the AK30. The heaviest was a Chinese all steel magazine at 11.35 ounces, followed by an all steel Hungarian 20 round magazine at 10.05 ounces, a Bulgarian Circle 10 at 8.70, and then the AK30 at 7.50 ounce. The only magazine I have that is lighter than the AK30 is the plastic Polish Radom magazines at 7.05 ounces. There is a 3.85 ounce difference between the AK30 and a comparable steel magazine. That really adds up if you are carrying 4 or 5 magazines! I should also point out that these Chinese magazines are a bit lighter than most Eastern European steel magazines because they lack the large spine on the backstrap of the magazine.

Shape

I am really impressed with the handling characteristics of the AK30. It is obvious that a lot off care went into making the AK30 easy to manipulate. The sides of the magazine are covered with a deep grid pattern like a waffle. The front and back straps of the magazine are covered with large parallel ridges. This makes the AK30 very easy to hold and manipulate, even with winter gloves on.

The magazines also have  a very flat, broad bottom that makes them a very stable shooting aid when used as a mono-pod. The AK30 lacks a traditional floor plate (more on this later) so there is no fear of forcing debris into the magazine or damaging the floor plate when using the magazine mono-pod technique.

I am also extremely impressed with how these magazines fit the magazine wells of my 2 AKs. The can be be inserted and removed smoothly and they exhibit very little wobble. US PALM has sized these magazines very well and the result is that they fit properly sized magazine wells very positively. Some users may find that the fit is tight with certain AKs, especially those that are imported in single stack configuration and opened up once they are in country (like WASRs). That is due to out of spec magazine wells, not the fault of the AK30.

These magazines were designed not only to feed cartridges into the chamber but also to be handled in a quick, positive fashion by their user. I really like that type of attention to detail.

Baseplate and Follower

The AK30’s baseplate gets a lot of negative attention. It can not be removed by the user since it is glued on during manufacturing. This means that there is no way to remove the magazine spring and follower for service or cleaning, which has rubbed some AK users the wrong way.

Most shooters will never wear out a magazine spring so there is little need to replace one. Even if there was, the market is not exactly flooded with replacement springs. Premium quality, modern stainless steel springs like those found in the AK30 don’t take a set and are good for 100,000+ compression cycles. Think about that for a minute. That is 100,000+ loading and unloading cycles. You will probably wear out the magazine body before you ruin the spring.

Cleaning is also pretty much a non-issue. If you drop a steel surplus magazine in the mud you have to open it up to remove the spring and follower, clean out the gunk, oil the spring and inside of the metal magazine body to prevent rust, and then reassemble. US PALM designed the AK30 magazine to need less maintenance. It is made from plastic and stainless steel so rust is less of an issue. If debris does get into the magazine, the AK30 can simply be submerged in water and shaken clean. The follower has several holes in it to allow this method of cleaning. I had occasion to test this since the magazines have been dumped on wet ground during reloads. It works fine and the magazine continued to function.

Some of the earlier generations of the AK30 had some very public struggles with keeping their baseplates intact. It seems that some AK30 Magazines made it out of the factory without sufficient glue to hold the baseplate during rough use. US PALM has responded the way that all great companies do, they redesigned the magazine to prevent that from happening. Now all AK30 Magazines have locking tabs that retain the baseplate even if the glue gives out. However, this shouldn’t happen since the glue that is used essentially bonds the two plastic pieces (mag body and baseplate) into one piece together much like PVC primer and cement.

Metal Reinforcement

Metal reinforcement or the lack there of is another point of contention for many users and it is probably the most valid. There are three key areas that other successful plastic magazines have metal reinforcement: the front lip, the back locking tab, and the feedlips. The AK30 has metal reinforcement on the front lip and the back locking tab but it lacks any metal in the feedlips. US PALM has chosen to make the feedlips very thick and they have made them thicker since the initial introduction of the AK30. These thicker feedlips have greatly reduced the reports of broken AK30 feedlips.

I have been using the AK30 magazine for some time now and I have a friend who uses them extensively. We do not take it easy on these magazines and they have not let us down yet. I have experienced no breakage of any kind. One of the biggest tests for any AK magazine are certain types of speed reloads that the shooter executes by sweeping the empty magazine out of the magazine well using the fresh magazine. This tends to send the spent magazine flipping end over end where it can land on the feedlips or any other part of the magazine. I have done this on concrete, grass, dirt, and gravel with no ill effects.

In Use

There were no surprises. So far, all I can say is that these magazines work. I have 390 rounds through them, 210 of which are through the same magazine, without  hiccup.

I have purposely been running most of the rounds through one magazine so that I can see the effects of a higher round count. I plan to continue this treatment of that particular magazine and to continue using the 3 provided AK30 magazines exclusively when I shoot my AKs so that I can report back on their longer term durability.

The only real issue that I found in use that their thickness can cause issues with some pouches. They fit in all the single magazine pouches that I own but they were a tight fit in some double AK magazine pouches.

Overall Impressions

I am really impressed with these magazines so far. They work as advertised and they have handled everything that I have thrown at them so far. They have been dropped on a variety of surfaces with no breakage. They have been used while wet and dirty without issue. I greatly prefer the way that they handle versus a typical steel magazine. They are grippy and easy to manipulate without the sharp edges of a typical steel magazine. I have also been impressed with US PALM as a company. They have taken steps to address many of the perceived short comings with the AK30 and they have taken excellent care of their customers. Time will tell the whole story, but right now, I really like what I see.

Check out the AK30 Magazines on the US PALM website and stay tuned for full reviews of the US PALM AK Battle Grip and AK30 Rebuild Kits.

Disclosure: These magazines were provided to me for review, free of charge, by US PALM.

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5 Responses to Review: US PALM AK30 Magazine

  1. C.Z. December 6, 2011 at 13:35 #

    It seems like the complaints about non-US made mags (rusted springs, mishappen bodies) are easily avoided by simply inspecting the magazine before you purchase it. I buy my AK mags at gun shows and gun shops, rather than off the internet. The pricing is usually very close to being the same, and I can visually inspect the magazine and check for damages and neglect. The notion that because the Palm mag is US made it assures a continued supply is a bit of a red herring. Palm is a single manufacturer making a commercial product for a commercial market in quantities that are orders of magnitude less than what the dozens (hundreds?) of military manufacturers across the planet manufacture. If a person is truly concerned that they are going to have trouble buying foreign mags in the future, the simple solution is to buy them now, since one Palm mag is MSRP’ing at what 2-3 foreign mags are going for. Go to a gun show or gun shop, bring your AK with you, and a stack of ten dollar bills….check each mag for fit, inspect it closely, and acquire a great supply. Then when they *do* ban the importation of the foreign mags you’ll have at least twice as many as if you had stocked up on the Palm mags AND you can then still buy the Palm mags (since their being available after an import ban is what the selling point given in the article was.) Here’s an alternative scenario: we go back to the 10-round mag ban…now you’ve got ‘x’ amount of Palm 30-rd. mags or twice (or thrice) that amount in foreign mags.

    • Matt December 6, 2011 at 15:41 #

      CZ, thanks for commenting and you definitely have some valid points. Just to be clear, I am not talking just about magazine bans. I am talking about instances where someone’s pet mag might become scarce or even impossible to get due to lack of supply which happens all the time. There are fixed amounts of certain types of surplus magazines. Once they are sold, it may be quite a while before you can get any more – if you can get any more.

      Checking magazines at the gun shop or show can help prevent rusted springs and dented mag bodies but it can’t weed out 100% of non-functional mags.

      I stand by what I said. There is a benefit to buying from US PALM versus the surplus mag flavor of the week. It isn’t the only reason to buy US PALM mags but it is a reason.

  2. AK Matt December 11, 2011 at 07:57 #

    Linked over at my place

    • Matt December 11, 2011 at 23:32 #

      Thanks Matt!

  3. Timb December 11, 2011 at 23:25 #

    Great review. So far my Ak30 have handeled everything this civi can throw at it. I think most of the stink about them is who was/is supporting them from the beginning. Pretty silly I think.

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