The wizards at Magpul have done it again. As if their game-changing polymer 30-round PMAG wasn’t enough, they upped the ante with a 60-round drum magazine. And sometimes the obvious benefits of something are not, well, obvious. Such is the case with the Magpul D-60.
The D-60 drum mag was announced at the February 2015 SHOT Show, but didn’t appear regularly on dealer shelves until after Thanksgiving, or even January 2016. But the wait was worth it. For those who see the wisdom in a drum mag, the PMAG D-60 answers the call for a higher high capacity mag without the absurd length created when just doubling or tripling the size of a 30 round box mag.
Plead Your Case
The D-60 is not without some challenges, but first one must understand the point of a drum mag, especially when the wildly popular, reliable, and inexpensive 30 round PMAGs are common. So why a 60 round drum instead of two 30 round magazines? Here are some reasons, but I bet you can think of more. Just keep in mind that there are many who can find problems. That’s the easy part. The smart folks like those at Magpul find solutions.
Under “survival conditions”…
- If you leave your gear behind, the more onboard ammo, the better.
- You might be handing the gun off to someone else so slamming home 60 rounds is easier than explaining the nuances of changing mags.
- In the unlikely event that your bug out runs into unexpected turbulence, you may only have one hand free at a time, and single-handed mag swaps are a pain.
- The sheer firepower of sixty bangs downrange is literally twice that of a conventional mag. Double your firepower, double your fun.
- There is just something innately practical about a rifle with a 60 round mag. No baggage, mag pouches, or clumsily reloads necessary.
- Ammo can be stored long term in the D-60 drums so you will be one more step toward preparedness compared to your ammo mule loaded with bulk rounds.
However, and there always seems to be a however, some challenges to the D-60 need to be addressed, or at the least owned.
- Compared to a 30 round PMAG, the D-60 is expensive. Retailing for $130 and with street prices not much less than that, a fair comparison might be that the 30 round PMAG costs about sixty cents per round held. On the other hand, the D-60 is about $2.15 per round.
- Compared to a 30 round PMAG, the D-60 weighs four times as much, but holds only twice as many rounds. Or a sixth of an ounce per bang with the PMAG-30, and a third of an ounce per bang with the D-60. So essentially the D-60 weighs about twice as much per round.
- Loading the D-60 takes time and effort. Unloading the D-60 takes time and effort.
- The D-60 is four times thicker than a standard PMAG although it is a hair shorter than a 30 round PMAG.
- While the design is fairly basic for a drum mag, the D-60 is vastly more complex than a standard box-shaped PMAG.
The reason we are hesitant or even skeptical about a 60-round AR15 drum magazine, or any 60-rounder or more for that matter, is that the choices have been scarce, and the reliability highly questionable at best. With Magpul onboard reliability becomes a non-issue and quality control is never a problem.
Building out one’s survival kit requires forward thinking. It must have occurred to Magpul that the price and weight of a 60 round drum compared to a pair of 30 round PMAGs would be a deal-killer for many. And while I understand this logic, and in fact practiced it up to this point, I am now a believer that the drum mag has it’s place in the survival kit. Even more than just a place, the D-60 has distinct advantages that should be taken seriously.
With the D-60’s overall length the same as a standard 30 round PMAG, it’s possible to nestle in with bipod and shooting mat getting twice the shots without adjusting position. The D-60 does not even touch the ground when the rifle is sitting on nothing but bipod feet and buttstock.
But that pesky price tag was still hard to swallow. In fact, on a good day a pair of 30-round PMAGs could cost $100 less than a D-60. Oh, and there is the pain in the butt loading of the D-60. In fact, it was that loading round after round that got me thinking about the survival aspects of the D-60. For years, my bedroom nightstand safe held a Glock 17 with laser/light and extra 33 round mag. So why wouldn’t I want 60 rounds? In what universe would 17 rounds, or 30 with the AR not be enough, yet you would only want 17 or 30 more when you could have 33 or 60?
High Speed Low Drag
The original M16 had a 20 round magazine. Most 1911 handguns contain seven or eight rounds in a flush-mount magazine. Then 30 rounds became the M16/M4 norm, and Glocks with their 15 or 17 round mags became the new cool kids. Heck, the west was won with six in the cylinder and 15 in the tube (Henry Repeater in .44-40). Even the higher powered Winchester Model 1894 30-30 rifle packed six to eight rounds.
Other have attempt to capture the higher high cap mag needs of AR owners included the 100 round Beta double-drum mag, Surefire’s 100 round and 60 round box magazines, the X-Products 50 round drum, and even Magpul’s own 40 round PMAG. While the aforementioned higher high cap options might have succeeded in pushing the price north of three figures, the reliability of such mags has been a sore spot. The only exception is the 40 round Magpul PMAG, but at Hollywood proportions it is anything but low drag as it rivals the length of some SBR barrels. Literally, imagine your mag longer than your barrel. Maybe ok with your Glock 26, but not your rifle.
With five dozen rounds onboard the D-60 weighs half as much as an ultra-light AR. The three pounds of mag does affect the heft of the rifle but not much it’s swing. The dense ball of ammo sits close to the rifle’s center of mass so rotating the gun side to side, back and forth, and up and down is affected much less than a three-pound-15-inch metal banana poking out of the magwell.
Into the Wild
The Magpul PMAG D-60 is an exceptionally fine piece of hardware. Regardless of how you use it or what you use it for, the D-60 will perform flawlessly. And that fact alone cannot be said about any other AR15 mag over 40 rounds. Period.
Loading the D-60 is easy but a little on the slow side. There is a loading lever on the drum that relieves some spring tension. The lever rotates about 30 degrees counterclockwise allowing about three rounds to be dropped into the tower for the first couple dozen rounds. Then the loading lever must be released and re-ratcheted. The third and fourth dozen rounds loads as twos, then ones, and as you approach the end of the fifth dozen, you will need to ratchet a couple times per round. With an adapter, stripper clips can be used, but at the same three-round loading burst at best. I recommend wearing a work glove on your mag-side hand (the D-60s design favors right-hand loading) because your thumb becomes irritated with it’s low-level lever-shoving job.
When fully loaded the D-60 will easily snap home in an AR even with the bolt closed. Plus Magpul assures us that the D-60 will be just fine when stored long term with 60 rounds circling its mainspring. I’m testing that at the moment and will get back to you in a couple years.
The small porthole in the 12 o’clock position on the back shows when the sixtieth has been inserted. Indicators on the window denote approximately every 15 rounds from 10 to 60. Personally, I hope Magpul or someone else releases a aftermarket transparent backplate so the total round count is completely obvious at a glance because the difference between 60 rounds and 58 rounds is the same as one full trip around the spring. I just wish the window was larger, or more simply, there was another similar window at the 6 o’clock position to provide twice the critical information.
The D-60 is for .223/5.56 only. Reports of successful .300 Blackout usage do exist, but so do stories of D-60 failure and even violent breakage when loaded and fired with .30 caliber cartridges.
Like some TP with your Mag Dump?
To unload the D-60, Magpul recommends that you thumb-out each and every cartridge individually. Should you feel the urge to use the loading lever to release spring tension, well don’t! While a handful of brass will tumble out of the tower, the rest will jam up requiring a time-consuming and possibly dangerous (to you and your mag) operation to open the drum and release the rest of the ammo.
The D-60 should work fine on any rifle that uses standard NATO 5.56 box magazines including the M4, M16, SCAR, MK16/16S, HK416, MR556, M27 IAR, and the Tavor. However, whether or not the bolt holds open after the final round is dependent on the particular firearm. On all my AR15s the bolt was yawning widely following the 60th bang like a baby bird waiting for a worm. Of course your mileage may vary. And for those long guns with bullpup tendencies, some adjustment of grip on the gun will be necessary when the drum invades your armspace.
To keep the D-60 feeding smoothly, I suspected that the included lubricant wipe of CLP is a hint that this drum needs occasional maintenance. And indeed the fine print that comes with the D-60 suggests that the spiral feeding track be lightly lubed about every 1000 rounds. That’s just under 17 full mags. When unloaded, the D-60 disassembles safely and quietly since the spring is not under tension. So care and feeding the D-60 is painless, but does take a slotted screwdriver.
Magpul includes a soft plastic cover for the business end of the mag. It is only a dust cover and provides no stress relief for the feed lips. My assumption is that no relief is needed because the spring tension only amounts to the length of the tower and not the full 60 rounds as if it were a long banana mag instead of a drum. There is a small attachment point on the dust cover that Magpul included so the cap could be attached to your storage and deployment solution of choice. That way when you need to do a fast reload, you can grab the drum and yank it free from the cap in one smooth move.
Four small 3x5 blocks of dot matrix panels on the back side allow for mag identification using a paint pen or gold Sharpie. The tiny recessed surfaces will retain the ink providing an all-important asset management notation when needing to ID any particular mag from your pile of others.
Need vs. Want
One real world test I failed to employ is a total immersion in water. Easy to do, but at the moment I’ll trust that Magpul’s drainage ports will do the job even though they are not as obvious as on other mags.
And another real world test I would love to try but don’t have the heart to do it is drop a fully loaded (almost three pounds) mag from six feet onto cement. Although Magpul claims the D-60 is built with “next-generation impact and crush resistant polymer” my prediction is that the mag could blow apart spilling its guts rather violently. Or maybe more likely it would just crack open a little unlike Humpty Dumpty, but nothing beyond what can be snapped back together by hand. But as I’ve learned from past experience with Magpul polymer, I bet I would just need to apologize to the D-60 and give it a big hug. Good as new.
The 30 round PMAG offered us a durability and reliability we could only dream of before. And now the PMAG D-60 offers us the same desired features but at double the capacity. If you’re building a budget AR, then your list of upgrades might have a bit of a line ahead of the D-60. But if you drop a grand or more on your tricked out Katrina Rifle, then why would you get nervous about handing over a Benji for a high-capacity drum mag. Cheap magazines are an illusion. I cannot imagine quibbling over the price of gas while bugging out, so I won’t be complaining about the price of the D-60. But I will be bragging about how great it is.