22 Dec 20
24 Sept 1914, during WWI, on the Four-de-Paris road, then Lieutenant Erwin Rommel gives this account:
“Once again we rushed the enemy in the bushes ahead of us. A little group of my former recruits came with me through the underbrush. Again the enemy fired madly. Finally, scarcely twenty paces ahead I saw five Frenchmen firing from the standing position. Instantly my rifle was at my shoulder. Two Frenchmen, standing one behind the other, dropped to the ground as my rifle cracked. I still faced three of them. Then, my rifle failed. I quickly opened the magazine and found it empty. The nearness of the enemy left no time for reloading, nor was any shelter at hand. There was no use thinking of escape. The bayonet was my only hope. I had been an enthusiastic bayonet fighter in time of peace and had acquired considerable proficiency. Even with the odds of three to one against me, I had complete confidence in my weapon and in my own ability.
I prevailed that day!”
Rifle magazines and issues:
The British Lee-Metford Mk1 (adopted by the British in 1888) featured an eight-round, single-column, removable box magazine.
The era of detachable, box magazines was thus ushered-in!
However, in the case of the Lee-Metford, the single magazine itself was actually chained to the rifle, so as not to get lost. Issuing multiple magazines with each rifle had yet to be imagined!
When multiple magazines were finally issued with each rifle, starting with the M1 Carbine in the 1940s, they were considered “semi-disposable,” at least in America. They were light and lean, particularly during the AR era. Magazines were fully expected to wear-out and thus have to be replaced several times during the service-life of the rifle to which they were assigned.
Not so with the Soviets! AK magazines were (and are) robust, and from the beginning, were designed to last for the entire service-life of the rifle itself. As a consequence, they are heavy and thick.
In the modern era, military rifle magazines are locked in place in one of two ways:
1) Nose-in, then rock-back
The former system is found on the M14 (M1A), Kalashnikov, and FAL
The latter on the M4, XCR, PTR and CETME, POF and most other modern Western military rifles.
In my opinion, the latter is the superior of the two systems, although both work satisfactorily in most cases.
There are two main reasons:
With the nose-in-rock-back system, frustrating delays in getting the magazine fully seated (and the rifle thus prepared to fire) are far more common than when the magazine is simply pushed straight in.
And with this system, since the top of the magazine is very close to the bottom of the receiver, airborne grit and dust have a convenient and loose-fitting entry point (crack) through the magazine well, even when a magazine is in the rifle and locked in place.
Conversely, with the “straight-in” system, a “funnel” is necessarily built-into (and part of) the lower receiver of the rifle, so that the magazine can be “drifted” (“guided” if you prefer) into place. The funnel usually protrudes several centimeters below, and is integral with, the receiver.
When a magazine is thus fully inserted and locked in place, this long funnel provides an effective seal and prevents airborne grit and mud from getting into the receiver, and into the magazine itself.
Accordingly, internals of rifles employing the “straight-in” system of magazine insertion/retention are “sealed” and thus enjoy superior protection from unwanted ingress of mud, grit, dust, sand, dirt, etc.
However, one weakness of the “straight-in” system is that it is more difficult for the shooter to be sure that the magazine is locked in place than is the case with the nose-in-rock-back system.
For this reason, Operators using rifles of the “straight-in” genera must be trained to strike the bottom of the magazine immediately after insertion, and then straightaway “tug” downward on it to be sure it is locked in place. Otherwise, the unsecured magazine will often fall right out of the rifle when the first round is fired, and even when it stays in place, it still won’t feed cartridges!
As noted above, original 5.56×45 aluminum magazines (20-round) designed for the M16 were supposed to be “disposable,” so they were not built to last. Endless reuse caused problems, as they quickly wore-out.
Much-improved, current-production AR magazines, mostly steel or polymer (sometimes in combination, as with the Lancer), are designed for interminable reuse.
Paul Mauser’s five-round stripper-clip represented quite a revolution in its day (rendering all other systems of reloading a rifle instantly obsolete), but as young Lieutenant Rommel discovered in 1914, it still had its limitations, as even Mauser’s rifles had the irritating habit of running dry at inconvenient times!
Even with our much-improved rifles of today, the problem is still with us!