While I love running the 5.45x39mm cartridge through my AR-15, the weak point to the whole weapon system has always been the magazine. And though the Soviet 5.45 was designed as a reaction to the 5.56, there are some substantial differences between the two cartridges. The most important one is the case angle.
The NATO round is a straight-walled cartridge, or very close to it. The 5.45, on the other hand, has a tapered case, which is why you need a different follower and really a different curve to the magazine for it to function properly. The first reliable magazine I found was one specifically designed for the 5.45 cartridge, one made by C-Products.
Though I had decent results with C-Products, a new company called ASC eventually began making 5.45 magazines. I’m not sure exactly what happened to C-Products and I’m not going to speculate. I will say that my experience with their customer service was sorely lacking. Thankfully, my experience with ASC has been excellent. But customer service only takes you so far, and this is called Tactical Gun Review, not Tactical Customer Service Review.
The magazine differs from a STANAG one in both the body and the follower. The follower is optimized for the tapered cartridge of the 5.45mm, and the magazine body has several innovations. The large groove down the side of the magazine (which helps keep the rounds in place) has been moved back to accommodation the shorter casing length and longer bullet of the 5.45 cartridge. The magazine body is stainless steel with a black finish which is much less reflective than the teflon finish found on the old C-Products magazines.
ASC sent me five of their 5.45 AR mags and I immediately loaded them up to full capacity and let them sit for a bit over a month. You can see the results at the end of the article:
In case you don’t want to watch the whole video, I’ll give you the highlights:
- The ASC magazines are the only ones that will run reliably at full capacity.
- While they are of good quality, you should inspect your magazines for any welding flash that could be inside the magazine body and cause the follower to fail.
- Despite not being designed for the 5.45x39mm cartridge, USGI green follower magazines and others such as the Imperial Defense Services are reliable if you load them to 25 rounds or less.
- Magpul PMAGs of the non-window variety do not work with the 5.45 rounds.
The bottom line is that the 5.45 magazines made by Ammunition Storage Components are the best in the market. Yes, one of the magazines failed. However, of all the ASC magazines I have owned (a total of 25) I have only had the welding flash problem with 2 of them. A little preventative maintenance can solve this problem before it becomes an issue.
Even the “problem” magazine I had ran flawlessly once the welding flash was removed from the interior of the magazine body. If you see me reviewing an AR-15 product, odds are, I’m using these magazines. I run 5.45x39mm almost exclusively through my AR-15 and the ASC 5.45 is my magazine of choice.
Special thanks to AIM Surplus for providing testing ammunition
By Allen Cosby