Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Closer Look at MILSIG's 20-Round Magazines

I recently picked up a 6-pack of MILSIG's new 20-round magazines, released in late 2009. In this post I'll be going over my first impressions of them, and the results of some basic testing.

Aside from the higher capacity, MILSIG has made other improvements to their new magazine design, with their product listing claiming:

•Steel magazine body pins (supports the winding mechanism inside the magazine)
•Steel winding cable (improved cable strength and prevention against stretching of the cable)
•Adjustment free magazine head (allows perfect engagement of magazine head and easier magazine insertion)

MILSIG spokesperson Jackie Chan also had this to say about them in a YouTube comment:

"Japanese made treated spring (consistent elasticity and strength - ideal for load and diminish ball breaks), German-made perfectly spherical ball bearings/detents (that do not come off easily from the collar like other similar products), High Strength Steel cable and gear winder (compared to low quality textile/nylon strings from others that snaps easily), Improved Body design and materials - longer life-span and integrity, Steel Pins vs Plastic."

According to MILSIG, the new mags require their Magazine Winding Tool (MWT) in order to wind the spring sufficiently to fit 20 paintballs (otherwise they only fit 19). I also picked up one of these, and can tell you it's a heavy and well-machined piece. It's also a lot larger than it appears on the web site:

Despite MILSIG's description, I found I was able to torque the mag winder enough to fit 20 rounds using only my fingers. This was far from comfortable though, and I'd recommend using the MWT just to save your trigger finger for the game!

While winding the mags, the springs appeared to get tangled up, which was a little disconcerting as I was watching it happen.

But the spring compresses nicely in the end, and the springs release perfectly with no snagging.

The new magazines retain the standard 3-bearing collar design, which does a decent job of retaining the paintballs. A good sharp shake will still cause a couple balls to fly out though, so keep this in mind if you're in the habit of reloading on the run.

On the subject of paintball retention, I also took the opportunity to test out the specially-designed T-bar inserts that come standard with MILSIG's mag pouches (and their MOLLE Hydration Vest).

The T-bars are designed to allow you to put paintball magazines upside-down in a mag pouch, without depressing the feedneck collar and ejecting the balls.

The bottoms of the T-bars are fitted with rough Velcro, allowing them to be secured to the soft Velcro on the bottoms of the MILSIG pouches.

But it's very easy to accidentally depress the feed collar when inserting the magazines into the pouches, with gravity then dropping several balls into them. You can prevent this by turning the vest somewhat upside-down, and then inserting the mags upwards.

Basic Testing

I tested all 6 magazines by firing/cycling about 300 paintballs through them. The paint used was a Draxxus Custom tournament-grade paint leftover from an end-of-season game at Marked Paintball. Keep in mind that tourney-grade paint tends to be pretty brittle, and because of the pressure exerted by the springs in Paintball magazines, it's usually best to use a harder-shelled paint with mag-fed systems. In this case it was all I had on-hand, and on the bonus side it would be a good way to test if the springs in these mags were overpowered and mashed paint.

My test bed for these mags was a RAP4 T68 Gen6 from the Post-Operation EndWar Package, fitted with a full high-pressure Pure Energy Basic 48ci 3000psi HPA tank.

All paintballs were fired point-blank at our high-tech range in the Grey Ops Testing Lab (an old bed pillow propped up in a utility sink in the basement). This allowed for indoor shooting in the middle of Canada's winter, with no barrel breaks caused by the cold.

Results and Items of Note

I'd love to say everything went smoothly, but I had problems from the first shot. It CHOPPED! But Before any fanboyz of either MILSIG or RAP4 jump on this and blame the other side in a huge comments section flame war, let me just say that *I* was the one that screwed it up. I hadn't seated the mag properly, so although the spring released properly, and the mag seemed to be in, it wasn't. The first paintball had lifted only about 3/4 into the chamber, meaning with that first shot the bolt separated it from the other 1/4.

But I'll be damned if that was going to stop me, the T68, or the MILSIG mags! After clearing out the first few paint-covered balls, shaking the paintball bits out of the magazine well, and taking a couple dry shots to clear debris out of the barrel (with a lot of swearing in-between), I slapped the dirty mag back in properly and went back to shooting. After all, it's nice to see that your equipment can perform under ideal conditions, but when everything's a mess, that's the REAL test.

I put about 280 more paintballs through this setup with NO MORE CHOPS, BREAKS, OR JAMS. This despite the bolt being somewhat gummed up from that first busted ball, and a little bit of paint on the edge of each of the mag collars where they met the chamber/breach. This is a testament not only to the reliability of the MILSIG mags, but to the battle tank-like constitution of Spyder-based markers like the T68 Gen6.

The MILSIG mags all fit the RAP4 magwell absolutely perfectly, nice and snug. The only fit problem I had was with that first magazine, and I had to wiggle it around the first couple of times after that until I heard it click into place properly. The strange thing is that after struggling with it a few times, it just fit as well as all the others. Problem solved! My guess is that there was a plastic edge somewhere that was just a hair off design specs, and after a few forceful contacts with the metal parts in the marker, that edge was filed down to where it should be. But hey, when you're dealing with fairly strict tolerances to get these things to work the way they're supposed to, these things can happen.

Just out of curiosity, I added 2 clear loaded RAP4 18-round magazines from the EndWar package as part of the test - I wanted to see if there were any noticeable differences in operation. Curiously, the RAP4 mags jerked/jumped backwards slightly in the magazine well every time a shot was fired. This didn't affect their operation (the T68 shot just fine despite this), but it showed that the RAP4 mags were slightly looser when seated, and had some wiggle room. Again, before all the MILSIG fans jump out of the woodwork and start bashing RAP4, let me point out that this isn't a fair comparison, because we're comparing apples and oranges here; to directly compare the two companies' designs I'd need one of the 20-round RAP4 magazines, which I don't have at the moment. I'd also have to try an old 18-round MILSIG design in the T68 to see if it behaved the same.

After running out of paintballs, I loaded up and shot rubber reballs through the MILSIG magazines into a heavy cardboard box, until my HPA tank ran out of gas. With the reballs I also didn't get any jams, and the mags and T68 performed beautifully.

The bright side of having a ball break in the first MILSIG mag during testing is that I saw how easy it is to clean the mags. If paint gets in the column under the feed collar, a few passes with a barrel swab will clean it out nicely.

If you get loose paint or a ball break in the "rear" column however, you're SOL and need to open the mag up to clean it. And this is where the complaining begins.


The MILSIG magazines are packaged individually in clear soft plastic packages. There are no instruction manuals or care instructions included with the product at all, and I have a problem with that. Yes, I KNOW that MILSIG has a series of blurry videos up on how to service their magazines, but with hands in the way of close-ups and with such poor resolution, they aren't much help. Thankfully there's a decent first-person view user video up on how to service RAP4 mags, which share the basic design, and this makes things a lot easier for the end consumer.

At this price point, there really should be some sort of exploded diagram or schematic included with the package to show how these things are put together. MILSIG relying on users to search the Internet for this information is just plain lazy, and not everybody has the time or energy to search the net and ask for tips on forums to figure out how these are put together. In another way that this isn't fair to the consumer, by forcing them to figure them out through trial-and-error, they risk breaking something. And of course, most warranties don't cover damage caused by user error. Come on MILSIG, you can do better! You've got a great product here, but you need to cover your bases on this.

That's the main gripe, but a secondary (minor) complaint is that the followers (the red plastic sphere in the mags at the end of the springs) tend to get stuck in the feed necks of the magazines. This can be fixed by fooling around with the feed collars to release the detents, after which the follower releases, and you can then wind up the mag and load up your paintballs. A bit of oil around the outsides of the feed collars, around the bearings, would probably go a long way to prevent this.


Although I don't own and can't speak for any of MILSIG's Paintball markers, I'm a big fan of their MILSIG Solid Gear goods, and now an equally big fan of their Paintball magazines. With springs putting pressure on paintballs, and a lot of things needing to come together to make sure that the marker feeds and fires properly, mag-fed markers can be tricky. The magazines themselves are a crucial part of this equation, and you need to be able to count on them to perform as they're supposed to! From my limited testing, I can say that MILSIG's new product doesn't disappoint in this department, and aside from the issue of maintenance instructions I mentioned, I recommend them whole-heartedly for your mag-fed marker.

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