U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Most drum magazines are garbage – thankfully the Magpul D60 isn’t most drum mags.
When I first saw Magpul announce the D60 a few years back, I was optimistic but still skeptical. While it’s true that Magpul set the gold standard for reliability with their PMags, drums are a completely different beast. Plus, my personal experience with drum mags has been less than reassuring, with the majority of the models tested experiencing multiple malfunctions every time they’re loaded.
But this wasn’t the case with the Magpul D60 – with every gun tested save for one… but I’ll get to that in a moment.
First off, if you’ve already bought one, take a moment to read the instruction manual. The Magpul D60 doesn’t load like a traditional magazine or the majority of drum magazines on the market, but rather an odd combination of the two.
Where Russian AKM drums are loaded from the rear and need to be wound up before use, the Magpul D60 is different. The D60 is loaded from the tower itself but requires the user to relieve some of the magazine spring tension by pulling a small lever located on the top of the magazine body. This is actually a ratcheting system that simply removes some pressure from the follower and allows shooters to load about three rounds at a time.
That said, it is possible to keep the follower depressed partially with one hand and crank the ratchet lever a second time which then permits roughly 5 rounds to be loaded at a time. Although I would advise against it since doing so could potentially allow a round to rotate incorrectly and jam up the magazine. This never happened in my experience with the drum, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Plus, drum magazines aren’t meant to be loaded quickly, their advantage lies in their capacity.
Lastly, the rear of the drum does come off, but should only be removed for cleaning and maintenance every 1,000 rounds or so.
Given the insane current prices of ammunition, I only loaded (and then emptied) the D60 drum to capacity three times. Once in a SIG 516 Carbon TS piston AR, another time in an IMI X95 bullpup, and finally in a select-fire government M4 assault rifle.
With the X95, the drum functioned flawlessly, but its bulk made the operation of the carbine somewhat awkward. Though this isn’t a shortcoming of the D60, rather a symptom of basically all bullpup carbines. The only issue I had with the X95 aside from ergonomic woes, was the difficulty of both inserting the magazine on a closed bolt and removing it on one. The former makes sense, but the latter was something I totally didn’t expect. But given that the D60 features a last-round bolt hold open follower, this issue is remedied by simply pulling back the charging handle on an empty gun.
The SIG on the other hand, with its conventional layout not only functioned 100% reliably, but the ergonomics of the gun were unchanged. This is my personal home defense carbine, and once that has seen more than 5,000 rounds fired through it (the majority of which were suppressed). This gun isn’t picky when it comes to magazines or ammunition, and it really chowed down on the 60-rounds of 5.56mm loaded in the D60.
And unlike the X95, inserting a fully-loaded drum on a closed bolt wasn’t difficult at all. But I would still recommend shooters get in the habit of the slap and tug confirmation method, as the weight of the magazine can make false-insertions definitely possible.
Before I start on the M4, if you haven’t watched the video linked above, go do so now.
Salivating? I don’t blame you – I wish that gun were mine and not a friend’s standing behind the camera allowing me to film with it briefly. But the reason I chose that gun wasn’t simply because I love shooting machineguns (but I certainly do!) but because it represents the most taxing configuration I had available for the D60. A short barrel full-auto carbine is inherently more violent than a full-length rifle, meaning the bolt’s increased velocity is less forgiving of magazines whose springs lack the proper amount of tension to reliably feed rounds to the chamber quickly.
A few malfunctions over a full 60 rounds fired. The good news is that none of them were magazine-related. If you watch the video, you’ll notice every single malfunction was a failure to fire where the hammer itself didn’t fully reset. If you look closer, you’ll notice that every time I clear these malfunctions, I’m extracting an unfired round from the chamber. Meaning, the Magpul D60 was doing its job just fine. If anything, it means I need to lubricate that M4 better in the future.
So what’s the takeaway? Well, the D60 seems to be the most reliable commercially-made magazine for the AR-15 (or any weapon that accepts STANAG-pattern magazines) currently on the market. It’s not cheap, but realistically shooters aren’t going to buy 25 of these and load them up. Instead, the Magpul D60 makes an excellent addition to a shooter’s loadout for extended range plinking sessions or an end of the world as we know it scenario home defense setup. Because what if four ninjas and a bear break into your house at the same time?
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.