As has been covered in the past on the pages of The Mag Shack blog, having as much ammunition on hand as is humanly possible is a huge tactical advantage for the armed citizen. Whether one is utilizing a pistol, rifle, or shotgun for defense of self, home, and property, having as many rounds ready to go at a moment’s notice is a key force multiplier in any violent encounter.

To be fair, in most situations that are liable to come up for an armed citizen, having a standard capacity magazine in one’s chosen defensive firearm, along with a few spares close at hand, is usually enough. Even under duress, most violent encounters can be dealt with decisively with say, 30 rounds of 5.56mm dispensing from a third-generation Magpul PMAG, or 17 rounds of 9mm hollow-point ammunition emanating from a GLOCK magazine.

Of course, one doesn’t just prepare for the “most likely” outcome, one prepares for any and all possibilities. In rare occasions, one will need more than “standard capacity” in immediate readiness. With this in mind, The Mag Shack does offer a selection of in-stock drum magazines for several weapons platforms.

Prior to purchasing a drum magazine, it is helpful to know the pros and cons.

To understand the nuances of a drum magazine such as Magpul’s 60-round D60 for ARs, or the Romanian 75-round drum magazine for AKs imported by Century Arms, it helps to know the history and development of these fascinating freedom dispensers.

A Brief History Of Drum Magazines

Drum magazines for pistols and rifles are actually nothing new. Despite the slick modern aesthetics of drums like the Magpul D60, the idea and implementation of a drum magazine goes back over 150 years. The first drum magazine was invented by a Mr Charles Tyler of Worcester, Mass all the way back in 1853. With a capacity of 30 rounds, it was revolutionary for its time. Of course, like a lot of inventions, it was many years before the concept became a little more mainstream.

In 1908, DWM introduced the Luger Pistol, with the then-revolutionary 9x19mm cartridge. The pistol normally was equipped with an 8-round single-stack magazine, but optionally a 32-round drum magazine, or a Schneckenmagazine (snail magazine) as the Germans called it, could be included with the pistol. Interestingly enough, these concepts bolster the case against magazine capacity laws, as the Bruen decision demands a historical text and tradition test for these pieces of legislation. But, we’re digressing…

A Magpul D-60 5.56x45mm Drum Magazine

A Magpul D-60 5.56x45mm Drum Magazine

Drum magazines came into their own in 1918 with the introduction of the Thompson submachine gun. One of the definitive weapons of the era, the Thompson utilized 20-round and 30-round box magazines, but could also be fitted with 50- and 100-round drum magazines, usually in .45 ACP. Originally designed to clear out trenches in WWI, the drum-equipped “Tommy Gun” rapidly found fame in the domestic market for both legal and illegal purposes, and became an icon of the Roaring Twenties.

As the twentieth century continued on, drum magazines fell in and out of favor with both professional and citizen users. While most common military service weapons could be fitted with a drum magazine, concerns of weight and reliability often precluded drum magazine use in favor of standard box magazines, such as the 20- and 30-round USGI magazines for the AR15/M16 platform.

In the 1980s, drum magazines became resurgent with the introduction of the Beta C-Mag. Though initially plagued with reliability issues, The Beta Company worked out the kinks and now offers their C-Mag in 5.56x45mm, 9mm, and 7.62x51mm for a variety of weapons platforms.

Concurrently with drum magazine development in the West the USSR (and later, the Russian Federation), as well as other ComBloc countries developed all manner of drum magazines for the AK-47 and AK-74 platforms.

And of course, in 2015, Magpul Industries debuted their D-60 60-round 5.56x45mm drum magazine, bringing a robust and reliable option to both citizen and professional users. The D-60 spurred the development of the D-50 for 7.62x51mm weapons, and variants like the D-50 GL9 for GLOCK firearms and similar pistols, as well as pistol-caliber carbines that accept GLOCK magazines.

Now that we have seen the historical traditions and development of the drum magazine, we can explore the pros and cons of these essential accessories.

The Pros

Of course, when one acquires a firearm such as an AR-15 variant, or one of the wide varieties of AK out there, chances are it usually ships with one or more 30-round magazines, or 10-round magazines for those caught behind enemy lines. A drum magazine is usually an acquisition down the line. To better understand the purpose of a drum magazine (other than for irritating the gun control supporters, of course!) one must understand the pros and cons of a drum magazine.

Pro: Less Magazine Changes Required

The most obvious reason to acquire a drum magazine for your firearm is simple. The drum holds more of your chosen ammo, leading to fewer magazine changes in a given scenario. A potential use case in this regard would be for a dedicated defensive firearm, where one would want to avoid magazine changes, due to the increased potential for screw-ups under duress.

Pro: Less Of A Learning Curve In An Emergency

Chances are if you are reading this article, you’ve mastered the “Firearms 101” curriculum. But there’s a fair chance someone in your household hasn’t, and they may just need all the advantages they can get in an emergency. Having a drum magazine-equipped firearm ready to go for that friend in need could literally be a lifesaver, as they would not have to be as concerned about executing a magazine change under duress.

Pro: More Of A Compact Profile

In some cases, a so-called “extended” magazine for your firearm, such as the 40-round PMAG from Magpul, exhibits a very lengthy profile. Somewhat cumbersome, it can present handling issues for the use. A drum magazine, with a shorter overall height, is more “out of the way”.

A Magpul D-60 5.56x45mm Drum Magazine

A Magpul D-60 5.56x45mm Drum Magazine

The Cons

Con: A Drum Magazine Can Cost Far More Than A Box Magazine

Box magazines such as Magpul’s PMAG are cheap and plentiful to the point of ubiquity. Conversely, a drum magazine will price far more, owing to its more complex construction. For example, a 30-round Magpul PMAG Gen M3 AR magazine costs $12.99 here at The Mag Shack, whereas Magpul’s 60-round D60 clocks in at $114.99 and KCI’s 100-round AR dual drum magazine costs $149.99

Con: Loading And Unloading A Drum Magazine Is A Chore

Loading up a standard-capacity magazine for your favorite firearm is often easy. Push one round in, rinse and repeat. There’s little opportunity for spring resistance to build up. With a drum magazine, one is either loading through the “tower” of the magazine and feeling the full resistance of the internal feed system as the process goes on, or one has to open up a hatch and carefully place the ammunition along the track of the drum magazine, taking time and effort.

Con: The Design Of A Drum Magazine Is Far More Complex

A box-shaped magazine for a pistol or rifle is a simple affair. The magazine itself, a spring, a base plate, and a follower. For the occasional cleaning, the box magazine will come apart in seconds, and reassemble just as fast. A drum magazine? Not so much. With a complex feeding system, the drum magazine’s internal workings lend themselves to more difficult disassembly and assembly.

Drum Magazines Have Come Into Their Own

Historically, drum magazines have been seen as more of a “want” than a need, especially since issues of reliability and weight came into play. However, with the advent of modern drum magazines such as Magpul’s offerings and the various AK drum magazines such as the Century Arms 75-round import and the 50-round Promag, the classic issue of reliability has vanished.

Drum magazines bring more ammunition on tap at a given moment, along with a certain compact profile to AR and AK-pattern rifles as compared to a conventional box magazine. And yes, as an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, it’s almost a duty of an American gun owner to have at least one drum magazine specifically to irritate the opposition.

Stock up on your favorite drum magazines today at The Mag Shack.