Do NOT make this mistake with your AR-15 (could get you killed)


The M-16 (essentially the same as your civilian AR-15) saw its first days in service during Vietnam.

The design of the AR-15 was unlike any other rifle ever issued, so American GI’s had to quickly learn what worked and what didn’t in real combat. It was a proving grounds of sorts. And the first issued M-16’s had a LOT of problems in Vietnam.

In other words, doing certain things would cause these AR-style rifles to jam or malfunction, leaving a soldier in a firefight with a useless gun.


Not good … not good at all. It probably got a lot of soldiers killed.

There are two pieces of “doctrine” that came out of those early experiences with the AR-15 style rifle that are still taught today.

Doing one might save your life because it will keep your rifle from jamming and you can completely ignore the other one.

Doctrine #1: Never use your magazine as a brace (don’t sit it on the ground to shoot)

Doctrine #2: Never load your magazine to the full 30-round capacity.

Do you know which of these is pure B.S. when running a modern AR-15 and which of these you should still do today?

Let’s start with the first.

Doctrine #1: Never use your magazine as a brace (don’t sit it on the ground to shoot)

It was taught that if a soldier, shooting prone or resting the rifle on something else, rested the rifle on the bottom of the magazine that it would cause the rifle to jam.

Now, I’ve heard that this is because the instructors in the ARMY at that time wanted the mags to last as long as possible, to not get beat up. I’ve also heard that the mags were crap back then — made of cheap aluminum or something like that — and that they WOULD jam if used as a brace for the rifle.

Both are probably true.

But today, you had better jam your magazine in the dirt if you’re shooting prone — it’s like a built in “bipod” that can stabilize your shot.

With today’s technology, AR-15 magazines are more than sturdy enough to use as a brace for shooting.

So you can safely ignore this piece of advice, your rifle will NOT jam or malfunction from using the magazine as a built in brace when you shoot.

What about …

Doctrine #2: Never load your magazine to the full 30-round capacity.

This one is still true.

Again, this is one of those things that there are PLENTY of rumors to how it got started, but it is just as viable today.

For one, when the bolt on your AR-15 is closed, a fully loaded 30-round mag will have a hard time “seating” — and when you do a reload like a tactical reload from this position — you REALLY don’t want your magazine to fall out after you’ve stuck it in.

Bad news.

Two, after the Vietnam war there have been NUMEROUS revisions and improvements to the M-16/AR-15 style platform. All good. Yet the magazines are still the weakest part of the system (this is true of ALL guns, your pistols included, a bad mag can make them malfunction).

This is something I learned from ex-CIA officer Jason Hanson, in the course of teaching hundreds of rifle courses, he always recommends not loading your 30-round mags to full capacity — and some “know it all” in class always loads it to 30-rounds …

… and they always have problems with their rifle.

So don’t take the chance, even with good, modern magazines (like Magpul P-Mags) — for reliability and being able to insert in a closed bolt — only load 28.

(Instead of counting, I’ve learned its easier to just load it till you can’t jam another round in, and then strip two off the top).

By the way, this is not limited to 30-round mags. If you run 20-round mags (for some reason, like you live in a state that hates your freedom), then load 18, etc …


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Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the course.


  1. The “don’t Load 30” is a bunch of bull It has been proven…got it…Proven.,…not anecdotal…and by someof the best in the Spec Ops types that you lao9d 30 always and that you tell by the postion of the round at the top…and you also insert and check that the mag is seated EVERY time….

    Time to put this nyth away….LOAD 30…you will be fine and may be glad you have the full load when the shtf…..

  2. I wan in the Air Force Special Operations during the Vietnam conflict. As the Air Force was the first to use the M16 We were trained more in its use than all the others branches combined. We were issued steel 20 round mags. all fully loaded. A cannot remember one failure to feed (FTF). This is after firing thousands of rounds both in training and in fights. However to accomplish this one must practice with fully loaded magazines. I have been in law Enforcement for over 32 years. I have been employed by 5 different agencies with different training on this. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I would not be typing this if not for the fact that I had a fully loaded Magazine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but as for me I use only top end proven Magazines and load them to full capacity. Again with top quality magazines I have never had a FTF. Note with low quality magazines I have experienced several FTF. However it was the fault of that particular brand and quality of magazine and not the M16/AR15 that caused the FTF. I conclude that if you are putting your life on the line use only the best quality of everything. Test everything before depending on it to save your life or the life of another. Then practice often. If in doubt practice more often! Happy shooting to all.

  3. Well I’m very glad to know this , i must have been awful lucky ! This is information that should be posted on each gun sold and on posters near the gun rack where guns are sold its not a defective
    Part , it is proper use of the rifle! No recalls ! It would then.put any questions to rest it is a handling
    Issue ! That is all

  4. Sorry, but “I” call b/s on BOTH ‘doctrines’. To qualify, this would depend on WHICH mags are being used. Magpul, Lancer L5 AWM”s and even USGI 30 BCM AND Brownells ALL have consistently held, cycled and fired 30 rnds. with no probs. You DO need to pay attention to lock-up with a CLOSED-bolt of course but that’s always. Sure maybe not recommended for “speed/tactical reloads, etc. but it IS NOT an all encompassing ‘fact’. To the other point as to using a MAG as a monopod or rest, you’re probably right on with the older “issue” mags NOT being as durable sure, and with the hard use (as in battle conditions and being in the $#!T) they were produced to be disposed of on the battlefield. It is a myth Patrick Sweeney squashed in one of his torture tests conducted in his published AR-15 Volumes 1-4. Mind you, not benchrest-type accuracy can be expected but cycling, feeding and reliability WITHIN REASON can be expected under normal prone firing.

  5. Well it’s all irrelevant – at least until we get rid of the “New Progressive Socialist Democrats”, or at least require them to adhere to the constitution and restore constitutional freedom – here behind the “New Iron Curtain” there are no more 30 round magazines – OH – UNLESS YOU ARE DIRECTING THIS ARTICLE TO ACTIVE AND RETIRED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, WHO NEED 30 ROUND MAGAZINES FOR THEIR SAFETY, AND ARE EXEMPT FROM NY’s SOCIALIST LAWS THAT ARE EFFECTIVELY REPEALING THE SECOND AMENDMENT! Law enforcement NEEDS 30 round magazines to protect socialist politicians and enforce their unconstitutional laws! Citizens are expendable, and are kept at a distinct disadvantage in firearms (In direct violation of the primary purpose of the Second Amendment) so that the tyrants that rule feel safe as they overthrow our constitution!

  6. The biggest problem with the M-16 in Vietnam early in the war was in keeping them clean. Any dirt at all could cause them to jam. Additionally, the ammo being used at that time had a corrosive powder that added to the
    cleanliness problem. Many special ops personnel would rather have carried the AK-47. Of course, the chain of command would not authorize that.

  7. I certainly am not a “know-it-all,” but I have been shooting AR15s for over 20 years, and I currently own 7 from 4 different manufacturers. I have always loaded 30 (and 20 and 40) round magazines to full capacity and left them loaded for long periods of time, and I have never had one failure or malfunction attributable to this practice. Again, I am not claiming to know more than the experts like yourself. I am simply relating my personal experience.

  8. I was in the Army in the early 70’s we were taught to use the magazine as an addition steady point I still do this today if I don’t have a bi-pod mounted, as far as loading a mag to full capacity we had 20 round mags not 30, we kept them loaded to capacity and never had the problems you described that being said it doesn’t mean it can’t happen, today we use 30 round mags and haven’t had a problem with them not seating it is something to watch for, we also only use metal mags not the plastic crap that’s out there, my experience with plastic mags is they develop cracks that can cause a failure to feed scenario, we shoot a lot of 22’s at our shooting classes and this is a problem with the plastic mags, when this has happened it is one of the things we look at.

  9. Duz is DOES, 2600 is the old RING TONE for phones. I was Air Force Communications Service, SAC, PACAF, and NATO, in 15 nations, 6 Viet Nam campaigns, over 20 years. I was also weapons and vehicle trainer NCO, Classified Security and Physical Security NCO, as some of my additional duties.

    I carried the M-16A1, and M16A2, plus the .38 caliber service revolver as I was the Field Maintenance Technician on all Cryptographic systems, and often traveled alone, to perform maintenance missions, in those nations, where hostilities were centuries old! I saw the Middle East, Turkey, on the Northern borders, to almost 4 years to Asia, and six+ years in Germany, and Denmark.

    My units were rated as Combat Ready, World Wide Deployable. So, we Combat Trained every 6 months, with live fire, plus, many of us were in other nations’ competitions. I am fully qualified on all NATO firearms, and also trained with Warsaw Pact light arms, in the counter-insurgency ops training sessions.

    A standard USAF M-16 firing day was 280 rounds in practice, followed by timed firing (rapid rate of fire, using single shot mode, for each position, usually one minute per ten rounds) for qualification of another 280 rounds, in positions: standing, prone, one knee, all in: left barricade, then, right barricade statures. We used 10 and 20 round magazines, so loaded multiple magazines, to their full capacity for each course of fire.

    USAF policy remains that every shot counts, we fire all our fully automatic weapons in three shot bursts, using trigger control, until the mode was introduced on the later revisions of the M16.

    I have NEVER encountered any situation of FTF on any of the hundreds of M-16’s my unit personnel fired, over that 20 years of service, 1965-1985, on any of the available M16A1, M16A2 weapons issued to me!

    Why would you not trust the many experienced, combat decorated, warriors on these Boards, to tell you their full, true experiences?

  10. Umm. The magazine is NOT the weakest part of the weapon. The shooter is the weakest part. 30 round magazines are built to hold 30 rounds, duh. If you cant seat a 30 round mag then you have two solutions.
    1. Go to a gym
    2. Load a 30 round magazine into an open bolt weapon.
    Problem solved.

    If you carry 7 makes with 28 rounds, do the math and determine how many rounds a shooter can short himself in a gunfight.

  11. Umm. The magazine is NOT the weakest part of the weapon. The shooter is the weakest part. 30 round magazines are built to hold 30 rounds, duh. If you cant seat a 30 round mag then you have two solutions.
    1. Go to a gym
    2. Load a 30 round magazine into an open bolt weapon.
    Problem solved.

    If you carry 7 mags with 28 rounds, do the math and determine how many rounds a shooter can short himself in a gunfight.

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