Drums, who doesn’t love them?
Well, probably most people who have the majority of the drums on the market.
They tend to suck, but at the same time provide an unmatched cool factor to a gun.
I mean, that photo of Churchill with a Tommy gun and a cigar made the drum magazine unforgettably cool.
Magpul has once again come to the rescue and delivered two drums! Do they work? Are they cool? How do you carry them? We’ll find out!
Table of Contents
They are often complicated devices and complication kills reliability to a certain point. Finding a way to make one run reliably has always been a bit tricky.
Militaries around the world have tried drum magazines a few times, but often quickly revert to the standard box magazines.
Really, the list is looong. The British with the Lewis gun, the Soviets and Degtyaryov, and later the RPK, the Finns and the Suomi, or even Americans with Thompson.
For military forces, the drum magazine is far from optimum. It’s heavy, hard to carry a multitude of, and is generally not useful enough to merit serious consideration.
Without military forces and possible military contracts, drum magazine innovation could be considered stalled.
Drum magazines have always been a bit of a novelty, but that’s never stopped people from trying to make them work. A little company we all know and love called Magpul has seemingly found a way to make drums work.
Enter the Magpul Drums
As I type this Magpul produces two drums, the D-60 for AR-15 rifles and the D-50 for AR-10 rifles.
They are planning to release a Glock drum and Scorpion EVO drum in summer 2020, and if you are reading this in the future you should know 2020 has been a bit of a crazy year.
Our friends at Gunmag Warehouse sent us a D-60 and D-50 drum.
Magpul is a company that has been pushing innovation in the gun industry and their drums are no different. Rarely do they mess something up and when they do they tend to make it right.
Both the D-60 and D-50 drums have been kicking around for quite some time with excellent reputations so I was far from anxious when they arrived.
In fact, the most anxiety I got was from trying to find ammo for the D-50 drum.
As I mentioned 2020 has been a crazy year and ammo on store shelves is rather dry so I had to scrape together some .308 loads for testing and review.
Some Things To Know
First and foremost the D-60 and D-50 drums can be left loaded! That’s a big issue with drums and how they operate.
With the Magpul variants, there is no need to un-tension the spring or unload the magazines.
Load it and forget about it.
Both drums are also made for a particular caliber and reliability and proper function is only guaranteed to work with the caliber the drum is intended to use.
With box magazines, you can often use multiple calibers on the same platform.
For example, 5.56 box magazines can load .300 Blackout and AR-10 magazines can often work with 6.5 Creedmoor. That compatibility is not extended to Magpul’s drum magazines.
That being said, Military Arms Channel fired a full 60 rounds of .300 Blackout from his D-60 from a SIG without issue, so take that for what you will.
The D-50 is made for AR-10’s that use SR-25 pattern magazines and that’s it. The D-50 can also use the longer than SAAMI spec M118 LR ammunition.
The Magpul D-60 will work in a number of firearms. While it’s made for the AR-15 family, it is also compatible with the SCAR MK16/16S, HK416, MR556, M27 IAR, IWI Tavor, and it even runs perfectly fine with my BRN-180 upper.
Both drums are made from polymer and the D-60 and D-50 have a lineage that can be traced back to the M3 P-Mags.
Same polymer construction, same dot matrix, and same durability.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between M2 and M3 P-Mags, we broke it down for you!
Why A Drum?
Before we dive into the review let’s talk about the usefulness of a drum. First and foremost the biggest answer is more ammo without a reload.
These magazines offer twice the standard capacity of typical box magazines.
Drums are also shorter than extended magazines. Instead of being long and thin, they are admittedly short and fat.
That reduced length allows for a lower to the ground prone position and also tends to snag less as you move and groove.
From a home defense perspective, a drum might make a lot of sense, especially the Magpul drum. How likely is it that you are going to have a reload on hand in a home defense situation?
Low for sure, but the chances of needing more than 30 rounds is also pretty low.
Unless the Russians invade that is.
Drums are just a lot of fun from a non-practical perspective and when they work they are great. It’s just fun to smash through a drum of 50 to 60 rounds and start kicking lead downrange.
Most of my guns are for fun and if a drum makes them a little more fun then, boom, it’s useful to me.
In terms of downsides, I’m talking logistical downsides. Not general reliability issues.
One big downside is the weight. Drums weigh quite a bit and can weigh a gun down quite a bit.
Carrying drums is also hard. One SAW pouch can carry one drum in the same space I can fit six 30 round magazines, give or take.
If a box magazine goes down I’m only out a maximum of 30 rounds from my loadout. If a drum goes down I’m down 60 rounds of my loadout.
How the Magpul Drums Perform
Let’s start from beginning to end.
Loading these drums is easy for the first 30 or so rounds. You push the lever up, drop rounds into the feed tower release the lever, and repeat. It’s seemingly very simple.
After the first 30 or so rounds you can only load one at a time. Pull the lever up, drop a round in, release, and repeat.
It takes some time, a lot of time, a lot longer than it takes the empty. The D-50 gets especially tough to load near the end. Sometimes you’ll need multiple cranks of the lever to load a single round.
It’s admittedly not a fun time to load anything. The D-60 is compatible with a multitude of loading devices including the USGI stripper clips so that can make things a little easier.
Once loaded I was tickled that both drums loaded on a closed bolt without any issue. You don’t have to shove the thing in there to accomplish this task. It slides in smoothly and locks in place.
Shoot, load, shoot, load, shoot, load, was all I did for an afternoon. Oh poor me right?
Admittedly the D-50 didn’t get as good of a workout as the D-60. As a 5.56 guy, I have tons of it, and no 7.62.
Finding a few hundred rounds of 7.62 NATO was a challenge and paying a buck a round for hunting ammo was not my definition of a good time.
The D-60 drum got in a solid 500 rounds of 5.56 Wolf Gold ammo through it and an additional 40 rounds of Hornady training ammo to finish filling the final drum.
As I hoped, the D-60 fed like an absolute champ. The D-50 saw only 200 rounds, but it also chugged along without complaint.
The D-60 chewed through each and every round and with both my BRN-180 and my Aero M16A4 clone. The D-50 was tossed in a Saint Victor AR-10 Carbine.
I alternated guns while shooting the drums to avoid heating up my handguards to an uncomfortable level. Reliability was never an issue with either drum. They just keep on keeping on.
I do appreciate the clear rear window that allows you to get a quick look at how many rounds your drum has left.
The biggest issue I ran into is ergonomics. These things are flippin’ heavy man. The D-50 weighs 4.5 pounds loaded and that’s more than a 50% increase of weight with my Saint Victor AR-10.
I didn’t expect them to make the gun lighter, so at least you know what you are in for. Other than that the Magpul drums make that thing go pew pew pew.
I mean seriously, the drums feed flawlessly. Which is a rare thing to say about drums.
Cleaning and Disassembly
Drum magazines require a certain amount of maintenance to continue running successfully. As I mentioned in the intro drums can be maintenance picky and seem to be magnets for dirt and grime.
Magpul recommends you clean the drums every 1,000-rounds, so at least you’re not having to do it every range day… unless you really put down some lead.
To clean the Magpul drum all you need is a flat head tool of some kind.
The Magpul D-60 and D-50 drums have four tabs around the drum. On the back of the drum is the tab heads.
Here you can insert a flat head screwdriver and pop the tabs off. They come off easily, but sometimes violently with a loud pop.
No worries there, remove the front of the drum and then use the same flathead to press in four latches to remove the rear of the drum.
Now you have access to the internals of the drum and can clean and glean.
I will say neither of my drums needed to be cleaned. Both looked brand new on the inside.
I also wasn’t crawling through mud, running through jungles, or living in a desert at the time.
Take that for what you will.
Cleaning is simple and all you need is a rag and a little CLP. Leave a light coat on the inside of the drum and you are good to go. Make sure you remove any dirt or debris inside the drum and this ensures reliable feeding.
Two Things You Should Never Do
When it comes to unloading the Magpul D-60 and D-50 drum you have to ensure that the loading lever is in the down position.
If it’s not in the down position the follower will not rise as you unload the magazine.
If left down and you unloaded what you can unload then drop the lever to let the follower rise you could have a bad time.
The round could become jammed in the drum and this generally creates a pretty big problem in which you’ll have to ship the drum to Magpul through UPS ground with an ORM-D sticker. Then Magpul will attempt to fix it.
Also do not lift the loading gate to try and unload the drum faster. If you do so you can cause the drum to unload faster than it’s intended to be used. That means it will unload faster than full-auto fire.
Sounds fun, but I assure you the damage it can do to your drum is not worth it.
The Tommy Gun was the first gun that inspired my imagination and my love of drum magazines.
There was just something cool about that gun and since then I’ve been a big fan of drum magazines.
The Magpul D-60 and D-50 drums are a different kind of cool. Many may not need a drum, but who doesn’t want one?
The fact Magpul found a way to make AR-15 and AR-10 drums run without issue is an impressive feat.
The simple design is reliable and low maintenance. Disassembly is quick, and reliability is top-notch.
What do you folks think about drums? What about Magpul’s drums? Any experiences good or bad? Let us know! Need a rundown on all of Magpul’s magazines, then check it out! Trying to find some .308/7.62×51 like me? Maybe the Best .308 Ammo can help!