Magpul PMAG M2 vs M3 [Does It Even Matter?]

One of the hardest things to find in the gun world is a company that’s universally loved. Off the top of my head, I can think of one. 

Who? 

Magpul.

Everyone loves Magpul. They create quality gear at an excellent price point and they never stop improving. 

I love you I know Magpul meme

Magpul is a true American made and American owned company. They make a little bit of everything and do a good job of it.

They make gear for ARs, AKs, shotguns, the CZ Scorpion, the MP5, Glocks, 1911s, Remington 700s, and even the little Ruger 10/22. 

What started as a company that produced a little rubber slide on magazine accessory has become an industry giant.

Not only do they make good gear, but they are unapologetically pro 2nd Amendment and walk the walk. 

Magpul founders, circa 1999, probably

Magpul is most famous for the famed PMAG. They didn’t create the first polymer magazine or even the first AR-15 polymer magazine. What they did was create the first successful polymer AR-15 magazine that was affordable as well as reliable. 

These days when you purchase an AR-15 or a weapon that uses AR-15 magazines the one included is most likely a 

The P-Mag has evolved over time and we are currently on the 3rd Generation of Magpul PMAG. In that time they also created 40 round magazines, the most successful drum magazine for the AR-15 ever, and they continue to press the PMAG forward. 

Currently, Magpul produces two generations of the PMAG. The famed Gen 2 and the latest Gen 3.

If you are anything like me you have a pile of both, and eventually, you may wonder why Magpul is producing two sets of polymer magazines. 

Why not discontinue the Gen 2? 

What are the differences anyway? 

Confused Wahlberg

Let’s dig into it. 

What’re the Differences between Gen 2 and 3 PMAGs? 

PMAGs all kind of look alike and the Gen 2 and Gen 3 look very similar. You have to look closely to see the differences between the two, but they are there. 

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (4)
PMAGs Gen 2 (left) Vs Gen 3 (right)

A big difference you can’t see is weapon compatibility.

The Gen 3 magazines are compatible with several weapons to include the Marine Corps M27 IAR, the SCAR 16S, the HK 416, the Brit’s SA-80, and more. 

In weapons like the SCAR 16S using a Gen 2 P-Mag the bolt catch is pressed slightly too high and is struck by your bolt, which results in damage to both the bolt and bolt catch. The Gen 3 magazines corrected this. 

USMC M27 IAR
USMC M27 IAR

The Marine Corps once issued a ban on PMAGs when issues were discovered with compatibility with the M-27 IAR. I remember a lot of angry Marines with a $140 bucks worth of P-Mags they had to shelve. 

That ban was lifted for the M3 PMAGs thankfully. 

The most obvious physical difference is a big ass lip on the bottom of the Gen 3 PMAG. This is to prevent over-insertion of the magazine and this makes it more compatible with the SCAR, and I’m assuming other platforms. 

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (2)
(Bottom) Gen 2, (Top) Gen 3. Note the large lip on the back of the top magazine

Personally I’m a big fan of the lip when it comes to reloads. Not only does it stop the magazine for over inserting, but keeps my big thumb below the insertion area of the magazine.

It makes it a little more fumble proof, especially when shooting with gloves on. 

The spine and front of the M3 are also heavily textured for a better grip. The rear of the M2 is smoother. 

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (1)
(Top) Gen 2, (Bottom) Gen 3

The Gen 3 also has a slight hump near the slot where the magazine locks into the gun. The magazine lock area is a little more robust on the M3 P-Mags. 

The bottom of the M3 also features a Dot Matrix for easy marking of your magazine. You can do the fun stuff like mark the magazine with 300 BLK to signify it’s for 300 Blackout ammo. Or your initials or whatever you want.

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (3)
PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3

M3 magazines also have slimmer magazine base plates. The idea was this would make it easier to keep magazines in tighter magazine pouches, especially dual magazine pouches. 

However, the M2’s bigger baseplate is better in my opinion. It gives you more baseplate to grip as you retrieve the magazine. 

Downside of that is that the M2 baseplate is also a little more difficult to remove. The M3 streamlined things quite a bit with the disassembly of the magazine. 

A huge improvement that goes unnoticed is the follower in the M3 is the new 4 Way anti-tilt, low friction follower. The Magpul follower has always been one the keys to its success as a magazine.

They even outfitted GI magazines with Magpul followers to increase reliability. 

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (6)
PMAGs Gen 3 Vs Gen 2

The Gen 2 PMAG followers are still fantastic and ultra-reliable. The biggest difference between the followers won’t be noticed until your magazines are filthy dirty and caked with dirt, mud, carbon and whatever else the world throws at you.

When that happens, Gen 3 will be a little more reliable and last longer dirty than the Gen 2. 

The Gen 3 PMAG are also made from a stronger polymer. This type of polymer will stand up better to stress and last longer when exposed to the elements. 

Tavor Vs AR-15
Tavor X95 rocking a Gen 2 FDE Window Pmag

Finally, the last difference is all about dust covers. The Gen 3 ships with dust covers and the Gen 2 does not. The Gen 3 dust covers will not fit the Gen 2 magazines either. 

Why is the Gen 2 Still Around? 

Well, the most obvious answer is why not?

Magpul spent a lot of money to build the mold for it. We are looking at life-changing sums of money for molds. If you bought one you want to use it as much as possible.

That’s an easy answer. 

They also represent a cheaper option for quality magazines. The Gen 3 is better in many ways, but the Gen 2 P-Mags are still a fantastic option.

A few bucks in savings isn’t much when you are purchasing a single magazine, but 3 bucks quickly becomes 30 bucks when you purchase ten of these things. 

105
at GunMagWarehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Think of this from the perspective of a company like S&W who sends P-Mags out with their rifles. If they are buying 10,000 P-Mags then saving 3 bucks is a big deal.

The customer still gets a good magazine, and S&W saves some dough. 

Another big reason is compatibility. The big lip on the Gen 3 P-Mags makes them non-compatible with certain AR15s. Some BCM, Noveske, and other premium lowers may not be compatible with the Gen 3 magazines. 

F1 Billet Lower Receiver
F1 Billet Lower Receiver

A lot of fancy billet lowers may not fit the M3 magazines and its big lip. It also has issues with oversized trigger guards so keep that in mind too. 

Keeping the Gen 2 P-Mag around just makes sense and ensures Magpul has complete domination of the AR-15 magazine market. 

Is One Better than the Other? 

Obviously some of this is relative. An M3 P-Mag makes a lot more sense in a SCAR so it’s a better magazine in that situation.

The SCAR 16S
The SCAR 16S

On the opposite side of the coin if the M3’s over-insertion shelf won’t allow the weapon to seat in your gun then the M2 is a better magazine for you. 

Disregarding those things there are a few different considerations to take into effect when you choose between a Generation 2 and a Generation 3 P-Mag. 

As we mentioned the Generation 3 P-Mag is made from a stronger polymer material and that does give it some big points for being a better choice.

PMAGs Gen 2 Vs Gen 3 (5)
Gen 3 PMAG 40-round

The 4 way anti-tilt follower is going to give enhanced reliability when the feces hits the rotating air device. 

Enhanced ridges on the Gen 3 give you a better grip, and the Dot matrix can be handy. The Gen 3 also comes in 40 round models as well. 

As I mentioned above I do like the wider floor plate on the Gen 2 models. This gives me a better grip on the magazine when I retrieve it from a mag pouch. 

An issue that’s been reported with the Gen 3 P-Mags is the fact the over-insertion shelf can make the magazine difficult to draw from certain magazine pouches. That lip may catch and makes drawing the magazine more difficult. 

Ferro Concepts Slickster with Spiritus Microfight
Ferro Concepts Slickster with a selection of Gen 2 and Gen 3 PMAGs

The over-insertion lip may also prevent the M3 magazines from being used with certain magazine carries. It could cause to fail to fully seat and engage the mag pouches retention devices. 

Conclusion

So the question stands: is one objectively better than the other?

Shrugging_kaomoji

When you just compare magazines with no other external factors the M3 PMAG is the better magazine. It’s more reliable when filthy dirty, made from a stronger polymer, has a better follower, and supports more rifle platforms while also being easier to handle with gloves on compared to the M2. 

Magazines are just another firearms accessory in many ways. Like any firearms, accessory to find the best one you have to factor in your situation, your weapon, your gear, and more.

I have piles of both Gen 2 and Gen 3 P-Mags and never really noticed a difference. 

FN 15 every magazine
Most of us have a collection of mags that look like this…

Gen 3 P-Mags seem to be a general issue item in the USMC, and I saw a lot of Marines fielding the M2 models on both my deployments without issue. 

Let’s turn it over to the comments section. Which P-Mag do you use? Why? Or are you more of a Lancer man? Let us know! Not sure what to fill your mags with? Take a look at the True About Brass Vs. Steel Ammo and the Best AR-15 Ammo!

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