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An Ode To The GI Twenty

So the combination of a break in the weather and some friends and family wanting to hit the range resulted in almost a solid month of regular range visits. My new ARs got a good workout, as everyone wants to shoot the semi-automatic hip-spraying bullet hose. I gladly traded (slowly) depleting my stash of steel cased 5.56 for spreading the good word about the shooting sports and ARs in particular, but one thing I didn’t expect was the highly useful feedback I got by getting my carbine into the hands of neophyte shooters.

Everybody loved the Aimpoint. “It’s like easy mode!”

Everybody loved the ALG ACT trigger.

Everybody thought it was a little heavy with the spare magazine and flashlight in place. And since these weights are at the polar ends of the rifle, it does make it more clunky than it should be.

Everybody thought the Vickers VCAS sling was dumb, until I showed them how it worked. “Oh!”

And totally unexpectedly, everyone loved the Vietnam era USGI aluminum straight body twenty round magazine.

I’d originally only had one, just for posing with my Mutt Not-A-M16A1, but recently I traded five Magpul G2 Pmags for five more. Everyone who tries them remarks on their handy size, both for manipulations and stowage. Have a look:

GI 20, C-Products curved 20, OKAY 30, Magpul PMAG 30 G2

GI 20, C-Products curved 20, OKAY 30, Magpul PMAG 30 G2

It doesn’t look like the straight twenty is that much smaller, but manipulations tell the tale. The smaller package slips into pockets that a 30 would be a poor fit into. The twenty fits in the palm of your hand, and a bunch of them dump into a small bag. In the traditional “make an L” reload with retention hold, the difference is big:


In particular, the fat baseplates of the Pmags make the hold awkward. This isn’t a reason to not buy Pmags, it’s just something to be aware of.


Having less magazine dangling between your hands also makes life easier if you’re maneuvering through a cluttered house or getting in and out of vehicles.

Drawbacks? Obviously, 20 rounds is less than 30. (And it’s really 18 is less than 28 if you anticipate having to insert a magazine under a closed bolt.) Aluminum magazines are less durable than PMags, but you should consider any magazine a consumable item and discard it at the first sign of trouble. In particular, the feedlips are more fragile, and a GI 20 won’t survive getting stomped on at the range the way a PMag would. Also, most AR magazine carriage systems are designed around 30 rounders. Tactical Tailor, Triad Tactical and SOE make twenty compatible MOLLE pouches. For belt pouches, Blade-Tech and Safariland can hook you up.

Jeff Cooper once opined along the lines that more rounds is always better, so long as it doesn’t reduce the efficiency of the firearm. And certainly nobody in a gunfight has ever complained about having too many bullets. But the inverse is that if you can significantly increase the efficiency of your gun by slightly reducing the amount of ammunition on board, you should at least look into it. 20 (18) rounds of 5.56 NATO is still a lot of fight stopping for most potential domestic situations.

At the moment, I think your best bet for GI 20s is the NHMTG offering for $25 at 44mag. I do have a couple of curved twenties, but I do prefer the straight ones for aesthetics. I’m interested to try out the Magpul PMAG 20, and have a couple on backorder.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Bob Owens | April 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been using the Magpul 20s, primarily at Appleseeds (I don’t claim to be tactical), and I’ve found them to be great in both sitting and prone. The still have the big-ass baseplate, however, so your straight GI mags have them beat there.

    Now, to find someone who makes it in steel…

  2. Jason | April 13, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve been using 20s since taking a Jim Crews carbine class back in the ’90s. In addition to everything you’ve mentioned, they are also easy to bungie to a foreend with rubber bands made out of some bicycle inner tube. Drop your empty, twist loose, insert.

  3. Brad | April 15, 2013 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    They used to have cloth bandoliers that would hold seven of the straight aluminum 20 round magazines. Two loaded bandoliers would fold up to exactly fill up the interior of a steel 7.62 ammo can. Very convenient.

    I imagine this was deliberate. Perhaps the original thinking behind the 20 round magazines was that they would be used in the field as a disposable resource, just as cloth bandoliers of loaded M-1 rifle clips were once used.

  4. Leon Perreault | April 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I tried 30-rounders and went right back to GI type straight 20’s.
    I also have a bunch of Magpul 20’s and they’re OK, too except that I had to grind them all down a bit so they’d fall free from my lowers.
    Brownell’s used to make steel 20’s and the four I have work great too.
    As per Bob Owens’ comment, the 20’s sure work better in position shooting, at least for me.

{ 2 } Trackbacks

  1. SayUncle » Gun Porn | April 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    […] Ode to the GI 20 […]

  2. pdb : Magpul PMag Fo-Tay | June 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    […] I still love the GI 20 (and look forward to trying out a few Magpul PMag twenties when I can find some), choices are great […]