Drum magazines fit a very specialized niche in the tactical world. They can definitely be entertaining on the range, but carrying 50 or more rounds in one magazine is not something everyone needs. While toting 50 rounds of 5.56mm NATO is certainly manageable, one magazine with 50 rounds of 7.62mm NATO is a significant burden. But, if you know you are going into a high-round-count engagement beforehand, the higher capacity may be useful. Magazine changes take time, and the fewer you need to make, the better, especially when the engagement starts. Having plenty of ammunition available at once can really help you get out of trouble.
“The flagship X-15 drum magazine fits AR-pattern rifles in 5.56mm and is actually shorter than a typical 30-round magazine…”
X Products specializes in drum magazines for several rifles and the accessories needed to carry them. The company makes .308-based drums for the SCAR, SR-25, M14, FAL, HK91 (G3) and ArmaLite AR-10 platforms. It even produces skeletonized drum magazines for the AR-15, SR-25, M14 and FAL. The flagship X-15 drum magazine fits AR-pattern rifles in 5.56mm and is actually shorter than a typical 30-round magazine. All of the “X” drum magazines hold 50 rounds and are priced under $300. And, they are all high quality, reliable and easy to load as far as drum magazines go.
Constructed primarily of aluminum and steel, these drum magazines are more rigid and tend to be more rugged. Each drum magazine includes a proprietary spring system for consistent tension—making them ready for use with even fully automatic rifles—as well as a single-feeding design that ensures reliability. Aside from the skeletonized models, they’re also completely sealed for better operation in harsh conditions. Finally, they’re coated in Cerakote, require little maintenance and work without lubrication.
I was sent three magazines for testing: the X-15, the X-25 and the X-14. All were full-sized, non-skeletonized versions. (The skeletonized versions look cool but eliminate the weather-proofing factor.) Since the focus of this article is on tactical use, the fully enclosed versions were the best choice.
“Running it on the PWS 7.62mm was fun—it was a bit heavy, but hey, it’s 50 rounds of 7.62mm…”
Given the number of 5.56mm rifles in my shop, the X-15 saw the most work. I tested it with my Colt LE6940 (sitting on an M16A2 lower), a Daniel Defense SBR, a Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) 10-inch-barreled SBR, and a piston-driven Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle. My 14.5-inch-barreled PWS MK214 7.62mm was used for most of the X-25 testing. For the X-14, I used my Springfield M1A Scout. With the exception of the PWS 7.62mm, all of the testing was done both with and without a suppressor.
My PWS MK214 is a workhorse, and it’s my favorite AR-type rifle in the 7.62mm caliber. Without a suppressor, it feeds everything, is accurate and the long-stroke piston system keeps it pretty soft shooting. It will run with a suppressor, but can be ammunition finicky and requires an H-buffer and spring change. The X-25 inserted easily and ran like a charm with one issue. So long as rounds were inserted one at a time when loading the X-25 and then “reset” by letting the spring tension return, it was flawless. Holding it open and dropping in several rounds induced a malfunction every time. The round would move forward and dive into the magazine, failing to feed. This is clearly an operator issue, but it’s something to be aware of.
The X-25 also fed reliably without any issues in my precision DMR chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The only other 7.62mm in my shop, a 14.5-inch-barreled Patriot Ordnance rifle, would not accept the magazine. The fit was just really tight; the magazine didn’t go in easily, so I didn’t use it. Running it on the PWS 7.62mm was fun—it was a bit heavy, but hey, it’s 50 rounds of 7.62mm.
My Springfield M1A Scout rifle remains one of my favorite semi-automatic 7.62mm rifles. I’ve customized it with a few ergonomic additions, but nothing has been changed internally. It has proven very reliable. An adjustable gas plug allows this rifle to be used with a 7.62mm SureFire Mini suppressor.
…”the X-15 was the most useful and reliable… It never missed a beat, even running it on full-auto…”
Running unsuppressed, the X-14 worked well in the Scout, with no malfunctions after I realized the rifle was a bit undergassed at first. Set up to just run reliably unsuppressed, and perfectly suppressed, it can be a bit finicky. A slight adjustment and it ran flawlessly. Careful loading this time netted zero malfunctions.
Adding the suppressor, the Scout really shined. Rapid fire, single shots—there were no issues at all. If there was a complaint, it was the weight, but that is a product of the rifle. The standard stock makes it harder to carry the weight, and the SureFire Mini adds a pound or so. This configuration would not be incredibly comfortable for long missions or CQB operations, but otherwise it would be fine. Having 50 rounds of 7.62mm would definitely add firepower to the engagement.
Of all the X Products magazines tested, the X-15 was the most useful and reliable. It ran well for each rifle it was tested with. It never missed a beat, even running it on full-auto. Doubles, singles, even 10-shot full-auto strings—the X-15 worked well every time, even when it was used with my two SBR rifles. Adding the 7.62mm SureFire Mini 7.62 to the Daniel Defense SBR made no difference—it still ran like a champ. The same goes for when it was used with the S&W M&P15 as well. In short, if it fit in a rifle, it would run. In a standard AR-type rifle, this magazine was a blast and worked perfectly. I would liked to have tested it in 300 Blackout, but I just did not have any spare ammunition. Given how the X-25 worked with 6.5 Creedmoor, my guess is that it would work fine.
Honestly, loading the X Products drum magazines is time consuming, but it’s much quicker than many of the other drums used over the years. The spring tension is stout—that’s what makes these things work—so it takes some effort to load. Once loaded, they are, of course, much easier to unload through proper trigger manipulation.
“The bottom line it is that these are great products that fill a need in many tactical environments…”
The X-15 likely has the greatest value of all, as it is not too bulky, allows a solid hold on the rifle and was the most reliable of them all. Once the shooting started, I forgot it was there—it just kept going “bang.” Swapping the magazines out was easy; they certainly drop free. Carrying a bunch of them would get heavy, but that might be a good option. For most, starting work with the X-15 and carrying standard magazines in your kit would be best.
The only real drawback is that the magazines will not allow the bolt to lock open on the last round. That’s not a deal killer for me, as guns that run that way are often my favorite. If you only run an AR, it will take some getting used to, mostly because you won’t know you’re out until you get a “click” with no “bang.” It will just take much longer to get to that point.
The bottom line it is that these are great products that fill a need in many tactical environments. These magazines are built well, load consistently and simply work. If for no other reason, they are a ton of fun to shoot, and even an operator needs to have a good time with their rifle on occasion!
For more information, visit xproducts.com.