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The Rifle Mag as a Monopod

Recently a surprising number of people responded to some of the pictures in one of my articles by expressing concern (and some vitriol) about shooting from the prone with the magazine on the ground. In those pictures I was down on the deck digging into the dirt with an AR magazine. Lots of people believe that ‘magazine as a hasty monopod’ practice will cause malfunctions in a rifle.

I believe that’s an urban myth based on issues caused a long time ago by metal USGI magazines manufactured during the Johnson administration. It no longer holds true. It has always surprised me to hear a rangemaster wax apoplectic at the sight of a shooter with his mag on the ground, but they do, so for 20 years I stayed up on my elbows—as long as no one was watching.

I’ve never suffered a malfunction caused by driving the baseplate down into the ground. I think it should be standard practice, terrain and equipment allowing. It increases stability (unless there’s an earthquake or you’re on the deck of a ship) and reduces fatigue – why wouldn’t you do it?

aBut I’m usually smart enough to know (or at least guess at) how much I don’t know, so I made some calls. Below are the opinions of some guys who’ve forgotten more about shooting than I’ll likely ever know: Paul Howe, Frank Proctor, Adam Wilson, David Merrill, Aaron Cowan, Jared Ross and James Yeager.

Paul Howe, Combat Shooting and Tactics

As a Tac Rifle Instructor/Instructor trainer, I teach high on the elbows for basic classes.  The why is important.  High elbows allow a shooter to fire slick (no gear), patrol gear/vest, Tac Gear/SWAT Gear and military gear.  In short it is one position that will accommodate all equipment.  I find that when I put ceramic plates on and a vest carrier, I cannot physically get my head low enough to see my sights when I put the magazine on the ground and shoot.  Add a helmet and it becomes even more complicated.

Next, I have never seen it cause a malfunction.  It may change your zero as your head and eye are in a different position as the position may require you to address the weapon differently.

If a shooter is going to shoot slick or without gear, it is a viable position.  In my world where I have to teach one system that will work for everybody I come in contact with, I shoot high on my elbows.

Paul Howe

Frank Proctor, Way of the Gun Training

Back in the day I heard people say don't put the mag on the ground because it will cause malfunctions. When I shot a little bit of 3 Gun I noticed that everyone was using the mag for support in the prone with no problems. I started doing it too with no problems and I dig it the most! It’s a great way to gain stability. You can get prone and use a magazine the same way as you would use a bipod, without the extra weight—that’s if you can get prone. We don’t live in a ‘prone world’. I’ve found operationally it was less than a 5% solution, I only went prone a small portion of the time, but if you can go prone and you do, on the ground or rocks or a car hood, the magazine works awesome as another point of contact at no cost in weight.”

Proctor Shooting-Over-Hood

Adam Wilson, 1MOA Solutions

The bottom line is we want to stack the odds in our favor any time we can in a gunfight. Shooting with your magazine on the ground is an easy way to help do that. You’re increasing the stability of the weapon, which increases your ability to successfully engage at a distance; you’re more stable and more accurate, so you’re more likely to win the gunfight. Looking at it that way easily outweighs any argument about the possibility of inducing a malfunction. It’s not the 1960s any more.

Wilson - magazine as monopod

Jared Ross, Rockwell Tactical

In my experience, with some old first gen magazines, okay there’s some problems. I’m talking like stuff from the 70s. Anything modern, Magpul, Troy, H&K and many others, no problems. Instead of using your body, which moves and flexes, you’re using something solid to provide stability, plus it helps you to get low. For long distance shooting, maybe 350 to 400 meters out, it might cause a difference in your zero, but from what I’ve experienced it doesn’t change it noticeably inside 350m and in. Anytime you change cheek weld or position it’s going alter zero a little bit, but that’s the beautiful thing about running a good optic – you won’t have to worry about that.

Rockwell Tactical Group on the range

James Yeager, Tactical Response

I’ve trained 45,000 people and none of them have ever had a malfunction that was in any way connected to putting the magazine on the ground or shooting that way. It’s an old wives’ tale that has been passed down from the military. Those 45,000 shooters, if we use the average mean of 1,000 rounds per course, means I’ve seen 45 million I’ve seen going down range and none of them malfunctioned from pressure applied by stabilizing the magazine on the ground—which is no different than the pressure applied by a magazine well grip. The guns are not that finicky, you know?

James Yeager on the range - photo courtesy of War Sport

Dave Merrill, MILCOPP Tactical

Absolutely put your magazine on the ground. It’s another point of contact for stability and makes for a decent monopod. A lot of the idea that you shouldn’t stems from old out of spec mags. There have been some past issues with improperly cut and oversized magazine catch slots. If you pressed up on the bottom of the mag it would over-penetrate and cause drag on the bolt carrier, preventing proper feeding or inducing malfunctions. It’s the same sort of thing that can happen with earlier generations of PMags on the FN SCAR (which would cause the bolt release to preemptively rise, causing wear and drag). That’s a mag problem, not a design problem.

Now, there is a very small chance that resting a mag on the ground could present a problem if you have an over-pressure event…there are engineered failure points on the AR in case of that. Blast comes out of the ejection port, can throw off a mag baseplate spilling rounds all over, break off at the barrel nut, or a combination thereof. These are specifically to keep the shooter safe. If pressure can’t be expressed out of the bottom of the magazine, such as in the case of resting the mag on the deck, the left side of the receiver can banana peel—that’s the path of least resistance. That only presents a slightly higher risk to the shooter.

It’s not really a big deal, you should be using good magazines anyway.


Aaron Cowan, Sage Dynamics

I’ve been putting my mag on the deck since forever. If you put the magazine on the deck it’s not going to cause this mythical malfunction from the days of the Gen 1 Vietnam GI Mag. I have one of every kind of quality magazine made; there is just one that creates that malfunction. It does so inconsistently and it is older than you. It’s made by OK Industries and it has a black Gen 1 follower in it. I keep it on hand specifically because it does malfunction, so I use it when I train. I have CMMG metal mags with ranger plates, PMAGs, Lancers, SureFire 60-rounders, a couple Colts, Troy Manufacturing…obviously if there is a better way to stabilize gun then do so, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It will certainly help with fatigue if you’re shooting in the prone for a long time.

Cowan on the range

So there's what a few SMEs think – what has your experience been?

1MOA Rifle Magazine on the Deck

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