What is a Magwell? Why Do They Matter?

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When it comes to firearms vernacular, we often let a lot of things slide. When people state they need a “clip,” we all know that they actually need a magazine. The nuance of language can sometimes be confusing and occasionally inconsequential, but it is still important to understand all the terms people interchangeably use all the same. Today, we will tackle one mundane yet valuable element to understand surrounding firearms in the magwell (magazine well). The magwell is a bridge of sorts. It is the point that facilitates a loaded magazine to be seated properly and feed ammo into the chamber of a firearm; thus, allowing it to supply preciously needed ammunition to the user. Without a properly dimensioned magwell, you can’t get the fuel for your space blaster; no Pew-Pew when you pull the Bang-Bang stick. Let’s dive further into your magwell and why it matters.

Purpose of a Magwell

As we have already broken it down, the magwell is the magazine well of your firearm. It’s where you insert magazines into your firearm so your ammo can make its way into the chamber to be fired. Whether we are discussing a bolt-action rifle with a detachable box magazine, a full-auto AK-47, or a semi-auto handgun, your magwell needs to properly receive and retain your magazines. Your mags will perform well when you have a proper magwell (Get it? OK, we’ll move on).

Magwell Variations

It may be no surprise, but magwells come in an assortment of looks, designs, and distinct purposes. Every magwell must fit the overall design of the rifle it supports – and as similar as innumerable firearms appear – they are all minutely different and the magwell must match, too. Magwells on handguns, in the grand scheme of things, are quite small because they are hosting a small magazine with generally small cartridges. Oppositely, larger military arms may have an extremely robust magwell big enough to cook breakfast on because they need to support a larger magazine, more ammunition, and larger cartridges overall.

One of the most common upgrades or improvements that can be done to a magwell is to have it “flared.” A flared magwell is one with an expanded and/or rounded opening so a shooter can more swiftly or quickly drop and reinsert a fresh magazine. This flared mouth to the magwell aids the user in smoother and faster magazine changes. Aside from the cool factor in front of your shooting cadre, why do we want to do mag reloads quickly? Competition shooters need fast mag changes because tenths of a second matter. Also, if you are a hunter, and completely whiff your initial shots on game, you may have a small window-of-opportunity to reload and still connect with a vital, downing shot. So, the ever-so-slight competitive edge a beveled or flared magwell can afford you does matter.

Another tiny, but impactful aspect of a magwell is the geometry: angle and depth. This ties into what we already discussed in magwells being personal to every firearm’s design. Moreover, it affects how high speed, low drag a shooter is in their mag reloads. While a manufacturer’s most paramount concern is safe and reliable functioning of their firearm, if a magwell is super rigid and straight in its orientation, it is going to make mag changes in low-light, no-light, and high-stress situations very difficult.

Magwell Functionality

We’ve gone down into the weeds about the purpose and variations of magwell. Now, let’s address its primary function. A magwell – in a very boring and scholarly sense – is meant to facilitate the insertion of a magazine into the firearm; plain and simple. When your magazine is properly seated, then it is at a place where ammunition can be properly fed into the chamber; thus, allowing for the firearm to be fired at the user’s discretion. These actions could be viewed as what’s necessary to shoot a firearm, and the magwell plays an integral role.

Functionality intimately ties into reliability as well. It is one thing for a firearm to function (go Bang) yet it is another for it to be reliable (consistently and predictably go Bang). A well-designed magwell will ensure that magazines seat properly and consistently, reducing the likelihood of jams or misfeeds. The reliability of the magwell is essential for both military and civilian shooters who depend on their firearms for self-defense, hunting, or other uses.

Training

Your magwell can also play a moderate role in your training with your firearm as well. If you have a factory magwell (no flare or bevel) and you are having a difficult time doing mag changes like John Wick, then that might motivate you to upgrade yours to something with a flared or beveled magwell (if your firearm can replace that component). Sometimes it is not that easy though. To replace the magwell on an AR-15, you effectively need an entirely new lower receiver. So, your magwell is something to consider when purchasing any firearm.

Final Thoughts

So, have we completely beat this horse to death? I hope so, but I also hope this has been informative for you. Your magwell might be a forgotten component of your firearm, but it does have importance. Moreover, it can affect the functioning, reliability, safety, and velocity at which you can run your firearm. From more efficient reloads to being able to accept aftermarket magazines as well as factory mags, the magwell matters. Manufacturers spend an excruciating amount of time designing and engineering a magazine well, so it deserves a bit of attention from us, the users, as well. As always, watch for future content on all our socials and check ANR Design out for all your thermoplastic holsters and solutions.

Adam Scepaniak | 2/3/2024

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