In response to repeated requests from rec.guns readers, I'm posting a list of the various magazines available on the civilian market for M14s and M1As. It lists the different varieties, identifying markings, type of finish, and approximate values (as of April, 1999). Thanks for everyone's recent input/corrections. This will probably be the last time that I post this FAQ. (Henceforth it can be found at the rec.guns web site: http://www.recguns.com/
Here they are (I may miss a few...)
Revised Edition - April 23, 1999
20 Round Capacity Magazines:
Original U.S.G.I. contract 20 round magazines still in their original gray-black Parkerized finish are currently worth $25 to $50, depending on condition. There is currently a shortage of M14 magazines on the U.S. market, and prices are rising. Even the DCM-CMP has raised their prices, and now limits DCM shooters to purchasing a small quantity each year. (As of this posting, 31 August 1999, the CMP has discontinued M14 magazine sales and has no idea when, if ever, they might resume -- Editor)
You can tell original U.S.G.I. magazines by their dark gray (almost black) phosphate finish, and the presence of a maker's code mark. This mark is stamped of the rear of the magazine, approximately 3/4-inch up from the baseplate.
Here are the makers code marks that I've seen or heard of:
Note: CMI was the last known military contract maker. (Circa 1990/1991.) This contract was reportedly done for the U.S. Navy for M14 deck rifles used during the Gulf War. According to Clint McKee of Fulton Armory, the quality of these magazines was not quite as good as from earlier contracts.
If you've seen any other code marks on M14 magazines, or the location of any of the factories, please let me know, even if you don't know who the maker was. Many thanks!
Refinished magazines: As the supply of M14 magazines on the civilian market has dried up since the September 1994 ban, many dealers have turned to re-phosphating any worn-looking magazines to keep up their inventories. The quality of this work varies, but in general, if they start with the original U.S.G.I. article, the end result is a good functional magazine. (But once re-finished they of course have little or no collector's value.) In recent years Springfield Armory has refinished thousands of G.I. magazines. Some of them look a bit nasty, since the magazines show pitting beneath the re-phosphating. The supply of M14 magazines is currently so scarce that Springfield sell their re-finished magazines for more than $50 each!
Notes on U.S.G.I. Wrappers:
I have seen original U.S.G.I. contract 20 round magazines packed in a variety of wrappers. Most common is a 4-pack. But I've also seen them individually wrapped and even in a long box of two (end to end, lengthwise.) Earlier magazines were packed in a cream colored synthetic material that resembles canvas on the outside, but when torn open you can see a vapor barrier of a silvery-metallic material. The later contract magazines are wrapper in a heavy brownish paper, with the same a vapor barrier of a silvery-metallic material inside. Just a few were coated in Cosmoline before packaging. (The vast majority were packed "dry".)
Taiwanese M14 magazines: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a small number of high quality magazines were imported from Taiwan. These can be identified by their bright blued finish. They were made on U.S. government supplied tooling at the Taiwanese national arsenal, to U.S. military specifications, except for final finish. (They are blued rather than phosphate coated.) Most fit and function quite well. However, a few have deformed followers, which cause the bolt to no always lock open after the last cartridge is fired. The only sure fix for this is to replace the follower. These are not to be confused with the profusion of after-market blued-steel magazines you see at gun shows.
Chinese (mainland Communist China) M14 magazines: Virtually all of the 20 round M14 magazines that you see coated in grease and/or waxed paper are from communist China. They are generally phosphated a very light gray color and practically pumped full of grease. They have no maker's mark. Beware of advertisements for "Original G.I. M14 magazines, new in grease." Odd are hey are NOT original, nor they are NOT G.I. (These ads remind me of the "Federal Reserve" (Its not a Federal agency, nor are there any reserves.) The folks at Fulton Armory tell me that the Chinese-made M14 magazines are reliable. However, I refuse to deal in them because China has a large network of "labor reform" (laogaidui) camps and prisons. They hold over ten million political prisoners, including many of those that were arrested following the Tiananmen Square massacre. Please don't buy any goods marked: "Made in China" Note: Original U.S.G.I. contract 20 round magazines were NEVER packed in grease before they left the factory. If you see grease or a light gray M14 magazine with no maker's mark, odds are 99% that it is from communist China.
Thermold (Canadian) 20 round M14 magazines: Black plastic. BTW, the Canadian soldiers jokingly refer to their M16 Thermolds as "Thermelts", because the feed lips melt if you get a M16 really hot (usually from firing blanks with a blank firing device.) The Thermold M14 magazine is presumably made with the same plastic formulation. These usually sell for $15 to $25 each at gun shows. I've been told that Thermolds are the only after-market M14 magazines that feed reasonably well.
Israeli (Galil-conversion) M14 magazines: Early production Galil .308 rifles came equipped with converted M14 magazines. These had the original locking lug in the rear milled off, and new locking lugs welded on front and rear . The typical Kalashnikov/Valmet/Galil magazine locking lug system.) These magazines are worth $90+ each IF you can find them. They will ONLY fit Galil/Hadar/ARM.308 rifles.
AR-10 magazine conversions: The (new) ArmaLite company produces a semi-auto .308 rifle dubbed the AR-10. It looks similar to the original AR-10s of the late 50s and early 60s. However, it uses quite a few AR-15 parts. The makers of this rifle decided to use converted M14 magazines. Once they have been converted, they will only fit AR-10s. Because ArmaLite is converting pre-ban M14 magazines in large numbers, they are make the already tight supply of surplus M14 magazines even tighter. (Armalite has recently discontinued modification of M14 magazines, at least on customer-supplied M14 mags. Armalite now sells a conversion kit for M14 mags at a cost of $47. This conversion kit allows you to switch your mag to AR-10 use and back to M14 use by removing the comversion parts and replacing the M14 parts -- Editor)
Smaller Capacity Magazines:
5 round capacity (flush fit): Most were made from cut-down and re-finished U.S. military contract magazines. (Many of these were Israeli Defense Force surplus magazines that for some reason had a torch hole cut in the side. I suppose that this was their idea of "de-milling"). These are designed primarily for hunting in States that have limits on magazine capacity for hunting. Since there is nothing to hold onto once they are in the rifle (they lay flush with the magazine well) they are a pain to get out of most M1As, particularly if your rifle has a tight magazine well. Thus, they are better suited to hunting that competitive target shooting. (Full length mags are required for Service Rifle competition -- Editor)
5 round capacity (extended): Most were made from cut-down and re-finished U.S. military contract magazines. These are designed primarily for match shooting. They have a magazine body that is long enough to otherwise accept 10 cartridges, but they are blocked to accept only 5 cartridges. They extra length makes them easier to get in an out of your rifle, since there is something to hold on to.
10 round capacity: Most were made from cut-down and re-finished U.S. military contract magazines. This is the handiest length for match or informal target shooting. They allow a very low prone position, and don't get in the way 20 rounders do, when bench shooting. Presumably some makers are now-making new manufacture 10 round capacity magazines, since they can still be made for civilian sale, even after passage of the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994. Most of the 10 rounders that are currently being made are not cut-down 20s. Depending on the maker, most of these new "scratch built" 10s are not nearly as reliable as the pre-ban production.On After-Market Magazines (all capacities):
Other after-market (civilian) manufacture: Most of these are total junk! Don't even bother buying any of these. (USA brand, et cetera.) You will be disappointed with their fit and function. The steel ones are particularly troublesome.
30 round magazines: All of these are after-market, and almost universally heralded as out-of-tolerance JUNK. The U.S. government never produced any 30 round magazines aside perhaps for a few prototypes.
On Magazine Carrying Pouches:
The earliest issue pouch for the M14 was the olive drab ("O.D."). canvas "Universal" magazine pouch. It fits two 20s. It has grenade straps on the sides. The dangling strap is designed to hook up to the suspenders.
The Marine Corps issues a dark O.D. canvas single magazine pouch. The same style pouch has been made for civilian market sales in black nylon, and with and/or without the grenade straps.
A later (and scarce) pouch was an O.D. double 20 round nylon magazine pouch. It featured an internal divider between the magazines. This keeps the magazines from rattling together or scratching each other up. The prime contractor for these was A-1 Sewing Products of St. Louis, Missouri. These have no grenade straps, a large black plastic buckle in the front (like the M16 pouch), and a large riveted drainage hole in the bottom. The contractor also made a small quantity of these for the civilian market without the "US marking. They also made some in black nylon, also for the civilian market.
Blackhawk makes several styles of a single and double 20 round Cordura nylon pouches. These are reportedly of the highest quality.
On the U.S. High Capacity Magazine Ban:
The magazine ban passed in September of 1994 banned only the importation and sale of high capacity magazines that were made after Sept. 13, 1994. To law enforcement officers conducting searches and arrests, an unmarked magazine is generally presumed to be "pre-ban." Magazines stamped with dates after Sept. 13, 1994 are considered "post ban". I have not yet heard of any "post ban" high capacity M14 magazines being made for law enforcement, but I suppose it is inevitable that some will be made. Such magazines may only be possessed by law enforcement officers and the military. However, FFL holders may also purchase them for inventory for the purpose of resale to "qualified buyers". (Read: Law enforcement officers.) Private possession of post ban magazines is a felony. BTW, if you own a "postban" firearm manufactured after the Sept. 13, 1994 ban, it is PERFECTLY LEGAL to own and use *pre-ban* high capacity magazines in it.
Thanks to R. Blake Stevens, Bill Dayton, J. Gooldy, Greg Hallford, Geoff Hardin, Elliot Kwock, and The Packratt for their input. Special thanks to Clint McKee of Fulton Armory. I hope that you find this info useful. Your corrections/additions are greatly appreciated.
James Wesley, RawlesClearwater Trading Co. c/o P.O. Box 642 Penn Valley, Calif.  voice: (916)639-1999 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org