Numbering Magazines

By on September 6, 2012

Last weekend I went to a rifle competition with some friends.  I didn’t do too badly, I placed 5th in my division.  I was just out there to work on some skills and have a little fun.  While I was there, my AK malfunctioned on the last round in a magazine.  It was a failure to feed and the round went straight up instead of into the chamber.  It wasn’t a big deal and didn’t cost me anything the first time in the competition, but I was wondering if that was the gun or the magazine giving me trouble.

Later in the day my rifle did it again, and it cost me 2.5 seconds in the match for a missed shot that would have taken me from 5th to 4th.  Not a big deal in friendly competition, but in the real world that would have sucked.  My mistake was that I hadn’t been marking my magazines and didn’t know which one I was using, so for the next stage I marked them with tape stripes (1 stripe, 2 stripes, and 3 stripes) around the magazine so I could tell which one it was.

I easily found the problem one and didn’t have to worry the rest of the day.  But the moral of the story is that your magazines should be marked/serialized.  So here is my system to mark magazines.

I use color codes and have for years.  Green magazines are my duty/carry mags that I treat really well and know they will work if my life depends on it.  Tan/Desert color magazines are my training mags.  They work and I don’t mind kicking them around or stepping on them during a competition.  White or Red magazines are my bad mags.  I know they won’t function correctly but keep them around for dry practice and just to run malfunction drills on the range.

In the Marine Corps I would use colored electric tape and put two stripes around the magazines below where it went into the rifle.  I would take a sharpie and write the numbers on the tape and on the base plate to serialize the magazines.  Now I’m using spray paint, and a more complex, but easier to use numbering system.

As a Marine I only got magazines once in a while and kept them in two stacks, training and duty.  So I just numbered them 1 through whatever.  Now I have dozens of magazines everywhere in my house and couldn’t tell you what number I’m on, so now I mark mags with the year, month, and which mag I bought that month.  So if I bought a magazine today it would be 12091 (2012, Sep, my first mag) and if I bought another one tomorrow it would be 12092, and next month it would be 12101.  So my magazines have the date I brought them into service on them and a unique number.  I don’t worry about crossing numbers from different weapon systems, because if I have an AK mag and a Glock mag with the number 12091, they are easy to tell apart.

Color-coding the mags took a little work, so I ran down to Walmart and got some supplies.

Then I simply taped off the parts I didn’t want paint in (i.e. the inside of the magazine) and was ready to paint.

The AK mag that was giving me problems is going to end up white, but I wanted something cool, so I tiger striped it.

Then I hung each magazine outside and sprayed it.  The AK mag I tried to dust a little to give it kind of a dirty look.  The duty (green) mag, I painted solid.  The training (tan) mag I started painting full, but then decided it would look better if it was just dusted.  So I’ll be lightly paining the rest of them.

I added numbers to the mags in two ways.  First I took my knife and scratched the number in to make it permanent, then I got a paint pen from the craft area and wrote the number so I can read it.  I put it on the base plate because that is what everyone else does and I don’t like it.  I’m just writing them on the flat part from top to bottom.  You could also put the numbers on the body, just above the base plate.  That looks the coolest, but I can’t write that small.

As a side note, this style of marking magazines lets me ID my mags at a class or competition.  Since I’ve lost two Glock mags in the last two months, it could be helpful.  Let me know if you found a cool way to mark and number magazines.  Leave it in the comments with pictures if you can.

Stay Safe,


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  1. Josh M
    September 6, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    Hey Ben,

    Great idea! I don’t have that many mags for each gun but it makes sense to mark them to make it easy to identify or spot patterns if there are issues.

    Do you have any concerns that the paint might inhibit normal function of the mags? I imagine that normal use would wear down the paint where needed, if that was an issue, but wondering if you’ve had any issues there.


    • Ben Branam
      September 7, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      The only two things I would be concerned with the paint inhibiting the guns function would be if you got paint inside the magazine or if you put so much paint on the out side of the magazine that it won’t go in and out of the magazine well easily. Just spray lightly and make sure you tape over the holes.

      The paint does wear down on the rub points pretty quickly, but the color will last for a long time. When it gets rubbed off, just spray it again.

      I haven’t had any issues with function after marking a magazines.

  1. Handgun Malfunctions Bonus: Is it a Broken Gun? | Modern Self Protection - […] solved. How do you know what magazine is the problem? You number them right? Check out this post on …

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