AR-15 DIY Magazine Dip Stick For Checking Ammo Level

Have you ever wanted to quickly know how many rounds were in one of your AR-15 mags?

From user SkilletsUSMC:

I first saw one of these when in the USMC to measure ammo handed out to guard sentries, but it was just colored in to 25 rounds, and didn’t have the actual round count markers. Outside of that, I have never seen anything like it, so I figured I’d share the knowledge.

It’s a pretty simple concept: just zip-ties, a sharpie, a full 30 round mag, and a little time. I usually start with the mag full, mark, pop out a round, mark, repeat. I personally like the the index line to line up with the feed lip on the side where the indicated round is, but you can do it however makes the best sense.

More pictures and comments over on the thread.

Neat idea.  I don’t have a use for it, but I like when people come up with clever/inexpensive DIY solutions to their problems.

Thoughts?  Anyone planning on doing this?

Hat tip: Saul



Linoge November 16, 2012 at 05:40 am

People consistently leave their magazines in a condition somewhere between “full” and “empty”? Huh.

mos2111 November 16, 2012 at 07:21 am

Im a MAN. I load to 28 and push in with my index finger. A 28 rnd mag stops moving at the first knuckle. (insert thats what she said joke here)

PhoenixNFA November 16, 2012 at 07:42 am

“Have you ever wanted to quickly know how many rounds were in one of your AR-15 mags?”


neat concept, but i dont purposely let mags get part way filled. if its a 30 rd mag, it needs to be 30 rds, fact.

Spud November 16, 2012 at 09:31 am

Spoken like someone who only shoots in video games. This is an excellent idea for us shooters.

Teknix November 16, 2012 at 10:31 am

Is it common to leave partly empty mags? I personally do not. I either have full or empty mags. While I’m shooting I shoot the entire magazine. Not sure how this would relate to video games so i don’t get that comment?

PJ November 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

The video game comment is a reference to most video games only keeping track of the number of rounds the player has and as a result giving them as many full magazines as they have ammo for. The player therefore only hets a partially empty magazine if they reload with fewer remaining rounds than would fill a magazine.

Spud November 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

“I use this a lot at the Rifle League matches I shoot where it’s a DQ if you transition to a handgun with a Con-1 weapon. WIth this tool I can put just the right amount of rounds in my last mag to finish the rifle portion of the course with an empty mag. ”

From the original post.

PhoenixNFA November 16, 2012 at 06:56 pm

well i dont shoot competition, so its not for me. i also can count past 10.

SkilletsUSMC November 17, 2012 at 02:57 pm

This is the mag that Pvt Snuffy is going to load into his M16/M4 before stepping off for a patrol. Pvt Snuffy is a fucking retard, but you are low on bodies and need everyone in the fight you can get. Since you can count past 10, how many rounds are in this magazine?

PhoenixNFA November 17, 2012 at 03:07 pm

then in that case, your tool is perfect for the job.

2 < x < infinity is the answer

PhoenixNFA November 17, 2012 at 03:12 pm

let me rephrase my answer

OH MAH GAWD YOUR TOOL IZ LEIK TEH BEZTEZH TOOL EBAR…it should say magpul on it for the awesome it exudes. i dont know how i lived before knowing how many holes im going to punch in paper at the range!!!

dude…chill…if you need the approval of some guy on the internet with a twitter, youtube account, and some firearms then you might need to re-assess your priorities.

i now see the reason i have and never will venture onto ARFCOM….im not worthy…

SkilletsUSMC November 17, 2012 at 03:52 pm

Well, you came back to argue me, so I guess you care about the opinion of “some guy on the internet” too. Nice job trying to deflect your flippancy on to me. You were the one who insinuated that the only people who would need this tool is someone who can’t count to ten.

I really don’t give a fuck if you don’t like me or the trick I posted on another board that somehow ended up here. It’s handy for some folks, and it’s something you can do yourself for cheap.

This wasn’t something I did to make money. It’s just something I have been doing for years, and regularly attracting the attention of other shooters when I use it. I figured I’d pass the knowledge on. You can make fun of arfcom all you want, but you are the one in here taking a shit on a helpful tip–not me.

Bowen1911 November 21, 2012 at 10:51 am

If you have shot and loaded more than 6 mags, you should (unless you are retarded) be able to have a estimate based on weight and balance of the mag. Or maybe I am just some god among mere mortals at not needing to use a fastener to count something trivial.

The Real Dave November 16, 2012 at 09:41 am

What’s the point? You either have 30 or you have “not enough”.

1 With A Bullet November 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

Or you could use Lancer translucent mags.

Sid November 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

The answer to a few questions posed up stream is that YOU may not need to know how many rounds are in YOUR magazines, but there are plenty of OTHER people who may want to know how many rounds are in YOUR magazines.

When military units are shooting qualifications, they load 100s of magazines. Enlisted promotions in the US Army, Reserve, and National Guard are based in part on qualification scores. You do not want ot explain to a soldier and his chain of command why his magazine was 5 rounds short.

In competitive shooting, there are round limits on some tables. It is a simple way for a scorer or RSO to ensure the shooter is not loading extra points.

And before any of you Delta-Para-Scuba-Rangers starts telling me how you load or reload your magazines before every mission, STOP. 4 deployments (Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, OIF). I will not listen to your BS. In my platoon, I had my soldiers paint the bottoms of one set of magazines white. One week, painted magazines. Next week, unpainted magazines. A quick gauge would have been helpful. Pull a random magazine out of a soldiers vest and slip a gauge in it.

So no, if you shoot all your magazines until empty, then you won’t need it. But for those of us who have to handle lots of magazines and load specific round counts, this is a great idea if you have a zip tie and a marker.

dave w November 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

^ agreed, there are uses for this, but the sitting home eating cheetos and wathing vids on motherless crowd wont have one. ( neither do i, i will admit but i dont have an ar either)

wingnutx November 17, 2012 at 12:16 am

Exactly. Pre-combat inspection.

Also good for a quick ammo report after doing a bunch of tac reloads.

bikemancs November 17, 2012 at 07:19 am

As a soon to be Company Commander, I always hated going to the range and getting mags not 100% knowing there were 20 and 20 or 20/10/10 (as it is now). I’ve also watched the ammo point guys mix them up, or on the firing line soldiers grab the 10 first instead of the 20.

This would be a quick method by lane coaches and the ammo detail to make sure they loaded them right. You’d need only a couple and it’d be a go/no-go marker.

I’m assuming you experimented with various types of zip-ties, what works best?

SkilletsUSMC November 17, 2012 at 01:27 pm

Great question.

I can’t actually spout off numbers, but can tell you that thicker zip ties work very well with aluminum USGI mags, but not so well with Pmags. (I will be checking Lancers/Troy mags soon)

The best bet is to use something ~1/4″ wide so that you know it will work with a variety of different mags

bikemancs November 18, 2012 at 06:47 am

Thanks, going to start experimenting with what I have on hand. Nice idea and great execution.

dagamore November 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm

When i was in the army, in the 90’s, at the ammo loading point of the range, you had two or three plastic things that were marked on the side, at 20rds and 10rds for making sure the shooter had the right amount of rounds.

Hard to fuck that up, every magazine was checked by a RSO, Range Safety Officer, that would make sure the magazines were at the right level for the events.

bikemancs November 18, 2012 at 06:50 am

Not sure what you’re referring to, but I haven’t seen anything like that and I joined late 04.

The RSO’s job currently has nothing to do with checking ammunition in the magazines. They make sure the ammo point is safe, no weapons around, Range is safe, people aren’t being idiots, etc… I’m guessing it’s changed over the years. I’ve RSO’d multiple ranges and never inspected a magazine.

SkilletsUSMC November 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Haha! Thanks for hosting my thread here!

For the critics, here are some things you may want to consider. If you don’t like my DIY trick, I am OK with that. It works for me, and that is all that really matters. If it works for you–awesome! This tool is handy for a lot of different applications. Not every mag is a Lancer or windowed PMAG, and this costs maybe $1.00.

First, a few tactical uses: Before stepping out for a patrol, raid, whatever, it’s a good idea to inspect your guys. Laugh it up, but I have seen 31 rounds put into USGI mags. This corrects that. Also, refreshing your weapon with tactical reloads leaves LOTS of half full mags. When you consolidate and conduct an ACE report for your team, you can quickly get an idea of how much ammo you and your fellow teammates have.

For a competition use, as stated earlier I can pre-set my bolt to lock back on the last stage before I draw my pistol. Transitioning with a Con-1 rifle is a DQ at the matches I go to. Getting DQed would suck. This zip tie has made sure that the bolt locks back and it hasn’t happened. Also, if I drop some half full magazines, when I go to consolidate I can see how many rounds are in each. 9 rounds in one PMAG, 21 in the other? Now I know I can combine the two for a full mag.

If you have stored mags but cant remember how many rounds you filled them with, this is handy. The 28 vs 30 round debate is one I am not looking to get into here. I like 28 in USGI, 30 in PMAGs and I am happy with that.

Anyway, hope some of you out there get some use out of this thing. Thanks again for re-posting my thread!

David November 16, 2012 at 01:08 pm

I think this is pretty clever.

Guy November 16, 2012 at 01:08 pm

Actually pretty durn cool if you’ve ever found yourself with magazines of questionable loading. Wonder how long before a company markets it with a quick pull grip thingy and whatever color of the day is high speed enough.

Milhouse USMC November 16, 2012 at 01:13 pm

As a squad leader and team leader you can check that your guys actually have full magazines. I can tell you I’ve caught a few Lance Corporals and PFC trying to go on patrols with half full magazines because they didn’t want to carry the extra few pounds. This is something that’s field expedient and can be implemented anywhere combat sends us.

For those who want to criticizes it understand that maybe you haven’t run into a situation where its needed but some of us have.


Dave Calhoun November 16, 2012 at 01:38 pm

Seems like a solution in search of a problem to me.

that_guy November 16, 2012 at 01:45 pm

The firearm industry has had that problem for years.

Magpul window mags and Lancer translucent mags both do the same thing this video does, just quicker and with less effort. For the time spend making these mag ‘dip sticks’ you could spend the extra $3-4 on a mag that has a similar feature.

SkilletsUSMC November 16, 2012 at 01:57 pm

Umm…. NO. I have a LOT of magazines. About maybe 10-15 are windowed PMAGs. You are talking about a $1000-$2000 solution to replace all of them rather than make the $1 dipstick.

For what it’s worth, I use the dipstick on my windowed PMAGs. It’s faster and easier.

SkilletsUSMC November 16, 2012 at 02:00 pm

Why do you say that? I have spelled out multiple uses for them, and it’s CHEAP to make. Which is easier, downloading all the rounds in a mag or just checking with the zip-tie?

032125 November 16, 2012 at 02:11 pm

I just pop the mag out and give it a shake. I don’t need an exact count; full, partial or “time to reload” is good for my applications.

SkilletsUSMC November 16, 2012 at 02:20 pm

This isn’t for actual reloads–it’s for consolidation, mostly. Did you really think I would pull a mag out, run the stick in it and re-insert it? ;)

032125 November 16, 2012 at 02:57 pm

That sounds vaguely dirty.

No worries Skillets, I gathered your application. It makes sense. Got it. Tracking. Copy.

SkilletsUSMC November 16, 2012 at 03:10 pm

Roger–lima charlie! ;)

dave w November 16, 2012 at 04:20 pm

Skillets, you have to remember 90% of the gun audience on the internetz think if you dont know how many rounds are left press X and you are back to full capacity.

Taylor TX November 17, 2012 at 11:00 am

Cmon man, you mean that little guy running around with an infinite sack of full magazines behind me for any weapon I pick up whilst I play Call of Duty is unrealistic?

Cool little DIY Trick Skillets. Helps out with storing a variety of loaded mags. Thanks again.

dave w November 17, 2012 at 04:43 pm

hahaha, like an ammo butler or something? Maybe HE needs one of these to make consolidating your part used mags easier.

SkilletsUSMC November 17, 2012 at 10:52 pm

“Squire! tend to my carbine and ensure that all of it’s magazines are filled and in good order. This berm and I shall do battle again in the morn.”

Church November 16, 2012 at 04:13 pm

Genius, but useless for me…

matt RRC November 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm

New ENDO shirt.

“pull a mag out”
“run the stick in it”

Ted N November 17, 2012 at 09:56 am


Phil November 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

This is just fucking stupid.

Fill your mags to capacity or get clear mags, end of story.

SkilletsUSMC November 17, 2012 at 01:22 pm

Again, I have multiple thousands of dollars in magazines. Most of them aren’t clear. Are you actually suggesting that I get rid of all of them for lancers or PMAGs?

Holy shit some people’s kids… You are here criticizing a tool that is near-free to make and very handy for people who actually NEED to run PCC/PCIs or consolidate other people’s magazines durring ACE reporting. act like I’m trying to fucking sell these things to you or something. It’s a DIY trick for people with the need. If you don’t have a need for it, don’t make one.

Pretty simple concept. I guess if all you do is hose berms, you can just shoot until the bolt locks back.

MrMaigo November 17, 2012 at 01:38 pm

Good tool for the range. Nothing like firing 10 rounds then no *clickbang* because you grabbed the wrong mag

Johnnycarcinogen November 17, 2012 at 04:28 pm

Skillets, I think most of your detractors are pissed they didn’t think of it.

mandingo November 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Reading the comments from readers that don’t understand the usefulness of this idea makes me realize that these people have no idea what they are talking about.

If you can’t think back to the last time you’ve loaded different mags to specific #’s of rounds, then I think i know the reason: because your magazines hold BB’s.

You idiots shut your mouth-holes, and let the adults talk.

To the originator of this concept, Good Job.

Mountain November 21, 2012 at 05:26 pm

It’s kinda a good idea but I don’t see the utility as described. It was funny to see everyone’s panties get in a bunch over: “neat concept, but i dont purposely let mags get part way filled.”

BeefWellington November 22, 2012 at 12:19 am

Some of you guys are purely fucking retarded. Talking shot to a dude that:
1. obviously served in some shit hole, while getting shot at
2. created a sub $1 trinket that actually works and works in the field
3. He is not trying to sell it nor make ANY money off of it

Yes, carrying a full load out is the best way to goal, but if you have ever been stressed out under fire or in some kind of hurry, this is a 5 second tool that can help.

Some of you faggots need to wash the dick out of your mouth.

Fred January 25, 2014 at 08:29 pm

Great idea. If I’m interupted while loading some mags I sometimes loose count. I generally load 25 rounds instead of 30. I usually have to unload them and start over. This would save me from having to start over again. I might keep loaded that way for a couple of weeks before I go shooting. Starting to forget things as I get on with my age. Sucks. Thanks again for the tip. Very helpful.
Semper Fi

Norman Sisneros May 25, 2016 at 05:16 am

Great commentary . Just to add my thoughts , if anyone is requiring to merge some PDF files , my company saw reference here

Older post:

Newer post: