Compliant and Fast: Meet the AR MAGLOCK

The best possible solution for AR-15 shooters in “restricted” states like California and New York—short of moving to a more 2A-friendly locale.

Warning: This story, the videos, and photos do not constitute legal advice. Check with all applicable state and local authorities before modifying your firearms.

maglock magazine release ar platform
The Maglock replaced the magazine release button on an AR platform firearm.Maglock

AR fans in "restricted" states, say goodbye to weird looking stocks and non-existent pistol grips. The AR MAGLOCK is by far the best solution for staying on the right side of the law, and keeping your AR-15 legit.

The system works like this: swap out the mag-release button on your AR for the MAGLOCK, and the magazine will only release when the upper and lower are separated. Install an aftermarket quick-release rear takedown pin, like a Hyperswitch or King Pin, and you can do mag changes fast as Eugene Stoner intended.

Don’t believe me?

Watch this:

Some background: California and New York have tried to ban AR-15s by focusing on the detachable box magazine. The AR MAGLOCK works around that by converting the AR into a fixed-magazine rifle when the upper and lower are pinned together.

Without going into the long legal history, California passed a bill that outlawed other popular workarounds by defining a fixed magazine as, “a feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.”

The guys at AR MAGLOCK received California Department of Justice Regulatory approval, because the MAGLOCK only releases the magazine when the upper and lower are separated i.e. the firearm is disassembled.

In New York, it’s not so clear. The 2013 update of the NY SAFE Act defines an “assault weapon” as any rifle, shotgun or pistol with a detachable magazine and any one “military feature” from a laundry list that includes muzzle brakes, a pistol grip, bayonet lugs, and grenade launchers.

New York authorities have refused to comment on the MAGLOCK, which eliminates the detachable box magazine from the rifle and doesn’t place it in the purview of the SAFE Act. Meanwhile gun shops across the state are jettisoning “featureless” guns with hunting rifle-style stocks for unmistakably full-featured ARs with all the bells and whistles, and MAGLOCKs. Daniel Defense, LMT, Black Rain Ordinance and Armalite are all shipping MAGLOCK’d ARs that look, feel, and shoot exactly like free-state rifles.

MAGLOCKS come in several generations and installing each has its nuances. Gen 2 is the most popular for 5.56 guns as it works with a wide variety of aftermarket takedown pins. Gen 3 is more picky (you need a device called a Hyperswitch for it to work well) but it drops the magazine automatically, race gun style, when the upper and lower are separated. Gen 4 is for the AR-10 platform.

Important: for the MAGLOCK to work, the rifle must have a milspec-like lower. If the area of the receiver around the mag release button is contoured or shaped, like on a CMMG Banshee, it won’t work. But I say “milspec-like” because so long as the space around the mag button is flat and sits flush the upper without any special contouring, it will work. I’ve successfully installed them in three Bushmasters, including a 450 Bushmaster and an AR-10 in .308, plus a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 and a Remington R-15. Here’s how they go in:

Gen 2 MAGLOCK install on a Bushmaster 450 Bushmaster:

Gen 3 MAGLOCK install on a Bushmaster Minimalist .556:

Gen 4 install on a Bushmaster AR-10:

It’s important to note which rear takedown pins work with which generation of MAGLOCK. I wasted a day of my life messing with a Gen 3 and King Pin combo that just doesn’t go together. It’s also important, especially with the Gen 3, to tune the MAGLOCK perfectly, finding that sweat spot by working the screw 1/8 of a turn at a time.

When you get it with an empty mag, fine tune with a full one. Frankly, it’s picky as hell. I installed four MAGLOCKS and four takedown pins in the time it took to get the Gen 3 working, but once it works, it’s by far the fastest mag change solution for restricted-state guns anywhere.

Once the MAGLOCK is installed, it takes a quick-release takedown pin to make the system sing. The most basic is the Tacticool extended pin with a keyring in the head. The length of the pin is cut and grooved for the rear-pin detent, so when you pull it to separate the upper and lower, the pin does not come all the way out. A faster solution is the King Pin. It takes a little more work to install than the MAGLOCKs, but anyone with an armorer’s wrench can do it in a few minutes.

What’s nice about the King Pin is it’s tethered to the upper, so the upper and lower only separate a quarter inch. This prevents the upper from flopping all over the place. The button is also on the safety side of the lower, so if you can flip the safety while down on the gun, you can run the King Pin and do a quick mag change down on the gun, too.

The biggest drawback to the King Pin is it does not work with the Gen 3 MAGLOCK, so no King Pin and auto-drop magazines. For that, you need the Hyperswitch.

The Hyperswitch works much like the King Pin, except the controls on the starboard side of the lower, or the side with the bolt-forward assist. Instead of pressing it like a button, you flip or roll the Hyperswitch with the thumb of your shooting hand.

While that sounds ergonomically tricky, it’s very natural, and fast. I’m partial to the King Pin, but literally everyone who’s shot both that I know prefers the Hyperswitch. The Hyperswitch does not automatically tether the upper and lower, like the King Pin, so you need to DIY a stop-screw into your buffer, or buy a $20 Buffer Receiver Stop from MAGLOCK, to keep the upper from flopping around.

Are you confused yet? Before I got my hands on all these parts, I was confused as hell. So, to make things easy, here’s what you need to make the following types of AR-15s complaint with a MAGLOCK, based on their intended use:

Race Gun Build

- Fastest mag change speed:

Budget Build

Mods cost less than $40:

Hunter/Plinker Build

For fast mag swaps without dropping your mag in the dirt:

AR-10 Build

For .308s and 6.5 Creedmoor:

Happy shooting! And a big thanks to all the gun-space innovators out there, like the guys at MAGLOCK, for keeping the spirit of the 2nd amendment alive.