Firearms,  Law & Policy

The Importance of .50 Beowulf Magazines

This is important to anyone facing a magazine ban in the foreseeable future.

This is about how Canadian AR15 owners have tripled their magazine capacity under a ban.

Canada has had a limit on magazine capacities since 1995 when a Liberal majority government instituted a federal firearms registry. Since then Canadian gun owners have been trying to claw back their rights, and this is one of our success stories.

Magazines in Canada fall into two classes: uncontrolled, and prohibited. For semi-auto rifles, any magazine capable of holding more than 5 rounds is prohibited. For pistols: a magazine above ten rounds becomes prohibited. And you thought California was bad! Imagine having to reload every 5 rounds during a carbine course. Possession of a “hi-cap” magazine can result in prison time and confiscation of all firearms.

But the Canadian success story began in 2012 with the repeal of our Long Gun Registry. Handguns, SBRs and AR-15s are still registered with the government, but the vast majority of firearms in Canada are uncontrolled for licensed citizens.

This year, Canadians have discovered the .50 Beowulf from Alexander Arms, which promises to nail the coffin shut on magazine restrictions. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the .50 Beo is a straight necked big-game caliber with a small 7.62×39 rim, designed for a modified AR-15.

.50 Beowulf Baseplate

This unique AR-15 upper fires 300 gr loads and makes it an extremely effective dangerous game rifle with ballistics similar to the 45-70.

This is the beauty of the AR-15 platform: it has been converted into anything and everything. Alexander Arms produces special magazines for their rifles with a modified follower, wider feedlips, and are stamped with .50 Beowulf markings.

One retailer imports the Alexander Arms rifles into Canada, and while the rifles come with 10 round magazines, they must be permanently riveted to 5 before being sold (5 rounds for rifles remember). These magazines have been inspected and approved by the RCMP, Canada’s federal police service and frequent adjudicator over implementation of firearm laws.

Here’s the big secret: you can load a .50 Beowulf magazine with .223 rounds, put it in your rifle, and shoot it. Five rounds of .50 Beo generally gives you 14-17 .223 cartiridges. That triples the capacity for people who have spent a decade struggling with 5 round magazines.

Most people will stop here and say “That’s a loophole” or “That’s illegal.” But it’s not.

Early on, shooters from IPSC and the IDPA came to the RCMP with a conundrum: Some pistol magazines, namely .40S&W magazines, could hold 9mm rounds. Competitors were using these magazines stamped in one caliber, and putting a different one in there to gain an extra two or three shots. Organizations wanted to know if they were violating the law by doing this. The RCMP did some deliberating and came back with an official bulletin:

Magazine capacities are determined by the caliber that the magazine was made for. They are either prohibited or not. What you do with an uncontrolled magazine is not legislated (but of course if you remove the rivet it is a prohibited magazine. The action of removing the rivet isn’t the illegal part. Possessing the “over ten” magazine is.) So you can wear it as a necklace, use it as a coaster, or try to force other calibers into it if you so choose.

Needless to say, Canadian target shooters, 3-gun competitors, and varminters are buying these magazines as fast as they can. If you think a $100 p-mag is off the charts, you should see .50 Beowulf magazines going for $300+ on Canadian forums.

Alexander Arms does not officially support .223 in their magazines. That’s the the point. They make it for .50 only, and I would not be surprised to learn they have a mixed reaction when some end users load the wrong ammo into their products.

But really: 458 Socom has the same potential, as does .450 bushmaster. Look at the wikipedia page for the AR-15 and count the number of chamberings available for that rifle. It’s a long one.

Consider the importance of this for states like Colorado. A ten round .50 Beowulf mag is the same size and shape as a 30 round .223 magazine.

There are three major obstacles keeping 50 beowulf from dominating the Canadian market.

1. Availability. Alexander Arms only produces so many magazines. And while different groups have talked about manufacturing their own .50 Beowulf magazines: none have so far followed through.

2. New shooters and their understanding of the law. Lots of new shooters are fed mis-information on a regular basis from friends, gun counter workers, or the internet. You have to be a dedicated enthusiast to navigate Canadian firearm laws. This means that many gun owners just arent aware of the options available to them.

3. Fear. This is the biggest one, and the hardest to fight. Many people are afraid to talk about these kinds of issues because of the negative attention that might be brought down if it were common knowledge. Many shooters don’t want average people knowing that putting .223 into .50 Beowulf mags is legal. They are afraid of a possible investigation and ban by authorities. The fact that the Kel Tec RFB and IWI Tavor are both non-restricted firearms in this country is often kept quiet because some owners fear popularity will lead to their banning.

I am in the opposite camp: I believe these things need to be explored by everyone in the firearms community, and that situations like the .50 Beowulf illustrate the fundamental flaw in magazine restrictions: you cannot legislate for every foreseeable situation, nor should you.

There are two things limiting the .50 Beowulf in the United States of America.

1. Alexander Arms doesn’t want to see their concept rifle corrupted. I can understand their apprehension at the idea of magazines being bought for what may be legal, illegal, or pseudo-legal use depending on where they’re shipped.

2. Its essentially capitulation. These magazines are a response for after a ban has already happened. They enable gun owners to still have access to proper capacities, but do nothing to address the initial misguided injustice of this breed of legislation.

As the US gun control fight begins in earnest, the Canadian’s who have been living under restrictions for more than a decade now are finally starting to realize their rights with the tools afforded to them.

Alberta, Canada: The perfect place to play with black rifles, tactical shotguns, and all manner of other fun gear. Plenty of wilderness, and plenty of toys to try out.