Israeli “Hitchhiker” Modified M16 Magazine

(SR welcomes our first guest author, Yoel M. who will be discussing an interesting historical phenomena when it comes to the Israeli Defense Forces)

To understand the root of the IDF “hitchhiker’s magazine” we must begin with some context. Israel is a

small nation geographically, from North to South the country is only 263 miles (420Km). This same geography

that dictates military strategic plans also dictates military leave arrangements.

Because the front line are based just an hours drive from population centers, this enabled the IDF to release

soldiers for weekend vacations to return home. Not all the bases have good public

transportation options and as a result soldiers use to hitchhike on their way home and back

to base.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Palestinian fighters would take advantage of this situation and start to

kidnap soldiers to bargain for their comrades at Israeli prisons. These fighters

pretending to be Israelis would offer soldiers a ride. The tactic was usually to

arriving with no passengers to bus stations and offer a soldier a ride, the soldier would seat in

the front seat next to the driver, a few minutes down road the driver would stop and take in another

hitchhiker, this time the driver’s companion would sit behind the soldier and when the time

is right to attack and strangle the soldier from the rear.

IDF orders at that times were that soldiers are prohibited from moving with magazine inside the

rifle on their way to or from home. Most Israeli drivers having been IDF veterans themselves

usually also demanded the soldier to remove the magazine and cycle the

gun manually to check there is no round in the chamber before allowing the soldier in.

To counter the threat of kidnapping soldiers and against military orders, some troops would retrofit their

M-16 STANG magazines. They would saw off the magazine box and spring and weld the magazine

bottom floor plate to the new shorter box forming a magazine short enough to be totally

concealed inside the M-16 magazine housing.

There is, of course, no official data regarding the capacity of those homemade devices but it

fair to assume that 10 rounds is their maximum theoretical capacity.

Extracting the magazine was also an issue as those magazines were lighter than regular

STANG and often the welds on the floor plate brushed against the magazine housing inner

walls they often won’t drop when needed. With no exposing surface to grip to

extract the “hitchhiker magazine” some soldiers chose to shorter the magazine further and

weld or rivet small knob to the floor plate for easier magazine extraction.

The way the magazine would potentially work is that the soldier would insert it into the magazine

well and simply walk with it as a seemingly unloaded rifle to avoid any military police

checks and drivers demanding that a magazine be removed before entering the vehicle. If

the driver demands to manually cycle the bolt, the soldier will pull the charging handle while

pretending to verify that the chamber is empty only to load a round into the chamber from

the magazine.

Either way, the soldier plan to enter with his rifle loaded, only to be used in case of a hijacking

attempt. Iif the soldier is right handed when he sits in the passenger seat, the rifle would lay on his lap with the

barrel pointing towards the driver. In case of strangling from the rear the soldier could

theoretically operate the gun to shoot the driver.

The main problem with these magazines was the reliability. Those homemade fabrications

often misfed rounds, stacked in the housing and would drop or break open un-

expectantly when the welding failed.

Another problem was the increase in firing accidents the magazine caused, soldiers at home or

back at base could forget there is a magazine in the gun. More dangerous is the soldier’s

young siblings that might find the seemly unloaded gun and try to play with it.

Needless to say, the IDF didn’t take kindly to its soldiers initiative or the hitchhiking for that

matter and set to prohibit both. The military police was ordered to find and confiscate

hitchhiker’s magazines and penalties of up to a month in military prison to whom it was in

possession or those who tried hitchhiking.

Simultaneously officers were instructed to release soldiers for vacation only at days and

hours when public transportation was due. Moreover the army reluctantly spent money

paying private bus companies for transporting to and from central bus stations during the weekends.

Eventually, usage of the magazine became redundant as there was no longer a threat to IDF soldiers and the practice

went away.

As for its actual combat test and evaluation the magazine was never reportedly used in any kidnapping

attempt. One potential use I found in an online forum which I can’t verify or disprove was to

insert the magazine in the gun in what called “Peaceful Patrols” in Gaze and West Bank urban areas,

as the brass had the novel idea of “Winning Hearts and Minds” by send patrols without

magazines in the guns (only in the pockets of their vests). Some soldiers realized that their lives were worth more than

any hearts and minds campaign, and thus used these “Hitchhiker Magazines” while they were patrolling, to give them a

better chance of reacting to a threat.

Sadly there is no photos of the “Hitchhiker Magazine” online, the manufacturing of it done

against IDF orders and the magazine before social media and cell phones with

cameras appeared. In the end the concealed “Hitchhikers Magazine” achieved its goal as it still

invisible from Google’s all seeing eye.

Although not an Israeli magazine modification, this commercial five round magazine would have approximated what the “Hitchhiker’s Magazine” would have looked like in the 1980s and 1990s.

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