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Loaded Magazine Debate

Discussion in 'General Firearms Forum' started by ContractSoldier, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. unit1069


    Oct 10, 2007
    So. Central US
    We are all in agreement that constant shooting and/or excessive compression-contraction of magazine springs will cause the springs to wear out quicker than if the magazine is left continually loaded or unloaded.

    What's not agreed is whether a fully-loaded magazine spring will gradually weaken over time. My opinion is that if a fully-loaded magazine will suffer no deterioration in its reliability (the position of one camp) then certainly downloading by one or two rounds won't cause any deterioration either.

    I recently began downloading my magazines by one round and leave them in that condition for at least several months at a time because I haven't had the chance to go to the range in that interim. After those several months pass I unload that magazine and use a different magazine. I know some will claim I'm actually causing more wear to the magazine spring by doing this but like a lot of firearms issues there's a difference of opinion. Over the past seven years since I became interested in firearms I've changed my opinions on a number of these issues and expect there will be other opinions that change in the future.
  2. jbglock

    jbglock Manos Arriba

    Aug 18, 2012
    I actually agree with that part of it.

    Agree again. I think another key point is some magazines are just harder to insert and fully seat when fully loaded. Also I've actually seen a strain on the lips of some mags when fully loaded that I didn't see with one less round. I'm sure it's less of an issue with a mag seated in a gun and the top round against the slide or bolt as the case may be relieving pressure but I just don't like seeing that on the loaded spares. Like you I don't see anyone claiming downloading causes any damage.

    I've been at this for decades but I've seen quite a few fads, experts, and recommendations come and go. I know what works for me though. Downloading isn't like religion. I don't see why it causes such a heated debate. Personally I think everyone should just do what makes them comfortable without resorting to calling others that differ idiots or other childish names.

  3. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    Just FYI ...

    Of the 5 AR/M16 armorer classes I've attended, 2 of them were Colt classes, and in both of them we were told that magazines left loaded for extended periods of time in LE use should be downloaded by 2 rounds to help preserve best feeding/functioning. Specifically, 20rd mags loaded to 18rds & 30rd mags loaded to 28 rounds.

    Now, as far as the various pistol armorer classes I've attended, I don't recall any of the gun companies suggesting we have our folks load any less than the maximum number of rounds the magazine bodies were designed to hold (meaning it was okay to "top off" magazines after loading the chamber, if that was our policy or practice).

    When it came to the everyday experiences regarding the useful service-life for magazine (and recoil) springs, that's where it's often been interesting to hear about the experiences of not only the armorer instructors (and reps, if present), but the attending armorers, as well. Ditto in classes and training venue where other firearms instructors are present.

    When you start hearing similar experiences of feeding & functioning problems which can be attributed to weakened mag springs, especially in guns only being fired for required training & periodic quals (not by "shooting enthusiasts", in other words), at some point it stops being particularly noteworthy and just another maintenance/wearable part consideration to keep in mind when supporting duty weapons. Not something about which to argue or debate. Just another equipment issue to keep in mind.

    I've listened to some armorer instructors or factory reps hedge and refuse to be pinned down on what sort of service life to expect from mag springs, and then others who have adopted a "standard" recommended service time/usage interval for replacement.

    Over the years of classes I've also heard one manufacturer change their recommendations regarding this subject, regarding both "official" and unofficial recommendations.

    While I certainly agree that in a perfect world the engineers would always see their designs and recommendations implemented, and only the best of materials and manufacturing processes used ... we don't live in a perfect world.

    Having seen the ups & downs of the early efforts to shoehorn 8 rounds into 7-rd 1911 magazines, including the use of different designed springs, and the more current practice of lengthening the mag tubes to allow that 8th round (and a stronger spring), I'm no longer surprised when new designs, springs and vendor and/or manufacturer recommendations come along. ;)

    I've seen enough instances of prematurely weakened mag springs, damaged mag springs, improperly installed mag springs and even the wrong mag springs used, to be surprised by much in this regard.

    Also, there's always going to be people who like to squeeze every last inch or second of usage out of something they have to buy.

    I've seen guys who had double column magazine springs become too weak to allow for proper feeding after only 3-4 years of the magazines being left fully loaded, and they said they only fired their guns 4 times per year.

    I had another guy experience feeding problems due to weakened mag springs in all 3 of his duty mags, and he said he'd been carrying the same mags (with the original springs) for 10 years, and had only fired the gun when required to do so (annually, if I remember right).

    I've seen 1911 users experience feeding stoppages related to weakened mag springs in as little as 1200 rounds, although they were using +P loads, which are harder on recoil springs (which is related to feeding "timing" and mag springs, which have to overcome the recoil forces & load-stack bounce in order to get the rounds back up under the lips fast enough for the pick-up rail to strip the top round correctly).

    Weakening springs, even within their normal range over time, may sometimes also lack the necessary power to overcome unexpected issues such as excessive fouling, debris and environmental contamination (sand, grit, immersion in water, solvent/lubricant contamination, etc).

    Cleaning magazines can help prevent adverse functioning due to debris, fouling and contamination, as well as allow the owner/user to inspect the springs (follower, insert, butt catch plate, etc) for damage, too ... kinks, deformation of coils, cuts, gouges, etc. Things that might decrease the expected useful service life of the spring, even in "good conditions".

    Magazines are assemblies, and the springs are just one of the components which make up the assemblies. I've never heard a gun company engineer, rep, tech or armorer instructor ... or a spring maker or vendor, for that matter ... ever state that a pistol mag spring was a lifetime part.

    I stopped carrying a dime store rabbit's foot when I was a youngster.

    I prefer prudent maintenance (periodic and preventive) when it comes to things upon which I stake my life. As an armorer I also prefer to treat weapons being used by other folks as if I were going to be using them myself.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  4. RustyDaleShackleford

    RustyDaleShackleford Giblet Head

    Nov 5, 2010
    North Carolina
    There are a dozen threads on this, minimum.
  5. unit1069


    Oct 10, 2007
    So. Central US
    I picked up a like-new 10-round G-23 magazine at a gun show for my G-32 on the off chance I might someday travel to a restricted state. Getting the tenth round into the magazine takes every bit of strength and patience I have. I have to use some pressure just to seat the fully-loaded magazine into the pistol.

    Although I've never suffered a single malfunction with this magazine I decided some time ago to keep it unloaded. The pressure on the magazine walls is so pronounced that the sides bulge. I hadn't considered the pressure on the lips, which must be considerable, and I'd be surprised if leaving this magazine fully loaded for an extended period wouldn't eventually cause problems.
  6. RustyDaleShackleford

    RustyDaleShackleford Giblet Head

    Nov 5, 2010
    North Carolina
    The consensus is that it's not keeping them loaded that wears the springs out, it's the loading and unloading back and forth.
  7. Ruble Noon

    Ruble Noon "Cracker"

    Feb 18, 2009
    This is correct, a properly tempered spring will not wear out from constant compression. Not all springs are properly tempered however.
  8. zackwatt

    zackwatt That's a Bingo! Lifetime Member

    Nov 25, 2007
    If this was too technical, I will simplify...

    A properly designed spring is worn out not by compression, but by many repeated cycles of compression/extension.


    Failures of magazines that have been in long term storage are most likely due to dirt, debris, corrosion and/or lack of lubrication.
  9. TactiCool


    Feb 1, 2012
    Southeast LA.
    The only reason GI mags were ever loaded to just 28 rounds was so that it would more easily seat on a closed bolt. It won't compromise function at all to load them to capacity, even for long-term storage.
  10. GlockFish

    GlockFish Floyd

    Feb 22, 2002
  11. Angry Fist

    Angry Fist Dehumanizer® Lifetime Member

    Dec 30, 2009
    Hellbilly Hill
    I keep mine loaded down by 1. Makes a good place to put the chambered round if you ever want to clear the weapon. Better than loading, taking the mag out, topping off, then reinserting. And, to me, it's slightly easier to load than a full mag.
  12. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    I won't disagree with you. I'm simply saying that for several years that wasn't what was being taught in the Colt AR15/M16 armorer classes for LE users. ;)

    For a while we were told that Colt was cycling out its function testing AR mags something like every 90 days (due to wear). Dunno if they're still doing it that way.

    I can say that I've seen surprising service exhibited by AR 30-rd mags (as sold by Colt and a couple other companies who sell to LE/Gov buyers), even when they're being used for a few years (constantly being loaded for training/quals). Once it may reach a point where occasional (as necessary) cleaning, and maybe a follower or spring replacement, can't keep them running, though, they're ready for destruction/discard and replacement. I'd be more careful of service use mags, though.

    And as for every magazine spring ever made being properly designed for the box magazine in which it's going to be used, and being tempered with exacting precision?

    Well, cost savings on materials & manufacturing, meeting low bids and/or the use of third party vendor supplied parts may not always allow those lofty ideals to be realized. :whistling:


    That's why I've long since stopped being surprised, amazed, disappointed or annoyed when an occasional spring (or set of springs) fails to provide similar length of proper service as some other spring (or springs), even when it hasn't been subjected to numerous compression cycles, but only being left fully compressed.

    People will continue to debate this subject as long as we're using wire coil springs. I doubt everyone will ever reach complete agreement.

    I'll continue to remain unsurprised when 9mm mag (and recoil) spring service life may sometimes seem to exceed that of .40/.45/.357 pistols, too.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  13. jbglock

    jbglock Manos Arriba

    Aug 18, 2012

    You'd think if Vickers was the fraud that you claim he is that he would have been exposed by now. Still waiting on your credentials since you've called his into question.
  14. denn1911


    Oct 14, 2010
    New England
    I have fully loaded my defensive magazines for years. I've never had any issues except for some older 1911 magazines. Since I shoot a ton every week, I tend to wear my mag springs out by use. Some of my mags have been fully loaded for about a year. They've been flawless since using them again.
  15. The discussion continues! This months American Rifleman magazine (NRA) answered the asked question "is it wise to keep magazines loaded all the time?". They say no. They go on to say that "all springs weaken under tension". They say to rotate your magazines at least every couple of months. I'm sure the same goes for all firearm springs as well.
  16. NEOH212

    NEOH212 Diesel Girl

    Mar 25, 2008
    North East Ohio

    It's too bad that there isn't a go pound salt smilie since writing what I really want to would cost me an infraction.

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  17. mjkeat


    Jun 17, 2009
    With the amount of people leaving magazines full for years on end then having NO issues when using them it's absolutely retarded for there to be any sort of question/debate. Just bored guys/gals sitting around trying to find something to talk about or in the case of magazines, writters and publishers sitting around trying to keep advertisers happy.
  18. NeverMore1701

    NeverMore1701 Fear no Evil Platinum Member

    Jun 25, 2004
    Amarillo, Tx
  19. elliotb33


    Sep 2, 2011
    For my Glock 19 I have 2 15 round mags loaded with 13 rounds.
    For my M4 I have 2 PMags 30 rounders with 28.

    Have not switched out mags. So looks like I am middle of road.
  20. Warp


    Jul 31, 2005
    Load your magazines. Leave them. Don't worry about it.

    Cycling them (use) is what most wears the springs.

    This assumes your magazines aren't POS's, I guess.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012