Leaving rounds in Magazine


December 18, 2004, 11:50 AM
My CCW is a 1911 style gun, and I am wondering how often should i empty the mags when im not carrying it? I know coil springs have a long fatigue cycle and a long life cycle in general, but i dont want a failure to feed from a broken spring if it comes down to using the gun. The mags are Wilson Combat 8 rounders

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December 18, 2004, 11:56 AM
This question comes up again and again but the answer is always the same .A properly made spring will not soften , 'take a set', or wear out just sitting there in a loaded mag. Occasionally take the mag apart and clean and lightly lube the mag and spring just like the rest of the gun.

December 18, 2004, 12:09 PM
From what a physics teacher told me in high school, leaving a spring compressed won't fatigue it much faster than leaving it uncompressed.

The cycle of compression/decompression is what wears em out. I leave my mags loaded in my defensive weapons. I do take them apart forthe occasional cleaning/lube.

December 18, 2004, 12:20 PM
Can't add much more to that except annecdotal experience, so - I've had several magazines loaded for years all the time except once or twice a year when I shoot 'em. Not 1911's but same mechanism.

Have faith - Wilson mags are quality.

December 18, 2004, 02:44 PM
Won't hurt a bit. Leave them loaded. Of course you should shoot now and then , you know practice :D

December 18, 2004, 03:11 PM
Magazines that I have left loaded, do indeed fatigue. Much more quickly than those I have not loaded.

I have a Beretta 92 and a Glock 20, where both factory loaded mags lost quite a bit of tension in just 2 years or so of "being at the ready". As well, My glock 20 slide spring needed replacement after nine years and only maybe 300 rounds of ammo. Soo, that kinda shoots the "resting spring fatigues as fast as compressed spring" theory all to heck., as well as the theory that cycling does them in, rather than compression.

I've relegated those softened spring mags to backup duty until I replace the springs, even though I don't feel that it has much lessened their reliability at this point.

As well, I have noticed that my AR-15 mags that I left loaded for a time have also lost considerable tension.

My conclusion is that compressed spring mags are generally safe for a couple of years, but beyond that, they will need periodic inspection with possible replacement necessary.

December 18, 2004, 03:51 PM
Fiero, the term 'fatigue ' implies alternating stresses such as a recoil spring sees as you shoot . A spring in a loaded mag does not see fatigue stresses. If it is not made proprly it might permanently compress.

December 18, 2004, 04:56 PM
Fiero, You store your glock with the slide locked back?

Is it possible that you're confusing spring fatigue with the 'loosening up' most magazines do after the first few times you use them. My glock 23 mags were kinda hard to get the 13'th round into the first couple of times I loaded them, but now they load up fine. I put it down to the sliding parts smoothing out a hair, not spring fatigue.

December 19, 2004, 03:06 PM
I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with anyone, but I keep three handguns in the house, a Beretta .40 by the bed, a Remington 1911A1 in another room, and a .44 revolver here at the computer desk. I rotate the magazines weekly. I have twelve for the Beretta and seven for the 1911A1, I've painted a number on the bottom of the magazines with dark red fingernail polish to keep them in order. I also remove the chambered round and rotate it with the other ammo. I do less with the revolver but still insure it functions and rotate ammo periodically. When I go shooting I take them all and fire up oldest ammo.


December 19, 2004, 05:02 PM
The term "fatigue" is most commonly applied to describe tiredness, or loss of proficiency or functional ability after enduring strain or effort without rest.

A spring under constant tension will absolutely undergo irreversible changes that are functionallly no different than any interpretation of fatigue. A spring that has lost sufficient usprung tension to provide for it's intended function is what we are talking about here, not the nuances of arcane engineering definition.

Although somewhat anecdotal to be sure, I have seen both magazine springs and others under constant tension lose functionality, not by cyclic action, but by age and tension. To be sure, cyclic operation has its own detrimental effects, the end result is similar.

The original question had to do with storing ammunition in a magazine. For short term, it is absolutely the right thing to do. However, long term the spring does undergo changes that should be expected and dealth with. Magazine springs are cheap, and relatively easy to service. That being said, it is perfectly reasonable to maintain a magazine under tension, so long as the user realizes that a mechanical component of his armament is undergoing a manner of wear that should be inspected from time to time (maybe every year or so).

December 19, 2004, 05:07 PM
Fiero, do you have any data to support your statements? They seem to fly in the face of all the other data I have seen.


December 19, 2004, 05:24 PM
I'm an engineering major, and we've covered this stuff pretty extensively in many of my classes. Fatigue (from the strength of materials sense) is based on cyclic loading, and is a function of the amplitude of the stress, the mean stress, and the number of cycles. I haven't run the calculations (finals are finally over, and I think my brain would revolt if I broke out another textbook), but I'm pretty sure the number of cycles to failure for a 1911 magazine is pretty high.

The phenomena you guys are talking about is called creep, where a material slowly loses strength while elastically deformed. Elastic deformation is when a material is under enough stress to deform it, but when the stress is removed the material returns to it's original shape. Springs compressed within their limits are elastically deformed. Creep is mostly a function of temperature, and typically isn't an issue in environments below half the melting point of the stressed material.

So under the typical conditions found in a house, your magazines will be fine.

December 19, 2004, 06:37 PM
Wilson 8-round magazines seem to use "less powerful" springs than some other 1911 magazines. Of course, some differences are required in order to accomodate an extra round, too, regarding both the spring and the follower. I've had them start exhibiting signs of spring weakening after fewer rounds fired than some other brands, or 7-round magazines in general.

When the FBI was using them in their single column .45 pistols, it was reported that they'd decided that their magazine springs would be replaced on a rounds-fired usage, and/or a time-left-loaded criteria. If I remember right, it was reported the criteria used was after 2,500 rounds were fired, and/or they'd been left loaded for 6 months, whichever occurred first.

I know some other folks who carry cocked & locked 1911's for work, and some of them have reported similar experiences where the magazine springs in their 8-round Wilson magazines started either failing to lock the slide open when the magazine was empty, or the last round apparently wasn't being lifted upward fast & firmly enough to be properly stripped, fed and chambered. The last guy that was talking to me about this told me his magazine started exhibiting apparent spring-related issues after he'd only fired 1200 rounds. Replacing the springs resolved his problem. Of course, he's also required to carry W-W RA45TP, which is a 230gr +P load, and that can add the extra consideration of introducing some slightly increased slide velocity, too.

I prefer 7-round magazines for Colt style 1911 pistols, and find the S&W TDA and the SIGARMS P220 to be fine with the supplied factory magazines.

Personally, I no longer buy Wilson magazines. There are a lot of other quality magazines being offered for sale nowadays.

Magazine springs, and their durability and long-term functioning, are often a popular subject of some debate. Some folks aren't even satisfied when the spring makers, or engineers familiar with related metallurgical issues speak out, either. ... "Uncle Charlie's WW-WUN 1911 magazine was left loaded since Moses parted the waters (pick the legendary Moses of your choice;) ), and it functioned just fine when he needed it that one time. 'Nuff said" ...

Or something along those lines. But would you want to go into Harm's Way with a magazine spring that old???? :uhoh:

Seriously, I've decided to make it simple for my own needs and purposes.

In my last S&W armorer's recert classes, we were told that S&W has decided to recommend to their L/E armorers that magazine and recoil springs be replaced every 5,000 rounds and/or every 5 years, whichever occurs first. Sure, they've gone longer and functioned fine ... but in this age of liability, better safe than sorry, right?

In my last Colt Rifle armorer's class we were told to leave the rifle magazines downloaded by 2-rounds if the magazines were going to be stored long-term with the rifles in a vehicle. We were told this would help preserve proper spring strength toward when we might really need it. I don't remember that we were given any specific replacement recommendations, however. Maybe that will have changed when I attend my next Colt recert class. Who knows?

In my Glock armorer's class we were told that we should replace them when they started to exhibit any signs of obvious weakening. We were also told to leave them sit empty for the time it took to detail strip and inspect the pistols annually. One requested opinion was offered that 8 years was too long to go without replacing the magazine springs, because someone asked about that specific time period. I know a L/E Glock armorer who told me he that he had had to start replacing the magazine springs in his agency's G21's annually, because he saw too many apparent magazine spring-related malfunctions during qualifications ... and after he started replacing the magazine springs annually, the malfunctions stopped. No +P ammunition was being used, either, if that means anything.

I was told in a non-factory 870 armorer's class to unload the shotgun magazines once or twice a year, at least annually, and let them sit empty for the time it took to inspect the shotgun. I was also told that the instructor's previous agency (unnamed, large fed agency) had experienced that the extended magazine tube springs had generally seemed to weaken faster than the shorter 4-round, standard magazine tube springs.

Bottom line? I think everyone should carefully research this subject for themselves ... read their owner's manuals, check with the manufacturers of aftermarket magazines, listen to folks with first hand experience in this subject that seems non-biased and uninfluenced by urban legendry, pay attention when they attend various recreational shooting functions and competition venues, etc., etc. ... and then make the best informed decision that suits their needs, and makes them feel comfortable.

I've decided to replace my magazine springs on some reasonable usage (shooting) and/or time criteria ... or whenever I discover some sign of developing weakness. Hey, sometimes a spring may just become weakened and fail. They're just parts. We expect a lot from springs. It's not all that expensive to replace them, though, and is probably one of the less costly types of "insurance" we can buy ...

Just my 2 cent's worth ... I'm certainly nobody's expert anything ... and I don't begrudge everyone else their money's worth of opinion, either. ;)

C. H. Luke
December 19, 2004, 07:03 PM
Followingalong with Fastbolt's post, the springs in the 8-rnd. Wilson mags I have sag-out much faster than their 7 rund mags {or any good 7-rnd. mags, FTM}

If you have a lot of mags or shoot a lot it gets to be a real PITA!

Got sick of replacing the springs and converted back to 7 rnds. now last a much more reasonable time frame.

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