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How long can you keep magazine springs under tension?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Hokkmike, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Hokkmike

    Hokkmike Well-Known Member

    I bought an additional magazine for my little .380 Bersa Thunder. I will keep one magazine loaded.

    How long can I keep the magazine full and keep the spring under pressure until the spring develops a "memory" and loses its ability to force a round into the chamber?

    Is there a strategy I can use, say - load one for a month, then empty it and load the other for a month, two months, three, etc., that would maximize the life of the magazine?
  2. doubleaes2

    doubleaes2 Well-Known Member

    A quality spring only accumulates wear when it is compressed and extended. If you still feel uncomfortable keeping the mags loaded for an extended period of time, download by one round.
  3. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    According to the experts, folks like the engineers at Wolff springs, and a metallurgist or two who have participated here and elsewhere, it depends:

    Springs wear, over time, through use. Working the springs (flexing them, as in normal use) will cause wear, over time. But they wear FASTER and more dramatically as they are pushed (expanded or compressed) to their design limits.

    A well-designed, quality spring in a high-cap mag, left fully loaded and fully compressed will, generally, degrade faster than the same spring downloaded a round or two. But mag design and how the spring was made to work with the mag matters, too.

    A 1911 7-round mag left fully compressed for decades probably won't show significant performance degradation. But an 8-round mag for the 1911 won't hold up as well.

    I'm a CZ enthusiast, and know that the 10-round mags and the 15 or 16 round CZ mags use the same springs. Leaving a 10-rounder fully compressed is a lot easier on the springs than leaving a 16-rounder fully compressed. The shared springs in 10-round and 15+ round mags seems to be the case for many gun makers. The hi-cap mags work the springs harder than lower-cap mags.

    Several members here are into airguns, many of which use springs as the source of propelling force. They know a lot about springs -- and they'll tell you that leaving a spring FULLY COMPRESSED can be the kiss of death to a spring's life. Less than fully compressed, it can be a different story.

    I'd suggest that if you have high-caps, and must leave the gun loaded, download a round or two. Or simply plan on replacing the springs a little more often.
  4. Lou629

    Lou629 member

    Just a thought or two...

    I had similar concerns when i got my first auto-loader years ago. I've done the 'once-a-month' switch with the 2 mags. that came with it for going on 16 years now. The gun is a BHP and the mags. were new from factory, so i knew i was starting with quality products. i don't know if this would be a good idea to apply in all cases, especially if you were to get a few cheaper after-market brand of magazines .
    Anyway, my magazines are well broken-in by now as far as ease of loading them is concerned, and they still continue to function flawlessly when i take the thing to the range.

    PS- i never loaded the mags to full (13) capacity during this time, i usually kept the count somewhere between 10/11/12 depending on my mood-of-the-moment over the years. ymmv.
  5. usp9

    usp9 Well-Known Member

    Load 'em...

    ...and forget 'em. If you want to cycle through your mags, go shoot once a year, that'll do it. With modern mags this is simply not a worry.
  6. nero45acp

    nero45acp Well-Known Member

    Anyone have any idea how long a USGI M1 Carbine mag (bought several unissued ones a few years ago) will last if left loaded with 14rds, rather than a full 15? (The M1 Carbine is my HD/SHTF carbine.)

  7. Crosshair

    Crosshair Well-Known Member

    I load my 30 round AK mags to 20 rounds (Cause Wolf comes 20 to a box.:rolleyes: ) and I have left them loaded for over a year with no problems. All you have to do is tap the mag to make sure that all the rounds are against the back of the mag before you put it in the rifle. (That's why in war movies they tap the mag against their helmet.) This prevents feeding malfunctions.
  8. gazpacho

    gazpacho Well-Known Member

    The only way to answer your specific question is to test an OEM Bersa mag. Buy another magazine and mark it in a way where the mark won't come off. Load it up fully and stash it. Only bring it out when you go to the range. Use the mag at the range as you would normally do. If you want, keep track of how many times you reload the mag. At the end of your range session reload the mag and stash it away again. Report your results whenever the question comes up again on this forum (about every three months or so).

    I have 1911 mags that have been continuously loaded for almost five years now, and are showing no evidence of wearing out.
  9. Cuda

    Cuda Well-Known Member

    I have range use mags and SD mags. The SD are always full and ready for use if needed. The range mags are unloaded unless being used. At this point I've not seen any degradation of the springs.

  10. wrangler5

    wrangler5 Well-Known Member

    I've seen a report of a 1911 magazine that was stored fully loaded for 70+ years and functioned perfectly when tried.

    This subject comes up fairly regularly, and in one thread (somewhere, don't know where) a metallurgist reported rather authoritatively that the "wear" on a magazine spring comes from cycling it full to empty and back again, not from compressing the spring and leaving it compressed. So you'll "wear out" a magazine faster if you cycle ammo through it than if you just load it up and leave it.

    There was an exception to this general rule, and that is if the spring is compressed beyond some elastic limit (I think he called it). If you compress a spring TOO far it may not come back fully to its uncompressed length and strength, even if you onlly compress it once. The concern arises particularly in high capacity magazines where the last round puts a real scrunch on the spring (design problem) or where you try to squeeze one extra round in (operator error.)

    The conclusion was, load 'em up and leave 'em. If you're concerned about potential damage, download by one round as others have suggested, but do not load and unload a mag thinking you're extending the life of the spring.
  11. Newton

    Newton Well-Known Member

    Since LEOs keep their magazines fully loaded for months on end, I doubt it's much of a problem.

    The only people who seem to suffer from spring burn out in their magazines are the military guys who constantly compress and release springs due to the number of rounds they typically put through service weapons.

    Fully loaded 1911 magazines have been found 60 years after they were loaded, and they still worked perfectly.
  12. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    Not really. They typical LEO shoots his gun very little, and then primarily when he's qualifying, which may be as infrequently as once or twice a year.

    LEO, with exceptions, are NOT gun USERS or SHOOTERS, but gun CARRIERS. A surprisingly small number of them are truly gun enthusiasts. They could have a mag problem and not know it until its time to use the gun. Then, too, they have armorers who look for things like springs that need replacement...

    Compressing and releasing springs do cause long-term wear, but so does compressing them fully when loading them to the max.

    True. But, keep in mind that those are all seven rounders. The same is not true 8 rounders, which have long been the source of problems for 1911 shooters.

    Ten-round mags in other guns will work well after long-term storage, but hi-caps can be a problem.

    I download everything I have, when not carrying. In most cases, most of my mags are empty. A gun in a bedside safe it fully loaded, as is my carry gun. The rest are left empty after last use. The only springs I've ever had problems with are in my hi-cap mags -- and they tend to loosen up and cause premature lock-back (by allowing the top round to slide around). That's my sign to get new mag springs.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2006
  13. Hal8000

    Hal8000 Well-Known Member

    As a comparison:

    My Sig P226 is 14 years old and has had 15,000 rounds cycled through it using the same factory high cap mag that came with it... I keep the mag stored fully loaded. I have used the one mag for all of my shooting, only because I'm lazy and only want to clean one mag when I'm through shooting. (this is not my carry mag anymore)

    While the spring is noticeably weaker, and easier to load, I've yet to have any kind of failure from this mag... (or pistol!)

    It's my opine that a stronger spring will over come a dirtier mag. I think if the mag is kept clean, then a weaker spring will continue to function...
    Dirt will cause an older/weaker springed mag to fail quicker than a newer/stronger springed mag...
  14. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

    As a former LEO, I use to inspect and rotate my magazines every 30
    days; mainly as a precaution.:uhoh: I know, that action probably was
    not necessary; but it definitely made me feel better as here down
    south the humidity can rake havoc on men, and there equipment.

    Of course, I'm an exception too the rule; as I shoot a lot more ammo
    than most officers, so I NEVER had a problem with stale ammo~!:D
  15. saltydog452

    saltydog452 Well-Known Member

    Rotate the mags AND the ammunition.
    Whether they 'need it' or not...you'll never know for sure.
    Key it in to other routine maintence obligations such as oil change.
    Or quartely statements..whatever works for you.
    Do it at the range.

    Several good reasons for doing so.
    You know what they are.
    This would also be a good time to change out the batteries in your flashlight(s).
    And batteries for the smoke detectors.

    Consider it another timely 'routine maintence' obligation.

  16. Magnumite

    Magnumite Well-Known Member

    AAbout the carbine mags. I inherited one in '92, along with mags and ammo. Most the mags were already loaded, from the military, with the rubber protective tops on them. 1960's headstamps on the ammo. No problems of any type were experienced.
  17. tegemu

    tegemu Well-Known Member

  18. CZguy

    CZguy Well-Known Member

    This is a really good post. You have taken all of the emotion out of it and are just dealing with the facts of physics. The info on Wolff springs site backs this up also.
    I wish "myth busters" would do a segment on this, and put it to rest once and for all.

    Now, on to something that's never been covered like, can a bronze cleaning brush wear out a .22 LR barrel.
    (I wouldn't dare mention this over at rimfire.com
  19. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Well-Known Member

    Realize, too, that rotating mags doesn't do a thing to increase spring life. Mags don't heal or refresh themselves when they're unloaded and left unused.

    All ROTATING mags does is spread the "wear" over several mags, rather than putting it all on one mag -- delaying the time when the springs must be replaced -- but increasing the number of springs that must be replaced when that time finally arrives.

    Nothing wrong with rotating them, but its not really doing anything. Sort of like rotating shoes...
  20. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher Well-Known Member

    after a mag was kept loaded for say 50 years, I might be concerned.

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