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Leaving magazines loaded for extended periods of time

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Cheeseybacon, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. Cheeseybacon

    Cheeseybacon Well-Known Member

    I'd like to keep a loaded magazine or two in the top drawer of my nightstand for quick access in the event that, God forbid, I would ever need them. Are there any long-term problems associated with leaving a magazine loaded all of the time without ever using it? Will it ruin the magazine spring or otherwise affect the reliability of the magazine?

    I would hate to reach for that magazine in a time of great need, only to discover that it's functionality has been compromised from years of sitting in the drawer loaded and unused.
  2. daysleeprx

    daysleeprx Well-Known Member

  3. vito

    vito Well-Known Member

    Springs don't wear out from being compressed, only from sitting uncompressed. I know of someone who found his father's WWII 1911 loaded, with a full mag, that had sat untouched from 1946 until the late 1980's. He took it to the range, just as it was, and fired five rounds before he had a FTE. The spring in the magazine appeared to be as good as new.
  4. joneb

    joneb Well-Known Member

    Springs wear out more from use , Compress relax, compress relax ect. than just sittin around. The quality of the spring will also determine spring life.
  5. swampgator

    swampgator Well-Known Member

    Jeff Cooper

    In Cooper's corner once related the tale of a WWII 1911 that was stored with a loaded mag since the end of WWII. Gun was taken out the 80s (IIRC) and all 7 rounds fired flawlessly. The Colonel surmised that compressing the spring once and storing it didn't weaken it. Compressing and releasing repeatedly did.
  6. brownie0486

    brownie0486 Well-Known Member

    Springs don't wear out from being compressed, only from sitting uncompressed

    Who told you that?:rolleyes:

    They were wrong!!!!!!!

  7. Fn-P9

    Fn-P9 Well-Known Member

    Brownie0486 is correct. Just like a car spring. Ever see a race car or nice sports car up on jack stands. They leave them in the air without a load on the suspention so that the springs wont compress and screw with the ride heights, sprind rates, etc.
  8. Mad Magyar

    Mad Magyar Well-Known Member

    Leave one cartridge less in your mag if they plan to be there for a long time.
    Unfortunately, experiments have been done on the metallurgy and there is some diminished compression, however slight. Keep in mind this is why many change out their mags, not because of lip tweaking, but diminished spring compression.
    If you are shooting regularly and rotating your ammo, of course, no problem..
  9. toocool

    toocool Well-Known Member

    I don't want to come off as a smart-ass here, but why would you leave a magazine sitting loaded for years? Why would you not use that magazine and those rounds when you practice at the range? I leave my mags loaded (sometimes) for weeks at a time, but when I go to the range, depending on the age of the cartridges in the mags, I either shoot them up, or remove them, use the magazines with my practice loads, then reload them. Besides guaranteeing I can hit what I aim at with my chosen defense loads, I also guarantee the magazines will work when I need them to.
  10. Cheeseybacon

    Cheeseybacon Well-Known Member

    Now that you mention it, I have seen race cars and nicer sports cars sitting around on jackstands without any load on the suspension. It definately makes sense. Leaving one less round in the mag seems to make sense too, just a tad bit less pressure on the spring.

    The next question is, since I only have two factory Colt magazines, I'm gonna hafta buy some more mags. I was thinking about picking up some Chip McCormick mags, and was wondering if I should just pick up two McCormick mags for range use and leave my factory Colt mags for reserve/HD use, or are McCormick mags just so much better than factory that I should probably use them for everything?

    Would YOU trust your reserve/HD ammo to factory Colt mags? Or is it likely that McCormick springs are going to a lot better job standing up to the constant strain of being compressed all the time?
  11. Cheeseybacon

    Cheeseybacon Well-Known Member

    I'm super-dooper lazy I guess. I suppose I just don't want the hassle of rotating mags in and out of reserve/HD duty and worrying about not expending my whole ammo supply at the range and having nothing to put back into reserve.

    What you're saying makes perfect sense though.
  12. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Well-Known Member

    Factory ammo has a pretty long shelf life, generally speaking. If stored in an air-tight container under even mildly climate controlled conditions it can last for decades. I've had surplus military ammo from the late '40s and early '50s that'd fire every time.

    That said, I still rotate my CCW and "nightstand" ammo every six-to-eight months. The expense is minimal, especially when you're talking 20-rd boxes. I practice with the weapons a good deal more often, generally with reloads or generic ball, but find it comforting to refamiliarize with "business" loads as frequently as possible.

    At an absolute minimum, I believe one ought to replace CCW/HD loads annually. When I'm entrusting the well-being of my Personal Favorite Behinds to something, I need to have the highest degree of confidence I can get that it's up to the task in every respect. For me, that includes being as "fresh" as I can get it. There are just too many variables over which I have no control for me to ignore any of them where I do.
  13. Ben Shepherd

    Ben Shepherd Well-Known Member

    Not a bad idea really. Take a known good mag and store it somewhere safe.

    If you ever NEED IT, You know it'll work. No way you bunged a feed lip up when you dropped it during a tactical reload at the IDPA match, because it wasn't there.
  14. ID_shooting

    ID_shooting Well-Known Member

    Just like a car spring. Ever see a race car or nice sports car up on jack stands. They leave them in the air without a load on the suspention so that the springs wont compress and screw with the ride heights, sprind rates, etc.

    Hoew does mounting a car on stands resting on the axle relieve pressure from the springs? Whom ever told you this is mistaken. Cars stored for extended periods of time are placed on stands to prevent flat spots on the tires and uneven pressure on on the bearing surfaces. We had race cars growing up, all were stored in the off season with the axles on stands.

    Back to the thread topic, In my house, one AK mag and one keltec mag are loaded 24/7. I do cycle through them but only on trips to the range. The same AK mag has been loaded for over two years and the KT mag for just shy of two years. I have noticed no degregation of performance.
  15. Mad Magyar

    Mad Magyar Well-Known Member

    Cheeseybacon, since you'll be acquiring more mags, BTW I use Wilson Combat for my .45's, you might consider numbering them...Sometimes you'll find one that just doesn't do well and you forget which one it was.
    Since I was shooting my Carbine this morning, these were quickly available. I know for example, that on the last couple of occasions, #2 gave me a FTF...
    With a pistol, or carbine, I keep track so I can monitor it, eliminate it, or fix it..
    All my pistol mags are also numbered...
    For your consideration...:)
  16. Bazooka Joe71

    Bazooka Joe71 Well-Known Member

    +1 on the Wilson Combats
  17. Cheeseybacon

    Cheeseybacon Well-Known Member

    If what they say is true about 1911s being finicky as hell with magazines, I suppose I should buy a McCormick and a Wilson and see which works better. Maybe, *knock on wood* whoever I buy it from will let me return whichever mag isn't up to snuff.
  18. wuchak

    wuchak Well-Known Member

    This is an old myth that should have died a long time ago. Load your magazines and leave them stored as long as you want. That is what they are designed for and it will not harm them at all. Just rotate the ammo in the magazine periodically by unloading it and putting the rounds back in a different order.

    Excellent article on this topic:


    FindArticles > American Handgunner > May-June, 2003 > Article > Print friendly

    Magazine spring madness: 'creep' to your 'elastic limit' to un-earth the urban legend of 'spring-set'
    John S. Layman

    The shooting sports are full of some of the most knowledgeable and capable people you'll meet anywhere. I've been impressed consistently with the abilities of those I meet at the range to diagnose and fix a gun problem with as little as some spray lube and a cotton swab. However, sometimes a myth will creep into the folklore.

    The magazine spring myth has been around for many years and is growing in popularity. It goes something like this: "You should unload your magazines when they're not in use or the spring will weaken causing failures to feed." This has gone as far as shooting competitors actually unloading their magazines between stages to extend the life of their springs. A variant of this myth is: "You should never load a magazine to capacity and should always leave it one round short." What if you need that round some day?

    Recently, I read an article in a gun magazine suggesting you rotate your magazines so the ones not in use can "recover and rest." The same author uses the phrase "spring-set" to describe weakness of a spring because it was compressed for a long time. Hogwash. There's nothing further from the truth. Springs don't care how long they're compressed and don't require rest, recreation or even a vacation from time to time.

    Shameful Spring Benders

    To put this one to rest, you have to understand creep. Creep is the slow flow of a non-ferric metal like copper, brass and lead under force. At temperatures outside of a furnace, steel doesn't have any appreciable creep. Under most conditions, steel flexes and then returns to its original shape. When pushed past its elastic limit, steel will bend and not return to its original shape. All designers of well-made magazines make sure the spring never approaches the elastic limit when the magazine is fully loaded. Honest. This means the spring will not weaken when the magazine is fully loaded -- not even over an extended time. Like 50 years. American Handgunner recently ran a story about a magazine full of .45 ACP that had been sitting since WWII and it ran just fine on the first try. So there you go.

    Now that the light of truth is leaking out, lets talk about what is causing failures to feed. The only way to weaken a magazine spring is to flex it past its normal range (elastic limit). If this is happening, somebody is trying to overload a magazine or has "adjusted" it by bending the spring. Both of these could cause feed failures. Shame on you if you're a spring bender.

    Carlton Nether, Customer Service for Beretta USA, tells us keeping a pistol magazine loaded for an extended period doesn't cause magazine spring failure, however, failures to feed can result. He says, "The ammo will 'roll' in the magazine. If the mags are kept loaded and moved around a lot -- say on a cop's belt -- the rolling action can, over time, cause creases in the cases. These creases can cause malfunctions. Also the top bullet will roll against the magazine lips and creasing can occur there as well. Just check old ammo that's been bouncing around in a magazine for a long time.

    We tell police officers if they keep loaded magazines, take a few seconds to "cycle" the ammo. Periodically unload the mag and reload it in a different sequence. This movement will allow the bullets to be in different parts of the magazine and help eliminate creasing.

    At STI, Dave Skinner, President and CEO says, "Personally, I rotate my 'under the bed' and 'under the seat' mags about every six months. I always empty them the 'fun' way and have never had a failure." Given what we learned above, this sounds like a good idea. Smith and Wesson customer service also says magazines can stay loaded indefinitely without hurting the spring.

    As we add force onto a spring, it will displace the same amount for each amount of force we add. This is true until the spring passes a certain point called the elastic limit. Robert Hooke discovered this theory back in 1660. Hooke's Law states: "If the applied forces on a body are not too large, the deformations resulting are directly proportional to the forces producing them." Which means, in actual human being language, if we load a spring past its elastic limit, it permanently deforms. It still provides a force against the load but the force is no longer proportional. If this happens, when we unload the spring (such as when we empty a magazine that has been over-loaded) the spring never returns to a state where it can provide the same load for the same amount of displacement.

    Trust Us

    When a magazine manufacturer designs a spring, they plan for a preload. The spring is already compressed some in the magazine. On the curve below, this would be Point A. The spring compression would be designed to be below the Elastic Limit. When fully compressed, the spring would be at Point B. If the spring is ever compressed past the elastic limit, say to Point C, it won't ever behave the same. Like a recalcitrant lazy Uncle, it will have a lower spring force for each amount of displacement. On the drawing, the spring would now cycle between points D and E. This means that -- particularly with the last bullet or two -- the force pushing the bullet up would be less and lo-and-behold, a mis-feed might occur.

    When somebody stretches your spring to "fix" your magazine, they are trying to get you back on the original curve. They may get pretty close, however, it's unlikely the spring will ever perform to its original design. The elastic limit is now shifted lower and your magazine spring may fail to perform fairly quickly.

    Having said all this, if you have a magazine that isn't feeding right, what should you do? First, disassemble the magazine and clean it thoroughly. Then try it with new, factory ammunition in a freshly cleaned gun. This takes away some of the possible causes. If you are still having feed problems, send it back. Even the low cost, after-market magazine manufacturers will fix the problem at no cost to you other than shipping. If it's a magazine from the gun's manufacturer, let them troubleshoot and repair the problem. Otherwise, toss the mag. It's not worth risking your life to save a few bucks. And that's the truth.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Definitions

    Creep: The flow or plastic deformation of metals held for long periods of time at stresses lower than the normal yield strength.

    Elastic Limit: The maximum stress that material will stand before permanent deformation occurs.

    Yield Strength: The stress at which the metal changes from elastic to plastic in behavior, i.e., takes a permanent set.

    Permanent Set: Non-elastic or plastic, deformation of metal under stress, after passing the elastic limit.

    Magazine Recommendations

    * Clean your magazines when they get gritty. Apply oil then remove all excess. Oil attracts dirt that may cause malfunction.

    * If you find rust on the spring, this is culprit. Rust changes the thickness of the metal and reduces the force applied to the follower. Cleaning off the rust may help. For a gun you depend on, replace the spring. All the major brands and most of the smaller ones have replacement mag springs available or try Wolff Springs.

    * If you keep a magazine loaded for long periods, rotate the rounds every few months. If you carry a pistol on the job or in your car, cycle the ammo frequently. These actions prevent creases from forming which may cause a misfeed.

    * If you experience feed problems, first clean your magazines and weapon. Fire a couple magazines of new factory ammo to see if this resolves the problem. If not send the magazine back to the manufacturer -- or toss it.

    COPYRIGHT 2003 Publishers' Development Corporation
    COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
  19. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus


    swampgator wrote:

    >In Cooper's corner once related the tale of a WWII 1911 that was stored with a loaded mag since the end of WWII. Gun was taken out the 80s (IIRC) and all 7 rounds fired flawlessly. The Colonel surmised that compressing the spring once and storing it didn't weaken it. Compressing and releasing repeatedly did.<

    Gator...That was a 1921 Commercial Colt that laid in an attic in Condition One
    from the day its owner died in 1929 until my step-father inherited it at his aunt's death in 1991. He died in his sleep, and his wife found the gun in the nightstand. She wrapped it in a diaper...put in a hat box...and stored it in the attic. Her surviving sister gave it to my step-father the day of the funeral, saying that he was the only family member who would have an interest in it, since Aunt Emma had outlived all her sons, and her sister was a spinster. The gun has been willed to me.
  20. Fn-P9

    Fn-P9 Well-Known Member

    IDShooter. You did not properly store your race car then. You are supposed to put the jack stands under the frame, NOT the axles. Also you are not supposed to put jack stands under the suspention because that will cause movement in the car if pushed around and that could cause it to come off the jack stands.:cool:

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