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How long can you keep a 1911 magazine loaded?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by ephraimf, Jan 15, 2017.

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  1. ephraimf

    ephraimf Member

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    How long can you keep a 1911 magazine loaded without it becoming unreliable?
    Is it better not to fill it all the way so as to reduce strain on the spring?

    TIA.
     
  2. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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  3. AZAndy
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    AZAndy Contributing Member

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    Yeah, years. If springs deteriorated that quickly, every car on the street would be riding on its axles. ;)
     
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  4. guyfromohio

    guyfromohio Member

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    Mine are always loaded....about 30 of them. I've found keeping them loaded to be the cure to my 1911 failures to feed. My last three brand new 1911s (CZ, DW, and Colt) were 100% out of the box using the always-loaded mags.
     
  5. JohnBiltz

    JohnBiltz Member

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    Didn't they dig up or find a loaded 1911 from WWII a few years ago and the gun, magazine and rounds all worked fine.
     
  6. Dog Soldier

    Dog Soldier member

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    How long do gun springs last. Well there are 400 year old flint locks made with iron springs that still work. I think since the "Magazine" war began you must buy a new Mag every 30 days. There must be 30 new magazine manufactures. And the profit in these low tech sheet metal miracles is going up every day.:eek:
     
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  7. LUCKYDAWG13

    LUCKYDAWG13 Member

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    springs wear out from use not from being compressed
     
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  8. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    You can fully load them for 24 hours past forever.

    Springs wear out from being cycled. Don't worry about leaving them compressed to their designed (hint) limits in the magazines.
     
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  9. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    I was told that magazine springs are weakened more by the act of inserting cartridges and removing cartridges than by the status of being left loaded (compressed). Properly tempered springs are weakened by flexing, not by staying uncompressed or compressed.

    Added: I take the hint that springs get hot during flexing, stay cold otherwise. Plus magazine springs are designed for a certain range of use, and overflexing them may weaken them quicker than normal use (say, cutting the legs off the follower to allow cramming an extra round or two).


    John Blitz: Didn't they dig up or find a loaded 1911 from WWII a few years ago and the gun, magazine and rounds all worked fine.
    I would not be surprised. I bought an M1 Carbine magazine pouch from an auction sale. It held two fully loaded magazines; cartridges were '44 headstamp and green with verdigris. The story was they were a WWII souvenir, brought back and put up for fifty years. The magazines cleaned up nicely and I still use them today with the original springs. (I cleaned the cartridges in soapy water. scoured off the verdigris, dried them on the window sill, and shot them at the range; they fired, but a few lacked the umph to work the action completely.) I suspect WWII military specifications and inspection standards for 1911 Pistol and M1 Carbine magazine springs were similar, and military ammunition has an intended storage life measured in decades.
     
  10. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

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    OVERFLEXING is the key. Most 1911 magazine springs will have a long life, and the 7-round mag springs (like those in the WWII mags that were kept loaded) will have the longest life.

    According to the experts, including Metallurgists (the engineers who work with and design metals) and others who use springs in aviation, auto, and space applications, flexing/working a spring will have little effect on it's working life unless, as it's compressed, the spring nears or exceeds the springs "elastic limit." (The "elastic limit" is the amount of compression a coil spring experience until it's damaged. Most guns springs (like tappet springs in cars) are designed and used in ways that don't approach that limit. The exception? A lot of very high-cap mags, recoil springs in sub-compact guns, some sub-compact mag springs, etc. In those more-specialized cases, the gun designers consider the springs "renewable resources" and spring life is sacrificed for additional rounds or function performed in a smaller space. When a spring's elastic limit is exceeded, the spring's metal begins to suffer from micro-fractures, and as the spring is used, the amount fracturing continues -- until the spring softens and doesn't function properly. None of this has much to do with the HEAT generated by flexing, but simply has to do with how the steel's structure responds to the amount of flexing/stretching it experiences. Steel is a very resilient material. Aluminum, on the other hand, isn't -- which is why we don't see aluminum used in springs.)

    The Rohrbaugh R9 had a recommended recoil spring life of about 250 rounds/cycles. (It had originally been about 100 rounds higher, but they lowered the round count after the gun had been out for a while. The springs weren't that expensive.). The springs might still work after 250 round, but folks didn't want to RISK a failure or poor functionality (like the inability to chamber the next round when used as a carry weapon.)
    The R9 recoil spring was a very small spring stuffed into a very small frame and slide, yet it had to still cycle a 9mm round, stripping a 9mm round from a mag and chambering it. That spring didn't last as long as a full-size spring in a full-size gun firing the same number of rounds.)

    With most full-size guns, leaving the mag loaded might not make a difference. For some very high-cap mags, leaving them loaded might shorten mag spring life. If cycling springs alone wore them out, many cars with tappets wouldn't be running -- as those springs cycle many millions of times over a car engine's life. Note: Wolff Springs (in the FAQ area of their website) suggests, for hi-cap mags, that the owner download the spring a round or two during storage -- they say they'll last longer if you do. As noted above, however, not all mag designs require that.

    .
     
  11. JohnnyFlake

    JohnnyFlake Member

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    I personally, have had and used, standard Colt 7 round 1911 magazines that had been fully loaded and stored for over 18 years. They worked just fine.
     
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  12. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    it makes no difference. Even cycling them makes little. I have CheckMate mags that have been cycled thousands of time over ten years (easy at 7rounds) and are still fine with the factory standard powered springs. I have a 9mm mag thats been loaded since 2004, only fired twice to cycle out the ammo that starts to get corroded. All the rounds ran fine. Those are Mecgar, but the only mags I use, or recommend for 1911's are Checkmate. I think the consensus is any good spring loaded and forgotten will not see more that 2% per decade tension loss. They initially loose some from the factory when new of course.
     
  13. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    as walt sherrill mentioned internal engine springs run for a very long time. A quick look I came up with this number 6,800,000,000 - for the number of times a valve spring will cycle in 200,000 miles of highway driving at 1700 RPM. Something most cars made since the mid 60's can do just fine. Not exactly the same thing, but shows what good springs can do
     
  14. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    There is no doubt that the service life of a real mil-spec 1911 seven round magazine is measured in decades, even lifetimes. Been done.
    Early 8 round magazines gave up spring life for that extra round. When shooting IPSC and IDPA with a .45, I was changing the springs in Wilsons every other year. They let me know they were losing their twang by failing to engage the slide stop even while still feeding the rounds. Higher volume shooters were respringing every season.

    We frequently read on the internet that "it is not compression, it is cycling that wears out a spring."
    The next thread will have a recommendation to "condition" a new magazine by leaving it loaded for a week so the spring will "take a set."
     
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  15. sirgilligan

    sirgilligan Member

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    It is not the springs that can cause trouble. I got an old pistol out that had been in a grab bag a very long time, maybe 20 years or more. Evidently some oil inside the magazine (it could came down through the gun, not sure, could have been on the mags from the factory, don't know) had become sticky and the follower was dragging. I would flip a round off the top of the mag by hand and the next round would slowly come up but not all the way. Took the mags apart and cleaned them and everything is fine now.

    I have always been told that the changing of a springs shape is the period of time when the spring weakens. So loading it is changing the shape, unloading it is changing the shape, but any other time there is nothing happening to the spring. I believe this to be true, but I am not a mechanical engineer.
     
  16. DeadEye9

    DeadEye9 Member

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    I would venture to say if you keep them in a cool place away from moisture and it's a quality mag to begin with you can probably leave them loaded just about indefinitely. The old myth of downloading mags to save springs is just not true. During an estate sale years ago we came upon a random tackle box that had a few 1911 GI mags, loaded with some old fairly crusty ball ammo. The house had been uninhabited for about 4 years and the man that lived there prior to his passing was in his 90s. Overall age of the ammo or mags is unknown but surely was a LONG time. Just goofing around we left one mag loaded and fired it at the range and every round cycled and went bang. I still have those mags in my collection. I also have AR and Glock mags in my storage that I leave loaded and will only empty at the range and refill every couple years. Never experienced an issue. Even my EDC carry ammo which I depend on to protect my life daily only gets emptied from my mags and shot/replaced a few times per year and this is what I consider my "cream of the crop" supply of ammo and mags.
    In short, use quality ammo and quality mags in a well maintained firearm and you will rarely if ever have an issue due to storage.
     
  17. Drail

    Drail Member

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    The old myth of downloading mags to save springs is absolutely true - but only because so many magazines have cheap springs made from recycled tuna cans in China in them and those springs WILL lose their temper if fully compressed over time. If overcompressed in a high cap magazine they will lose almost all of their temper. A quality spring will be unaffected by full compression within the limits of the temper. How do you know if you have a quality spring? Assume? Guess so? Most factories buy springs in bulk from the lowest bidder (can't blame them). If you want reliable feeding from your magazines buy high quality aftermarket springs from Woff or ISMI and toss the factory springs in the trash. And know that even quality springs will wear out even if they are never overcompressed.. Old G.I. magazines had very high quality springs made in the U.S.A. for them and they were compressed far below their limits in a 7 round magazine (stuff one more in and everything changes). The shortest lifespan of any 1911 magazine I have ever seen is with Wilson 47Ds. If you don't know who made the springs in your magazines don't push your luck. Buy good ones. Replace them every couple of years. I used to replace my magazine springs every match season and at the end of the summer they were weak and they were never left loaded all the time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
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  18. dbmjr1

    dbmjr1 Member

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    At the gunshop, I had a fellow walk in off the street with a couple of Colt 1911 seven round mags. He said he no longer had the gun, and that the mags had been loaded for more than thirty years.
    He asked if I could dispose of them for him.
    When I disposed of them, every round went bang, (all RP headstamps), and I had no failures to function in my RIA GI 1911.
    Those mags are currently loaded on top of my safe, and are perfectly servicable.
     
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  19. psyopspec

    psyopspec Member

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    I keep to a very conservative and strict schedule of changing my 1911 magazine/springs every 60 years. The one exception is a 1950s Colt Government Model with its original magazine for collector's purposes.
     
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  20. DeadEye9

    DeadEye9 Member

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    Proof of this? I've never bought fancy aftermarket springs for my mags, I just use factory mags for decent quality factory firearms and always load to full capacity. Even the mags for my .22's stay loaded 24/7 and I have yet to have a failure with a factory magazine from any of these companies. Saying aftermarket springs are required is just fabrication. Do police agencies run Wolf or Wilson Combat springs/mags in all their arsenals? Does the average private citizen even change our mag springs from their Glocks and Sigs? I'd venture to say likely not. If you use a half decent firearm and factory mags for that firearm you will be fine. I can't speak for cheap stuff like HiPoints really, but I've got 1/2 Gen Glock 19 mags that have been loaded to capacity since the 90s that still work fine every time. Same goes for any Sig, Ruger, S&W etc I've ever owned.
     
  21. Walt Sherrill

    Walt Sherrill Member

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    Why, I wonder, do spring makers like Wolff recommend downloading a round or two for long-term storage if it serves no purpose? It doesn't help them sell more mags... Why do Metallurgist tell us that coil springs can deteriorate under load, if (com-)pressed too far? It's true of flat springs, as well.

    Downloading a 7-round 1911 mag does nothing as that spring isn't close to being stressed or near it's "elastic" (i.e., design) limit. Downloading a round or two in a 17-19 round 9mm mag in a competition for storage may have a positive effect, or may not -- depending on the design of the mag and how the spring is used.

    Early 8-round 1911 mags didn't fare well, and 9-round 9mm mag sometimes have problems, as do some of the extended 10-round 1911 mags. Follower changes helped. The springs in each of those mags may be the same spring, but they won't all be compressed to the same degree. And in CYCLING, it's how far the spring is compressed that can affect spring life.

    If CYCLING is what kills springs, why do the recoil springs in sub-compact guns last only a small fraction of the cycles of a full-size guns from the same line? It DEPENDS ON THE MAG DESIGN!

    The springs in a 7-round mag have a lot of reserve strength left when the mag is fully loaded -- because the spring hasn't been compressed that far. All mags and mag springs are not created equal, nor is the work (i.e., how far the spring must be compressed) that their respective springs are asked to do.

    Leave the slide on one of your semi-autos locked back over the winter and see if it performs that same in the spring as it did before you locked it back. (Some folks running suppressed guns do that to cause the recoil spring to deteriorate slightly, so that the gun will still cycle with the reduced recoil (slide speed) that a suppressor causes.)

    I've had Glock mags in Glock 17s, 19s, and 23s that never needed replacing, and I almost needed a bumper jack to load the last round or two in those Glock mags when the mags were new. That is not always the case with other mags (for other gun lines.) I've had springs in other guns that DID need to be replaced. As I said, not all mags (or mag springs) are created equal.

    .
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  22. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Member

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    Drail is a straight up SME. he does this for a living. I would take his word for any mechanical aspect of how the gun works
     
  23. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Member

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    This is just a general response to the topic

    If you search "Springs" here you will literally get enough information on this topic to fill a book.

    You will have responses from metallurgists, engineers and manufacturing experts. They will discuss design specs, load limits, static compression factors, how magazine capacity affects the springs, yada, yada, yada.

    By the time you're finished reading you'll want to tear your eyes out of your head but you you will know all you need to know about springs.
     
  24. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Member

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    Back around 1968 one of my grandfathers died and left his original 1920s civilian 1911 to my dad. I was there when my dad un-wrapped it from an oily rag where it had sat since the 1940s. ( It was a nickle finish ) There were also 4 or 5 loaded magazines full of 1930s era ball ammo. They all worked fine and the ammo was still good after 25 years in an oily rag.
     
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  25. DeadEye9

    DeadEye9 Member

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    This is why I don't care to research all the metallurgy behind springs and enough reading to read my eyes out haha. Everything I've ever experienced goes with exactly what he just said. I don't buy cheap guns to begin with and use factory mags. That has always been enough for me and they've never failed. I also wasn't shooting in the 60-70s when stuff might have not been as tuned in as today's tech. I know springs can fail, anything CAN fail, what I'm saying is a blanket statement like "you need to run Wolf springs" or "you need to download your mags" is not true by today's standards in every real world example I've seen and heard of. Not denying the theory behind it, but with modern quality products it's not necessary to download your mags as they will outlive you with a little simple maintence. Guys that get into extended floor plates and all that with different followers and aftermarket springs are the ones that end up WITH a problem from what I've seen, because the factory mags work best left alone. They design the pistol, all you competition race gun parts does not match their R&D.
    Bottom line, yes springs CAN fail, but they usually don't in quality newly manufactured guns. Load your 16 rounder with 16 rounds and enjoy it as it was intended. What's next, we can only load modern revolvers with 5 not 6 just "in case" the hammer block safety fails?
     
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