Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gun Care: Taking Care of Magazines

Magazine care is an often overlooked practice. For someone who shoots a lot under many different conditions magazine care is a must. As I train I do several magazine changes. Those magazines usually fall in the dirt and rocks. In the process of training in this way my magazines take a beating. So I naturally need to maintain them and keep them clean. This is something that is not commonly talked about in the shooting world. If you casually shoot then you may not see a need for this and you may be right. The traditional “training” of standing in front of a paper target and shooting for accuracy is what many people do. I’m not completely down on this training, it can be fun, and can teach many things. But when you get into the reality of a firefight, it becomes more like combat shooting. Shooting from cover and in different positions, often one handed, is more what it would be like in a firefight. So magazine care should be part of your gun maintenance routine. The only people that don’t need this are the revolver and lever action shooters. But more than likely, there is a semiautomatic weapon in your collection somewhere.
There are some things to remember when maintaining your magazines.
When you disassemble your magazines, do them one at a time or segregate the parts. Ensure there is no mixing of parts from one magazine to another. When the magazine spring is removed from the magazine tube, take note of how it was positioned in the tube. In many cases there is a specific top and bottom as well as a front and back to the spring which means that you have three out of four options to get it wrong if you didn’t pay attention when it was removed. Carefully mark the spring with masking tape if you need to.
If the magazine spring is installed incorrectly a variety of problems may occur, all of which will create less than satisfactory performance. The rest of the parts are pretty simple to remove and install. Match the shape of the parts to the shape of the magazine tube if you forget how it came apart and you will have a good chance of successful reassembly. If you are that unsure of your memory, slowly take the mag apart and take pictures as you go for reference later on.
Inspect the parts for cracks or damage after they have been wiped clean and lightly use a rust preventative (that won’t contaminate your ammunition) on the metal parts before reassembly. Once the magazine is reassembled, use a cleaning rod or similar device to push the follower from top to bottom ensuring smoothness in both directions. Finally, load the magazine to capacity and test for the vertical movement of the rounds using thumb or finger pressure.
There are a number of polymer magazines on the market, and most of them are much easier to disassemble and clean.
Treat each magazine the same way and your magazines will serve you well for a long time to come.
Here are some basic steps that will apply to most magazines but not all. Take note to how everything comes apart and all the parts orientation for reassembly. Ensure ammunition is out of each magazine and safely put aside. Safety first and last.
1. Slide the floor plate from the bottom. The spring is usually still held in place by the floor plate; in case it is not be ready to catch it if it comes flying out.
2. Remove the spring and follower from the bottom of the magazine body.
3. With the spring and follower out, wipe down the inside of the magazine by pulling a clean microfiber cloth through the hollow tube of the magazine body a couple of times.
4. Wipe down the spring and follower to remove any remaining dust and sand. I like to lightly lubricate my springs to inhibit rust, although you may prefer to keep the entire assembly dry depending on the environment it will be used in. Remember that oil attracts dust in dry and arid environments, and bear that in mind when deciding whether or not to very lightly oil your magazine springs.
Reassembly is the opposite of disassembly.
The first completely modern removable box magazine was patented in 1908 by Arthur Savage for the Savage Model 99. Other guns did not adopt all of its features until his patent expired in 1942: It has shoulders to retain cartridges when it is removed from the rifle. It operates reliably with cartridges of different lengths. It is insertable and removable at any time with any number of cartridges. These features allow the operator to reload the gun infrequently, carry magazines rather than loose cartridges, and to easily change the types of cartridges in the field. The magazine is assembled from inexpensive stamped sheet metal. It also includes a crucial safety feature for hunting dangerous game: when empty the follower stops the bolt from engaging the chamber, informing the operator that the gun is empty before any attempt to fire.
AR-15/M16 magazines were initially designed to be disposable and not reused, hence the lightweight aluminum design. The US Military, always wanting to save a buck, soon decided that the magazines were not disposable and reused them. Soon after this decision the design of the M16 magazine changed to allow them to be more easily disassembled and cleaned. Most handgun magazines by contrast are designed to be used hundreds of times and are easily disassembled for cleaning.
Magazines enable us to not only reload quickly, but to reload with several rounds. This concept makes a big difference when fighting for your life. Care for this big upgrade in weapon design should not be neglected. Learn about your weapons magazines and the best way to care for these marvels of the gun world.

Semper Paratus