Monday, August 25, 2014

Magazines: To Keep Loaded or To Not Keep Loaded

Autoload magazines are an important part of your weapon system. If you concealed carry I would recommend carrying as much ammunition in magazines as you can. But at the very least, carry a spare magazine. In the military we maintained our magazines as much as we maintained our weapons. If the magazine does not work you have no ammo. That can be a problem in a fire fight.
Care of your magazines is extremely important. (See blog Gun Care: Taking Care of Magazines, 7/15/2014) Loading them is equally important. Most magazines you can load to capacity and not have any issues. There are some guns that won’t accept magazines fully loaded. The higher tension from the mag being fully loaded sometimes won’t let the bolt strip off the next round. I have owned guns that were this way, but most do not have these issues. That is why I don’t own those weapons anymore.
There is a controversy in gun circles and a myth attached to it. That myth is that magazines cannot be stored with ammo in them or they will set (compress too much or stay compressed). There is something called “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. There is a set of the spring that is taken into account when the spring is made. This is why a magazine can be a bit tight at first. The spring will set into the tension it will stay until the spring is altered. This means the spring will not weaken when the magazine is fully loaded -- not even over an extended time. Like 50 years. American Handgunner 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. 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.
I talked to a friend of mine who was a special forces operator and this is what he had to say:
“After using small arms on a nearly daily basis for over 20 years and having first-hand knowledge of what it takes to make a reliable magazine I have come up with some things that I live by.
Baby your magazines. Treat your magazines as gently as you can within the realities of realistic training. Don’t drop them fully loaded during mag changes. This is very hard on even the best made mags and does not reflect reality. Don’t drop your mags on hard surfaces such as concrete or gravel if possible. If you must try to have something more cushioned to drop onto.
Dowload mags. Some magazines are tough to seat with the slide or bolt in battery. Mostly I’ve found this in the USGI aluminum mags for the M16. All you do is load these magazines short of one round. I’ve even found this with some Ruger Mini 14’s. Glocks are also famous for this.
Clean mags. Attempt to keep your magazines clean especially in salt water or sandy environments. I wouldn’t oil any part of the mag due to the attraction of dirt.
Buy quality mags. There are some real good mags out there. Magpul, Tapco, and others. Buy the highest quality you can if you don’t buy factory.
Replace when needed. If you only plink 3 times a year you will probably never need to replace your mags. If you shoot once a week then eventually you will have to replace magazines. Believe it or not magazines do have a service life.
Keep magazines loaded. We keep all of our magazines loaded at all times. There’s nothing quite as useless as an empty magazine. I’ve had some magazines that were compressed for at least two years. I emptied them the most fun way and then reloaded them. They worked flawlessly. I thought there would be problems but I put those mags right in with the others.
I have lived by these guidelines for an entire career as an operator.”
I agree with my friend Choirboy. Respect your magazines and they will be there when you need them.
The controversy is whether to keep magazines loaded for a long period of time. The way to wear out a magazine spring is to compress and decompress it, over and over again. That is regular use and it will wear out the spring eventually. It does take a long time though. Simply compressing the spring and leaving it that way won’t wear it out.
My vote is to keep them loaded always. As Choirboy said, “There’s nothing quite as useless as an empty magazine.”

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