In times of shortage, it isn’t only ammunition that is difficult to find. Parts and accessories become difficult and expensive as well—when found. A magazine isn’t an accessory; it is a necessity and so are spare magazines. However, magazines are a renewable resource. While we should know when to discard a magazine, with a little common sense we can keep a magazine going for a long time. As an example, I recently worked with a pistol magazine that was giving the owner fits. The magazine would not fully seat.
The owner was a bit ill over this problem. After all, the pistol was from a maker with a good name and these handguns are usually models of reliability. The problem, as it turned out, was pretty simple. The magazine floorplate had slipped forward and was preventing the close-fitting magazine from seating. The magazine is critical to the proper performance of a self-loading pistol. It is a good bet that poor quality magazines are right at the top of common complaints including poor lubrication.
Let’s Look at Some of the Common Problems
When using extended magazines, such as the Glock 33-round magazine, we have a heavier column of cartridges. This creates more pressure on the magazine spring. It is asking a lot for a magazine to feed from full compression to almost no compression when feeding such a tall column and heavy weight of ammunition.
- What occurs is the nose dives particularly on the first round-up. The bullet nosedives into the feed ramp. With the ramped barrel, often the bullet nose will feed properly after a rough start. Even the straight-line feed of the Beretta suffers with extended magazines. Be certain the magazines are high quality and address the springs with replacements every few thousand rounds.
- The slide stop is more important for feed and proper function of magazines than most suspect. The slide stop must be of the correct specifications or it will bump into the bullet nose on feeding. If the aftermarket magazine isn’t correctly dimensioned, and the slide stop isn’t either, a feedway jam is a guaranteed.
- A damaged magazine is an invitation to malfunctions. If the slide stop is off spec, working the slide stop to stop the lobe of the slide stop from protruding into the magazine may well help, but this is cut and dry and you may have a short lobe that allows feeding but which doesn’t catch the follower on standard magazines. Take a hard look at your magazines. Are the feed lips belled out to the rear? If the magazines doesn’t fall free when the magazine catch is depressed, more trouble may be coming.
- The most commonly replaced magazines are 1911 pistol magazines and various AR-15 magazines. They are expendable! Do not attempt to make the magazine last the life of the gun—it isn’t in the cards. It is akin to the tires and springs on the truck. Replace when needed.
Things to Inspect
The AR-15 magazine is heaver and hits the ground harder, but all of these watch signs apply to the pistol as well. If there are dents in the magazine, tube feed reliability will be a problem. Check for loose floorplates and magazine dents first. Check the magazine lips for cracks. Check to be certain the magazine doesn’t enter the frame or receiver too far. The magazines are not always properly heat-treated and this defect shows up with time. A failure to lock open on the last shot is indicative of a badly-worn magazine follower. If the last round doesn’t feed consistently, the problem is a weakened magazine spring. Magazines should be cleaned often, but not lubricated.
The same rules apply to box magazines in bolt-action rifles. The spring will sometimes need replacement, but this is rare considering the round count these rifles are likely to rack up. The barrel will burn out before the magazine spring and the bolt gun has plenty of leverage to feed from the magazine. Probably the most common problems are dents in .22 rifle tubes and also in shotgun tubes. If they are dropped, a dent is sure to occur, and the shells won’t feed.
Here is the fix.
- Take a carriage bolt, ¼-inch, a two-inch long nut and a long threaded rod—all hardware store items. The carriage bolt will have to be filed to fit the interior of the individual tube, usually not too much for the 12 gauge tube. A much smaller bolt is used for the .22. Screw the nut halfway onto the carriage bolt and heavily lubricate the assembly.
- Insert the tightly fitting carriage bolt into the magazine. The magazine tube should be stabilized on soft wood.
- Tap the assembly through the tube and the dent will pop out. The same principle will apply to .22 tubes and also to the .410 and 20 gauge tubes; simply measure it for a proper bolt size.
Magazine maintenance isn’t that difficult with a few watchwords. The AR-15 rifle, in particular, demands some care for longevity.
- Be on the lookout for dents in the magazine body.
- Look for high wear spots on the body and near the magazine latch.
- Check the magazine feed lips for cracks. You cannot repair a crack so ditch this magazine.
Springs and followers may be replaced. The body, once cracked, is done with. Magazine cracks are easy to spot. If the magazine becomes difficult to eject, it is worn out and the feed lips are spreading. If the follower isn’t contacting the slide stop or bolt lock, the follower is worn and needs to be replaced. If the last round doesn’t feed correctly, it is an even bet the magazine spring is weakened.
Finally, keep the magazines clean and dry. Buy quality; buy once, and maintain your gear.
Notes on Repair
Some magazines are very difficult to find and replace. To work the feed lips in most pistols, you may use a punch to work through the witness holes and to hold the follower down with the spring compressed while you work the feed lips.
The rule states:
- If the cartridge is being released too soon, close the lips.
- If the cartridge is being released too slowly or not at all, open the lips.
This is cut and dry work and takes some finesse. Learn how to remove the floorplate, clean the magazine and replace the springs.
Proper Loading of a Double Column Magazine
- To ensure feed reliability, load two or three rounds.
- Tap the back of the magazine to fully seat the bullets to the rear.
- Continue until the magazine is fully loaded. It is best to lock the slide to the rear and drop the slide to load the magazine rather than racking the slide to aid in reliable function.
Do you have any magazine cleaning tips? Share them with us in the comment section.