American Handgunner: Magazine spring madness: 'creep' to your 'elastic limit' to un-earth the urban legend of 'spring-set' ………
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.
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.
I'm not going to debate this any further - I took my tone in my replies as that tone had already been set.
I have SEEN this occur with my own eyes - I've stated my opinion, and I'm not going to repeat myself over and over.
Believe whatever you wish to...
Don't debate if you wish. I WILL believe what I've seen and it's entirely contrary to your experience. See, data point of one x 15,000+ rounds a year.
Originally Posted by Shipwreck
So now it's experience vs experience? I don't shoot that many rounds in a year, but I do shoot probably 5-7k a year, and I've probably own(ed) more handguns than you will likely ever own. So, what does that matter?
Originally Posted by zhurdan
We can agree to disagree. What is strange is that the opposing side of this argument typically cannot let it go at that...
That's because you are seemingly unwilling to understand that physics and metallurgy aren't hocus pocus. Is it applicable in every instance? Of course not. Does it have merit based on decades of empirical evidence? Absolutely. Your personal experience doesn't trump that. I brought up MY experience because you continually say things like "I have SEEN this occur with my own eyes" and "Believe whatever you wish to..." which are statements that are personal experience related, not empirical and cannot be analyzed by others.
Originally Posted by Shipwreck
My opinion on the matter... if you have a magazine that isn't functioning properly, replace the spring. If that doesn't fix it, replace the magazine. If that doesn't fix it, get the gun checked out or change ammo. See, that's a method, as in scientific method. Elimination of variables, not just believe me, a single solitary person who refuses to accept scientific evidence. These threads are replete with examples of long lasting springs and the things that damage springs and how springs function. Hooke was no slouch and his theory has been verified and re-verified many times. Who am I to discount good science? Keep in mind that Hooke's law is based on the technology of it's time. Did he have tempered high quality materials? No. Do we have those materials now? Yes. Am I being unreasonable to ask that someone believe what has been "witnessed" by thousands of people over decades of use? I think not.
It's all about data points. If I take a poll of experts on springs and I get 4 people to answer or I take a poll of experts on springs and get thousands of answers... well, the one with more data points is more likely to be the truth. You are a data point of one. I'm not calling you out, I'm not trying to berate you, I'm not calling you a liar, I'm not saying you don't know anything about anything. I'M SAYING THAT MANY PEOPLE BEFORE YOU (and me) have a better idea of how things react OVER TIME. *cough* datapoints *cough*.
If your experience is such that you believe what you do, fine, but I'd hope you would recognize that a data point of one is a lonely place to be.
Good day sir.
Not changing my mind, and I can probably find articles to back up my point of view as well. We're not getting anywhere here.
We can agree to disagree - others can read the thread and make up their own mind.
Wrong or Right, Copper to Gold, Batwings to Cauldron, I will always follow the advice below as even if I'm wrong I know my magazine springs will be right. A self defense pistol or rifle for that matter which fails to function in a time of desperate need is a terrible thing one much worse than arguments over springs. Furthermore, creasing of the rounds by being left fully loaded in magazines for extended periods of time is perhaps another good reason not to. I know one thing when I shot that Berreta that didn't cycle because of the magazine spring or creasing of the rounds it shook me real good to consider what if? I know I will never leave magazines fully loaded for extended periods of time and rely on them 100%.
5. How often should I change magazine springs? Should I unload my magazines, rotate magazines, load with fewer than the maximum rounds?
Magazine springs in semi-auto pistols are one of the most critical springs and are the subject of much debate and concern. Magazines which are kept fully loaded for long periods of time, such as in law enforcement and personal/home defense applications, will generally be subject to more fatigue than the weekend shooter's magazine springs in which the magazines are loaded up only when shooting.
Magazine design and capacity also affect the longevity of the spring. In many older pistol designs, maximum capacity was not always the goal such as with the 7 round 1911 Colt magazines which could last for years fully loaded. There was room for more spring material in these guns which reduces overall stress and increases the usable life of the spring.
More recently higher capacity magazines have become popular. These are designed to hold more rounds with less spring material often in the same space. This puts more stress on the spring and will cause it to fatigue at a faster rate. Unloading these magazines a round or two will help the life of the spring. Rotating fully loaded magazines will also help the problem somewhat but it is not always practical.
In applications where the magazine must be kept loaded at all times, a high quality magazine spring such as Wolff extra power magazine springs, will provide maximum life. Regular replacement of magazine springs will provide the best defense against failure from weak magazine springs. Regular shooting of the pistol is the best way to be sure the springs are still functioning reliably.
Last edited by denner; 08-01-2012 at 06:48 PM.
The truth is we really don't know what exactly caused a spring to fail when we discover our spring is bad, because there are just to many variables. For example, did the spring come with a defect from the factory, is it made from a cheaper material, is this spring loaded in a single or double stack magazine, and what are the conditions in which it is stored. Some folks will claim to have knowledge in metallurgy, science, experience, etc, but they don't all seem to agree. I am not an expert on this subject and certainly am not trying to change the way anyone practices. However, common sense just tells me that rotating a magazine every month or two just seems to make sense. I also only load my Beretta 92 mags one shy of max capacity when being left stored. Why? Because, I doubt that I will ever be in a gunfight and lose because I had 14 rounds instead of 15. I also think that a large double stack mag puts more pressure on springs than a 1911 style. In addition, every once in a while I like to shoot the expensive hollow points at the practice range just to make sure everything is still functioning properly before I load it back up for defensive purposes. That way I know the magazine is working, the gun still cycles that ammo, no creases are forming on the cases, and I can hit with the ammo I plan to use for self defense. I may be crazy and waisting my time, but it really doesn't take that much time to cycle a magazine, especially if your doing it at the range And, for those who like to claim that science has already discovered the answer and that we are backward not to accept the facts. Well, the problem with scientists is that they are always discovering the answer and then later discovering that what was so obvious before is now obviously wrong. Sometimes, common sense tells me to stick to what works.
It has been my experience that the weapons I've fired that use double stack mags have springs that are fully compressed when fully loaded. When trying to insert a fully loaded mag when the slide or bolt is forward, the top round in the mag must be pushed down by the slide/bolt for the mag to be inserted. If the spring is fully compressed the extra space is made by the staggered rounds being pushed outboard. This made me have to hit the bottom of the mag to get it to lock in. The sides of the mag bulge causing the mag to want to stay in place even if the mag release is pressed. I have even seen m16 mags split at the seem where they are spot welded together due the performing repeated combat reloads with fully loaded mags (inserting fresh mag while round is still in chamber meaning bolt is forward). Because my carry piece has plastic double stack mags and plastic seems to have memory, I download them by 1. There are reasons other than 'spring fatigue' to consider downloading certain mags.
i use ramline magazines, no longer made.... but they used a coiled ribbon spring to maintain a steady pressure, no binding, and since the spring isnt under compression when the magazine is loaded, it makes these kinda debates useless. the coiled ribbon spring becomes smaller as the magazine is loaded and therefore creates more room for additional rounds beyond the standard magazine. these carry a lifetime guarantee thru ramline....
the company stopped producitng them during the assault weapons ban and magazine capacity limits.... too bad.
This thread could be used to help sell Revolvers.
This is a very good group of forums.
OK, I've been here more than a few times. In my humble opinion, no one is totally right or wrong about "springs".
Originally Posted by zhurdan
1. I'm on Zhurdan's side with regard to scientific method. And with regard to springs.
This has the caveat that the springs in question have to be properly designed with regard to all the possible spring variables to promote "proper life".
Amongst a myriad of "stuff", this means the spring metallurgy is "properly done", as well as the design variables.
2. I'm on Shipwreck's side when he claims "real world experience" In my humble opinion, his observations occurr because the
spring manufacturer did NOT follow all of the design/metallurgy requirements to achieve a spring with "infinite life" given it usage requirements.
Whether this is due to design ignorance, lack of proper steel material selection/heat treating, or just plain saving dollars I cannot say.
I can say that Shipwreck's "treating magazine's safety items" as the cautious alternative can obliviate "Item 2 problems" makes sense.
When in doubt, go conservative. (This is a real problem with airplanes. If you go "too conservative", the damn things won't fly).
Not a problem with magazines. Screw "the debate". Go conservative, replace springs. Expect them to work EVERY time they are needed.
The problem with this is do you actually know the replacement springs are any better than the "trash" you replaced ? Do you ?
Hey, I just stumbled on the answer ! It's revolvers !
In return for going back to only five or six rounds, the damn things work every time !
I'm taking my FS92 and my extra 15 round mag off my nightstand next to my Mossberg 500 with 7 + 1 double-ought buckshot.
And, replacing it with my Ruger SuperRedhawk Alaskan 2.5 in. snubby in .454 Casull.
I may not be able to hit anything when the dogs wake me up from a deep sleep. But, by G_D, they'll be bailing due to the noise !
Spring steel comes in different tensile strengths and will not change by being compressed. Working the spring rapidly will create heat, and heat, over time will alter the tensile strength of the spring. Loading a spring and leaving it loaded will not weaken the spring steel.
I'm gonna avoid the main topic because it never ends - just see the post right before mine (#33)... I've stated my opinion and cited examples...
Originally Posted by TedDeBearFrmHell
But as for ram line, you should check the glocktalk forum... There is a guy that started a thread there last week, nostalgic about the old Ramline items...No remember Ramline differently, and so does everyone else that posted, except for mr nostalgic....
I remember Ramline mags in the 1990s are jam-o-mastic garbage that wouldn't even feed one round without jamming. Right before the 1994 ban, distributors hoarded hi cap factory mags, in anticipation of what they could get for them once the ban went into effect. So all that was left in my area of the country were aftermarket mags... I tried several Ramline mags. They were horrendous.
roflmao.... so i own the only taurus pistols and the only ramline mags that arent crap and never jammed? i wish i had used that kinda luck to win the lotto instead...i coulda bout good stuff with the money
Originally Posted by Shipwreck
I see all sorts of typos in that from my ipad autocorrect - Damn autocorrect...
But yea - Ramline is known as junk....
then i guess i will keep the 4 that i have as examples of the exceptions to the rule.
Originally Posted by Shipwreck
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