“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Saturday, March 21, 2015

We look up at the stars at night and wonder....


  • Are we alone in the Universe?
  • Is there a God?
  • Why am I here?
  • Do magazine springs really set if you leave the magazine loaded for an extended period?

All these are weighty questions that deserve reflection, but I'm focusing on the last named today.


As all shooters know, the magazine is a critical part of any weapon. Detachable box magazines are found on most self defense weapons today, be it rifle or pistol.  Any problem with the magazine and the whole system may not function.

As long as I've been interested in firearms, which is back to the 50's, the question of spring set has been argued, pondered, and fought over. Doubtless people have worried about it since integral magazines using old steel leaf springs appeared.  It's a valid question, though.  A weapon is not very useful if it's not loaded.  You can leave a revolver loaded forever without ill effect , because the rounds sit in the rotating cylinder and there's no pressure on any springs.  But a weapon that uses a box magazine, when loaded, keeps the spring compressed and under pressure.

I'm working from memory here, but I think it was the mid 1990's that Guns and Ammo magazine hired a top flight German engineering firm to settle the question once and for all. That organization did tests, and their verdict was that spring set did not occur in modern magazines using modern steel springs. Adherents of that view also pointed to a famous incident in Holland that supported the German conclusion. In the 1990's, a row of old houses dating back to World War II was being demolished to make room for new housing in Holland. During the course of the demolition, a German MP-40 machine pistol was found in the wall of one of the buildings. It was fully loaded. So that magazine spring had been completely compressed for around 50 years. Before the weapon was taken to a museum, the Dutch police, out of curiosity, tried to fire it at a range. The MP-40 functioned flawlessly.  No spring set there.



On the other hand, there's the Ishapore 2 and Ishapore 2A to consider.  Those are the Indian "built from scratch" Enfield MK.III rifles in 7.62X51.  Those rifles saw a lot of service, both on the Chinese Indian frontier and as a transitional training weapon as India switched to the L1A1.  The Ishapore is notorious for failing to strip the last one or two rounds out of the magazine. The fix? Replace the magazine springs. This could be spring set, or it could be some design flaw with the original springs. No one knows for sure but it's curious.




Spring set matters to me because I have a lot of semi-auto weapons I keep loaded here. No children live anywhere near this place, and I keep weapons at different locations in the buildings, because I don't know where I will be when the need arises to have one to hand.  Right now, through long habit, I unload the magazines and switch out the magazines every month or so. I don't know if I am wasting my time or not. It's more of a safe than sorry thing. Magazines are expensive, and when I use a firearm I want it to function. So the ritual of swapping out mags continues at my place, even though logic would dictate it's a waste of time.

19 comments:

  1. Now there is a dream, finding an intact MP-40 behind the drywall in your house! Way to make a fellow drool! My best was a "Vote for Ike" campaign button when I opened up the eves. LOL. I swap out my mags every so often as well, easy to do with the couple I have. Must be an all day chore with your collection. I have read that more damage is caused by the cycling of the spring (repeated flexing of the steel wire) than leaving it compressed.

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    1. I'm also compulsive about never loading a magazine to capacity. I know I got that from the earlier versions of the M16, and no doubt it's no longer relevant but it's like the magazine spring issue. Old habits die hard. I never heard about working the spring hurting it, but that shouldn't be a problem unless you are a professional shooter going through thousands of rounds and those guys probably get all the mags their hearts desire from sponsors.

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  2. I also often wonder why I am here...?

    Your 4th question I can't help you with.

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    1. That's easy, Dani. The answer is "to pay taxes."

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  3. I read somewhere that leaving a magazine spring compressed for years (or decades) contributes far less to its failure rate than the repeated compress/decompress cycle of usage. Or, in other words, leaving a magazine loaded does not wear out the springs; loading and unloading it repeatedly is what wears them out.

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    1. And leaving it empty certainly won't help you when you need to shove it in and use it in an emergency.

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    2. Zero, that's Michael's point also and I think that's true. I usually swap out mags from a large selection, so the individual mags don't get in the load unload cycle that often.

      anon, yea, verily. That's why I keep the ready guns loaded though without a round in the chamber. Think the refrigerator scene in The Dogs Of War movie.

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  4. Lately I can't shut my mind off at night. Ever since my husband lost his job my mind is busy. Even though he got a new job - now my mind is on the kids. What are we going to do with them in the summer? I think we should sell them. That's the answer. Just kidding. I'm looking into more camps. Grandma and Grandpa will help, and I'll take vacation time out to watch them.

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    1. Alissa, that's a tough experience to go through. When you are awake at night is the worst. It's almost impossible to stop thinking about everything you have to deal with. The bad news is that I don't think that stops at any point in your life. Now that we are relatively secure I worry about my kids. Wasn't it one of the Greek playwrights who had a character say " only the dead have seen the end of woe." Your family will be ok. You and your husband are the kind that don't quit.

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  5. Harry - i am with you. if i were you, i'd keep swapping them out.

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. It's like throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder if you spill some at the table. No logical reason to do it, but still.....

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  6. I caught the rtard comment. Don't know how he got through the twit filter but I appreciate the support from anon and Kymber. I always delete nasty comments full of obscenities, but I regret that automatically deletes the replies.

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    1. i'll always support one of the best guys i know. and ya - it's best to just delete rtard comments.

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    2. I usually catch that kind of pathetic individual before their screed gets posted. This gene pool reject left some similar comments on older posts. His language was lame indeed compared to some of the more invective laden comments the filters catch, which is probably how he got through. Given the grammar I suspect this was not a native English speaker.

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  7. Yeah, the cycling of the spring causes more failures that leaving it compressed.

    loading and unloading the mag will cause earlier failure of any modern (post wwII) mag spring than leaving it loaded (assuming the mag is decently designed).

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    1. That seems to be the consensus, and it makes sense. Which means my policy of unloading my "ready mags" and swapping them out is really counter productive. It will be hard to stop though, after 30 years of conscientiously doing so.

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  8. This is right up there with the classic revolver vs. auto, 9mm vs. ,45, etc. vs. etc. arguments.

    One of the soft cover digest type gun books (either Gun Digest, Handgun Digest, Guns Illustrated, one of those) had an article about this.

    The fellow had an M1911A1 that he swapped for during WW2. The gun came with two loaded magazines. He never used but one of them and threw the other loaded mag in a drawer where it dwelt happily until the article was proposed.

    He pulled out his 50+ years loaded magazine and it went through his gun flawlessly.

    Some people favor revolvers for this reason, but I've had a number of revolvers that were cleaned flawlessly, oiled and then put away for a few decades. When they were put into use, the oil had long since dried/metastasized into a varnish like coating that froze everything up. The guns had to be cleaned with gasoline or solvent to get them right again.

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    1. N.D. I think I remember a similar letter to the editor in Guns and Ammo, about the WW2 bring back that sat in the drawer for fifty years and fired fine. I use a very light oil on my revolvers, and I clean them pretty frequently so have never had one freeze up on me. I have heard of similar events though, particularly when a revolver has been oiled with a heavy oil and then carried in very cold weather.

      I think you're right, it's one of those topics of conversation that will keep coming up with gun fanciers, regardless of what the scientific verdict is.

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