gun mag springs

A Brief Guide To Gun Magazine Springs

There are two major components to gun magazines, namely the magazine springs and the follower, which is a little tab of metal or plastic that sits atop the spring. These, along with the feed lips, are the only parts of a gun magazine worth worrying about.

Why bother learning about magazine springs? Simple. Wonder why sometimes you need to replace your magazines or they stop working? Those parts are almost always the culprits, and the magazine springs are just about the most common cause...which is a good thing to stay on top of if you concealed carry or keep a gun for home defense.

What A Magazine Spring Does

gun magazine springs

The first thing to know about a magazine spring is the job it does. The job of a magazine is to hold a certain number of bullets, and when the gun that the magazine resides in is being fired, feed them into the chamber to be discharged. As a result, a spring is necessary.

When rounds are placed in a magazine, the spring begins to compress and remains under tension as long as rounds are in the magazine. When rounds are not in the magazine, there is no tension and the spring returns to a resting state.

The follower helps to compress the spring when rounds are inserted into the magazine, and also assists in pushing rounds up in a uniform fashion when tension is removed as rounds are fired. Essentially, that's all a pistol magazine does; rounds go in, compressing the spring, which helps push them up and out as the magazine is emptied by firing the gun.

They're about as simple as machines get, really.

What Gun Magazine Springs Are Made Of

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The most common material that gun magazine springs are made of is spring steel, which certain companies use to make a core for some of the strongest gun belts imaginable. Seems pretty obvious, right?

The difference between spring steel and regular steels is spring steels have a much higher yield strength, meaning that they can take much more of a load before deforming. Metals, while certainly a hard material, have a certain degree of elasticity and can therefore be stretched and strained a certain amount and return to their normal shape without deforming. Spring steels, since they have a higher yield strength, have a greater degree of elasticity than other steels.

Even cheap spring steels are better than cheap steel wire springs. However, poor quality spring steels wear out more quickly than quality spring steels.

Music wire, also called piano wire, is also commonly used for magazine springs. Music wire is a type of spring steel, made of tempered high-carbon steel. One common use is in piano strings (pianos, for those unaware, make noise via hammer striking a string held under tension) as well as other instrument strings. It's also used in surgical applications as well as other uses for a high-tensile strength string; special effects companies use it quite often as well.

However, the thing about spring steels is that it isn't so much the upper limits of strain that does them in and causes them to deform plastically. (That's where something irreparably warps.) It's repeated cycles of being placed under load, having the load removed and then the load reapplied.

Why Should I Care About This Gun Magazine Stuff?

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Why is this gun magazine dreck important? Because semi-automatic pistols and semi-automatic rifles (or for that matter, fully-automatic ones too) have a few known malfunctions that cause failures to feed or failures to return to battery.

If a person is going to carry a gun, or have a gun in the home for the purposes of personal protection, that gun has to be reliable enough for a person to rely upon it. After all, a gun carried or kept for this purpose has the task of saving your life or the life of someone else, and you cannot afford to have a failure to feed, fire or return to battery at the moment of truth.

One of the most common causes of those kinds of malfunctions? A bad magazine. The most common reason a magazine isn't working?

That would be the magazine spring.

Cracked or bent feed lips occur as well, but the most common cause of magazine malfunctions is magazine springs that are past their sell-by date. Usually, what does them is loading and reloading them a whole bunch of times, or in other words, simple wear and tear. Keeping a magazine loaded or unloaded when not in use barely makes any difference; it's the strain being removed but then reapplied that gets them.

That's why it's recommended that magazines be periodically replaced, or at least that the spring and follower be replaced. The interval depends on usage, but once per year is a fairly good rule of thumb for people who shoot regularly.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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