Every guy and his brother who is a shooter tends to weigh in on this subject and the opinion falls into two general camps. There are many who will tell you that if a magazine is left loaded for a prolonged period of time then the spring will “take a set” and degrade in performance. Then, there are those who go with what the engineers say and that is a spring does not wear due to being kept under load, but only wears with repetitions of use. Which is correct?
I can tell you only what I have gathered from many years of doing this. First, I think a magazine spring can eventually take a set if kept loaded but for a good quality magazine that is a really long time. Second, I can say without reservation that a spring does wear out with repetition but a good, modern spring takes a hell of a lot of repetitions to wear out. Here is what I do and I have had absolute success with this approach.
- Have dedicated training mags and dedicated practice mags and never shall the two meet. I only use a carry magazine for shooting when I test it for reliability every so often. Outside of reliability testing, I shoot only with practice mags.
- Download the Carry magazine by 1. I know there are guys who swear that, particularly a pistol mag, can be loaded to full capacity. Maybe, but my carry mags have remained perfectly reliable for many years and I always download a pistol mag by one, and a rifle magazine by 2. If I use a gun that takes a 15 round mag there is 15 rounds in the gun, not 15+1. I will take the enhanced reliability over the extra round. That one missing round makes all the difference and leaves the spring with a few millimeters of slack rather than leaving it compress to, and beyond, its limits due to the compression of full capacity combined with the under-carry of the breach against it when in the gun.
- Don’t load training mags to capacity on a regular basis. I have many thousands of rounds through my current training mags and they are still using the original springs. I rarely load them to full-capacity. For example, if training with a 15 round gun, I most often load 12-13 rounds in the mag. If you load the mag to full capacity each cycle you will drastically reduce the lifespan of the springs.
- Rotate your carry magazines every year. However many loaded magazines you keep for a given carry or defensive gun, have twice that many and rotate them every year. You will have no issues if you do this.
- Keep spare magazine springs on hand. If a magazine gets finicky but is still in good shape except for the spring, just replace the spring. If anything else is compromised on the magazine then discard it and get a new magazine.
- Have lots of magazines. Due to the ever volatile political climate magazines can become hard to find and cost-prohibitive every time the leftist traitors start running their mouths about gun control. Right now they are cheap and plentiful. Buy them.