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Is Storing Loaded Magazines Bad?

Chances are, if you own a semi-auto firearm for home defense or conceal carry, you likely have at least a couple of magazines on hand that are always loaded. Some of you probably have wondered whether it’s okay to leave them loaded for an extended period of time. Do magazine springs wear out from being loaded for a long time? If we look around the internet, we will get both a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer. So, what is the consensus on this issue?

What if I want to have a bunch of loaded magazines just in case?

The answer is sort of complicated. We know that a newly purchased magazine can be loaded and left alone for a long time without losing spring tension. But what we do not know, is all of the small variables acting on the magazine spring and follower. We do not always know what materials, metals or design flaws the magazine may have. Or to what extent the manufacturer’s quality control impacts long-term durability either.

What we do know is that magazine springs and sometimes the followers can wear out with use. A firearm magazine is an expendable wear item, meaning it was not meant to last forever per se.

Loading and unloading the magazine frequently will cause it to wear. If you are using it a lot, you will be able to tell when the spring starts to weaken because the rounds will be much easier to load, and the gun will eventually start experiencing malfunctions.

When left loaded to full capacity and not used, most magazines will very slowly lose some amount of spring tension over time. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with any certainty just how long it will take before the spring loses enough tension to start causing issues. Some springs may stay loaded for decades and still function, and others might wear out after a much shorter period of time.

So, what now, what does this mean?

The general consensus is to have a decent supply of magazines, and rotate them between the loaded and unloaded magazines. This includes inspecting them for dirt and debris that may be trapped inside and checking for broken or damaged followers and floorplates. Many experts have weighed in on the topic and this is basically the answer given. If we want to be more specific, purchase high-quality magazines from a known manufacturer that has developed a good reputation for producing them. This way can we ensure that we have reliable and ready to use magazines that should in theory, provide us years and/or thousands of rounds of use.

Some manufacturers will recommend rotation intervals along with service procedures (like every 90-100 days or so). It may be as simple as changing the spring. Other times, wiping the inside of the magazine out with a soft, lint-free cloth, and applying a light coat of oil to the exterior could also be recommended. Your level of care depends on your level of use and the conditions the firearm is exposed to. Always inspect your magazines to ensure they function properly.

That is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer:

We do not really think you will find an absolute answer on this topic. How long your magazines last is ultimately decided upon by how you treat them:

  • If you conceal carry, you will want to check for lint and dust build up inside the magazine body. This includes the formation of rust due to sweat from being carried on/close to the body. Those things can add up over time and render a magazine inoperable when we need them to work most.
  • If you have a rifle that gets used outdoors a lot, make sure the magazine is not full of fine sand, silt and dust that can create stoppages. Or, that it is not badly damaged from being dropped on hard ground and rocks. Rust can accumulate on the magazine spring and cause it to become brittle and break.
  • If you have magazines loaded and set aside for long term storage, its not a bad idea to occasionally check on their condition and check them for proper function.
The Verdict:

The brief article on the topic is meant to get you thinking a bit more about your firearm magazines and that they are an expendable/wearable item. Some will last longer than others. We believe that keeping multiple spare magazines loaded and ready for use is a good idea for a number of reasons. There is nothing wrong with doing so, as long as you don’t neglect them. Just remember that they will not all last forever.

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