Ar-10/Ar-15 Magazine Maintenance
It’s a sad fact that while we use our AR’s day in and day out, and clean them meticulously, we sometimes forget to be as careful as we should be with the magazines. We just keep loading in rounds and then unloading them in our desired mode of shooting, occasionally giving the magazine a wipe down. But should we be doing more? Well, yep, we should, and if you read on, you’ll understand just how much maintenance you should be applying to this essential part of your gun.
Your magazine is essential to the smooth operation of your AR, and you need to keep it in the best condition in order to ensure perfect shots every time. While the AR design originally incorporated a disposable magazine, it was pretty quickly decided that it wasn’t viable and reusable magazines were soon put into use.
Obviously, the magazine is just as important as any other part of your weapon and needs just as much maintenance to keep it in good working order, but it is the component that is usually left un-cared for, and that is when failures can occur. Magazine mishaps include jams and mis-feeds that can not only ruin your days shooting, but can damage your gun too. If you get a mis-feed there is a strong possibility of a so-called type-three malfunction or a double feed, and that can mean serious trouble that takes some fixing, and will require an almost complete strip-down.
Common Magazine Problems
Magazines, like all working parts, will be subject to wear and tear, but this won’t be a problem if routine maintenance is carried out to check on accumulated damage and remedy it as appropriate. You need to pay close attention to the feed lips as these will determine how well the rounds leave the magazine and enter the chamber. Feed lips can suffer from a couple of well-recognized issues, such as cracking and excessive wear.
Cracking tends to be more of an issue if you are using a polymer magazine and something as simple as dropping it can cause small micro-cracks to start, and it won’t take long for those small cracks to start getting a bit bigger. With a polymer magazine, once a crack has started, the integrity of the whole magazine becomes questionable, and as soon as a crack is noticed, it is always the best policy to replace it with a new one. On the whole, aluminum magazines tend not to crack if dropped, but they can suffer comparable damage. The feed lips can bend slightly which can lead to all manner of issues with either seating the magazine or the feeding of rounds into the chamber.
The other area of the magazine that can cause concern is the spring, and any trouble here can lead to a couple of different failures, including jamming, failure to feed, and short strokes. The short-stroking failure occurs when the bolt and carrier do not travel fully rearward upon firing. This short travel prevents the bolt from picking up the rim of the top cartridge in the magazine on its forward motion, and feeding issues result. Short-stroking can also prevent a used case from being thrown fully out of the gun, leading to further jams.
Springs will fatigue over time with use, and the form that they have been set in can start to sag. Fatigued springs need to be replaced to make a magazine serviceable, and it is often expedient to replace a standard spring with something more robust. Steel springs with a high content of chrome and silicon will last longer than stainless steel springs, and can give better performance.
Cleaning Your Magazine
To keep your magazines in the best working order, you need to periodically disassemble them and clean all the parts thoroughly with a dry cloth or tough paper towels. Don’t be tempted to use solvents or oils as these will affect the performance of your system and act as a dirt magnet!
Strip off the base-plate and extract the spring and follower, and inspect them both for signs of wear. While all springs will suffer fatigue over time, and you should compare the un-sprung length of your spring against a new one. If there is any significant shortening of yours, replace it. Wear on the follower will be fairly apparent, and if you think that there is any wear that is troubling, replace it. Reassemble your magazine, keeping it dry and free from oil to get the best performance.
Finally, always try to use a magazine loading tool as it will not only save you time – and help prevent painful indents in your thumb – but it will also eliminate stress and wear to the feed lips from loading. Using one of these alone can help extending the service life of your magazine and help prevent those annoying – and potentially dangerous – in-field failures.