Facts and Myths: How to Store Weapon Magazines

Posted by Frankie Chan on 7th Sep 2023

Magpul PMAGs in a container

As a seasoned gun owner and enthusiast, I've heard just about every tale, tip, and trick regarding gun maintenance, and more specifically, the care and storage of weapon magazines. But with so much information circulating, how can one distinguish between solid advice and pure myth? Let's set the record straight on how to store weapon magazines effectively and safely.

Myth 1: Keeping Magazines Fully Loaded Weakens the Spring

One of the most persistent myths out there is that if you keep your magazine fully loaded for extended periods, the spring will weaken, causing feeding problems.

Fact: Springs wear out from cycling - compressing and decompressing - not from being compressed. A quality magazine spring can remain fully compressed for many years without losing tension. What causes wear is the act of loading and unloading or the repeated compression and decompression of the spring. That being said, if you have a magazine you've kept loaded for several years and are concerned about its reliability, there's no harm in replacing the spring. It's cheaper than a case of beer and easier than assembling IKEA furniture!

Myth 2: You Should Store Magazines in a Cool, Dry Place

Well, this one is a half-myth. Yes, a dry environment is beneficial, but the temperature doesn't have to be cool per se.

Fact: Moisture is the real enemy of magazines, especially the metal ones. Give it enough time, and before you know it, rust is setting up camp, messing with strength and how well they work. Temperature swings can cause condensation, leading to those pesky moisture issues. So, a stable environment, dry and free from direct exposure to elements, is the way to go.

Myth 3: Polymer Magazines Don't Need Any Special Care

With the increasing popularity of polymer magazines, some gun owners believe they're virtually indestructible.

Fact: True, polymer magazines dodge the rust bullet, unlike metal ones. However, long-term UV light exposure isn't their best friend. And, like everything else, they're not resistant to accumulating dust and dirt over the years, which can hinder their performance. It's a good practice to give them a quick clean and regularly check for any signs of damage or wear.

Shooter loading a magazine at the range

Myth 4: "Topping Off" Magazines is a Bad Idea

Topping off refers to shooting a few rounds and reloading the magazine to its full capacity.

Fact: While it's true that constantly topping off can accelerate wear on the magazine spring (remember, it's the cycling that wears it out), doing it occasionally isn't harmful. It's more a matter of understanding that every time you load or unload rounds, you're using one of the spring's many cycles. If you're practicing at the range, it's better to shoot the entire magazine and reload rather than constantly topping off after every few shots.

Myth 5: All Magazines are Essentially the Same

Some gun enthusiasts believe that all magazines, irrespective of brand or type, are essentially the same in terms of performance and care.

Fact: Just as with guns, quality can vary dramatically among magazines. Some magazines are made with better materials, tighter tolerances, and more attention to detail. Always worth it to do your homework and buy from trusted mag brands. They tend to be more reliable with fewer issues. But no matter the brand or type, always inspect your magazines regularly for signs of wear, damage, or dirt.

Fully loaded AR-15 magazines

Tips for Proper Magazine Storage

Keep Them Clean: Give them a quick clean after using your magazines, especially after a day at the range. Clean off any dust, grime, and gunpowder residue. For polymer magazines, a simple wipe-down might suffice. For metal magazines, consider using a light coat of oil to protect against rust.

Regularly Rotate Loaded Magazines: If you have several magazines, consider rotating which ones you keep loaded. This isn't because a constantly loaded magazine will weaken the spring, but it ensures all your magazines see equal use and wear.

Use Quality Ammo: This isn't directly related to magazine storage, but using quality ammunition can reduce malfunctions, dirt, and residue in your gun and magazine.

Many people talk about the best ways to care for mags and where to keep them, but the key is separating the chit-chat from the solid facts. That's how you keep your mags in prime shape. Whether you've been around the block with guns or you're new to the game, a little know-how and consistent upkeep can make a world of difference in keeping your mags in top shape.

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