Shooting Tip: Don’t Trust Your Factory 1911 Magazines

Just because something comes with a gun doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work perfectly with that gun. Especially with the 1911 platform, ensuring that your magazines actually work is a key step in troubleshooting malfunctions before you start blaming your firearm and looking for the warranty card. One shooter and TTAG reader (who wants to be known as ST) recently had a run-in with some bad factory magazines and wanted to share his cautionary tale with us . . .

[The following was written by TTAG reader ST and is presented here for your enjoyment]

Being a newcomer to firearms myself, I approached 1911 ownership with a little bit of trepidation. On a whim I rented a Nighthawk Customs 1911 at my local range and fell in love with the nigh-telepathic trigger feel and handling of the gun. I resolved to buy a 1911 after my rental session, but not before I did some extensive research beforehand. A Rock Island Armory 45ACP Tactical may be an inexpensive pistol to most people, but not for a college student fresh out of the military.

Next payday came around and I purchased an RIA 1911 Tactical. Being that it only came with one magazine in the box, I picked up two spare magazines for it in the store. The only ones the sales staff had were a Mec-Gar and a Kimpro Tac mag, so those were what I bought with it.

At the next range session something funny happened. With the included 8 round Act-Mag the 1911 refused to feed hollow points. After shooting that mag and loading the Mec-Gar 8 rounder the gun happily fed and fired every hollow point PMC round without incident. Same thing with the Kimpro mag.

A hypothesis germinated in my mind as I loaded the Act Mag, slammed it home and hit the slide release. Sure enough it failed to feed again. I downloaded the mag, stuck the same hollow point rounds into the Kimber mag in the same order as they were in the Act Mag. Fed and fired without incident.

Ever since that range session I’ve made it a rule to buy aftermarket quality magazines with every 1911 purchase. I’ve since sold that RIA, but nevertheless I’ve NEVER had a malfunction with my 1911s unless I used the no-name magazine that was in the box with it. This experience took place as of December last year.

After James Yeager recently made a video slamming the 1911s all this came back to the fore for me. I realized it may not be common knowledge among the armed intelligensia to mistrust the 1911 mags which come in the box with a $800+ firearm. While Mr. Yeager makes well thought out points, a thought occurred to me watching his videos. While he states that his observation of the students he taught with 1911s noted several malfunctions, did he take the time to note which magazines the students were shooting with?

If his clients are taking their 1911s to his high-intensity training course with their factory no-name mags that came with their pistols, its not a stretch to assume they wouldn’t have any better luck than I would with the RIA’s included magazine regarding failures. Its no wonder James Yeager and a lot of others would think the 1911′s a jam o matic!

To ensure my letter isn’t a sample of 1, my Remington R1 that’s in the video I made works 100% with Kimber mags. The factory no-name one it came with caused a feed malfunction with hollow point PMC ammo, ammo that same exact pistol fired without incident in a Kimpro mag. Incidentally its the same brand of ammunition I initially shot though my Rock Island 1911.

At this point it is wise to consider what separates the choice 1911 magazine from the substandard. Comparing my Kimber Kim-Pro Tac mag to the parkerized no-name 8 rounder that awaited me in the Remington R1′s box, we can see some important differences right away.

The Kimber magazine has a pleasing reflective finish on it.The mirror shine does attract fingerprints, however the finish doesn’t impede reloads or inhibit a tight grip like its flashy appearance suggests.The witness holes are marked and staggered, with easy to read text and Kimber stampings on the side.

As you hold it, the magazine has a sense of solid heft which belies the shiny impression one gets at first look. The metal magazine body is tight and hefty.With the rounds loaded there’s no flimsy shake rattle and roll. Insertion and ejection is smooth and slick -as long as the owner doesn’t fumble the reload of course! The magazine comes with a flat GI baseplate, but Kimber thoughtfully includes two bumper pads in the packaging in case one is more comfortable using bumper-ed magazines.While the shiny finish may turn some people off, it does have practical benefits in that you can clearly see the rounds loaded and dirt & carbon deposits don’t stand a chance of staying on the mag long enough to end up in the weapon.

The Remington no-name magazine is a different story.

The tube body is parkerized with no markings besides basic numerals next to the witness holes. To this minute I cannot tell you who makes this magazine as there’s no stamping or origin on the follower or metal tube. At least the Act-Mag with my old Rock Island Armory had a factory stamp on the side-this thing is as unmarked as an undercover Chicago Police cruiser. Unless you turn it over to see the “R .45 AUTO” printed on the bottom of the mag baseplate, you’d never know this was sold with a Remington pistol.

The tube body doesn’t feel nearly as solid as the Kimber magazine. I get the sense my Kimber magazine will last as long as my 1911 will — that is to say, long enough to be dug up from my sarcophagus as artifacts in 10,000 years. I can’t say the same for this nondescript magazine. Its tube body is made of metal, but not of anything I’d bet will last even 20 years. It was this magazine which yielded the previously mentioned malfunction. The parkerized finish seems to be an afterthought-its already wearing away at the edge near the tops of the magazine feed lips.

Essentially, what comes in this box is a device meant for range use only. The Kimber magazine reminds me of a Glock or quality AK magazine-a tough unit meant to last which can withstand the wear and tear of its expected duties. The R1′s included magazine feels like a Pro-Mag imitation meant to sell at a price first with function as a distant priority. I get the sense whoever designed this magazine has the same regard for 1911s as Hillary Clinton does the 2nd Amendment.

I wrote this review and personal experience so that — in addition to competition and range users of the 1911 — others in the 2nd Amendment community don’t trust their lives and the lives of their families to 1911 magazines of suspect or unknown origin just because it came with their firearms. As you guys doubtlessly know even renowned weapons like the Glock pistol are useless if the magazine used is of substandard quality. While I cannot presume to judge the worth of every 1911 magazine, I can state that no 1911 owner should blindly trust the quality of the magazines which come with their gun.Unlike other manufacturers, trust with a 1911 magazine must be earned at the range and not given at the gun counter.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

34 Responses to Shooting Tip: Don’t Trust Your Factory 1911 Magazines

  1. avatarTommy Knocker says:

    The old saying “you get what pay for” makes sense with mags.

    Several quick thoughts I’ve picked up. First spend 3 bucks on a paint pen at your local hobby shop. They come in all colors, I like white. Then write on the side of all your magazines a unique id. A number or a letter, etc. That way when you are at the range, you can be assured that a particular mag is giving you problems or is working fine.

    Second tip is to buy yourself a bound notebook. This will be a journal.Make it your journal for shooting. When heading out to the range, grab it and toss it into the range bag. When you have a problem, jot it down. Used this ammo, used this mag. Shot this number of rounds. No problem, or FTF, etc. Heck I even write down when I cleaned the guns, time etc. Competition guys have been doing this for decades. You won’t be forgetting or have to guess what was what by the time you get back to the house maybe hours later.

    Third and finally, if a mag gives you consistent problems, destroy it. Smash the hell out of it or return it to the manufacturer for a refund. Especially for a CCW gun, don’t leave it to chance that it will sneak into your pocket someday when you need flawless function.

    • avatarMoonshine says:

      For iOS guys, Gun Log is a great free app that obviates the need for a physical notebook. Not sure if it’s available for Android. Check it out.

      • avatarFyrewerx says:

        I tried searching for Gun Log in the Apple App Store, but it can’t find it. Does it go by a different name?
        Thanks Moonshine.

        • avatarMoonshine says:

          Odd, it comes right up for me. There’s a +p (paid) version and the free version. Check again.

        • avatarFyrewerx says:

          Found it. Search wouldn’t find it for me. But I was able to locate it by threading through categories (Sports), then by name alphabetically.

      • avatarHammy Hamster says:

        Another option is just to use Evernote.

  2. avatarJames Grant says:

    Excellent point Nick, I personally use only Tripp Research Inc 7R-45-WO mags in both my 1911′s whenever I’m going to compete with or carry them.

  3. avatarMoonshine says:

    Nice article, ST. In addition to the brands you mention, I’ve also gotten excellent results with Chip McCormick’s mags and especially with Tripp Research Cobra Mags. If you can’t get a 1911 to feed right with Cobra Mags, you know it’s a gun or ammo problem.

  4. avatarm.ia says:

    The 2 mags that came with my s&w 1911 e series have never given me a problem. That being said, I still prefer my Chip Mcormic shooting star mags for carry and competition. They are just made better. I completely agree with ST.

  5. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    #1 cause of problems in most semi-auto guns (rifles included) which feed from a detachable magazine is …. the magazine.

    Usually, the problem is the angle(s) at which the round is presented to the chamber, and this is usually controlled by the lips of the magazine, their spacing between each other, the inward bend at that top of the magazine, etc.

  6. avatarMichael B. says:

    The only mags that work reliably with my Springfield USGI .45 are Metalform’s mags. Which, thankfully, Springfield with the gun.

    I’ve tried Wilson Combat, I’ve tried McCormick Shooting Stars, I’ve tried Pachmyrs and just about every other damn thing. Some feed fine but won’t hold the slide open on the last round, some won’t go in, and some just plain suck at everything.

    Honestly the gun manufacturers need to get together and standardize their 1911′s mag ****. It’s beyond ridiculous that it’s hit or miss all the time.

  7. avatarConcerned_Soldier says:

    My Wilson Combat Mags ROCK! You cannot go wrong with them! Yeah they are expensive, so what, so is life!

    • avatarMax says:

      +1

      It’s funny because the author seems to really like Kimber aftermarket mags, but in my case I found that the factory mag that came with my Kimber was functional, but of lesser quality then the Wilson Combat mags I bought at the same time. They are much more smooth and nicely finished, however all of the mags have fed 100%.

  8. avatarJun Yumul says:

    Chip and Wilson work great on most of my 1911′s. I agree that with 1911′s the mags are critical. Had a lot of experience with ftf’s, locked slides and failures to hold the slide open on an empty mag with other brands. But I think the important thing to note is that each gun is unique and will react to particular mags in a unique way. Test and find out for sure.

  9. avatarHal says:

    Or buy a Glock… Just sayin’

  10. avatarDrewN says:

    Pistols that were designed around military ball ammunition usually work better with ball ammo funnily enough.I have run many thousands of rounds of ball through RIA factory mags with no issues. If you want a pistol that is going to be 100% reliable with hollow points, a 1911 (or a Luger or a P-38 etc) isn’t a good choice.

  11. avatarTom jones says:

    You get what you pay for… x2 Wilson combat mags for my 1911 numbers 1 feeds everything and holds 8.

  12. avatarspeedracer5050 says:

    I currently own 2 1911′s; one is a Auto Ordanance Commemarative 100 yr model full size and the other is an ATI FX Titan Compact(3.18″ barrel).
    The Auto Ord’s factory mag has worked flawlessly and I have shot Win White box ball, Hornady Critical Defense and Zombie Max, and Tula ball through that mag and never had a ftf or any other misdeed. The spare for it is a Chip McCormick which feeds the same ammo just fine.
    The ATI came with an ACT mag and I have 2 Mec Gar mags for it as back ups. They all feed every type of ammo listed above just fine with no failures.
    Two things I did do as soon as igit both 1911′s was to load each mag with ball and hp ammo and sit and cycle rounds through the guns by hand watching how they fed and ejected.
    Based on my meager experience rebuilding and tuning 1911′s a lot of feed prob’s can be fixed by adjusting the metal follower leg that the slide lock catches and by checking to make sure the feed ramp is smooth.
    The gun techs at Brownells or any good gunsmith can walk you through how to fix or adjust these areas, or a gunsmith can do it for you fairly quickly.
    As far as 1911′s, etc be jam o’ matics… Never had that problem really. Have owned quite a few polymer and steel and all steel pistols and always seemed to have good luck with them with just routine maintenance and cleaning.
    Change out springs and followers when needed!!!

  13. avatarRalph says:

    Good article, ST, and DrewN is absolutely correct. 1911s have a reputation for being finicky with hollowpoints but reliable with ball ammo, and magazines have been the Achilles Heel of semiautomatics since forever.

  14. avatarTTACer says:

    Nice write up. I have seen M1A, Mini-14, and especially ARs and Orlites have problems that were 100% mags. Never had a problem with an AK except for a drum and I have never had a problem with an old 226, including accidentally using 92f mags that didn’t lock in.

  15. avataranonymous says:

    “1911 Magazines”
    by Hilton Yam

    The magazine is exceedingly critical to the function of a 1911, and all too many shooters induce problems in otherwise functional guns by using faulty magazines.

    My number one recommendation for a 1911 magazine is the original Chip McCormick Power Mag 8 round magazine with the standard (.350″) bumper. The Power Mag design has a durable tube that holds its shape well, a strong spring that resists a set when left loaded for extended periods, and very good overall function. The Power Mag features a flush length tube, which makes it a good choice for concealment applications. It is able to compete in function with extended tube magazines thanks to the additional spring pressure provided by the folded follower. I have had hundreds of Power Mags pass through my hands – they work well and you simply will not find a better value for your dollar.
    .
    .
    .
    Magazines for the 1911 need to be considered an expendable asset, much like the GI aluminum M16 mag. I expect an average service cycle of 12-24 months, and I will not hesitate to replace them the moment one fails to feed or drop free. Don’t get married to a set of mags, use them up and move on.

    read the whole thing at
    http://www.10-8performance.com/pages/1911-Magazines.html

  16. avatarensitu says:

    I am still working through the crate of cosmolined GI mags from the 1940s that I run in my 1950′s C-1911

  17. avatarKendahl says:

    With some allowance for break in, a new gun should work properly. If it doesn’t, it’s a warranty issue. In this case, the problem may very well be the magazine. However, it’s RIA’s obligation to supply one that does work and, if it doesn’t, to replace it with one that does. In ST’s shoes, I would take the offending magazine back to the dealer, describe the situation and request a replacement under warranty. Repeat, if necessary, until they provide one that works.

    Once upon a time, 1911s were only expected to work with military ball ammunition. Nowadays, they should work with virtually everything. If RIA’s 1911s won’t work with some types of ammunition, they need to make this clear up front. Then, the buyer has to make a decision.

    Note that a bad magazine may not be the cause of a feeding problem. When I bought my Gold Cup, thirty years ago, it would not feed semi-wadcutters. A good gunsmith cured that.

    • avatarDrewN says:

      Why would you expect a 101 year old design to feed modern ammunition types with 100% reliability? Sure, modern manufacture 1911′s are better at feeding SWC’s and HP’s, but the fact is the pistol wasn’t designed around ammo with those bullet profiles. It was designed to feed 230 gr ball at 855 fps, and it will do that all day,week,month and year long. Complaining that it doesn’t is like buying a 426 Hemi Charger and complaining that it won’t run reliably on 87 octane lead free gas.

      • avatarKendahl says:

        Because it can and has been done. ST bought two different, non-RIA magazines and they both work. It’s the POS from RIA that doesn’t. Since ST only has one example, it is more likely to be an issue with one defective unit rather than a systematic problem with everything from that supplier. Either way, RIA should make good on it.

        To use the 426 Hemi Charger metaphor, it’s like taking the car to a drag strip and having a tire disintegrate. Maybe it’s just one bad tire or maybe the OEM tires are not up to the car’s performance.

    • avatarHot4570 says:

      In RIA s defense theu say in bold letter across top ball ammo. I have tired Kimber mags and they sucked in my Gun. Chip McCormick and the stock act mags. I have 3 act mags one really sucks. The other two unless the hollow point is seated deep I have had feeding issues. 90 percent in my experience is people not changing there recoil spring. The factory one will be worn out in about break in in Officer such as mine. I only use Wilson Combat officer Springs you will have a devil of time putting a new spring in 24#s hard as all get out to compress. I shoot mainly lead round nose 230 grains I cast myself. Since then even with the crap mag the gun is 100 percent reliable. I still prefer a 12ga or a rifle after all the handguns purpose is to get to a rifle. Also Rock Island Armory has a lifetime warranty.

  18. avatarMark N. says:

    The mag that came with my Kimber Pro Carry is 7 round blued steel, windlows but no numbers. I had problems and bought a Chip 8 rounder that is made of a slightly thicker steel,numbered witness holes. Flawless. I have no problems with hollow points or wad cutters–at least after I polished the ramp that came covered with Kimpro finish.

  19. I had serious issues with a NIB stainless Springfield earlier in the year, when the factory magazine jammed & wouldn’t release during a Practical Pistol match.
    It was stuck solid & had to be pried out after disassembling the gun.
    I was advised to try Chip McCormick magazines & I now have four 8 round Power Mags that function flawlessly with ball, LRN & SWC.

  20. avatarernunnos says:

    Heh. What you don’t realize is that the Kimpro magazine you like so much is a re-branded Checkmate magazine. Checkmate also makes the magazines provided with such diverse 1911s as Colt, Dan Wesson, Ed Brown, and even Ruger’s modestly-priced SR1911. So it is entirely possible to get a great magazine right out of the box.

  21. avatarRailbuggy says:

    Roger that.I found out that Kimber mags were Checkmate back in 08.
    I promply ordered Checkmate mags from TopGunSupply.

  22. avatarSean Rallis says:

    I bought the same gun, an RIA 1911 .45. It also cam with an ACT mag. Not only did that mag refuse to feed hollow point ammunition, one day at the range, it blew apart in the middle of shooting. It was only a couple of months old. Just broke, and everythin came flying out of the gun, leaving my with a 1911 that had an empty metal shell in the grip and a pile of ammunition at my feet. DO NOT BUY ACT MAGS!!!

  23. avatarLeonel says:

    Place a treat inside or underneath an overturned box.
    It doesn’t do you any good to be up 1,000% in a fake account.
    The unique designs and colors of online games fascinate thhe individual to play the game.

  24. avatarKen C says:

    I got the same Remington. From day 1 it would only fire 230 gr FMJs flawlessly. Using 185 lead SWCs it would FTFeed the last round. Contacted Remington, this is what they told me:

    Our recoil spring is a 16 pound spring. This is pretty standard, and is suited best for the 230 grain rounds. Sometimes the action can run too fast for the 185 grain bullets. There are basically two options for correcting this. A magazine with a stiffer spring, such as one from Wilson Combat, or a stiffer recoil spring, such as the 20 pound Wolf spring. The magazine speeds the rise rate of the rounds and gets them in front of the breech bolt quicker. The heavier recoil spring slows the action slightly for the stock magazine spring to have time to place the next round in front of the breech bolt.

    Tried both suggestions and they both worked. Since I needed more mags for USPSA, I now use the Wilson Combat mags and it feeds everything just fine.

    Im a Glock guy but I gotta say that that R1 Enhanced is one fine gun. I shoot it almost as well as my 9mm G34.

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