9mm Pistol Magazines Loaded With Full Metal Jacket ammunition
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By Lt. R. Michalik

Don’t underestimate the value of a bad ammunition magazine. If you’ve been around guns for any amount of time, you’ve run into them. Whether you purchased a questionable no-name mag at a gun show or one came with your or your buddy’s gun, we have all had the experience of a bad magazine. It doesn’t matter if you have a Smith & Wesson, Walther, GLOCK, FN…whatever. Your mags will eventually fail.

You can extend their useful lives by cleaning them and replacing followers and magazine springs, but at some point, they’ll give up the ghost.

Instead of throwing those bad semi-automatic handgun or rifle magazines away, though, running them over with the truck or even blasting the crap out of them at the range, here’s another idea, one that might even have you turning good, functional magazines into the bane of most magazine shoppers.

Remember how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. The same goes for getting good with your guns. And practice is especially important if your job involves carrying a firearm or if you take your own self-defense to heart.

Besides improving your marksmanship, some of us take it a step further by practicing firearm manipulation, mag changes and reloading with our off hand, one-hand drills and/or failure drills. We’ll even put dummy rounds in the mix and practice clearing the round.

CZ 9mm magazine
Jeremy S for TTAG

But if we go to the range alone, we’ll probably know how many rounds won’t fire. The drills can become somewhat predictable. So why not deploy that bad mag? You know the one. The one that jams every so often. The one that fails to pop up the next round of ammo leaving the chamber empty or the one that refuses the cleanly deliver a round leaving the pistol out of battery.

This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity!

I started collecting these magazines. Some were purchased on the cheap because I don’t like dumping my good factory mags if I don’t have to. Most were gifted to me by some very disgruntled shooters. And they’ve been invaluable as a training aid. Especially since you can let the trainee load the magazine and they’re none the wiser to what lesson they will soon face.

AR-15 rifle Magazine
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In my law enforcement career, I was the lead instructor for over seven years. I had an AR magazine that would jam every single round that went through it. Every officer who crossed its path the first time ended up doing the same thing. They would fool with it until it was empty, wasting valuable time.

The next officer in line who witnessed the malfunctions would then do exactly the same thing. Only one person ever threw it down after three attempts and inserted a new magazine into the rifle. Funny thing happened after that…the next officers up, after seeing that, then started discarding the bad magazine after a few attempts and loading a functional one.

Equipment failures happen. They are a fact of life when you’re a gun owner. They also seem to follow Murphy’s Law as they tend to happen at the most inopportune times. But the last thing you would want is to be taken completely by surprise and be woefully unprepared in a time of crisis.

That bad magazine can be more valuable than a good one when used in training. Who knows, the time spent with a bad magazine might even save your life one day. Doesn’t it deserve a little love?

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  1. 1. Spray paint them orange so they don’t get in your duty / self-defense / competition gear. *Then* maybe use them in training.

    2. Give them (or sell them) to someone you don’t like.

    3. Use them as targets.


    • Making them visible defeats the purpose, mark them in a place where you won’t see it during training but can find later.

      • Marking them clearly ensures you won’t carry them to save your life.

        That’s far more important than fooling myself in training.

        There’s plenty of alternative means to introduce malfunctions in training that don’t involve defective magazines.


      • Hafta agree with Boch. Mark them somehow so they don’t get accidentally mixed up and put you in a bad position if/when your life depends on it.

        When CA experienced a taste of America during our now-famous “Freedom Week” a few months ago, I ordered a boxload of 10+ rd (standard capacity) mags. But I retained my CA 10-rounders for tactical reload drills, so they’re the only ones that get dirty by being dumped.

  2. I’ve done the same thing with an unreliable pre-production gun I was sent to review. The manufacturer fixed the problems so I won’t name them, but the pistol now serves as a malfunction trainer.

  3. While I can see the logic of using a malfunctioning magazine for practice drills I personally wouldn’t bother. If I can’t fix a malfunctioning magazine I’ll strip it for spare parts and toss the rest. And as for practicing drills I would just use any other magazine I have. I simple make sure that any magazine I do a magazine drill with is empty in much the same way I make sure the gun is unloaded. And even then I’m making sure the firearm isn’t pointed in an unsafe direct.

    • Intermittently bad is good. Something that fails every times is useless since you know it’s going to happen. You might as well stage the malfunction. Something that fails on the 4th try, then on the 7th in the next run, the the 2nd next time has value. You can work on movement, accuracy, or speed, and the failure is a surprise that makes you shift gears. If you put a dummy as the 4th round in the magazine, it’s not as useful as someone else putting the dummy anywhere.

      • Unless you just mix a few dummys into a pile of real ammo and learn how to load with your eyes closed.

  4. When I have found magazines that were shot up as targets they were always Pro-Mags.

    Which says something about Pro-Mags and about littering!



    • I’ve seen some suggest that you mark bad/problem magazines so that they can be discerned from good mags. Promags seem to be marked at the factory…

    • I have put thousands of rounds through Pro Mag. Magazines , I can’t believe that they are as bad as you say . AND I can’t believe that I am as lucky with almost 2 dozen magazines .
      I HAD only a few failure to feed moments ,but it was due to my fault not to properly seat the bullets in the magazine . After loading it is my practice to tap the back of the magazines ,so that the bullets are back and are always aligned for the next shot .

  5. Painting them a different color was a good idea ^ I never did like dropping my good mags to the ground. One of the reasons I like a pistuol is the fast reloads, I can’t be efficient with out practice.

      • If you can afford to shoot a mag enough to wear it out you can afford a new one. Granted if you are shooting an HK P7 or other weapon no longer produced with proprietary mags I can understand.
        Glock,AR or 1911 mags are a dime a dozen. One should have 5 mags minimum for a fighting weapon.

  6. Sitting on my desk as I read this article: I have a 15-round handgun magazine with a hairline crack in the base plate. The location of the hairline crack does not seem to jeopardize function in any way and I used that magazine without any failures whatsoever up until the time that I discovered that hairline crack. Nevertheless, I removed that magazine from my practice and self-defense pool. I planned on acquiring a replacement base plate if one was available at a reasonable price. Perhaps I will just keep this magazine for practice drills.

    • If you have a 3D printer check out Thingverse or similar good chance you can get say a +1 or +2 base plate for it if it’s not exotic.

  7. I’m convinced MFT stands for MalFunction Trainer. Those drop out rounds like a kid spitting out broccoli. The feed lips spread like a $10 whore.

      • “The feed lips spread like a $10 whore.”

        Where? Where? The cheapest hooker around here is 30 bucks…

        • arf. my personal confectioner molds pez flavors into whatever calibers i need for my failed mags. kids love ’em and hookers drop their fees quickly when they see you eat ammo and down a pelinkovac.

  8. Supposedly MFT has “fixed” their mags in the new 2nd generation. I bought one for 10bucks at my LGS. Haven’t used it yet. I’ll give a report

  9. Last trip to the range, the guy in the next lane would fire two or three rounds, then “click” and he’d clear the round, and continue firing. This happened repeatedly.

    Fail to fires, or a partial cycling of the slide? Then I watched him more carefully. The rounds he was dumping were snap caps that he had randomly inserted in his mags.

    Ahh! He’s just practicing his malfunction recovery I thought. I asked him, and he said no. He had developed a bit of flinch, and he can see it when he pulls the trigger on a snap cap. Two birds with one stone.

  10. Do mag/round fails with a buddy. You load for him/her, they load for you. This gives the randomness that loading them yourself defeats. I use pre-loaded duds rather than snap caps. Snap caps have they’re dark red coloration that can be seen in a mag window o even the holes the maker puts in the mag for round count.

  11. Sell them during the next gun-grabber panic?

    Justify it by saying if they are dumb enough to not have a gun & mag cache by now that they deserve what they get?

  12. I always keep carry and training mags separate. All of my training mags have orange baseplates or orange tape around the extended baseplates. I also number my training mags so I can tell when I have a troublemaker coming on.

    I do discretely mark any malfunctioning mag that continues to act out after a cleaning and/or rebuild with a X on each side of the mag body and introduce them in my practice sessions for added “fun”. I do make a point to separate them out for classes and other events, though, where such planned interruptions would be inappropriate.

  13. Save the follower, spring and floor plate and pitch the junk. Don’t keep a bad magazine unless you are an instructor. If you keep nit you could grab it in an emergency and you would be screwed

  14. Who screws up magazines unless they are over aggressive? 50 years of shooting and I can count on one hand broken mags. That were good to start with

  15. I’m still running 9mm mags from the 90’s. Clips for 30 caliber carbine and 22 since the 80’s. Not 1 failure. As a matter of fact I can’t remember ever having a mag or clip fail. I do clean them on occasion but not religiously. A few years back I found a couple of the 30 cal clips that had been loaded for years. They ran with no problem. Either I’ve been lucky or mag/clip failure is a much talked about. Seldom occurring phenomenon. Keep Your Powder Dry.

  16. When I was Range Officer in the Army I always brought a hatchet or e-tool. When I found a bad magazine, bent lips, cracked, rusted bits rattling around inside. I beat it to death so it wouldn’t end up in some soldier’s ammo pouch when things went bad. No one ever said anything.

  17. I’d do the same when the guys reported mag problems coming back from a range. Take a ball peen to it right on the counter.

  18. Wilson has a lifetime guarantee on their magazines. I sent a bad one to them, they sent me a brand new one.


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