Is Your Gun Failing to Feed? Check Your Magazines

magazine failure to feed 1911

Remington R1 factory magazine (L), Chip Mccormick Power Mag (R) (Image: Dan Z for TTAG)

In our post earlier today on gift ideas for your favorite gun-owning father, Sam Hoober suggested buying pop some quality magazines. He correctly pointed out that a semi-automatic handgun‘s most common failure point is the magazines you’re using to run it.

Don’t believe him? Sam’s suggestion prompted frequent TTAG commenter Dyspeptic Gunsmith to chime in to agree with his assessment. If your semi-automatic firearm is having reliability issues, the first thing to check is your detachable magazines.

As DG put it . . .

All semi-autos fed with detachable magazines can have magazine issues. All of them.

You would not believe how many FTF issues I diagnose as being a problem with a detachable magazine – 1911’s, AR’s, M1A’s, M1 Carbine (especially the Carbine) etc., etc. And you would not believe how much push-back I get from some gun owners on the issue of it being the magazine.

“But I just bought it!” or “It’s never been a problem before!” or “I don’t need to spend those big dollars on those fancy-pants magazines!” and on and on.

Oh, and my favorite: “I’ve been using those magazines just fine for the last 40 years!”

Yea, that’s my favorite. Any spring replacement? No. Any cleaning? “You don’t have to clean magazines!”

AR magazines magpul pmag okay surefeed

Magpul PMAG (top), OK Industries Surefeed magazine (bottom) (Image: Dan Z for TTAG

If I were an unscrupulous SOB, I could invent some cock-n-bull story that they have an issue with their barrel, chamber or action, and that I need to do lots of work to their gun to make it feed. I could be making hundreds of dollars per magazine-issue case that comes through the door.

Instead, I get a bunch of bitching and complaining from people that a) their magazines are just fine, and b) I don’t know what I’m talking about because it must be something more complicated (and expensive to them).

Ever wonder why gunsmiths become acerbic? Listen to the magazine arguments with gun owners and wonder no longer.

Quality magazines are a sure-fire winning gift. Really. You might even be giving me an indirect gift if you give someone a high-quality magazine, and after they’ve used your gift, they realize that there’s a reason to use quality magazines.

Words to live by. Save yourself time, aggravation and money by buying quality magazines and maintaining the ones you already own. You gunsmith will thank you for it.

comments

  1. avatar Nanashi says:

    The only exception to magazines being the main failure point in an autoloader is 22, where the issues of rimfire come out ahead. Even there magazines are still a very high number 2.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      Dirty crudded up feed ramps cause Marlin 60s to jam. Keep the Marlin 60s feed ramp clean, and almost never get a jam (at least that’s my experience).

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        My Ruger P95 has the same problem.
        After about 200 rounds, the feed ramp gets dirty, and the rounds (115g JRN) start to have problems feeding.
        I don’t shoot it much anymore, but if I start to shoot it more, that feed ramp needs polishing.

    2. avatar BusyBeef says:

      Because those Ruger rotary magazines are SOooooo reliable . . . .

      1. avatar Jim from LI says:

        Maybe the new ones are not what they used to be, I’ve been using the same 10/22 mag since 1985. Nothing works forever, but it’s never worked better.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Yep. And I’ve never cleaned my 10/22 mags. In either of the rifles that I’ve owned.

  2. avatar Gilbert says:

    Magazine is THE weak link.

  3. avatar Greg says:

    Magazines are a disposable item, treat them as such and live.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The point in my gun education where I finally realized this was back in the early 90’s. In those days, I owned a Winchester M1 Carbine. I had a couple of 15 round magazines. I’d plink with it at ranges; the accuracy was ho-hum, but it was a fun little plinker to shoot. But it would mis-feed about once every 50 rounds – try to feed a round late, or it would skip over the round on the top of the mag, etc.

      I remarked to this WWII vet that the Carbine was a fun little gun, but it wouldn’t feed reliably for me. He asked “how long have you been using the magazines?” I said “Since I bought it a couple years ago….”

      He laughed, and said in the PTO, they’d get new magazines for their Carbines every couple of weeks – basically, every time they came off the line, if there were new mags available in the supply area, they’d pitch the magazines they were carrying, and get new ones. To him, the idea of Carbine magazines that were “years old” was hilarious.

      Light bulb moment for me.

      1. avatar Michael Stilinovich says:

        Hey Dyspeptic Gunsmith,
        I for one really appreciate you passing along your expertise with firearms.
        Thanks,
        Mike

        1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          Make that one more who appreciates it.

        2. avatar Big Bill says:

          Ditto.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      I have carry magazines and range magazines. I fired a hundred or so rounds through a new magazine to see if it feeds right. I then load it with defensive ammo and only shoot it when I change out my carry ammo. If were to hickup then it gets replace becomes a range magazine.

      1. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

        Yup, same here. My newer, more reliable ones are tested and loaded with JHP, and kept at the ready. My older mags are used for range and course use (tactical dump-and-go reloads).

        Regardless, I always inspect and clean them when necessary. Yes, they’re disposable, but as with any tool, treat them well to get the most out of them…after all, if you ever need to depend on what’s in your holster at the sudden “moment of truth”, you don’t want to second-guess them.

  4. avatar Kelly says:

    Many manufacturers replace worn mags!! Dont toss them just yet!

  5. avatar B.D. says:

    You mean the thing that’s supposed to feed the round… Could be the possible failure point? Huh, never would have checked there…

    1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

      Maybe it’s the 300 rd per second clipazine that goes up? 🙂

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Maybe it’s the 300 rd per second clipazine that goes up?”

        We cannot legitimately complain about anti-gunners not knowing the nomenclature if we don’t either. What you are talking about is the 300 rd per second clipazine with a thingy that goes up in the back.

        UR welcome.

        1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

          Yup. That’s the one I was thinking of. With the ghostly invisibility and the power to control minds from a distance.
          Hey, If you ever see those go on sale again, I’d like a couple!

        2. avatar cmac890 says:

          @Knute(ken)

          Check Wish.com. I bet they have loads of them.

  6. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    The #2 reason to carry a reload. What idiot would clear a malfunction and still use the same magazine? #1 reason for a reload, no such thing as too much ammo in a gun fight.

    1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

      I’d put #2 as #1 myself. Mags are always a problem. All it takes is one drop on the feed lips to create a problem. All except for Wilson Combat Stainless mags with the spring ball followers and the witness slots instead of holes.
      I have a bunch of those, 8 rounders in .45ACP, that I used before I retired from competition. I dropped those mags in the dirt hundreds or thousands of times, and never once tweaked a feed lip. I don’t know how they do it, although the stainless they use is REALLY stiff stuff.
      Even at today’s prices(apx. $35 per), I wouldn’t buy anything else. I’ll pay extra to get long, trouble free life.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Many forms of stainless trade hardness for embrittlement.

        Using such an alloy for mags makes sense because they’re unlikely to have a problem where they’re brittle enough for it to matter and they’re hard enough that things like feed lips won’t bend the way carbon steel would under the same conditions.

        The trade off being that if you DO manage to bend the feed lips there’s a high chance you’ll snap them if you try to bend them back at room temperature.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          This may be why my Sigma is so reliable. It’s a 2 dollar gun with top dollar stainless steel mags. And it runs.

        2. avatar Knute(ken) says:

          And if you heat the lips to bend them, then you’ve changed the temper and the mag will never be the same again. Unless you have the special tempering oven that I don’t have.
          I was worried about dropping them in the dirt when I first started using them. Given their super stiffness, I figured they would also be pretty brittle. I even dropped them in my hand to start with, but that was just too slow. So I just started spitting them in the dirt like a GI mag. They’ve taken that for half of a lifetime now, and all six still work perfectly.
          Wilson just got that particular stainless perfect for its purpose. Stiff enough to not bend, but still ductile enough to be dropped on concrete and not crack. I haven’t seen that perfect of a combination in any other mag. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there somewhere just as good or better though. But if there is, I haven’t found it. And I’ve tried genuine Colts, Chip McCormicks, even Remingtons. I stick with the Wilsons. In 1911s, I mean.

  7. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Oh, buy quality mags. That’s the reason I have about 50 Wilson Rogers mags.

  8. avatar GS650G says:

    Never had a problem with the magazines on my revolvers.

    1. avatar HellBilly says:

      Bingo!

    2. avatar DaveDetroit says:

      +1

      1. avatar Truckman says:

        thats the reason I carry a ultra lite 5 round 38 and two speed loaders

  9. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    Take them apart and clean them first. I’m always surprised at the number of folks that don’t know that all magazines can be easily cleaned. My guess is that at least 2\3 of those commenting here don’t have a clue. I haven’t run across a magazine yet that won’t come apart including the 10/22. Those are probably also the worse for accumulating carbon, powder and flakes of lead and wash. Someone commented about rimfire stack up. Usually not, 22s are nasty, we shoot them by the thousands and never think about the crap that builds up in the magazines.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      You and I both.

      When I show people how to clean magazines, and then I show them what I pull out of them (esp. in .22LR magazines like the 10/22), people are almost always amazed.

      You should see what is down inside .22LR magazines. Beeswax, unburned powder, dust, dirt, lint – all congealed into a very interesting mess.

      1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

        Did you ever find anything resembling meringue in a 10/22 mag? I did once, but didn’t have the cajones to ask the guy what it might have been… Some weird, pasty concoction full of pocket lint and unburned powder. Whatever it was, WD40 cleaned it.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          That’s a new one, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

          Blowback .22LR’s are horrible for what they put into the action and magazines.

        2. avatar TommyJay says:

          The worst goo I’ve seen with .22 ammo is the stuff they use to coat “Golden” bullets. You probably know who makes them. The stuff is like surfboard “sex wax.” Very sticky and gooey. I’ll shoot them in a 10/22 but not my Buckmark, ’cause those mags. are hard to clean effectively.

        3. avatar John in AK says:

          Don’t do that. Don’t use WD40 to clean magazines. Or any other part of a gun. Unless you follow the WD40 with a clear solvent. WD40 doesn’t belong on guns. It never HAS belonged on guns. It’s for squeaky door hinges, or fishing reels, or maybe your kid’s tricycle, and may make an excellent personal lubricant.

          WD40 is NOT a solvent, nor is it much of a lubricant. It doesn’t provide a moisture barrier for very long. It’s a nasty concoction of petroleum residues and byproducts and waxes dissolved and suspended in more petroleum byproducts, and then stuck in a spray can.

          It attracts dust, dirt, pocket lint, bits of unidentifiable stuff, and cookie crumbs, suspends all of it in its sticky dripping goodness, and makes it into a pasty, gritty substance that will eventually harden into a yellow sticky goo.

          It also deadens primers in sufficient quantity, and will creep past bullet crimps to effectively lubricate the powder within.

          If you MUST use a spray cleaner on a magazine, and are a cheap bastidge as am I, buy some BraKleen. It’s the same thing one gets when buying an expensive ‘gun-cleaning solvent’, but as it’s for cleaning car brake parts it’s much cheaper. It doesn’t melt plastic, it doesn’t melt rubber, and it doesn’t strip off properly-applied coatings. It also doesn’t attract philth, nor does it harden into a yellow sticky goo. It doesn’t leave any residue. It strips off all oils. It CANNOT be used as a personal lubricant.

          Save the WD40 for something else.

        4. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “Did you ever find anything resembling meringue in a 10/22 mag?”

          That might be the wax on cheap bulk-pack .22lr.

          That ammo just seems to be more ‘greasy’ with that stuff…

        5. avatar Greg K says:

          The dogs and I go on walks out at “Whereabouts Unknown.” We attempt to frequent the shooting areas to scavenge brass. You think the inner city junkies get radical over a little dope? Just watch ole Greg happen upon a flock of 45 Auto.

          Either last week or the week before I found a 22lr (unfired) that had a green plastic looking coating on the bullet. It looked fairly thick. Have never seen one before, but sometimes we find 9mm that is similar.

  10. avatar Lost Down South says:

    I’m having a hell of a time getting the magazine into my daughter’s Crickett .22 rifle.

    These new fangled rifles, I swear.

  11. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    The brain of the shooter is the weakest link after a crappy $39 1911 mag.
    Metal Form has almost never let me down…………..Cheap.

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    A few years ago, a friend was having trouble with a very new pistol (I don’t remember the brand or model). One of his mags wasn’t feeding properly, so I disassembled it.

    The damned thing was loaded with fine grit — maybe something that was used in a polishing process at the factory. I don’t know, but I do know that there was a lot of it, and it was jamming up the works.

    After a good cleaning, the mag was GTG. But where was the manufacturer’s QC?

    1. avatar Texican says:

      Brother, that’s nothing! When I was working at gun store we received a commemorative JMB Colt 1911 and when I picked it up to admire it it had stainless steel dust on it and the slide wouldn’t retract. I took it to the gunsmith and it had about a teaspoon of metal dust inside the slide. Just another reason Colt declared bankruptcy.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        That sounds like a jilted employee adding in floor sweepings after the fact.

    2. avatar Ardent says:

      Working at a gunshop I once corrected a failure to feed on a brand new S&W .380 bodyguard by using my pocket knife to remove the giant chunk of polymer left over from the molding process that was still attached to the portion of the mag catch that engaged the magazine…it couldn’t actually lock into the mag because of the debris. I also saw an NAA. 22 that had only been rifled half way through, with big curlers of steel sticking out into the bore from the half finished process. That’s two well known manufacturers with guns that couldn’t pass a rudimentary quality inspection arriving at a small town gunshop . The body guard was supposedly test fired at the factory…it would not allow a mag to be seated to such a depth as to allow it to feed at all while the mag would not lock in so that it could not be removed without depressing the mag release, and that NAA, I seriously doubt a bullet could have passed through the bore, and I’m 100% certain no such thing had ever actually happened with the pistol in question.

      20 years ago I bought a new Mossburg Maverick 88 that wouldn’t feed a single round far enough to go into battery, my gunsmith found that the bolt lug recesses hadn’t been milled out on the barrel extension. Not hadn’t been milled deeply enough, hadn’t been milled at all!

      I’ve never considered a new gun a viable weapon until I’ve personally seen it feed and fire a few mags of ammo, and such experiences are the reason why. These days it’s caveat emptor.

  13. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    What if your guns have cylinders instead of magazines?

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “What if your guns have cylinders instead of magazines?”

      Then change out your cylinder springs, you hockey puck. Sheesh. Some people just never get it.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Gov. You may have seen this. But look up Frankenruger. It’s a semi auto single action Blackhawk. No shit.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Ha! – ‘The result is a magazine-fed revolver that is 100% California-legal without requiring entry onto the state’s approved-handgun list.’

        California, the driving force in firearms design since 1970something…

      2. avatar Knute(ken) says:

        Also this thing:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4QMVJE7bJY
        What do you think CA would classify this as, a revolver or a mag fed semi-auto? It’s more like a magazine fed revolver. But in CA, they might well think it’s an anti tank gun.

  14. avatar Greg K says:

    In my experiences, almost all Failure to Feeds are magazine related. Second is spring/buffer to load combinations. So far it’s been about 20 mags to every one spring or load issue. That’s a big difference.

    Take note of that Chip McCormick compared to the Remington mag. Note how the retention lip is shorter? It’s also much more precise, but the angle is correct and the round does not get retained too long, which strangely causes it to do one of two things; either it wedges against the chamber, or holds it so long that the bullet runs smack dab into the back of chamber or the ramp edge of a auto pistol. If you have done a 22mag pistol or a 10mm 1911 conversion you may run into this.

    One other thing I have found in AR mags is the retention lip/roll has a burr where it got stamped. Believe it or not, every AR mag I encounter, I take my pocket knife and deburr that square hole in the follower. It can, and sometimes does, hang up the last rounds rim.

  15. avatar 41mag says:

    Any advice regarding Kahr magazines?

    And not “yea, Kahrs sux”

    1. avatar TommyJay says:

      Don’t own one, but I had a conversation with a guy at the range that owned a couple Kahrs. Some of their (carry?) pistols have an overall length that is quite short compared to the barrel length.

      I asked him if they had a really steep feed ramp. He said yes. Then he said, The manual strongly recommends that you always drop the slide on a loaded mag. using the slide release lever. The hand sling-shot method too often lessens the snap, and the round won’t feed. Don’t know if this is your problem.

  16. avatar fmteter says:

    Mags are definitely the weak link.

    I picked up an A.O. M1 Carbine reproduction about two years ago. I’ve tried mags from multiple sources. I’d say the overall “keeper” rate beyond 12 months is around 50%. And that’s after breaking them in with snap caps. For my CZ-82s, around 25% of the mags fail in the first year regardless of the source. Ditto for my Bersa Thunder pistols.

    Whenever I get a FTF, I immediately remove and unload the mag (because the cause is darn near always the mag). Stick a green dot sticker on the mag, which means “clean and inspect” when I get home. After cleaning and inspection, the green dot sticker is covered with a red one. Another FTF from a red dot mag earns a trip to the garbage can (or back to the supplier if it’s relatively new). Mags are disposable – no reason to tolerate any compromise in reliability.

  17. avatar NB says:

    Fail to feed…PROMAG! PROMAG SUCKS. Zero problem with factory mags. I am sorry I didn’t check for reviews first. Now I am stuck with a whole bunch useless of shit.

    1. avatar Neil says:

      Promags suck. Neither I bought worked. MecGar.

      I had my most reliable pistol FTF. Then I remembered throwing a weight and realizing it hit the lip…

    2. avatar SoCalJack says:

      There are suprizingly good reviews for Promags for some guns. Just use them for the range only and don’t drop them on the ground during mag changes because the feed lips will get bent.

  18. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

    Kalashnikov feed good lips magazine strong. Tokarev 33 feed good lips magazine nyet pistol machined lips, not to kiss dah. . . . . . All jokes aside, magazine then recoil spring are my first checks on hiccups

  19. avatar Mark H says:

    In my experience most failure to feed issues are an improperly tensioned (too much) extractor. #2 is magazines.

    Favorite bad mag story: Was at a range once where a guy was trying to shoot a brand new Kimber, kept failing. I took one look at the brand new “Kim-pro” mag, handed him a Wilson Combat. Told him, try this, and give it back before you leave. No more problems.

  20. avatar WI Patriot says:

    And this is why you(at least I do) carry a spare or two…because mag failures happen…

  21. avatar MojoMedicineMan says:

    Agreed, been through this before.
    I left one full for years and the other one empty for one firearm and the spring that was compressed for years failed and caused jamming when I finally decided to do some teaching, etc.
    I then took the unloaded one, loaded it and dumped it in seconds. Then, I remembered why I replaced the rear coil springs under an old pickup of mine, as the originals were collapsed. Same deal.
    Who makes the best aftermarket reproduction mags?
    That is the question..

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