Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Failure

Especially in magazines. Springs fail. They stay compressed for a long time and they lose strength or fail to work at all. That's the theory.

Frank James had a problem with his Browning Hi-Power magazines.

And 2A Musing had a problem with a Colt Pocket Hammerless’ magazine, he thinks.

The poor Colt of his has been abused, and the spring is probably rusted and weakened, but I’d try everything else to fix it before worrying my springs had lost their sprung. I don’t envy his project. It sounds like it is difficult to get the floor plate off the magazine and, like him, I’d worry I’d mung it up trying to fix it. Getting a functioning replacement magazine for a 50-100 year old gun is very dear, when you can find them. I have aftermarket magazines with 2 originals, and they are not reliable.

I think the “spring tension is shot” excuse is a catch-all reason that is over used when us amateur gunsmiths run out of ideas. Like the way they blame ball bearings for everything wrong in turbofan aviation maintenance. I trust 2A and Frank more than generic gunnies to diagnose their spring problem, so put them in the “only 25% of ‘spring problems’ are actual spring problems” column. Just an idea of mine. I wonder what sort of stress Frank James had with his to wear them out? 15 years and no good? Hmmm...

Here is an example of a spring ‘problem’ that wasn’t from the Cooper Commentaries:

"Our distinguished family member J.P. Denis of Belgium reports that he discovered an abandoned MP40, together with several magazines, in a building that was being torn down. This piece had been left unattended for 50 years with all magazines in full compression, and they all worked perfectly. I think this is marvelous. When you think of the degree to which our culture depends upon springs, it is good to know that spring construction is so well understood."

Old springs, though, Colonel. Well, springs after a certain date, then springs before a certain date. Good springs can be had today, but I bet some spring makers skimp for cost reasons. I'd hope very few modern reputable gun related industries skimp on springs. My worry is imported after-market stuff from the Far East.

But yes, springs are generally well made and will last.

That said, yours truly has a few replacement springs bought to try to make Chinese M1A magazines function. I know, I know, it’s a fools errand. Can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ears and I should can the crappy magazines and spend my money on real ones. Cuz I probably need more than just springs. I need a decent follower. Might as well get a new floor plate too. By the time I’m done I’ve spent $40 on replacement parts and shipping, and a lot of hours labor, to make $18 mags more like $50 mags. And I still have crappy feed lips on my ‘fixed up’ mags. Call it a learning experience. And I need lots of learnin. LOTS.

So, 2A has a suspected mag spring problem with his fine 1903 Colt. What to do? Before risking the floor plate removal I’d clean the magazine thoroughly with lots of oil. Soak it in kerosene for a few days even. Maybe the inside of the magazine is rough with rust and that is slowing down the follower and acting like a crappy spring.

Next, I’d live right, eat my vegetables, call my Mom every Sunday, and be kind to stray dogs. Whereupon, I’d try to find a spare OEM magazine out there in the world to test and have. I ask a few vendors every time I go to the Gun Show and I have found exactly ONE Colt magazine this way. You gotta live right. Get the karma up.

There are online magazine sellers, too. If you’ve been a good boy or girl you might score one in decent condition. If you do, test it out. Compare. See if it feels the same loading or shooting. I’d worry where I thought there was a spring problem, with failure to strip of a new round to chamber, it is really a slide problem. Or a recoil spring problem where THAT spring is too strong because someone before me swapped it out. Fix for that scenario? Maybe grease up the rails really good. Lube the whole gun. Swap ammo to see if it’s that with lighter loads not cycling the action enough.

Worst case scenario, you'll be out $50+ but have a spare magazine. Spares are good.

And that’s just off the top of my N00bie head. Gunsmiths and Tam would be better resources than little ol’ me.
1908 Colt Pocket Hammerless .380 with magazine:


Jay G said...

I always thought that "spring compression" was a cop-out in the majority of cases.

I took the M1 carbine that I inherited from my grandfather to the range a few years back. Along with the carbing I inherited a whole bunch of 15 and 30 round M1 carbine USGI magazines.

Each one had been sitting for at LEAST 30 years - I inherited the guns when my grandfather passed away in 1994; I do not recall him ever shooting the carbine in my lifetime.

Yet I brought it to the range and shot at least 4 full magazines through the gun without a single hiccup. 30 year old ammo, 30 year's worth of sitting around in the magazine, and everything worked the way it was supposed to...

There's also the 92 year old Colt magazine that came with the 1911 that functions just as well as the brand new Wilson Combat magazines I got from Midway...

AnarchAngel said...

Partially mythical, partially real, and not for the reasons you thinkg:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Ooooo! Good info Mr. Byrne that I had not seen before. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

An anecdote in support of this post:

I just cleaned and lubed my surplus Inland M1 carbine that I picked up last year. Before cleaning, I loaded and tried manually stripping off 30 rounds from some surplus magazines. IIRC, each magazine I tried had several failures to feed, failures to eject (I know not mag related), and double feeds.

After cleaning and lubing the carbine, them same mags that had incurred all the failures stripped off rounds, fed, extracted, and ejected like butter. I can't wait to shoot her. I did take the mags apart to see about attempted repairs prior to cleaning the M1, but now I will wait and see how they perform at the range.

OT: The M1 carbine hammer spring is a major B to get installed back into the trigger group. Seem like you need 8 hands and divine intervention to get it back in.

Dock said...

Well, just to clarify (and thanks for the linky love, I appreciate it):

- the problem was that the gun, as a whole, was practically locked up from being left bone-dry. The owner (not me, it is a gun that a friend inherited) struggled to even move the slide and said "oh I guess the springs got stiffer over time."

No... springs get weaker with time dude. Plus that's not the problem with the slide. It hasn't been cleaned in, what, maybe a century, and this is no loosy goosy wide-tolerances pistol.

I cleaned the ever lovin' dog doo out of it and the slide, well, slid again. The mag (the one, the only, the irreplaceable at this stage) was a consideration only because I wanted to take it apart and clean it. But that floorplate looks like it is maybe pressed in and I can't afford to damage it trying to take it apart.

No idea how it shoots. I gave the owner some of my .380 to shoot. It's only really good for shooting, the pitting on the gun was tragic.