Whether you've never done a mag check before or haven't done one in a while, it's time to check that task off the list.
What's a mag check? I'm talking about performing routine maintenance on the magazines for your firearms. It's easy for magazine internals to get dirty after trips to the range, being carried daily in a loaded gun, or even sitting in the safe and collecting dust. Springs will eventually wear down, giving you less spring tension, and can eventually cause failure to feed issues.
There are many ways magazines can be disassembled depending on your firearm, or if you have magazine extensions installed, that process can require different tools. Most magazines come apart first by using a punch tool to depress the internal mag end plate, releasing the spring tension off the base pad. Then you're free to slide the base pad off, keeping your thumb covering the bottom of the magazine and maintaining spring tension on the end plate. Slowly let the tension off the end plate until the magazine spring is fully extended. Or, if you skip this step, the magazine spring and end plate will fly into the air. Because there are endless firearm manufacturers and types of magazines, your best bet is to search your gun model on YouTube for a magazine disassembly video. You should now have the magazine itself, magazine spring, follower, an end plate that attaches to the end of the spring or sits underneath the spring, and your base pad. If you have magazine extensions, most of these don't require the use of the end plate, so it's okay if you're missing that part.
Most magazines have plastic followers, base pads, and end plates, and the housing is made of plastic themselves! If there are any cracks, deformations, or any visible wear you see on any of these parts, you've just found your first mag check issue! OEM and aftermarket manufacturers sell individual replacement parts, or usually, magazines are pretty inexpensive to replace as a whole.
One of my favorite things to show people who carry a gun daily is the difference in the spring length from the magazine they always use in their carry gun compared with a spring from an empty magazine for the same gun. Because that spring is always depressed, 24/7/365, it is going to be shorter than a magazine that has sat completely empty. Magazine springs are easily replaceable and available for purchase from the original firearm manufacturer and other surplus websites or stores. If you are a daily carrier like I am, you should check your spring tension every six months or every year. When you go to the range, try test firing using your EDC magazine to see if it feeds and runs reliably. If it doesn't, check your spring or go ahead and replace it.
Everyone's least favorite part about performing a mag check is having to actually clean parts. I recommend cleaning your magazines when you sit down to clean your gun. You might as well, you've already got the brushes, wipes, and tools out. There is a specific magazine brush designed to clean the internal magazine housing. The Arredondo Magazine Cleaning Brush has a handle and is made of nylon. The brush is designed wide to clean out dust, dirt, carbon, and anything else that may be hiding or sticking to the housing sides.
The follower is usually slightly caked in carbon, sometimes wet with oil, and needs to be wiped down as much as possible. You can use a regular brush to scrub the top of it. DO NOT USE ANY OIL. You never want anything inside your magazine to be coated in oil as this attracts more dust, can start to clot together, and prevent the magazine spring from moving up and down properly.
Do not confuse "dry lube" for regular lube. Once the inside of your magazine is clean and still empty, lightly spray some dry lube on the inside. The dry lube reduces friction between the spring and the sides of the magazine housing without needing oil or grease. Once that's complete, it's time to reassemble your magazine. Ensure the follower is pointing in the correct direction and that the end plate is attached to the spring if it's supposed to be. You can use your same punch to depress the spring and end plate while you go to slide your magazine base pad on. It should have an audible click when it slides into place. Before you carry using that magazine, load it up fully and then unload it to check that the spring moves freely. If you have the luxury of test firing before carrying that magazine, that's even better!
If this was your first mag check, congratulations! It wasn't too challenging, was it? I'd love to know if you were surprised at how dirty your magazine was or if you compared springs to see how much tension the spring had lost over time. Leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you.
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to carry concealed and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment. Kenzie is also the host of the Reticle Up Podcast, where she interviews competitive shooters, hunters, anglers, archers, entrepreneurs, and outdoorsmen.
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