Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage

Magazine Care - The Secret Weapon of Top Shooters

Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between the good shooters at matches and the great ones? Of course, there’s the skill involved in hitting the targets; but, what you may not know is that most top shooters spend a lot of time making sure their magazines are in tip-top shape. Anyone shooting semi-automatics knows that the firearm’s only as good as the magazine feeding the ammunition.

There are a bunch of matches taking place all around the country this summer – and, lots of opportunities to just head out to the range. Whether you’re competing or just trying to make the most of your limited time at the range, your magazines could add several seconds (or minutes) to your time or take all the fun out of your time on the range if you haven’t taken a few minutes before you head out to check them over.

You know all the rules about cleaning your firearms. The WebBench™ Cleaning Clinic is our most popular monthly column! You spend a great deal of time making sure that your firearm will perform the way you want it to. . . you spend money buying the best cleaners, solvents, pastes, patches and supplies you can find to keep your favorite shooter in tip-top condition. But, unless you know the secret weapon of Top Shooters, you probably don’t spend much time making sure the magazines are clean and ready to go.

Clean magazines are just as important in ensuring reliability as a clean firearm. A dirty magazine can result in misfeeds, costing you valuable time, lower scores, and missed opportunities in the field. Taking a few minutes to make sure your magazine is clean and all the parts are operating correctly will make your time on the range and in the field much more enjoyable.

Magazines have one purpose: to feed ammunition into the weapon. There are many firearms that use magazines, but for the purpose of this article, we will use the magazine of one of the more popular firearms in the shooting community: the 1911 Auto. The same rules apply to caring for magazines for all firearms (the particular parts will be different but what you need to look for won’t vary all that much).

Magazines have four basic components: follower, body, spring and base. There are many modifications, add-ons, and customizations to magazines, but all share these same basic components.

Some ammunition is cleaner than others… anyone who shoots knows this. Magazines collect residue with each round that is fired, the same as the pistol does. Over time, this residue can lead to feeding problems, causing rounds to fail to enter the chamber. To learn how to prevent this, we’ll tear down a 1911 magazine, inspect it, clean it, and put it back together.

Disassembly Start by making sure that the magazine is unloaded. Safety first, safety always
Depress the follower from the rear using your fingertip, pencil, or anything narrow enough to fit in the body of the magazine.

While pushing the rear of the follower down, pull the front up and out of the magazine body. The spring will begin to come out at this time.


Pull the spring and follower up and out of the magazine body. Some 1911 magazines come with removable bases, and some are welded to the body. If your magazine has a removable base, slide the base from the body. The magazine is now disassembled.

Inspection Examine all of the components carefully. Look for any cracks, dents, or warping of the component parts. Today’s speed shooting can be hard on your base pads – often hitting the ground as you quickly drop in a new, fully-loaded magazine. If you notice any cracks in your base pad, now’s a great time to replace it. Brownells carries base pads for a lot different magazines. For the 1911s be sure to check out the Ed Brown Magazine Bumper Pads. Check out the website for lots of other base pads available. We have a large selection of different colors for the STI frames from STI for the 1911 Auto.

Next on the inspection list is the spring magazine. The spring coils should be even and the spring should lay relatively flat, without excessive bends. If it’s time to replace the spring, the new Chrome Silicon springs available today doesn’t take a set like other materials can. We carry the Chrome Silicon Springs from ISMI for the 1911 and others listed on that page. For standard springs, check out our selection from Wolff for 1911 and others there, too.

When examining the follower, be sure to check for any cracks, discoloration or other signs of wear. Brownells carries many different followers from Infinity or from Arrendondo.

The body should be free of dents that would impede the proper feeding of ammunition. Inspect weld points to make sure that there are no cracks. If some of your existing high capacity magazine bodies need to be replaced, we carry some from STI. Remember, it is a violation of federal law to use replacement tubes to assemble a new, high-capacity magazine. You can use them only to replace damaged magazine tubes of pre-ban, high-cap magazines.

Cleaning – There are many products that can be used for cleaning magazines. We will be using MAG SLICK Magazine Treatment and the MAG BRUSH Magazine Cleaning Brush for this article. Start by wiping the components with a dry rag to remove top-surface residue. During the cleaning process, be on the lookout for any damage to the components that may not have been visible before cleaning began.

Spray the spring with Mag Slick and thoroughly wipe the spring. Do not stretch the spring out while cleaning, as this may lead to ammunition feeding problems. Spray the follower and wipe clean, removing all fouling and residue to ensure that the rounds will feed properly. Next, spray the inside of the magazine body and run the Mag Brush into the body.


If your magazine has a removable base, slide the brush all the way through in one direction. Repeat this process two or three times. Next, wrap a patch or cloth around the brush and run it through the magazine body until the patch or cloth comes out clean. Spray the outside of the magazine body and wipe it with a clean cloth. All of the components of the magazine should be given a very light coat of Mag Slick or oil to prevent rusting and to ensure smooth operation

If using an oil, be sure to wipe all excess oil off as this will accumulate residue and lead to malfunctions if it is not removed. Mag Slick works well as it is a dry coating that will not harm plastic frames or magazines and it leaves no wet film to collect residue. The magazine is now clean and ready for reassembly.

Reassembly – When reassembling the magazine, be sure to keep the spring straight and avoid kinking or binding the spring in the magazine body. When placing the follower in position, the follower should “snap” back into place without riding against the magazine body and should be seated firmly against the back of the magazine. Test the magazine for proper reassembly by loading it with the maximum number of rounds for the magazine. The rounds should load without undue force if the spring is seated properly. If the magazine will not load fully, remove the follower and re-seat the spring.

You take a lot of time to make sure that your prized gun is clean and ready to perform each time you want to use it. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting the magazine and having it fail when you need it. A few minutes is all it takes to keep it working as reliably as the weapon itself.

New Magazines – After reviewing your current magazines, you may decide that the best course of action is to replace the magazines. Brownells carries a lot of magazines for the 1911, Glock and many other Semi-Automatic pistols and rifles. For the 1911 some favorites come from Wilson Combat , Ed Brown or Metalform . For Semi-Auto pistols, check out the Triple K or Colt Factory Mags.

The next time you’re out on the line looking to make up a few seconds, you’ll be glad your magazines in tip-top shape . . . and could actually move you up the rankings.