A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, February 11, 2006

1911 Magazines

The heart of a semi-automatic pistol is the magazine. Some pistols, such as Berettas, Glocks and HKs will take almost any magazine and still feed the ammo.Crap Magazines This is because of the less acute angle the round must travel in order to be chambered. Other pistols, such as the Ruger MKII, the Colt Woodsman, The High Standard .22 pistols, and of course, the 1911 in all it's derivatives require a more precise magazine to reliably feed. In these pistols the ammo travels on a more convoluted path to the chamber. A failure to feed ammo in one of these guns is almost always the magazine. Cheap magazines come in all guises. The welds may be weak, allowing the bottom plate to separate from the magazine and the ammo to fall out on a reload. The metal itself may be weak, causing the hole the mag release fits into to wear, and thus changing the geometry of the ammo's feed path. The magazine may simply be the wrong size, have improperly shaped feed lips, or weak springs. One thing is certain, a crappy magazine will ruin the performance of the best 1911.

Genuine Colt MagazinesPart of the perceived 1911 reliability problem is the wide variety of aftermarket 1911 magazines. Colt factory magazines are reliable. There are, however, artisans on Cat Street in Hong Kong who make Colt magazine knockoffs from melted down bottlecaps that would fool the most discriminating eye. In the land of counterfeit reality, they are even packaged in Colt packaging. The only way to insure you are buying a genuine Colt magazine is to either buy it from Hartford, or buy the gun as well. All other Colt magazines, no matter how they are packaged, no matter what is stamped on the bottom, are suspect, until you test their reliability. I have had good luck with both Colt and Springfield magazines that came with pistols I bought new.

Wilson Combat MagazinesWilson Combat makes the magazines I prefer. Specifically, I like the Wilson 47D. I have a collection of Wilson magazines that I purchased from friends as they were liquidating their 1911s. Some had the plastic base pad, which I immediately replaced with a metal low profile pad. Bill Wilson, in designing his magazines specifically for reliability in severe conditions, did the obvious. He developed a polymer follower to provide exact feed geometry rather than use the traditional metal leaf. The design works. These are the only magazines that I will use in a carry 1911. I believe in them that much. They cost a bit more, but they are the best.

Chip McCormick MagazinesWhen I bought my Gold Cup used, it came with a Chip McCormick Shooting Star magazine. This magazine proved itself to be reliable, and I later had the opportunity to buy several more used CMC mags for a pittance. I bought, and they all fed reliably. The Shooting Star mags have a metal follower that can damage an aluminum framed 1911's feed ramp, however. If your 1911 has an aluminum frame, stick with Wilson magazines.

Finally, when I acquired a 9mm Colt Commander, I ordered two 9mm magazines from CDNN. These turned out to be Metalform magazines, although they were advertised as Colt factory mags. 9mm CDNN MagazinesMetalform is a supplier of magazines to Colt, so I suppose the description was somewhat accurate. At any rate, the two Metalform magazines have functioned flawlessly in my Colt 9mm Commander. CDNN has a plethora of magazines available, and they stand behind their products. The only problem with CDNN is $10 shipping, no matter what you order. It works out great if you are ordering three pistols, awful if you are ordering one magazine.

I suppose I should mention a bit about the care of magazines. Often, when a gun is cleaned, the magazine is ignored. I use only powdered graphite inside my magazines if I feel a lubricant is needed. Oil inside a magazine will only attract dirt and debris, in addition to possibly seeping into the ammo and causing poor ignition. I lean towards stainless magazines if I can get them. If I need a black magazine I will Gun-Kote a stainless mag black. It is my belief that magazines can be stored fully loaded for an extended time with no adverse results. It is the expansion and compression of the spring that wears it out, not simply remaining in storage compressed. Thus, I do not routinely rotate out magazines and ammo.

I am sure there may be a decent magazine that I have not listed. Those depicted are simply the magazines that I, personally, have used and have had good luck with. Because I have bought cheap, shoddy magazines in the past, I believe I save money by simply purchasing the right brand. Anything else is a gamble.

1911 Magazine Analysis

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a .45 junkie I have accumulated numerous mags over the years and I agree with you, to a point. The Wilson's, while pricey, work as advertised, the Colts and most military contracts, likewise. I have had good luck with the inexpensive SS mags from CDNN, advertised as Mitchells, made for Kimber etc. For under $10. Of course, you have to screw the base pad on yourself. Steel follower. I don't own an alloy frame .45 (yet) so that's not an issue.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well written article. I have heard the same advice from you over on tfl before. I've been happy with my Wilson 47Ds so far. -bp78

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what was said but I have to add that I just bought 2 Wilson mags for my Dan Wesson/CZ 1911 in 10mm and they started choking after the 4th or 5th round every time. FTF! My metalforms work flawlessly.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love those Hi-Standard magazines. Never had an issue with them and I don't think twice about dumping them in a hurry.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About five years ago I rediscovered four WW II magazines I had originally loaded up in 1973. While the mags were in good shape, I had found them in a dumpster on base in the late 1960s. Guess what, they all had been fully loaded with military hardball for 33 years and still function flawlessly. Of course I shoot them in guns they were originally made for and not the post war toys.

8:01 PM  

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