Are the springs sprung?

This is a discussion on Are the springs sprung? within the Firearm Cleaning & Maintenance forums, part of the General Firearm Discussion category; Let me start off by saying that I have no basis of fact in this, I'm just going off of what seems reasonably logical to ...

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Thread: Are the springs sprung?

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    Are the springs sprung?

    Let me start off by saying that I have no basis of fact in this, I'm just going off of what seems reasonably logical to me. So here is the question: do you "rest" your springs (recoil, mag follower, etc)?
    Once a week I unload my mags, disassemble, and gently tug on the springs and then let them "rest" for about 36 hours before re-assembling. I do the same for my recoil springs. I have two sets of recoil springs for three of my autos so this doesn't require the weapon to be un-usable during this period.
    I have heard that especially in springs of older/low quality manufacture that the spring can/will lose some of its "springy" properties if they are constantly in a compressed state. I'm assuming that since I've not heard about this with arms of newer manufacture that the alloys, design, winding techniques, etc have improved to a point that this is not necessary, or that it never really was a big deal and I'm crazy.
    All thoughts/opinions welcomed and appreciated! Thanks!

    -Russell
    “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” --George Washington

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    Distinguished Member Array 21bubba's Avatar
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    You have opened one of the biggest can of worms in all of pistoldom. Be prepared for dozens of "expert" opinions. Non exactly right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21bubba View Post
    You have opened one of the biggest can of worms in all of pistoldom. Be prepared for dozens of "expert" opinions. Non exactly right.
    My sincerest of apologies! But it seems to me that this could be devastatingly important...
    “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” --George Washington

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    It is devastatingly important, but 21Bubba is right. It is a can of worms question that will bring forth many different answers.


    I've had two guide rod springs go on different guns. G-d help anyone who encounters that problem in the midst of trouble.

    Not only is it an unpredictable failure, it isn't always easy to find replacements; or easy to get replacements even from reputable companies with decent customer service. And this is especially true if you don't have one of the more popular models or newer models.

    Because getting replacements may not be easy or possible, it is not always practical to do a routine periodic change to new springs.

    I have two guns neither of which I can totally feel comfortable with notwithstanding that I did get Wolf Spring replacements for one and factory replacements for the other-- and the factory replacement does appear stouter than the original equipment.
    If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled in the halls of legislation will then be tried in fields of battle and determined by the sword.
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    I personally don't rest my springs. I've had fully loaded mags that I've misplaced for over a decade, then re-located them and put then back into service with no problems whatsoever.

    Same with my 1911 recoil spring. It got weak, I replaced it and had no more problems.
    bmcgilvray likes this.
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    The "can of worms" Hopyard mentioned is exactly correct because you won't get any "right" answer that you can always depend on. There's not only thousands of different springs using different steel alloys, degrees of hardness, and particular type of hardening methods used, but there's also countless variances in thickness and/or diamater of the spring medium itself, coil size, and number of coils or zig-zags per inch that will all combine to dictate how well any spring holds its original tension and un-compressed length.

    Sadly, age or manufacturer of the spring doesn't mean much either since there are very good and very poor springs from all manufacturers either past or present. Generally, try to do some research on the particular component of whatever brand and model you're wondering about or measure the length and do a compression measurement of a new spring and keep checking yours on occasion to see how they're holding up in both categories.

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    From a mechanical engineer with a (long) career in aerospace materials, product development, and testing:

    In general, leaving a spring compressed will not cause the spring to lose any of its spring force. Cycling the spring is what causes it to gradually lose its force.

    By "tugging" on your springs you're not doing them a favor. Likewise, "resting" your springs does nothing for them.

    Part of what you stated about 'older' springs and materials is true, but there's little that's been added to spring manufacturing knowledge in probably 25 years or more. And while I'm sure there's some hokey joint winding low-quality wire into coils and not heat treating or shot peening them, most reputable spring companies do such things as a matter of course.


    Note the "in general" disclaimer. Some springs are designed to operate with deflections which put relatively high stresses (i.e., close to the elastic limit for the material) on the spring, and when cycled to those extreme deflections, the springs will both take a 'set' and will lose spring rate faster than the same spring operated within more moderate limits. Guns with springs like this will usually come with a recommended replacement interval. Picking on the 1911 platform for some tangible examples, 8 round magazines with the same length as a 7-round mag have springs that will need replacing more often than basic 7-rounders, and some of the shorter 1911s (4 and 3 inch) have spring arrangements which load the springs pretty heavily so they don't last as long as the springs in a full-size 1911.

    With an autoloader, I can see maybe downloading a high-cap mag 1 round in the interest of preserving spring life, but taking the recoil spring out won't gain you a thing unless you keep your gun with the slide locked back whenever you're not shooting it. So far, only my 1911s have had springs replaced; 3-4000 round intervals for the full-size, and 1500 rounds for the 4-inch Kimber. Mag springs get replaced "on condition" - i.e., when I notice either erratic functioning or they seem weak when I'm loading up.

    Bottom line is that unless you like tearing your gun apart frequently to admire its inner workings, there's no need to do so to preserve spring life. Keep some spare springs on hand and replace 'em when they need it.
    Smitty
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    ... Keep some spare springs on hand and replace 'em when they need it.
    As usual, great advice from gasmitty.

    I have a complete set of spare springs for every gun I own. It's the first thing I order when I get a new gun. My quick-access safe guns stay loaded, cocked and locked.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    From a mechanical engineer with a (long) career in aerospace materials, product development, and testing:

    In general, leaving a spring compressed will not cause the spring to lose any of its spring force. Cycling the spring is what causes it to gradually lose its force.

    By "tugging" on your springs you're not doing them a favor. Likewise, "resting" your springs does nothing for them.

    Part of what you stated about 'older' springs and materials is true, but there's little that's been added to spring manufacturing knowledge in probably 25 years or more. And while I'm sure there's some hokey joint winding low-quality wire into coils and not heat treating or shot peening them, most reputable spring companies do such things as a matter of course.


    Note the "in general" disclaimer. Some springs are designed to operate with deflections which put relatively high stresses (i.e., close to the elastic limit for the material) on the spring, and when cycled to those extreme deflections, the springs will both take a 'set' and will lose spring rate faster than the same spring operated within more moderate limits. Guns with springs like this will usually come with a recommended replacement interval. Picking on the 1911 platform for some tangible examples, 8 round magazines with the same length as a 7-round mag have springs that will need replacing more often than basic 7-rounders, and some of the shorter 1911s (4 and 3 inch) have spring arrangements which load the springs pretty heavily so they don't last as long as the springs in a full-size 1911.

    With an autoloader, I can see maybe downloading a high-cap mag 1 round in the interest of preserving spring life, but taking the recoil spring out won't gain you a thing unless you keep your gun with the slide locked back whenever you're not shooting it. So far, only my 1911s have had springs replaced; 3-4000 round intervals for the full-size, and 1500 rounds for the 4-inch Kimber. Mag springs get replaced "on condition" - i.e., when I notice either erratic functioning or they seem weak when I'm loading up.

    Bottom line is that unless you like tearing your gun apart frequently to admire its inner workings, there's no need to do so to preserve spring life. Keep some spare springs on hand and replace 'em when they need it.
    What are your thoughts on the theory that coil springs lose X amount of force initially? Do you believe this loss of force is factored into the designed usage of said spring?

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    "In general, leaving a spring compressed will not cause the spring to lose any of its spring force. Cycling the spring is what causes it to gradually lose its force."

    This is what I've always heard too. Seems to be true and that's the advised I've always heeded. I'm old enough to have left the odd 1911, AR 15, and M1 Carbine magazine loaded for literally years with no ill effects. I've had a single Vietnam War era contract 1911 magazine and a single WW II M1 Carbine magazine to fail in my adult shooting career and I think the M1 Carbine magazine failed because I monkeyed with it.
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    I usually go by the Wolff Gun Springs FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS page because Wolff has been cranking out high quality firearm springs for ages.
    In addition many firearm manufacturers do not manufacture their own springs and contract them out to spring makers like Wolff.

    Wolff also states that mag and recoil springs will take an initial "set" AKA they will permanently become a bit shorter than a brand new spring but, that "set" is factored in to the manufacture of the spring. In other words they know ahead of time how much set a spring will develop and they adjust for it in the manufacture.

    I wil alsol totally agree that some older Colt mag springs were not up to the standards of today.

    Wolf states that single stack magazines equipped with Wolff mag springs can stay fully stoked and stored for very long periods of time.

    They recommend that double stack magazines be downloaded by one or two cartridges for long term storage.

    I can also tell you that Chrome Silicon recoil springs will outlast regular Carbon steel springs for at least double or triple the number of cycles.

    So when you do shop for new recoil springs...give the Chrome Silicon springs a shot. They are fantastic. I think that eventually all firearm recoil and magazine springs will be made from Chrome Silicon.

    I can also tell you (for a fact) that you should always replace any gun springs that show any signs of rust pitting or nicks because that is where they will fail when they do fail.

    That's my two cents on springs. Take it for what it's worth.

    My own personal rule for pistol recoil springs is that if any new pistol tosses ejected brass only a couple of feet or so...I install the next weakest spring weight.

    If any pistol kicks brass way out into the ozoneosphere I install the next higher weight recoil spring.

    If any pistol that I have been shooting for a while (that has had ideal ejection) really starts tossing brass way out there then it's time for a spanky new recoil spring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21bubba View Post
    What are your thoughts on the theory that coil springs lose X amount of force initially? Do you believe this loss of force is factored into the designed usage of said spring?
    All springs will take an initial set after they are first used. To add some credence to that, whenever we measure the spring rate of a new spring, we first "condition" the spring by compressing it from its free height to its design working length (compressed length, rarely does that mean compressed to 'solid' height) for a number of cycles until its free length doesn't change with additional cycles. Might be 5 cycles, might be 50, rarely would it take 100. This initial set is fairly predictable and is almost always accounted for in the design of the spring for a given application.

    And QKShooter offers a concurring piece of wisdom from a well-respected gun spring company -

    Wolff also states that mag and recoil springs will take an initial "set" AKA they will permanently become a bit shorter than a brand new spring but, that "set" is factored in to the manufacture of the spring. In other words they know ahead of time how much set a spring will develop and they adjust for it in the manufacture.
    Smitty
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    RKM
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    Springs are easy and cheap to replace if they wear out. I'm not worried about it.

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    I can't say if it is necessary to rest springs, but I have always had plenty of extra mags and I keep them rotated, usually every month. I've never had a failure, so I guess at the very least it can't hurt. I don't top off my mags with the last round either. I find insertion into the pistol is difficult when I do. My Glock 30 mags hold ten but I only load nine. That last round is very hard to load, plus it makes mag changes a lot more difficult.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RKM View Post
    Springs are easy and cheap to replace if they wear out. I'm not worried about it.
    Problem is that manufacturers now frequently don't use simple spring designs, but complex spring & guide- rod duplex and triplex designs. It took me more than 9 months to get a replacement from S&W and there was nothing on the open market.

    I was looking at the thread Tangle started a few days ago about a design change made by Glock. Maybe due to popularity the part will be available.

    I'm not as concerned about magazine springs as I am about recoil springs and recoil-guide rod-rod spring assembly designs.

    A bum magazine is easily repaired or replaced or dropped and replaced. When the guide rod spring goes while shooting it is over.

    Twice burned, and I'm a little shy on this. If I purchase another handgun it likely will not be a pistol because of this particular issue.
    If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled in the halls of legislation will then be tried in fields of battle and determined by the sword.
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