How long can you leave a gun loaded for?

This is a discussion on How long can you leave a gun loaded for? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Say I wanted to keep my Remington 870 loaded and ready to go should something happen. How long can I keep it loaded before I ...

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Thread: How long can you leave a gun loaded for?

  1. #1
    Member Array Rolling Oaks's Avatar
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    How long can you leave a gun loaded for?

    Say I wanted to keep my Remington 870 loaded and ready to go should something happen. How long can I keep it loaded before I risk damaging the spring in the magazine? Anything I should know?
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    Distinguished Member Array jumpwing's Avatar
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    I'm not a shotgun expert, but I know the time can be measured in months.
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    I've used shells that were 20 years old and worked fine when I used them. They had been stored in a dry place.
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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    Shotguns are different than rifles and pistols. There has been a change in ammunition quality, over the past 6 or so years.

    Case swelling was first noted, IIRC, with S&B. Basically, left in the mag tube, the plastic walls spread under the spring pressure, and after being stored for a few months, the gun was turned into a one-shot wonder, that required disassembly to get up again. I believe Remington is still a good buy; Winchester- don't quote me here- I believe has a couple of notes out there with the same problem as the S&B. This can be traced to transferring production overseas, and not maintaining spec. Thinner shell walls=swelling.

    All that said, I keep one in the chamber, 2 in the tube and 6 in the saddle; admin unload & inspect monthly. Seems the most reasonable compromise to me.

  6. #5
    Senior Member Array mr surveyor's Avatar
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    I don't think you will damage the mag spring by leaving it loaded indefinately.

  7. #6
    VIP Member Array David in FL's Avatar
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    I've never heard about the shell swelling issue and can't comment on that. However, as to damaging the spring, as with any magazine spring, keeping it under tension has no affect whatsoever on longevity.
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    Member Array chains1240's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David in FL View Post
    I've never heard about the shell swelling issue and can't comment on that. However, as to damaging the spring, as with any magazine spring, keeping it under tension has no affect whatsoever on longevity.
    Along the lines of what you are saying doesn't a spring wear out because of repeated extension and compression due to hardening on the molecular level? So a spring that is always under compression or always at rest is not being "worked"?
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    VIP Member Array edr9x23super's Avatar
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    I remember when my grandad passed away back in 1993, he had his 1911 he purchased from Uncle Sam after WWII, this weapon had not been fired in some time, as it had sat in his nightstand for years, loaded with a round chambered; We took the gun to the range shortly after he was buried,still in the state he kept it.

    I took it out and fired 4 rounds out of it; I ejected the magazine, and saw the next round, with green copper fouling around the slug, obviously a 230 grain FMJ. I checked out the rest of the rounds and they were in the same condition as the other round. I took those rounds to a gun shop and left one of the rounds off with a friend of mine to see if he could find out how old the rounds were.

    He called me back 2 days later and told me the guy he spoke to said the headstamp indicated that the stuff was WWII era surplus. Needless to0 say I was shocked, first that old grandpa would keep such old ammo loaded in his gun, but when we split up his possessions later that month we found 400 rounds of Military surplus ammo, still pristine in their packaging in his closet. I still have that ammo today, as a keepsake of grandad and his old .45.....
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    If you don't load the shotgun to full capacity, say 1 or 2 less, then you should be ok.

  11. #10
    VIP Member Array David in FL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chains1240 View Post
    Along the lines of what you are saying doesn't a spring wear out because of repeated extension and compression due to hardening on the molecular level? So a spring that is always under compression or always at rest is not being "worked"?
    Exactly right.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

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  12. #11
    Distinguished Member Array JerryM's Avatar
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    My Mom lived alone in another state for many years. I bought her a handgun, but she wanted a 20 ga auto shotgun. I happened to have a Rem 1100 and gave it to her. I loaded it with buckshot, and when I visited her I would check it out, clean it, and then reload it.

    This went on for probably 15 years without the shells swelling or the springs getting weak as far as I could discern.
    I have it now, and the last time I shot it all worked perfectly - except the shooter.

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  13. #12
    VIP Member Array cvhoss's Avatar
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    To the spring -- I have shotguns that have literally had their mags loaded for decades and I've never had a shotgun magazine spring fail.

    To shell swelling -- My Google Fu may not be very strong, but I can't find anything about this and I must admit, this is the first time I've ever heard of this. Even if it were possible, I'd find it unlikely to happen with the type of shells that would normally be kept loaded for defense. These are usually magnum or high base shells and because of the power of these loads, I'd hope that quality control on them would be a bit better than your standard field load.

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    I know of relatives who have left weapons loaded for over 50 years without problems...so I can't recommend leaving your guns loaded for OVER 50 years.
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  15. #14
    Senior Member Array Shadowsbane's Avatar
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    I have heard of the shell swelling with the older paper rounds, and with magazine fed shotguns (As opposed to tube fed)

    The spring will last forever, or just about.
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  16. #15
    Senior Member Array Slim_45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edr9x23super View Post
    I remember when my grandad passed away back in 1993, he had his 1911 he purchased from Uncle Sam after WWII, this weapon had not been fired in some time, as it had sat in his nightstand for years, loaded with a round chambered; We took the gun to the range shortly after he was buried,still in the state he kept it.

    I took it out and fired 4 rounds out of it; I ejected the magazine, and saw the next round, with green copper fouling around the slug, obviously a 230 grain FMJ. I checked out the rest of the rounds and they were in the same condition as the other round. I took those rounds to a gun shop and left one of the rounds off with a friend of mine to see if he could find out how old the rounds were.

    He called me back 2 days later and told me the guy he spoke to said the headstamp indicated that the stuff was WWII era surplus. Needless to0 say I was shocked, first that old grandpa would keep such old ammo loaded in his gun, but when we split up his possessions later that month we found 400 rounds of Military surplus ammo, still pristine in their packaging in his closet. I still have that ammo today, as a keepsake of grandad and his old .45.....

    Thats cool i'd hang on to it also
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