Mailbag: Magazine Questions

Oldvet50 asks:

How long can you safely store a loaded mag before the spring weakens and causes misfires?

The answer to that depends on the magazine manufacturer. Cheaper magazine manufacturers, especially ones with polymer feed lips, are more prone to failure. Not of the spring, but of the magazine itself. Scorpion had a well documented issue with that. It turns out that the factory Scorpion magazines would dry out when left in a dehumidified safe for long periods. That’s why the Scorpion PMAG is a better choice than the factory one.

With a quality magazine, the answer to that is decades. Magpul themselves claim that they have had magazines fully loaded for eight years, and they still function.

The damage is done by compression and decompression of the spring. The more cycles that a spring goes through, the more it weakens it. I wouldn’t worry, however. It takes thousands of cycles to wear out a spring. Still, I think of magazines as consumable items, which is why I have so many of them.

SmileyFtW asks:

Why the waste of space with the foam? Load the cans tight for maximum capacity I would think. Same stuff in one can; label the can and move on. If one can is to be an assortment, say so on the can and ID the contents so it is obvious to what each one is

That was actually what I was doing up until now. What I got was cans that either contained a bunch of different mags in the same can, or the can wasn’t full. Example. Let’s say that I have a bunch of Smith and Wesson magazines:

  • 12 magazines for a Shield 9mm
  • 8 magazines for a Shield 40S&W
  • 6 magazines for a Shield Plus
  • 30 magazines for an M&P9 9mm
  • 12 magazines for an M&P9C 9mm compact
  • 12 Magazines for an M&P40 .40S&W

That’s 80 magazines. They will likely fit into one caliber can, but they aren’t cross compatible. The worst part is that some will fit in the handgun, but not function. For example, an M&P9 magazine will fit in the M&P40, but you don’t want to attempt to fire it like that. So with this system, good luck finding the right magazine in a hurry.

Another reason for padding them is preventing damage. One of the biggest reasons for malfunctions in a quality handgun (that isn’t a 1911) is a damaged magazine. My carry guns are life saving equipment, as far as I am concerned. The number one quality that I need in a carry gun is reliability. I need to know that it will go ‘bang’ every time I squeeze the trigger. Since quality handgun magazines cost anywhere from $35 to $60 each, having 100 magazines is a significant investment. By padding my magazines, I am protecting them and my investment. I lower the chances of malfunction which will, at best cost me some range time and money replacing it, and at worst will cause a malfunction during a firefight.

That’s also why I number my magazines. I know which ones have malfunctions. Note that number 2 and 5 are both missing in this picture. It’s because they are currently loaded and ‘in use’ by one of my handguns.

It’s a simple numbering system. If it starts with a 9, it’s a magazine that will fit the S&W9. If it ends in a “c” it’s for the M&P9C. This makes sense in my mind, because the compact can accept the full sized mags (but not vice-versa). The magazine numbers that start with a ‘G’ are for the Glock 19. (That’s the only model of Glock that I have, thanks to Project Gaston)

A similar code works, with the M&PShield Plus mag numbers all starting with ‘P’, the 45 magazines starting with ’45’, etc. I have a spreadsheet* that I use to track magazines, ammo, firearms, and firearm spare parts.

*I also keep a list of spare parts on hand: springs, firing pins, sights, and other fiddly bits. That’s why I have so many M&Ps: common spares, and the best spare part is simply having a spare pistol. Not only that, but I also know how to detail strip and troubleshoot the M&P series very well, which simplifies repairs. The Glock is easy to do the same with, but I generally don’t like the way that the Glock fits my hand. I’m still learning all of the ins and outs of the AR system.


We talk about gear, we talk about kits. What about skills? When it all falls apart, what do you know how to do? I have a pretty good set of skills, and many of them will allow me to trade and participate in an EOTWAWKI society. I am certified or skilled as:

Mastery level:

  • a nurse and paramedic
  • an electrician, having been trained to do so in the military
  • an electric motor repairman. I can rebuild, repair, rewind, and completely overhaul electric motors and generators. Again, military.
  • A master SCUBA diver

Journeyman level:

  • I can maintain and perform simple to moderate repairs on a variety of firearms.
  • I can do simple machine work.
  • I can do simple auto and machinery repair. (Things like power transmissions and gear boxes)
  • a HAM radio operator

Apprentice level:

  • I can do simple welding, brazing, and cutting, along with some metal work.
  • I can perform simple electronic repairs

I am always looking at adding to my skillset. Be as widely skilled as you possibly can. Everything that you learn is something else that you know. You never know which skill it will be that saves you or your life.

  • I have a great set of tools, measuring equipment, and a pretty well equipped workshop.
  • I am planning on buying a MIG welder in the near future.
  • I have spares in stock for firearms like sights, springs, and other parts. Electrical parts, magnet wire, bearings, brushes, switches, light bulbs, and other parts.
  • Parts for the cars like brake pads, fuses, motor oil, and spark plugs.
  • Spare radios, antennas, and coaxial cable.

All of this puts me in a great place to be an asset to my neighbors and community. Don’t be a sponge, be a contributor. Be the person that others want on their team.


So there is some discussion about FMRS vs. HAM vs. GMRS vs. CB. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. CB is high frequency (HF), FRS and GMRS are Ultra High Frequency (UHF), while MURS is Very High Frequency (VHF). HAM can be all three. Let’s take a look:

No License Required

CB Radio: Citizen’s Band, 11 meter band (~27 mHz)

CB doesn’t require a license, nor is it very regulated. CB’s biggest advantage is also its biggest disadvantage: So many people have them that it’s easy to use them to contact people not in your group, but its also a disadvantage because so many people are both listening and talking over you. Just tune to channel 6 some time and listen to the yahoos talking over everyone with their illegal high powered sets. There are people there that are transmitting with thousands of watts of power. Another big disadvantage is that there are only 40 channels. Sure, you can try tricks like SSB, but if you are going to do all of that, there are better formats than CB. Police are known to routinely monitor CB radio, especially near major highways. I’m not much of a fan of CB. That may be a plus or a minus, depending on whether or not you want to talk to them. Radios run anywhere from $50 on up.

FRS: The Family Radio Service, 462-467 mHz

FRS is a channelized FM radio service that allows families to talk to each other. There are 22 channels dedicated to this service, with channels 8-14 (467 mHz) restricted to 500 milliwatts, and the rest (462 mHz) permitted up to 2 watts. All 22 channels are shared with the GMRS. No license is needed, but like CB, you are limited to certain channels, so traffic may become an issue. They can use tone coded squelch to cut down on congestion, but remember that people not using it can still hear everything you say. The radios must use permanently attached antennas, and this is done because the antennas themselves are designed to limit the range of the radios. Expect the range on these to be somewhere around three quarters of a mile in realistic conditions. Repeaters, phone patches, and the like are prohibited by law on FRS. Radios cost anywhere from $20 on up.

MURS: Multi Use Radio Service

MURS is a UHF service that uses 5 channels in the 151 and 154 mHz band. Up to 2 watts is permitted. No license is required, and there is very little traffic on these channels, but there are a wide variety of radio products that use MURS frequencies. MURS devices include wireless base station intercoms, handheld two-way radios, wireless dog training collars, wireless public address units, customer service callboxes, and wireless remote switches. That may or may not mean interference.

License Required

GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service

This service uses the same channels as FRS, plus an additional 8 channels, for a total of 30. Using these does require a license, but the only real requirement to get one is to be 18 years old, register, and pay a fee of $35. The license is good for 10 years. One license is good for your entire family. Anyone not in the family must get their own license. Transmissions must periodically include the station’s license callsign. If you are using a repeater, the repeater can be used to do that automatically. With the GMRS, you get the 8 extra channels, the ability to use repeaters, and better antennas. This means handheld units get a range of about 2 miles, vehicles about 5, and using a repeater with an antenna on top of your house can get you 20 miles or more of range. Those 8 extra channels are allowed up to 50 watts. Radios are about the same cost as FRS, $20 on up.

HAM radio: VHF, UHF, and HF

HAM radio does require a license, but it allows you a great deal of flexibility. The license isn’t too difficult. The easiest one to get is the technician license, and that requires a small fee and a relatively easy test on basic electronics. With that license, you are good to go on HF, VHF, and UHF. Since there are no channels, you literally have thousands of possible choices. This means that the frequencies will be largely unused and not congested.

Here is what I have done: The only choice from the above list that I don’t have is MURS, but I can program the Baofeng to transmit there, if I have to. In my shack, I have radios that cover GMRS, FRS, and CB, as well as HAM. I like to be as flexible as possible. There is a small antenna farm in my attic.

Each of the above has its own advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage to a channelized system is that users will be compressed into a limited number of channels. They all have one major disadvantage: they are unencrypted. That means working out code phrases that aren’t obviously code phrases: “John has a long mustache. The chair is against the wall.” Asking someone how Frank is doing could mean something that is known only to the two of you.

The advantage to a non-licensed system is that your friends and neighbors can communicate with you without the need for them to have a license.

Different frequencies and power levels allow you to play physics to your advantage. VHF is easily refracted by vegetation but doesn’t penetrate buildings or rocks very well. UHF penetrates buildings better. A VHF transmission in the woods at low power is unlikely to be intercepted. UHF at low power is great for a block or two in the city, and beyond that is unlikely to be intercepted as well.

If I were to have just one, HAM is the way to go. After that, my second choice would be GMRS.

Communications Training and Gear

With things appearing to deteriorate on a constant basis, I think that it is a good idea for this blog to be a bit more proactive in not just commentary, but in tidbits that people can use. After all, that is why I store and distribute training manuals with the link that the top of the site. With that in mind, I want to put more information out there.

Let’s do communications for this post. It is difficult to fight and resist oppression if you cannot communicate. You also don’t want the secret police rolling you up too easily. When the DOJ was conspiring to overthrow Trump, they were well aware of the NSA’s capabilities, yet they chose to communicate with each other through HAM radios to coordinate this effort, even though such use was in violation of Federal law.

The National Security Agency (NSA) picks up and records almost all electronic communications, thereby effectively wiretapping telephone conversations, email, and practically everything else we send out electronically. What the NSA doesn’t get, their partners in social media and at Google do.

The wife of a Deputy Director of the DOJ was coordinating this attempted coup, and would be well aware of the NSA’s capabilities. There are many technical reasons why spying on HAM radio would be a nearly impossible task. Just by using the frequencies and methods permitted to a person with a Technician license, there are thousands of available channels. Toss in the various modes like Digital, SSB, USB, AM, FM, CW, etc., and then consider that the higher frequencies are short range and would require hundreds of listening stations in every state, and it becomes a very difficult proposition to monitor HAM radio.

A HAM radio running low power on VHF or UHF would be audible for less than a mile or two, making interception a difficult process, at best. A high quality handheld radio that is capable of both the VHF and UHF bands can be bought for about $20. I bought a few of these to loan out to people in an emergency. You can get a nicer one for $70, and that is the one I use. I still own a nicer, far more expensive Yaesu that cost me almost $400, but I have found that the Baofeng works just as well at a fraction of the cost.

I am currently reading “The Guerrilla’s Guide To The Baofeng Radio” and I think it is a great book, full of both technical and practical tips to using this radio. It’s well worth the $23 it cost me. There are other ways to communicate, and we will talk about them later.

Now, the disclaimer: I don’t advertise, and receive nothing for my reviews or articles. I have no relationship with any products, companies, or vendors that I review here, other than being a customer. If I ever *DO* have a financial interest, I will disclose it. Otherwise, I pay what you would pay. No discounts or other incentives here. I only post these things because I think that my readers would be interested.