Technical Tuesday – Magazine Release Issues
It’s Technical Tuesday, and you’re asking, “is my magazine going to fall out of my gun?” That’s a problem if that happens–we don’t want our high capacity, high technology firearm to turn into a single shot. We are making this video because there seems to be a lot of chatter all of a sudden about magazines falling out. Frankly, it’s a little surprising to us, because we know all of the details around it…but you don’t and so that’s why we are having this conversation. This is also one of those moments where I think it is really important that I say, you will never hear us say that we are perfect; you’ll never hear me say that we have never had a bad product, or a bad part go out. Of course, we are manufacturing physical products in the physical world, and stuff happens. Don’t misconstrue this as me putting up a defense. But I will give you information, because you deserve it and we are the kind of company that shares that stuff.
The report goes like this, “hey, I’m shooting and the magazine falls out of the gun.” Let’s talk about the potential root causes for that, what we have seen in some guns that came back and in talking to some customers. Let’s also size the problem. How many reports of this have there been? We have had 62 reports of a magazine falling out of a gun in the last two years. Those reports seemingly have picked up of late since there has been a video. A lot of these are folks who say, “hey, I’m concerned about this can you send me a new part?” and we just do. But actual reports where we got the gun back or we were able to confirm it over the phone, we have had 62 reports out of many tens of thousands of guns sold. On a percentage basis, we’re talking about an extreme minority. And when we actually dig into what we have seen come back in and what people have reported, there are many variables that could be causing that.
1. Bad part: It is very possible that it is a bad mag spring, weak or long. It could be a bad button, deformed soft, etc. Or it could be a bad frame, to do with the magazine chute or distortion. Now, the only one we have seen real world has been a bad button, the others are just potential causes.
2. Shooter: What can happen is the gun is slipping in the shooter’s grip and the shooter is accidentally pushing the button with the palm of the hand.
3. Extended: The button is ~.020 extended, not much, but a tiny bit bigger. That additional height can cause the shooter’s hand to make contact with the button.
4. Heavy/worn magazines (not PMAGs): Let’s get a bit detailed here. The magazine that we ship with the gun is a PMAG; it is a long fibered nylon, very hard material. We have selected a magazine button with similar properties, so that the magazine isn’t eating the button. Some other mags out there, specifically Glock magazines, even with regular use, you can start to see the notch on the magazine get a little worn; if they get really worn, especially with our button, which is harder than the button on a Glock frame, then the button can start to eat up the Glock magazine a little bit. Now, that’s normally only the case with a really worn magazine or with one that has quite a bit of extension making it significantly heavier. Heavy/worn magazine really speaks to the difference in the polymers being used. So someone will say, “hey, my gun is dropping Glock magazines,” and we will say, “well try the PMAG” and that doesn’t fall out. I know there are reasons that folks don’t like the PMAGs, but we also have to design our button to go with the magazines that we ship with the pistol, so that is the design choice that we made. Many of the reports are NOT with the magazine that we shipped with the pistol, and in many cases, it is with old, worn out Glock mags with distortion on the notch and maybe a base pad, which adds more weight.
5. Improper installation: This is one that is not well understood, but I want to mention it. If you look down inside the frame, there is a v-shaped area that has a cylindrical opening below it. That opening is where the spring is seated. That spring is just a stick; it goes up in the frame into the body of the magazine button to provide spring force on the button. This spring needs to be able to move freely back to the center. We have seen cases where people have taken their magazine spring out and when they put it back in, they didn’t force it back down into the hole or maybe they had a spring that had a sharp corner, and as they put it down into that hole, they’ve raised a burr of plastic along the side of the hole and effectively filled in the hole. That means that the spring isn’t going back down into the hole, which means the spring can’t get back fully upright, which then means that the magazine button isn’t fully returning to its start point, and the notch that is grabbing the magazine is not afforded full engagement. So, when you put a magazine spring in, it’s not a bad idea to put a little bit of oil on the end; if you notice it’s sharp, pass it over a file or a stone. After you install the button, push on it on the backside and it should be rock solid, held fully against the frame to ensure the button is getting full contact. So, improper installation of the magazine spring can cause the magazine button to not engage fully and this also deadlines the frame, because that damage cannot be reversed. We have seen guns come back with the evidence of all the damage inside the frame where they have nicked this spot and the button is not fully returning.
6. Worn out: This one is an obvious one. In some guns that come back they have a crazy worn out button with the edge that grabs the magazine is just totally rounded off, where they’ve done ten billion speed reloads or sat watching TV and taken the mag in and out, just worn out.
So, let’s go back to the things that Shadow Systems can control, because we want to do the best that we can for you. We have known that improper magazine spring installation can cause this issue since 2019, so we actually shortened up our magazine spring by about 0.010 to give a little more play in space there. We have also gone through a few iterations of springs and materials over time, but there has not been any correlation there; they were all strong, but we were mostly looking at corrosion resistance. OK, bad button—this has happened. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the button is bad or if it is worn out, but this has happened in the past and we now have additional QC in place for this, we now check the hardness of the buttons as an additional test. The extended magazine release was a design decision. My criteria for extended button is I want to be able to sit flat against a table, and I don’t ever want there to be an instance where you can grab the gun hard against the table and have the button be pushed in hard enough to have the mag fall out. We are actually talking about a new button that is a little lower since it seems that folks are having this issue where they are pushing the button with their palm. There is something we actually want your feedback on: I hate stuff like this, so I’m like “screw it, let’s make it out of metal and nitride it and make it really hard and it will eat up every magazine out there, but it’ll never round over.” So that’s a choice we could make—the chance of a worn out button goes to zero but the potential for wearing out the magazine goes up a bit. So I may make a new button just to have the option, but the steel button will likely lead to worn out magazines so that’s just a decision point.
So what does this mean for you then? If you have a Shadow Systems pistol, what you want to know is “is my magazine going to fall out?” Here’s what I suggest you do: Load up the gun with a full magazine, because the weight does increase the amount of inertia that the magazine has and the force on the button. Load up a magazine and go to the range and shoot the gun one handed. And that magazine shouldn’t fall out in that scenario, unless it’s some old worn out magazine with a notch that’s all deformed. 99.08% of the time that solves it. Then it becomes a question of technique or maybe putting a different button in the gun that’s a little lower. If you go do that and you don’t have an issue, then it is highly unlikely that you will ever have an issue, unless you take the button out and put back the spring improperly or it just wears out. Short of those two things, if the magazine is not falling out the gun when you go do that test, then there’s really nothing more to worry about. However, this is enough of a concern now, that if you are a Shadow Systems pistol owner and you want a brand new latest generation button, I will send you a brand new button. If that is something that would make you feel more comfortable, then I’m happy to do it, no charge. Just send us an email with your name, mailing address, and serial number and we will mail one out to you: firstname.lastname@example.org. However, then you have to go install it and what you don’t want to do is take a fully functional, perfect gun and in the course of putting in your new button for peace of mind create a whole new problem of creating a burr in there or chew up the inside of your frame. Take your time if you ever do remove that button and use the right tool and do it carefully.
I hope that was informative. Again, we are never perfect and have had stuff like bad parts happen, but like I said, the numbers are really, really low. And if you want a brand new button, email email@example.com with your serial number and mailing address. So go shoot it with a full mag in one hand to make sure there isn’t a problem if you are concerned. And pay attention to the worn out mag problem and to the risk of installing the magazine spring improperly if you ever do that. Thanks again and we will see you next week.