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  1. #1
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    Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    Well, the host of improvements to the P97 magazines are here. Purchased as a remedial upgrade by me.

    Close by is a post I started about the P97 having last shot retention problems due to the Devel short skirt follower and weak spring. Since this is a 1911 magazine, after all (same follower and very, very similar springs used) it is not surprising that the same issues will crop up.

    Can't speak for everyone's P97, just mine. These malfs happen with multiple Ruger factory magazines, including those purchased separately over a long period of time. The cause is quite easy to diagnose; poor last round retention that lets the impact of the slide against the frame jar loose the last round instead of feeding it. The magazine does not hold the last round firmly enough under the spring forces present, and there is no dimple on the follower to hold the last round in place and act as a speed bump to free movement - in other words, the spring's weak and the follower too slick. The crimp in the magazine lips is present, but I understand (and practical use proves the point) that it is in the wrong place to do any good in preventing last round misfeeds.

    Full compression with an 8 round magazine inserted into the pistol, which maximally compresses the spring, makes last round retention issues occur when the factory magazine spring takes a set. An early death with only moderate use in my own magazines has occurred.

    I would NEVER trust this pistol as a carry gun, as issued. Period.

    The upgrades are:

    Wolff extra power eight shot springs for use with the Devel type follower that is factory issued. Frankly, it's hard for me to get worked up over eight shot capacity and the Devel follower knowing what I know now, but what the heck.

    Ruger standard 7 shot springs for the P90, with the P90 seven shot full skirt followers. (Incidentally, the P90 and P97 parts freely interchange and fit perfectly).

    Wolff Extra Power (10%) seven shot springs for the P90, with P90 followers. These run six bucks apiece - yikes!!! Trust me, nobody will mistake these for wimp springs. The Ruger P90 seven shot springs run two bucks apiece.

    The Wolff EP seven shotters are so stiff that a new spring tested immediately prevented the first round in a loaded magazine from going home when the slide was dropped from slidelock. The slide hit the round and stopped. Reason being the crimp in the back of the feedlips, combined with the strong, unset new spring, provided an obstacle the slide stop dropped slide could not overcome. Slingshotting the slide chambered the round.

    After leaving the Wolff seven shot springs and P90 follower locked in a gun overnight, which maximally compressed the spring and allowed it to take a slight set, dropping the slide from slidelock chambered the top round from a loaded magazine every time.

    Still and all loading the seventh shot in this magazine with the Wolffs was not fun. Compared to the factory eight shot spring it's really stiff. However, the Ruger factory seven shot spring was a bit stiff, too, but this reassures me as I don't think I'll have the retention issues endemic to the weak eight shot springs. Right now it doesn't look like more than the Ruger P90 seven shot spring will be needed, but I thought a check on the Wolff product would provide some valuable material to contrast.

    The P90 follower is a bit flawed. It is a big upgrade over the McCormick/Devel type follower in that it has a full skirt and is not prone to nosediving, but it unfortunately follows the design of the Wilson skirted follower in that the shelf that activates the slide stop is plastic, not metal. As these wear at some point they'll fail to lock the slide open on the last shot, but at least that's better than misfeeding the last round. Failure of slidelock does not give sufficient notice the gun is empty and greatly slows reloading, so there's a downside with that, too.

    Finally, for some reason I got a ProMag magazine. This is advertised as a seven shot magazine by Midway, yet somehow I could fit an eighth round in there. The magazine body is slightly longer by about 3/8 inch than the others, which I found interesting. This may allow enough spring for the magazine to work reliably assuming the spring takes advantage of the extra space with more power. The follower differs from factory original so I think the nosediving issues will be gone, but it's hard to judge spring strength on this one. I'll have to wait and see. For whatever reason the magazine doesn't seem as substantial as the Ruger magazines, so I need to do some measuring.

    I'll try these out at the range. It'll take me some time to determine if the improvement is for real, but based on spring strength and follower shape alone things are looking up compared to the factory offerings in the eight shot format. Actually, given the poor shape of the follower and weak eight shot springs in the factory magazines, it's hard to imagine that there won't be an improvement.

    But we'll see.

    Such issues are why Wilson, Tripp and others have lengthened the eight shot magazine to increase spring power for the 1911 in order to bypass the last round misfeeding of eight shot flush fit magazines. And why Tripp inserted metal in his slide stop shelf to prevent wear (for some reason the Wilson ETM missed this, as Wilson took a halfhearted attempt at magazine improvement....and the ETM shows it). And why McCormick is going to the "Power Mag Plus" with a skirted follower over the seriously flawed Devel type.

    If the product wasn't flawed, there would be no need for "improvements."

    So in asserting that the Ruger P97 eight shot magazine is flawed, McCormick, Wilson and Tripp would agree with me.

    Which is rather ironic, as it appears Ruger used their (Wilson and McCormick's) flawed designs for inspiration in designing the P97 magazine, and the result is a jam prone pistol in my hands. I don't include Tripp in that bunch, as he recognized problems and attempted to come up with solutions much earlier than the other two did.

    What goes around, comes around.

  2. #2
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    John, with all the time and effort you've put into this project, have you contacted any of the parties involved? You can't be the only one experiencing these problems, I wonder if a bug in the right ear would get something done about it? It might be hard to get a hold of an engineer at Ruger, but it would sure be interesting to hear why they built it the way they did.

    My Witness 45 uses double-stack mags and holds ten rounds plus one in the pipe, but it's a big sucker, noticeably larger than a 1911, and probably about the same amount bigger than the P97. I wish someone offered metal followers for those mags, I have six, and only four of them will hold the slide open when they're empty!
    "There is a fine line between a hobby and Mental Illness". Dave Barry

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  3. #3
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    No, I haven't contacted anyone at Ruger.

    They do have a reputation for backing their product, but I don't expect them to tell me anything other than "we tested it thoroughly before we sent it out."

    There are guys who shoot this pistol and claim no problems. I must say that most of these guys, as near as I can tell, haven't shot the pistol that much, nor tested the magazines by putting a lot of rounds through them or simulated carry use by leaving a fully loaded, maximally compressed eight shot magazine in the pistol for extended periods. There are also guys who shoot weakly sprung, overcapacity 1911 magazines and claim no problems as well.

    I am not one of those guys. I've had trouble with McCormick Shooting Star 1911 magazines, which jam the last shot on every other magazine with full power ammo due to exceptionally weak springs. I've had nosediving issues with McCormick Power Mags. Feeding is kachunkier with those magazines in a 1911 as well. Wilson followers have quit on me, and the springs in the original eight shot versions are nothing to write home about.

    Since these issues with 1911 magazines occur, this was perhaps predictable when coming up with the similar P97 magazine, but this sort of mistake appears to happen all the time. The upgraded new magazine designs from the previously mentioned sources are proof that it's an issue.

    At most, I suppose it's remotely possible that Ruger engineers would admit a goof, but I doubt it. At best they'd advise me to change to a seven shot format, which is what I'm doing.

    I may also try to use a dimpled, sheet steel 1911 follower in this magazine to address the nosediving, seventh shot retention and slide stop shelf wear issues. Trouble is, the loop at the top of the P90 seven shot or P97 eight shot spring doesn't properly engage the 1911 dimpled follower, so I might have to substitute a 1911 seven shot spring as well.

  4. #4
    Tinhorn
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    Have you thought about a Wolff replacement RECOIL spring in the std 12.5# or maybe the 14# xtra power recoil spring? You seem to be doing everything right with the mags so I'm just wondering if it could be something else - - especially when you say:
    The Wolff EP seven shotters are so stiff that a new spring tested immediately prevented the first round in a loaded magazine from going home when the slide was dropped from slidelock. The slide hit the round and stopped.
    Also how does the feed ramp and chamber look?

  5. #5
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    The recoil spring is standard Ruger issue, and it's gonna stay that way.

    When everything else is hopefully in balance, increasing recoil spring poundage is another variable to deal with, and I'd rather change one thing at a time. It's very possible the +10% Wolff seven shot magazine spring is overkill, but twelve bucks is a cheap price to pay for two springs to check out their product.

    Besides, being plagued with super wimpy 8 shot factory springs is a trauma that I probably went a little too far the other way to correct with the heavy Wolff springs, especially if these magazines are for practice and are frequently loaded. Those Wolff extra power springs are thumbbusters......but I had to see if there was a downside to their use. I'll have to admit, though, that if these Wolff springs are used in magazines which are locked into the gun, maximally compressing the spring, they'll never take enough set to compromise their strength, which is reassuring in a way.

    I bought Wolff's extra power eight shot springs, as well, but I'm really seriously leery of eight shots in a seven shot space after what I've been through. Even if these extra power eight shot Wolff springs feed fine I'm always going to doubt them, and probably not use them for defensive use, just for range use. Besides, the eight shot springs must be used with the Devel follower, and I hate Devel followers with a passion, now..........there's just too many drawbacks to this type of follower, and they produce jams of their own due to poor design. Thus, even if the Wolff springs solve the last shot retention problems the Devels will always be prone to nosediving since the very short skirt allows only a single spring loop to stabilize the follower.

    It's too much of a liability to reliable function. IMO a serious defensive pistol, which I hope this becomes, NEVER has a Devel follower.

    Feed ramp and chamber are fine. The feed ramp couldn't be anything but fine, because the feed ramp is integral with the barrel. The chamber is rather short throated, and OAL's that fit in my 1911's need to be shortened slightly for the Ruger, otherwise the rifling origin bites into the bullet and prevents the slide from going fully into battery.

    Otherwise, A-OK, near as I can tell. A cerrosafe casting showed a decent, within SAAMI spec chamber. A removable barrel pistol has to be the world's easiest gun to chamber cast.

  6. #6
    Tinhorn
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    I was actually more curious as to if the recoil spring was original, old or defective and might have lost some of it's strength. I mean didn't Ruger stop making the P97 in 2005 so if that recoil spring is original it has at least 14 years of shooting wear and tear on it. Your write-ups are great and you seem to have tried so many different things, but I didn't see/read if you had tried anything to check and/or eliminate a weak recoil spring as a contributing factor?


  7. #7
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    Certainly, what you've asked is a fair question, but no, that's been looked into as well.

    Actually, the recoil spring's been replaced for the third time.

    You'd think that if the recoil spring was somehow super weak, the ammo would get an extra jar as the slide hit the camblock and frame with extra force, and I thought of that also when the pistol first started malfunctioning, so that was the first thing I replaced. The factory recoil spring is relatively cheap anyway, certainly less expensive than the Wolff offerings, and I wanted to see how the gun ran with standard springs before doing anything else.

    No soap. As the magazine springs wore with relatively little use, the malfs increased. Even with new recoil springs. So it's the magazines.

    Magazine springs shouldn't croak that quick, which made their original strength highly suspect.

    If you go to a heavy recoil spring, heavier than stock, this causes problems of its own as the slide may outrun the magazine, causing bolt over base misfeeds. Especially with magazines of questionable spring strength, like the eight shotters.

    An extra power recoil spring can have as many downsides as a weak recoil spring.

  8. #8
    Tinhorn
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    I figured you had replaced it, but wanted to make sure.

    FWIW I've owned a few "P"series pistols in 9mm and .40s&w and they've all run great - they don't fit my hands right and I can't shoot them well, but they have all been "reliable" - - I'm sorry to hear you got a lemon.

  9. #9
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    Re: Fooling with P97 magazine upgrades to improve reliability

    I appreciate the sympathy, but given the magazine design, it was predictable had I known more at the time I bought it. The cramming eight shots in a seven shot space was mostly a 45 ACP issue, I understand.

    I, of course, didn't predict any problems when I bought it.

    The gunZine gave it glowing reviews.

    Now, much later, I know better. Better late than never.

    I am only feeling anxiety about the plastic follower right now, but that's better than it was.

    Now I've got a healthy disregard for short skirted Devel/McCormick followers and weak eight shot springs in a seven shot space, as well I should.


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