Stovepipe Malfunctions and Other 1911 (or any) Magazine Problems

Even if you are not a fan of single action only (SAO) pistols, there is no denying the staying power and the reliability of the 1911. A correctly made 1911, that is in good repair, simply works. But what happens when it doesn’t? In my experience, 90% or more of the reliability issues with 1911s are the fault of the magazine: think magazine induced stovepipe malfunction or a push feed jam. Lets look at a few failures (particularly failure to feed) that can be caused by the magazine — and more importantly, what to do about it.

1911 magazine examples: Feed lips and other mag parts can cause a malfunction if not maintained.
Three different 1911 magazines. Note the different shapes on the feed lips. The one on the right is an original two toned Colt.

This article is from September of 2018. 

This might seem obvious to some, but when is the last time you took apart your magazines and cleaned them?

Not just your 1911 mags either — any of your mags.

Cleaning is an often-neglected part of firearm maintenance. Your mags tend to get dumped into the bottom of a range bag, or carried in a pouch, or just left setting on the shelf while your gun is tucked away in the safe. This can create problems, because all of those places are going to make your mags collect dust, dirt and other grime.

So if you are having a magazine issue with any gun, try taking apart your mags and giving them a good cleaning before you start looking for issues with the firearm itself.

1911 magazine induced stovepipe malfunction.
A 1911 with stovepipe malfunction: also likely the result of a dirty or damaged magazine. 

The “Stove Pipe”(stovepipe malfunction) is almost always a magazine issue. This is where the slide out runs the magazine, meaning the round doesn’t get pushed up in time to meet the slide. This usually occurs on the last or next to last round in a magazine. The cause is typically a weak magazine spring not pushing round up hard enough. The only real fix is to replace the spring. Wilson Combat makes great replacement parts for a wide range of 1911 mags.

⬇️ More below some mag suggestions. ⬇️


Colt 1911 officers model .45 ACP magazines
Colt 1911 officers model/DFM .45 ACP magazines (steel, 7-round capacity)
GI mags: Colt 1911 in steel
GI mags: Colt 1911 45 (steel, 7-round capacity); check on ’em in the warehouse.
1911 10 round magazine
Want to up your 1911 round count? Take a look a the ProMag 1911 10 round magazine.

Another common failure is called a push feed. This is where the extractor doesn’t catch the round and the gun does not go into battery. This is also usually from a soft magazine spring. But if you have it happen on the last round, check the follower. 1911 mags should have a small raised dimple on the follower to help hold the last round in the mag until it is picked up by the slide. Smooth followers are notorious for letting the last round go early from the recoil. The 8 round mags are usually the ones with the smooth followers. Replacing the spring and/or the follower is the trick to fixing this issue.

Extractor issues causing a 1911 push feed.
It is a little hard to see, this is the best photo I could get, but the extractor is setting on the back of a cartridge case. This keeps the slide from going into battery. Beware of smooth followers!

Of course you could always go buy some new 1911 magazines

This has been just an overview. If you’d like to discuss further, hit us up in the comments and we’ll address things in a follow-up article.

If you’re interested in some other perspectives, check out Range Hot and/or

Arthur Fuerte is a professional tobacconist with a penchant for mid-century militaria. He knows his way around the cigar parings, single-malts, and classic American firearms.

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