How to Install a Pump Shotgun Magazine Spring and Follower

Springs wear out over time, and periodic replacement is simple, quick insurance for a home-defense shotgun.
How to Install a Pump Shotgun Magazine Spring and Follower

Pump-action shotguns are a popular choice for home defense, and for all the right reasons. They stop criminal attacks with authority, operation is simple, and their reliability is legendary.

Many of your customers have made one their top choice when it comes to protecting their family, but if there’s a drawback to that rugged reputation, it’s the temptation to neglect maintenance. Some owners relegate theirs to a secure but easily accessed location where it sits untouched for months or even years.

Those who take that performance for granted and ignore maintenance are risking catastrophic results should the unthinkable happen. A little oil and TLC go a long way in smoothing things up. There’s something else that deserves inspection, though, and possibly replacement. That magazine spring may have been compressed long enough that it doesn’t properly stage the next shotshell on the elevator. It could simply be lethargic and causing stoppages. The follower may be burred, gummed up or cracked, creating a logjam in that tube magazine.

Replacement of both is fast and easy at the counter and a solid recommendation for customers complaining their pump-action isn’t as reliable as it once was. Field stripping and takedown vary by model, but it’s always simple. When unfamiliar with the operation, consult the manual or manufacturer’s instructions before beginning. A Winchester Model 1300 Defender, a relatively common home-defense gun, is used to illustrate the steps here.

Before staring, it’s worth noting there’s no consensus among experts on the damage done to springs after long durations under the pressure of a full magazine. Some claim, especially in pistol magazines, they can last and function for decades. Others recommend periodic replacement. Springs are inexpensive, regardless, so installing a new one on a home-defense firearm is a sound investment. While the tube magazine is out, there’s also no excuse for not putting in a new follower.

Springs and followers are not always interchangeable between shotgun models, even those made by the same manufacturer. Their length and strength vary to ensure proper feeding. Springs also get longer with increased magazine capacity. Make sure you have the right replacement parts in hand before beginning this process.

Start by opening the package and consulting the instructions. Ensure everything is included and in good shape. Inspect each item closely, especially the follower, where slight burrs and imperfections can impede smooth operation.

Keep the shotgun pointed in a safe direction and make sure the safety is engaged. It’s time to put safety glasses on, too, because there are springs involved.

Work the slide back and look inside the chamber. Ensure no shotshell remains. Check twice and use a flashlight if needed.

Roll the shotgun over to look underneath. If there is any ammunition in the tube magazine, remove it and store all shells safely away from your work area. When the magazine is empty, the follower should show.

Now you’re ready to begin field stripping. With the Model 1300, it begins at the magazine cap directly underneath the barrel.

Unscrew and completely remove the cap. The spring underneath will still be held inside the magazine by a spring retainer clip, so you don’t need to worry about things flying around yet — at least with the Defender Model 1300. 

Use a wide-bladed flathead screwdriver to pry the retainer out, slowly, working from side to side during the process to prevent damage. It’s not tightly squeezed in, so it removes with relative ease. Maintain pressure on it with your fingers as you work it out, though, because spring pressure behind will send things aloft if you do not.

Once the retainer is off, you can remove the spring. Point the barrel down and the follower will come out.

Clean the magazine according to the shotgun manufacturer’s directions and insert the follower — in the proper orientation, obviously. The spring goes in now, but be careful. Some companies recommend one end toward the chamber, using color coding or taper, so consult instructions.

Reverse the above steps to reassemble the shotgun. Visually check the new follower is installed correctly and use finger pressure to ensure it glides smoothly in the magazine, as designed.

Now you’re ready to hand the refreshed home-defense, pump-action shotgun back to the owner. Remind them it still needs to be function-tested and run hard at the firing line, though. It is, after all, a lifesaving device that needs to perform flawlessly under stress.

You might also mention the buckshot you have in stock before the customer heads out the door.


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