Curing The Dropsies: Troubleshooting Magazine Fallout - WaltherForums
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:56 PM   #1
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Curing The Dropsies: Troubleshooting Magazine Fallout

How to troubleshoot magazine fallout in Walther PP-series pistols (most of it applies also to any pistol with a side-button mag catch):

Since the magazine is the most fragile part of a pistol and damage is often hard to discern, try the easy remedy first: test the gun with another mag. (This discussion assumes the problem occurs with an original factory mag. If it involves an aftermarket mag, don’t bother trying to fix anything until you have first substituted an original factory one.)

Diagnosis is everything.

Magazines fall out for many reasons. You need to determine which one. But first you must study exactly how the mag catch works. Dismount the slide from the gun so you can look down into the mag well from above. Identify the engagement surface of the catch. Do it under strong light, a small powerful LED flashlight if necessary. A fair idea of its condition can thus be seen without dismantling it. With no magazine in the gun, push in, then release the mag catch button. It should operate smoothly without sticking. Carefully note the position of the catch on the outside of the frame on the right-hand side: its D-shaped flat end should be flush with the frame, and protrude only when you press in the button.

Let’s assume it’s flush. Next step: Identify the engagement surface of the magazine. (It’s the topmost horizontal surface of the notch on the right-hand side.) Some scarring is inevitable, but it should not be badly chewed up. If it is, try a mag that isn't. Strip the magazine down to the bare shell so you can see inside it. Insert the mag shell in the frame and observe its operation. The catch should smoothly enter and solidly engage the notch, but not intrude into the interior of the magazine shell far enough to interfere with the cartridges or the follower moving upward. Wiggle and yank on the mag shell and see if you can pull it loose. (You should not be able to.) Now slide the floorplate or pinky rest on the mag shell and try again to see if there is any difference (there shouldn’t be). Note the position of the D-shaped flat end of the catch: it should be flush with the frame whether the magazine is in or out, or whether the floorplate is attached or not.

That completes the initial examination.

When a mag falls out, or can be tugged loose, and you are sure that you did not inadvertently depress the button, here are the possible causes:

1) The mag was not really latched to begin with. This is the case surprisingly often, especially with fully loaded magazines, and sometimes aggravated by so-called “extra-power” springs. This goes triple for guns with high-cap mags laboriously stuffed to full capacity (plus one or two more rounds to make sure you have enough). The shooter must struggle to compress the cartridge column to get the mag to fully seat, and doesn’t notice that he hasn’t heard or felt a positive “click” of the mag catch engaging. Whacking the floorplate with the heel of one’s hand is a poor solution, as it can dent the magazine lips against the underside of the slide; better to perform more deliberate insertion. If nothing else, inserting the mag with the slide open will help —as will downloading a couple rounds.

2) The mag catch is just barely latched, only by a fingernail. It’s moving far enough out to allow the magazine to be inserted, but is not returning back far enough to fully enter the notch. The tell-tale is the D-shaped flat end of the catch: if it is protruding a bit from the frame, it’s usually because the catch is binding somewhere against the mag shell or because accumulated debris in the mag catch hole is impeding its free & full travel. For the latter, the catch needs to be removed and cleaned and the hole blown out. For the former, you need to figure out why.

If engagement is insecure only when a floorplate is installed, it’s because the floorplate is stopping against the bottom of the frame a few thousandths before the mag is inserted high enough into the gun to align the notch with the catch. Look for a bent floorplate or interference between the plastic pinky rest and the grips. If the engagement is not secure both with and without the floorplate, look for other causes. See below.

3) The mag catch looks fully latched (i.e., its D-shaped end is flush) but the engagement is not solid, or is mushy or doesn't feel right. One of the engagement surfaces —either the one on the catch or the one in the mag shell or both— may be badly burred or rounded off, and the surfaces no longer mate squarely with each other. The jolt of recoil may cause them to slip or cam out and disengage. If the wear is too severe to square off with a fine stone, you’ll have to replace the catch or the mag, or both. You can’t dress off too much, as then the mag will latch too low in the frame.

4) The mag catch has full travel (the D-shaped end is flush), and both engagement surfaces look good enough, but the mag still falls out. Possible causes: the mag shell is racked in cross-section or dented or distorted in such a way that the catch cannot reach the notch (or stay in it if the shell is wiggled). Don't try to straighten it; just replace the magazine. A slightly mislocated mag catch hole in the frame can produce a similar result. Also, some S&W guns with roughly broached magazine wells may have too much sideways slop to hold the magazine precisely in place. The only fix for the last two is to modify magazines to fit, and dedicate them to that gun.

5) Something else is intermittently coming into contact with the mag catch. The bottom of the slide should not be able to touch the mag catch button at any point in the slide’s travel. Test it by leaving out the recoil spring and cycling the slide while you watch. The grips (especially replacements) should not be touching the mag catch on either side of the frame, or be loose enough to allow them to touch it if a grip shifts slightly.

6) Since the mag catch is retained in the frame by the stem of the trigger guard plunger, any interference there can impede free and full movement of the mag catch. When the trigger guard is dismantled, the trigger guard plunger can be removed and examined to make sure it’s not bent. Look for burring between the plunger and its mating cutout in the the mag catch.

It might be possible for the trigger guard to transmit recoil shock to the mag catch through the trigger guard plunger and spring, but I have never personally encountered it. The trigger guard is essentially a big leaf spring designed to serve as a recoil buffer, and there must be a minimum of .060” clearance between the upright stud of the guard and the front face of the barrel boss to provide room for flex. If the clearance is not there, replace the trigger guard.

7) So far I have not mentioned any need to install a stronger mag catch spring. That's because, unless the original spring is kinked or damaged, it's usually not the problem or the cure. Of course Bubba may have taken the spring out and reinstalled it backward (i.e., with the wider coil on one end facing out). This wider coil goes inside the button to ease installation and keep it from getting lost. If installed backward, it creates an opposite problem to the Dropsies: it may be very hard to release the magazine. This tends to increase burring and wear every time the mag is forcibly removed and replaced, and may eventually distort the spring which in turn causes the mag catch to drag and stick, and brings the Dropsie problem full circle.

If the mag catch must be removed for repair or replacement, you must first remove the trigger guard. Be acutely aware that the trigger guard pin is dog-bone shaped. That means that you do not just pound it out with a drift punch and a hammer; this can cause irreparable damage to the frame and turn a simple repair into a major catastrophe. One squeezes the trigger guard upward and rearward until the trigger guard and frame holes are concentric and the pin can be simply pushed out with very little effort. A vinyl-jawed ratchet-type clamp (Irwin makes a good one) is invaluable for compressing the trigger guard.

M

Last edited by MGMike; 10-12-2014 at 07:02 PM. Reason: Left out word "not" in 7th graph
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Old 10-12-2014, 03:40 PM   #2
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Great info but I need pictures because I'm alittle lost
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Old 10-12-2014, 04:17 PM   #3
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Good stuff Mike. I actually did some of this when I was adapting the Canik 55 magazines to work in my PPQ M1. I had to pay particular attention to the upper surface of the new M1 mag catch hole to ensure proper lockin height. A little filing and a lot of checking.
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Old 10-12-2014, 06:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lewk68 View Post
Great info but I need pictures because I'm alittle lost
Then pay a gunsmith to let you watch while he does it.

M
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Last edited by MGMike; 10-12-2014 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 10-12-2014, 09:33 PM   #5
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I'm working on a picture/video guide to address each of Mike's points above. This will end up being a very valuable resource when we're done because it'll address the "other issue" we're seeing with Interarms pistols as time moves on - the other "issue" being the safety flip, which has it's own FAQ.

-Pilotsteve
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Old 10-12-2014, 10:10 PM   #6
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Nice summary, and it makes sense. I'm not quite willing to dismiss the 'rappy' nature of the .380 version as no small part of the mag release issue.
Very logical, Mike.
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Old 10-14-2014, 01:50 PM   #7
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Had occasion to diagnose/repair one of our stainless .380 PPK/S's with the Dropsie Syndrome, three different OEM mags. Went through the latch/catch observation with stage and spring removed from the mag, the catch would return to flush on the "D" (right side) of the weapon but the catch surface of the button had apparently been abused in some way and was slightly ramped, allowing the mag to disengage with a sharp tap to the baseplate using a chopstick inserted from the top and rapped with a small (think jeweler's) hammer. Replaced the catch (that trigger guard spring/assembly is a mutha!) and it was: "Onward thru the fog!" No more dropsie.

Any who experience this should follow Mike's procedure, it is a logically arranged set of tests to determine the cause. Well writ, Sir!
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Old 10-14-2014, 08:55 PM   #8
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Still working on the video/photo guide, guys. I had lots of footage but while processing the data, I discovered all of the images were blurry because the camera was in macro mode. Try, try again; update soon.

p.s. I may have discovered a "trick" in removing the trigger guard that makes it a cinch. Don't even need to use a clamp.

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Old 10-19-2014, 11:14 PM   #9
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In an attempt to add to MGMike's invaluable advice shared in this thread, I took my PPK apart and did my best to take some decent up-close photographs of exactly what we need to be looking for.

OK, first things things first. Gather your magazines - each and every one you own or might otherwise insert into your Interarms PP-series pistol - and find a well-lit area to work in:



Pay close attention to the "D" or sail-shaped hole in the magazine. The uppermost plane of the hole - the one parallel to the top of the magazine - is the area you want to pay attention to. Look for any kind of variation from what you see in this picture:



Next, load your magazines with whatever ammunition you intend to fire with your PPK. Be it range ball or defensive carry loads such as these:



...you want to look for potential trouble in the way the ogive of the bullet interfaces with the inside of the magazine. As the stripping of the uppermost cartridge in the magazine stack will slide the one below fully forward in the magazine tube due to drag between the casings, you'll want to see if your choice of ammunition might "bump" the magazine catch where it interfaces the "D" notch. Observe:





I'm not sure if this adds to "dropsy" or not because PDX1's fire just fine through my PPK and haven't caused any problems, but I can imagine the nose of the bullet nudging the magazine catch and causing problems in this area when it clicks upward after the one above is stripped. Essentially, take note of what brand and design of ammunition you're using; if you experience "dropsy" with one particular type, don't use it anymore.

Next, take a look at your magazine release button in your PPK. Take off the slide and push it in and out. Does it move freely, returning to its fully extended position when you release it? Any grittiness in the feel of the button press? Flip your pistol over and look at the "D" shaped button extension on the right side of the frame... it should be flush (or nearly so) with the frame. When released, run your index finder over it and feel for smoothness. You should never be able to depress the "D" at all when it is released and a charged magazine is inserted:



Flip your pistol over and look closely where the grip of the pistol meets (or rather, clears) the magazine button. You'll see how the fit is very close with factory plastic grips; aftermarket grips migh compound the problem by interfering with the magazine release button, possibly depressing it during recoil or creating enough drag on it to cause it to fail to fully extend when a magazine is inserted. Here, I loosened my grips slightly in order to reproduce what would definitely be a problem. Dropsy sufferers, you're not seeing anything like this now are you?



Next, remove your grips and closely observe your magazine release button's catch surface. Look for deformation, chipping of the contact surface, or anything that varies much from what you see here... mine shows some slight wear and there is burnishing of the contact surface but no obvious damage:



I removed my magazine catch for you in order to detail the following images:





If your magazine catch button is damaged, it must be replaced before your PPK will return to reliable serviceability and the job is not for those without advanced mechanical skill. While not overly difficult to accomplish, removal of the trigger guard (and therein the magazine release button) is complex as Mike described. I can do it without tools, but I also have enough grip strength with my hands to squeeze the trigger guard upward enough to poke the pin through and out of the frame, releasing the parts and freeing the magazine catch. Perhaps one day we'll have a thread devoted to the task, but for now, this post should help the layperson determine the parts in question related to magazine drop failures in Interarms PP-series pistols.

-Pilotsteve
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Old 04-09-2016, 05:48 PM   #10
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Got a question for you gentlemen: when reinstalling the trigger guard,does the magazine release have to be pushed-in in order for the pin holes on the trigger guard to line up w/ the holes on the frame?
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