I remember years ago my wife and I asking ourselves if we really needed to spend $25 to $40 for an ammo loader for our handguns. Did we need a magazine loader and what would we use it for? Well, ask my wife about how she learned the answer to this question the hard way. When she started regularly shooting and occasionally competing in handgun shooting events, she was somewhat reluctant to fork over the bucks and use a speed loader to fill her gun magazines. Me too, but I bought one and then she used it all the time. So, now she has her own. After several bruised thumbs, not finishing her events at the speed level she wanted, and taking a lot of time and pain to load her mags by hand not even to capacity, she was struck by an “enlightening” bolt and bought her own mag loader. I know several shooters who came to this realization and frequently use mag loaders. Some (guess who?) call their loaders “the best things since sliced bread.” Those with medical problems and those with weak hand and finger strength do not have the necessary force to load mags, while others just want a speedy reload for competition, etc. I know for myself I want to be able to load and reload my handgun magazines quickly, easily, and effectively. Not just for saving time and fingers, but, perhaps, to save my life and to allow me to have more time to practice actual shooting, not just mag reloading.
What Do You Want in Your Magazine Loader?
Once you decide to buy a mag loader, you must ask yourself “what do you expect it to do?” Well, I want to be able to count on my mag loader to work each and every time I use it, without it being temperamental and loading just some of the rounds or getting stuck. Reliability and consistency in doing what it is suppose to do time and time again is top priority for me. The type of gun model and mag, whether it is single or double stack, and the type of ammo used, be it steel, aluminum, or brass case, should not have an effect on the mag loader’s consistent performance. I have many pistols of various calibers and would like a universal loader to fit almost all of my main calibers. Of course, I want to be able to load my mags quickly and speed is important in deadly-force encounters and in competitive shooting. While I want both reliability and speed using my mag loader, reliability is the most important factor for me. So, I want the loader to work without any problems and to always work for loading all my various types of mags and ammo. Probably most shooters want the same thing.
Good Enough for a Marine Fighter Pilot?
Last week I was helping my friend and Marine Corps Top Gun fighter pilot student qualify for his NRA pistol course’s Instructor Level rating and he mentioned that he just bought an ETS (Elite Tactical System) C.A.M. (Compressed Adaptable Magazine) Pistol magazine Loader to use with his Glock mags. He said so far he really liked it because he could quickly load his Glock 19 and 17 mags directly from an ammo tray and with 10 rounds at one time. These pistol loaders were introduced this year at SHOT Show in Las Vegas. I told him I was not familiar with it and he said I should test and evaluate one. So, the next day I contacted ETS and they quickly sent me one for 9mm and .40 caliber mags for my ETS C.A.M. Loader Review. I appreciate and thank ETS for sending this loader for my review. They told me that Loaders are being developed for .45 and .380 calibers and should be available the end of October. Here we go with my opinions about the ETS 9mm/.40 pistol loader.
Elite Tactical Systems C.A.M. Pistol Magazine Loader
When I received the ETS loader, a customer service number 855-887-5452 was provided for help using the loader and their website www.etsgroup.us/cam was given, so users could watch their instructional video for the loader. Here’s the link:
The video and their website emphasize that the user should first oil the loader in two places before using it, to make it operate smoothly. I must attest that this is definitely necessary! I also oiled the rails and continued to do so when loading 20 to 30 mags. After oiling, it got easier to do. There is a learning curve which gets shorter after practice.
Here are the basic 4 STEPS provided by ETS to help you use the pistol loader:
SUCCESS… Mostly– Am I A Slow Learner?
After about an hour of practice and watching the instructional video, I was able to operate the ETS C.A.M. Pistol Loader successfully for some mags. And I might add, for these mags I was able to load them easily and quickly in just a very few seconds. Pressing the plunger did not require a lot of force and my wife and I could quickly and successfully load the Glock mags we tried.
My 5 Lessons Learned:
1. Remember to turn the loader’s rail with the rounds in it UP so the bullet end of the rounds are pointed to the sky, so the rounds do not fall out, after lifting the rounds in the loader out of the ammo box. I must admit I learned this the hard way. Duh!
2. Make certain the mag is FULLY and PROPERLY seated inside the loader up front and all the time you are operating the loader, for a solid and wobble-free loading.
3. If problems arise using the plunger to force 10 rounds and then another 10 more rounds into large-cap mags from the loader, try picking up only 5 rounds a time from the box.
4. When using force to push the plunger down to allow rounds to go into the mag, put the loader on a bench or table for solid support when pushing it.
5. Do not apply excessive force to push the plunger down to load the rounds, as it will usually jam or lock up the loader. Retry from the initial steps, if this occurs.
So, we were able to load ALL the wider and double-stack Glock magazines fully, quickly, and easily. No problem at all with my Glock 17, 19, and 43 mags… double stack and single stack. It did take me several attempts and more time to load the 43 single-stack mags because of the wobble of that mag when in the loader. The consistent reliability, however, was not there for me with other mags. The Beretta PX4 full size .40 caliber mag would not load for me. Some mags were able to be loaded some of the time and not at other times. Sometimes only three or four rounds were loaded. Other times none were loaded and the loose rounds fell out of the loader. Sometimes the mag would not fully seat in the loader, even with retries and much force. Other times the single-stack mag would wobble part way through loading and hangup. The VP9SK steel double-stack 9mm mag got jammed inside the loader, but I finally removed it by prying with a screwdriver.
I Followed the Tips, Instructions and Practiced
I carefully followed all instructions, watched the video several times, fully seated the mag in the loader, centered the mag in it, picked up mostly 5 or 10 rounds at once, placed the mag on the bench or table for stability when using the plunger, and practiced. For me, some mags worked and others did not with the loader, no matter how many times I tried. I noticed that the single stack mags did wobble a lot and it was difficult to consistently get the mag lips to line up correctly.
The Loader Worked Smoothly for These Handgun Mags
I will not be defeated. I can do this! Yes, yes, yes! In addition to the loader working consistently for all Glock mags, the Smith-Wesson M&P full size and the Sig Sauer P226 full size mags also regularly were able to be loaded with the ETS C.A.M. Pistol Loader.
I found that the loader did not work with any steel or aluminum case ammo I tried, like Federal and Winchester steel case ammo. Also the loader did NOT work for me for these selected 8 handgun mags shown below. Remember, the H&K VP9SK mag got stuck in the loader and I could not pull it out. I had to eventually use a screwdriver to forcefully pry it out.
I randomly tried the ETS C.A.M. Pistol Loader with 11 of my various double and single stack mags for full-size, compact, and sub-compact 9mm pistols. I also tried the loader with my Beretta PX4 full-size .40 caliber pistol mag. I used at least 8 types of different ammo for my mini tests. This loader is made with very durable polymer which should withstand much use and wear and tear. It is portable with a small profile to fit in your range bag. Loading magazines directly and quickly from an ammo tray to save time, energy, and which is easy on your thumbs is an excellent idea. The pistol loader comes with a Lifetime Warranty from the Elite Tactical Systems Group. The ETS C.A.M. Model for 9mm and .40 calibers sells for between $30 to $35.
After watching the ETS instructional video online, focusing on their suggested steps and tips, frequently oiling several exact places on the loader, and practicing the specified 4 steps for almost an hour, the loader worked easily, quickly, and very regularly for all the Glock mags tested and for the two other full-size and wide 9mm gun mags I tried. So, I certainly recommend the loader for Glock double-stack mags and for these full-size and wide double-stack mags tested. I will use it for them. But, I suggest you follow my above procedures for yourself and practice for your specific mags.
However, the loader did not work consistently with the 8 guns and their 9mm mags pictured above in my mini test, after following the same steps and above procedures. The ETS website states that “In all of our testing the only 9mm or .40 pistol mags we have found that do not work with our loaders are STI 2011, Ruger SR9, and Walther CCP mags.” Further they state “In our extensive testing the loader works with over 95% of all ammo tested. The only two ammo types we have found that do not work well with our loader is Wolf Steel Cased 9mm Military Classic 115 gr FMJ and Winchester Steel Cased USA Forged 115 gr FMJ.”
In particular based on my limited testing, I would not recommend it for single-stack mags because of my inconsistent results from the wobbling and special efforts and focus needed to seat and stabilize the mags for placing them just right in the loader for successful loading. Also, until further testing is done, I would not recommend it for most steel cased and aluminum ammo. At the bottom of my website’s Home Page, you can see the other pistol loader I also use, the Maglula universal loader.
I do recommend this ETS loader for Glock 9mm double-stack magazines. Without a doubt for the ETS C.A.M. Pistol Loader, there needs to be further tests for several other 9mm and .40 caliber handgun single stack and double stack mags, in addition to retests on the 11 gun mags I tested.
Elite Tactical Systems Group
Knoxville, TN 37928
Photos: ETS Group and author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].