Sore thumbs. Just a reality for the shooter. If you want to shoot semi-auto or select fire firearms, loading mags is part of the game. No other way around it. You’ve got to pay to play. I remember as a kid shooting my grandfather’s Ruger MKII. I think we were paying 5 bucks for 500 rounds of .22 LR back then. Ammo was plentiful and the plinking sessions were nice and long. My brother and I would take turns loading the slender 10 round magazines. After a while our thumbs would be worn down thanks to the lever on the side of the mag that moves the magazine follower down to make room for more rounds. I figured a better idea would be to use the side of a screw driver shaft as leverage to make up for my sub-par thumbs. It worked great until my grandfather caught me, then not so much.
Obviously, I am not the only one who has wished for an easier way to load mags. During my time employed by Uncle Sam we used to get pallets of 5.56 packaged in bandoleers. These bandoleers had the ammo sorted out in stripper clips. Simply take the stripper clip guide and slide it on the back of the mag. Take the stripper clip and insert it into the guide and press all the ammunition into the magazine with your thumb, side of a loading bench or whatever. It was fast and efficient. Upon my return to civilian life I would continue this method of loading mags as I kept a decent amount of used stripper clips on hand. Of course this meant I spent hours loading up stripper clips so one day I could load them into mags… Not really sure how much time I saved there, but my thumbs were happy.
As the years passed there have been numerous contraptions and devices built to aid in the loading of magazines. Not just rifle mags but pistol as well. Some work well, some not so much. Recently I had one of the newer mag loaders come across my desk. These are made by Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) and is called the C.A.M. Universal Loader. As ETS is known for their transparent polymer magazines, it seemed only natural for them to provide a more efficient method of loading said magazines.
The C.A.M. is offered as a Universal Rifle loader as well pistol calibers. The rifle loader as the name implies will work with a variety of rifle mags and calibers to include AR-15, AR-10, AK-47, SCAR 16/17 G36, Steyr Aug, MP5 Scorpion EVO, Colt SMG, UZI and apparently others. That would cover iconic calibers such as 5.56×45/.223 7.62×39, 7.62×51/.308, 9mm, 5.45×39 and newer calibers such as .300 Blackout. The pistol loaders are caliber specific, but claimed to work with all pistol magazines (double and single stack) made for the specific caliber. Those calibers include 9mm/.40, .45 and .380.
Words like “Universal” and “All Pistol Mags” are bold statements and obviously something that most likely can be disproved due to the vast quantity of available magazines and their dimensional differences. ETS does have a list of mags that aren’t compatible so they kind of bust their own marketing slogan on their website. If you happen across a magazine that doesn’t work, feel free to let ETS know. But for the most part, the loaders will work with most popular, modern semi-auto firearms on the market today.
Each variant is made from a polymer blend that ETS states will hold up to “wear and tear.” It is small, portable and will fit easily in your range bag. Operation for the rifle loader is similar to the stripper clips I used all those years ago as it attaches to the rear of the magazine like a stripper clip guide. One of the main differences is how the ETS C.A.M. is loaded. While it can be manually loaded by hand, one round after the other, say from a bulk bin of ammo, it can also be loaded straight from the box. Meaning, you can open up your box of 20, 50 rounds (or whatever the count) and assuming the ass-end of the round is up, simply slide the built in rail over the rim of the case and pick the rounds up from the tray. Then insert the plunger on top of the loaded rounds and depress until they are fully inserted into the magazine. Rinse and repeat until your magazine is full. The pistol loaders work in a similar fashion, however instead of mounting the C.A.M. to the rear of the magazine, it has a collar that slips over the entire mag. The loading process is then the same as the rifle variant. With either the rifle version or the pistol version you will be able to pick up approximately 10 rounds per loading cycle. Regardless that is still a hell of a lot faster than pushing round after round into mags. Spend more time shooting and less time stuffing mags.
This author tested the loaders on a variety of 5.56×45/.223 and 7.62×51/.308 magazines to include Lancer, Magpul, ETS, Surefire and Hexmag as well as pistol magazines chambered in 9mm for Glock and Smith & Wesson. The loaders successfully loaded the magazines with relative ease. The .308 rounds were somewhat snug in the C.A.M. loading rail, however it still worked. ETS does recommend adding a little lube to parts of the C.A.M. to help things along and to be fair, when loading the .308 no lube had been used. After loading a handful of magazines, my range bag was full and my thumbs felt great!
I do want to mention ETS states their loader is not compatible with the following magazines:
They also mention, that while it will work with SIG .357 ammunition, their loaders can dent the casings.
As noted previously, ETS is one of many companies that make mag loaders, but if you are in the market, do yourself the service and check them out. Your thumbs will thank you. Each loader will run you $30 and can be ordered directly from the ETS website or their dealer network.
*Photo credit to Triple Bravo, ZERO7ONE, Dstrbdmedic167, iDaveMoore