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Train More Hurt Less: A Tale of 3 Magazine Loaders

Less than a month ago, I attended a Pistol class to renew my certification as a Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor. I’ve been certified for 20 years now, and have seen my share of change with the passage of time. There were still new things to be learned, so I took advantage of any available “take aways” being offered. This time, however, I had a secret weapon. More on that in a minute…
Chances are, if you’re perusing this site, you are a “gun person”, and already know just how expensive this wonderful hobby can be. This is probably the same as any other hobby, but unknown by me- recreational shooting is my “thing”, along with building guns, and bending kydex.

Every now and then, it’s important to point out items that may help fellow shooters, and that is the focus today. The topic to hand (no pun intended) are pistol magazine loaders. I currently have 3 different types, and felt it was good for discussion.
At this point, let’s make it perfectly clear that I don’t get any reward of any type of product I’m describing here. Everything I’m covering was purchased by myself at full prices.

I’ve been shooting a long time, and Life in general is letting me know that the miles on the odometer are adding up. For many years (as a silly youngster) ear protection was unnecessary, to me. Now I have various sounds in my head similar to getting your hearing test at the annual physical. There are good and bad days, but the sounds are pretty much there all the time.

Then there’s the aches and pains from all the things we do when we’re younger that probably should have been checked by professionals. Being young and resilient, all too often, equals a bravado that we are immune to pain. Perhaps in our young bodies we are, but we only get one. When you treat yourself like an amusement park, don’t carp when the bill comes due… Although the aches and pains came from activities I loved. In my mind, I’m still a Gazelle, while in reality, not so much.(Warthog?)

The worst part (other than the vision going to Hell), are the arms. If you shoot a lot, you will likely get what’s called “Tennis Elbow”, or “Golfers Elbow”, etc. The same thing happens at jobs where repetitive motions are repeated, ad nauseum, year in , decade out. As we get older, things just hurt, and ache.

Part of my job is being on a range, a lot. Yes, this is a glorious thing, and like the saying goes, “if you love what you do, you never work a day of your life”. This is very true, but there are times when things get bittersweet. The task that really wears my hands out quickly is loading pistol magazines. I can load rifle mags literally all day long, no worries, but the last few years with pistol mags equal a lyric from the Eagles song “After the Thrill is Gone”. The sentiment is that it takes twice the effort to gain half the distance. This is indeed true, also.

Without getting too specific, I’m often asked about things like magazines, and how many I’ve loaded. For this snippet, I can relate with very good accuracy that the round count is north of 250,000 rounds. Bear in mind that this also counts shooting at home, and we are only covering pistol magazines for this piece. As far as rifle mags, well, considerably more. This is over a course of 15 years, so, all of those who throw arbitrary rocks at everything, settle down. This can be done, and there are likely people who load far more than I.

Here’s the deal- I can load about 10 mags, and then the aches/pains just really creep in. Here’s a fact of life- no one cares. If you’ve ever taken a serious class, load out is typically 3 mags to capacity at all times. You will often hear the Instructor say- “while I’m talking, you’re loading”. This activity keeps everyone on line, because if you don’t herd people and keep them occupied, at least 1 will see something shiny, and wander off. This is also a fact. This means that you need to have that whole reloading thing squared away, because the Instructors don’t give “Old Guy Special Treatment”. Oddly enough, Bad Guys don’t either, and if anything, it’s the old and feeble they’re looking for, in the first damn place.

So, I have 3 loaders now, and hope to explain the merits of all 3, for your benefit. If you’re young and just starting out- get the loader now. Don’t be an old crippled up guy like me. If you’re currently on old crippled up guy like me, do yourself a favor, and get a loader.
A lot of times now, when you buy a pistol, there is some sort of “free” loading doohickey. Honestly, they tend to frustrate me more than anything, so I disregard them. I figure to just gut out the shooting session, and carry on. Keep the doohickey thing though, in case you opt to sell the firearm. Maybe the next owner will appreciate it. Sometimes there’s even a cheesy holster thrown in for “free”.

For easy reference to which loader we are discussing, I have named them “Tall Feller”, “Chubby Feller”, and “Little Feller”, as they appear in the photo.

Anyway- as previously stated, I load a lot of magazines. Up until last year, I didn’t use a loader. Shameful. I had a class coming up, and decided to grab something to help me through with less difficulty. I’ve stated in previous articles that I have large hands, so this device seemed feasible. The loader is made by Butler Creek, (ASAP)and it works. This would be the “Chubby Feller”. However, I feel it fair to relay that even with large hands, it’s like trying to grip a fence post. The mechanism that pushes down on the follower of the magazine rather resembles the arm on an oil pumper, and occasionally you need to help it with your Support Hand thumb, which is busy hanging onto said “fence post”. I don’t like to blast products, but this thing is, literally, a handful.

I sent the makers some remarks (since they asked for feedback), but have not gotten anything back. I paid around $40 for it, and probably could have gotten it elsewhere cheaper, but I was in a hurry, so shame on me. I won’t discard it, because I may use it again when things aren’t so hectic. The tool serves its purpose, but could stand to go on a diet, and be more ergonomic. A cool thing about this loader is that it will work with .380 through .45 caliber, if you’re interested. Be advised though, this loader is for double stack magazines. Butler Creek also makes a rifle version of the ASAP, for .223/5.56, and Blackout. I have one of these as well, but it’s still in the package. When I need help with rifle magazines, I’ve got a loading accessory on standby. You can find these products at

SHOT Show 2019 led me to the ETS (Elite Tactical Systems) booth, because I happen to love their magazines. If you’re unaware of these guys, you need to check them out. What I did not know was that they too have magazine loaders. Based on the picture, shift your eyes to the “Tall Feller”. This loader is known as the ETS C.A.M. magazine loader. This is the most “unique” of the 3 I own. I could attempt to explain it, but that wouldn’t serve you very well.

To see the C.A.M. in action, go to WWW.ETSGROUP.US/LOADERS.

There is also footage on how to properly oil and use the tool at This loader works for 9mm, and .40 caliber. Here is the catch- this one requires finesse, initially, whereas the other 2 types just have you chuck a round in the tool, and press down. Do yourself a favor and watch the footage, I don’t want to discourage anyone away from this product. Here is the “issue” I have with it. It’s not as fast for me, in my application. This requires a little explanation.

Whenever you train your people, throw in dummy rounds . This is why I load so many magazines- there WILL be dummies, and they don’t know where/when. Factory ammo fails, and your people need to be capable of shrugging this off, performing Immediate Action, and drive the gun. There is no “time out” when things are for keeps. I’ll go a step further here and give a plug to another company, and that is what they offer is the best, and allow me to extrapolate.

You need dummies in your life, and not just those we all must endure, daily. The dummy rounds mentioned above are the best, and that’s it, period. Here are some facts about dummy rounds- most of them are not good. There are cheap solid plastic ones for sale, and you will chip them up with your extractors, and the rims will go to hell. Then you will throw them away, and discontinue using dummies. This is unacceptable. There are all sorts of pink ones and all stripe of unnecessary frivolities, designed to catch your eye, fail, and necessitate buying more. This trype of logic means you can flush your money down the toilet, or better yet, buy lottery tickets- the end result is the same. In the year 2019, Snap Caps still remain. Can you believe this? These things are ridiculously over priced, and are for those gentle souls who refuse to believe that you can dry fire modern firearms. I’ve recently learned that these types are called “Fudds”, and it makes sense, now.

Anyway, driving on- you need to use dummies, and the site above is the place to go. They also make rifle dummies, and it’s only fair to warn those who do not know. Rifle dummies have a very finite lifespan, in relation to pistol dummies. If you include double feeds, bolt over rides, etc. into your training regimen (and you should), you will find that the Bolt Carrier Groups on carbines will eat up dummy rounds. Aren’t you and your loved ones worth the expense of dummy rounds? Do you honestly believe that your firearm of choice will not ever take a pooh at the least convenient time?

One more example of bad dummies, and we’ll move along. These are the type made by “Reloader Guy”, and they are usually actual projectiles he’s fabbed up with weight, ands no primers. They will look like the real thing, and that’s exactly the problem. You want dummy rounds that instantly tell you and the world that they are not live rounds. Using stuff made by “Reloader Guy” could easily lead to a mistake, and end in calamity. Again, stay AWAY from “Reloader Guy”.

Back to ETS and their loader- it loads up to 10 rounds at a time. You leave the rounds in the holder that comes in the box, and finesse them into the track of the loader, then press them into the magazine. I’m usually drawing rounds from a bin holding like 2,000 rounds. You can load singly onto the track, but to be fair, I’ve not attempted this yet. The best endorsement I can give is to watch the video. If you live in a state where 10 rounds is the limit, this thing would be perfect for you, and you need to examine it. ETS also makes a rifle mag loader as well, and this thing is sweet. It’s the same mechanism, but whereas the pistol variant loads 9 and 40, the rifle variant will cover AR15, AK47, AK74, SCAR, AR10, G36, Steyr AUG, and more.

Before we get to the final loader, I’ve got to harp on the dummy rounds again. None of my loaders play well with dummy rounds. This is not a knock on the loaders, it’s just something you need to know if you’re considering investing some money into any of these. I highly doubt that these guys sat around and pondered someone mixing dummies into magazines, so don’t be upset with them. I’m not.

Last but not least the “Little Feller”, made by Mag LULA. LULA is an acronym for “Loading/UnLoading Accessory”, though I know how I prefer to unload a magazine. Have you ever had something for awhile, forgot about it, came back to it, and wondered how you could be so foolish as to forget it in the first place? Me too. We used these things for years with BETA Drums, and they were outstanding. However, we didn’t buy the pistol tools, as we were young, and could load pistol magazines forever.

You’ll note that there is a blue carabiner attached to the LULA, because it was on my battle belt for the duration of the class. It made things far easier. As the photo illustrates, it’s by far the smallest. The ETS was not exactly conducive to loading/listening/stowing, and is best suited for use on say, a tailgate, or in your Gun Room. It’s very intuitive, and there are icons to help you out if you get perplexed. You can say the same for all of these tools. They are designed to assist you, and you should take advantage of any of these. None are extremely expensive, and anything that helps make range time easier is definitely worth it.

So, what did we learn today? Bear in mind, all of these items were not covered earlier in the content.
1-We need to keep ourselves going as long as possible, and if a tool exists to help with this, we need that tool
2-We definitely need dummies in our lives, and now we know where to get the best ones.
3-We learn to cope with malfunctions, move, and keep driving the gun until the threat has stopped
4-We need to get other shooters doing these same things, in order to better prevail
5-If working with dummies in our homes, we keep all live ammunition in a completely separate room.
6-There are several choices for loaders, and some work with a multitude of different calibers
7-Anything that helps keep the range day easier, and more fun, is a worthwhile investment
8-Tools like loaders make the task of loading easier for those of lesser, or diminished, hand strength
9-You may find that a loading tool will make the range experience better for those mentioned in item #8
10- Bonus item- We may already move while shooting, but are we incorporating a thorough scan every time? If we’re already moving, and scanning, are we doing anything involving the use of dummies, too? Live training is like an onion in that it has many layers. If you’ve done all of the above, are you communicating with your “team mate”? In this context, perhaps the spouse and children?
Stay safe, and Train Often

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