By Christopher R. Bartocci
For your average shooter loading up 5 or 6 magazines is no big deal. If you have arthritis, well that is a whole other problem. What about the guy in the armory for a Police Department or military who is loading hundreds of magazines? Then this rather simple task
can be daunting.
Maglula is located in Tel Aviv, Israel. Maglula (MAGazine Loaders and ULoader Accessories) was started in 2000 by Ran Tal and his son Guy. Sergeant Major Ran Tal is a former small arms instructor of the Israeli Defense Force and reserves. A traumatic event with a malfunctioning UZI magazine on the battlefield in 1956 Sinai Campaign was the driving force to get Ran interested in the reliability of magazines. During his time on the battlefield, Ran kept his 12 UZI magazines in socks to protect them from the sand, there were no plastic bags available to him back at that time. Ran was facing an enemy soldier when his UZI jammed; a fellow IDF soldier pushed Ran to the ground and eliminated the enemy soldier. Lessons learned from that incident by Ran involved purchasing a .22 caliber Beretta pistol as a back-up weapon if his primary weapon was ever to jam again and he decided to seriously maintain cleaner magazines from then on. Later, Ran’s own son Nadav serving in the IDF experienced similar magazine failures with M16 magazines. Ran vowed to himself that if no one cares or takes care of the hardship of cleaning magazines, then he would volunteer to do it himself for the IDF soldiers. He did just that.
The first invention of Ran Tal was the LuLa. This deviced snapped over the top of the UZI magazine. There is a pivoting lever on top of the LuLa attached to a cam. When the lever is pulled downward the cam pushes down on the top cartridge allowing another to be dropped in place. The lever is reversed it pushes the new cartridge down allowing a cartridge to be dropped in the opposite side. This action continues until the magazine is full. Now if you want to unload the magazine you just reverse the direction of the lever and each time you actuate it a round will drop out of the magazine until it is empty. This tool was then modified for the M16 magazines used by the IDF. The IDF has purchased these for their soldiers. This is a portable hand-held tool that can be dropped in a range bag or the pocket of a soldier. Many will say “I can load the magazine faster without the tool.” This is true. But after 10 magazines, not only is the tool faster but the user’s hands are not fatigued. The MSRP is $26.95.
It seems like forever that the US military has used stripper clips. The 5.56mm ammunition is issued in a ten-round stripper clip. The stripper guide slides on the back of the magazine, the stripper is dropped in the slot and the shooter’s thumb presses down on the top round and all ten go in the magazine. Anyone who has done this, knows it is not a comfortable or easy task, especially if you are loading numerous magazines. This method remains SOP until this day. This has a solution though, the Strip LuLa by Maglula out of Israel. This gives a comfortable and efficient tool. The stripper clip slides into the device and a lever is flipped over the top. This turns into the lever that pushes the rounds into the magazine. It is a large lever that is comfortable to push down on compared to the narrow round cartridge case. After the rounds are loaded in the magazine, the stripper clip slides out of the Strip LuLa. On the bottom of the Strip Lula is a tool to depress the bottom round of the magazine, this allows the top one to fall out of the magazine to unload the magazine. The unfortunate thing is Uncle Sam does not issue these! The soldier would have to purchase it himself. It is a wise investment for someone who shoots a lot. The MSRP is $33.95.
For the Armory, Maglula came out with a tool they call the Bench Loader. The first model was designed for standard NATO M16 magazines which are primary weapons of the IDF. The BenchLoader is both portable or could be bolted to a work bench. The BenchLoader is CNC machined out of tough polymer and consists of only three pieces. The magazine is placed into a receptacle which aligns the feeding track with the center of the feed lips. So when the magazine is loaded the cartridges never come into contact with the feed lips of the magazine. The feeding track consists of two alignment grooves, one for the tip of the bullet and one for the cartridge case base. Every 5 rounds are marked off letting the loader know how many rounds are being loaded (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30). Once fully loaded and the magazine in place, the slider is pushed inward loading the magazine with one swift stroke. No strain on the loader’s hands or fingers. This whole process for loading a 30-round magazine is 25 seconds! The original model would load both 20- and 30-round GI magazines. The first model was specifically for the aluminum US GI magazine which was the primary magazine of the IDF. As time has gone on there have been many new magazines introduced for the M16/M4 series rifle. Many of them have different external shapes than the original one. The second generation BenchLoader had the receptacle modified so it would accept both the US GI, PMag and the German High Reliability steel magazine/SA80 magazine. But there were still multiple magazines in both commercial and military use that would not fit this loading tool. The MSRP is $427.50 for the BenchLoader. This is not for the amateur shooter but designed for long term armory use.
The Range BenchLoader
While at SHOT Show 2015, Maglula showed up with a new product. This was a clear descendent of their popular BenchLoader but improved. With all of the new magazines introduced it was not possible to make a BenchLoader that could accept all of them as the design stood. Not only do you have different shape magazines but thicknesses as well. The new Surefire 60 and 100 round mags and Beta C-Mag for example. The Range BenchLoader took the loading technology of the BenchLoader and eliminated the loading receptacle. The shape of the loading receptacle was the problem with making the BenchLoader compatible with all of these different magazines. In its place is a magazine well with a magazine catch that would engage ANY NATO STANAG magazine. To release the magazine you pull outward on the magazine catch. The loading of the magazine is the same, the rounds are placed in the loading track and the lever pushes the rounds into the magazine. This author has tested 33 different magazines of different manufacturers and variations in the Range BenchLoader and has yet to find a magazine that will not load from it reliably. The Range BenchLoader comes with a handy green carrying case. The MSRP is $149.99 for the Range BenchLoader.
The Caldwell Magazine Charger
Another popular loading device is the Caldwell Mag Charger. This is a translucent polymer device that you load from a 50-round ammo box. The rounds are loaded with the projectile pointing upwards. This loader is compatible with all known magazines including the Surefire 60 and 100 round magazines as well as the Beta C-Mag. The loader is provided with an ammo tray used to invert ammunition into the ammo boxes for loading into the magazine charger. The loader is placed on top of the ammo box and then flipped over where the rounds drop into the loading tool. You must be careful not to tip or the rounds will fall out the side. Once the ammo box is removed the loading tray is pushed into the device and the loading lever closed. A magazine is placed in the opposite side. Every time the loading lever is pushed in, 5 rounds are loaded into the magazine. When the lever is pulled out the loader indexes to the next row of ammunition. The lever is actuated 6 times to load 30 rounds. Then you replace the magazine and load the remaining 20 rounds. The Magazine charger is the most difficult of the lot tested to use and the most time consuming. Loading all 50 rounds into the box and then loading the device and then loading the magazines takes longer. If you have several ammo boxes loaded, you can load magazines fairly quickly. According to Caldwell this loader will work for 5.56mm and .204 Ruger but not for 300 Blackout. This magazine charger is more for the recreational shooter than for military use. It does not have the durability required for long term use as found in daily use. But for the average shooter who will be loading a small number of magazines it is just fine. The MSRP is $64.95.
The Mitusa Mag Pump
This device was released at the 2015 SHOT Show. This author just happened to stumble upon it when the representative was demonstrating it. I was quite taken with it for many reasons. First it was not plastic but manufactured from steel. It had a large hopper on top where you could place over 100 rounds. The magazine is placed in a mag well under the hopper. When the actuation lever is pulled a round falls from the hopper down the loading gate. The weight of the projectile indexes the round facing down into place for loading the round into the magazine. As the lever is pulled to the rear, the round is pushed into the magazine. With one pull all these things happen. When first using it, it was difficult getting the rhythm and speed to pull the lever. If you pull the lever too fast the round will jam up in the hopper or the loading gate. Once I got use to it, I was able to load magazine after magazine quickly and without a hiccup. As for magazine compatibility, I have tried more than 20 different magazines with only one magazine giving me trouble and that was the Elite Tactical Systems polymer magazine. One magazine kept popping out of the mag well but two other Elite Tactical Systems magazines worked just fine. So I will chalk that up as a fluke. The loader is actuated by one hand. The loader will load both 5.56mm as well as 300 Blackout rounds. This device is patent pending and falls under ITAR restrictions for export. This author received the T&E Mag-Pump around March of 2015 and has been meticulously testing it over the past 7 months. More than 200 magazines have been loaded. After I figured out the speed to pull the lever, I never had a single failure to load a round.
The device is broken down into three components for storage. Remove the top two pins and the hopper is removed. Unscrew the bottom two large bolts and the main body slides off of the stand. You can store it in a 50 cal ammo can with no difficulty. This unit could be mounted to a bench for heavy volume loading. With all major components being made from steel the Mag-Pump is durable and reliable. Most ammunition is received in boxes rather than stripper clip. The rounds are dropped in the hopper and it does not matter whether the bullet is pointed toward the front or back of the hopper. When the hopper releases the round into the sorting gate it automatically aligns the round projectile down. This is one of the more expensive loading devices at $389 but it is well worth it to someone loading a lot of magazines
Does everyone need one of the expensive speed magazine loading tools? Heavens no. However if you work in an armory or training facility and you are in charge of loading numerous magazines these tools will make your life much easier. The Maglula LuLa can fit in any range bag. With its low cost it can be used by anyone. The BenchLoader and Range BenchLoader are much more expensive and are not for the weekend plinker. The current Range BenchLoader is less than half the price and gives you the ability to load absolutely any magazine that you may have with 100% reliability. The price is a bit steep but for shooters who shoot a lot or have hand conditions such as arthritis will really benefit from this tool. The Caldwell Magazine Charger is a lower cost alternative to high speed magazine loading. This price puts it in reach of the average to more frequent shooter. However the Mitusa manufactured Magazine Pump has a stout price tag but is a very durable an effective loading tool designed for heavy use. For the armorer or trainer the Maglula Range BenchLoader and the Mitusa Magazine Pump would serve well.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N7 (September 2016)|