ETS Magazines, by Pat Cascio

I’ve said it thousands of times, that when it comes down to firearm magazines, its just hard to beat those that come shipped from the factory with the firearm. Many aftermarket magazines just aren’t up to the quality we would like to have in our guns. You know something isn’t quite right, when the aftermarket mags don’t come in any packaging, and there are no markings on the mags as to what company made them. I won’t mention any particular magazines – aftermarket brands – that are still in business, but there are some big name companies out there, that produce substandard magazines.

I’m sure we’re all heard of Mec-Gar magazines, and to their credit, they produce magazines for more than 50 firearms companies. Just because a magazine that comes with your gun is stamped Colt, S&W, or SIG-Sauer doesn’t mean they actually made those mags. In reality, there’s a good chance they were produced under contract by Mec-Gar. If you are buying a Mec-Gar made magazine, odds are, they are the same magazines that come with your big name gun maker. Gun companies don’t want to be in the magazine business – first of all, they might produce more than a hundred different gun models and that requires a lot of different machines to make all those magazines. So, why not contract out to a company like Mec-Gar? Simply give the specs to Mec-Gar for a particular firearm and Mec-Gar can produce what you need.

Then we have some of those lesser magazine makers, who boast of producing magazines made out of the finest steel, with the strongest springs – if that’s true, then why don’t their magazines work – all the time? Hmmm, something to think about. So, for the most part, I stick with the exact same magazines that come with a gun in the box.

Now, some aftermarket magazines work just as well as those that come with a gun from the factory. One in particular are the Glock magazines made in South Korea – they are produced to the same exact specs as the Glock mags, at about half the price. Long story short, the South Korean military and police purchased hundreds of thousands of Glock 19 and 17 9mm handguns at a give-a-away price. Glock figured out they would make up for the sale of the guns, that were sold  to South Korea, by selling them spare parts and spare magazines. Well, the South Koreans are pretty smart…they produced their own magazines that they work just like the original ones do. South Korea saved a lot of money, and Glock lost out on selling spare magazines. So, I’ve used many of the South Korean-made Glock mags for a lot of years now, without any complaints – if I can get a quality product that works all the time, for half the price of the factory model, I’ll do so.

The ETS Brand

All of this leads us to the Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) brand magazines. They haven’t been around all that long. They are made in USA, from a translucent polycarbonate. Their literature touts these benefits:

  • Extreme impact resistance
  • Chemical resistance
  • UV resistance
  • Extreme temperature resistance
  • Creep resistance — feed lips and body that won’t spread when being stored loaded, long term
  • Compatible with factory and aftermarket floorplates.

I did some research on their line of aftermarket magazines and I was pretty impressed with all that I read. I especially like their extended mags, that hold 30 rounds and even 40 rounds. They produce 30-round mags for the SIG P320 9mm, S&W M&P 9mm, HK VP9 and a variety of Glock handguns in various calibers. One of my all-time favorite handguns is the SIG-Sauer P226 and P229 9mm pistols, these are some of the finest handguns made – period. They are well known for their accuracy and reliability. However, ETS doesn’t (yet) produce any 30-round mags for these particular handguns. I hope they soon produce 30-rd mags for those pistols. In the meantime, I’m “stuck” with “just” 18-round Mec-Gar mags…I don’t care for the SIG-marked 20-roundd mags at all.

My Testing

If you go to the ETS web site, you’ll see that they also produce standard capacity magazines, as well as the extended 30 and 40-round magazines for a variety of handguns. All of these magazines are produced out of a translucent (usually clear or smoke) polycabonate for the magazine bodies – and you can see the spring and follower. I like that you can see if you have any rounds still in the magazine at a glance. The followers are well designed. The ETS mags for Glocks don’t have a steel liner, like the factory Glock mags do, but I’m not concerned about this in the least. I’ve given all their mags a good test, and that included dropping them on rocks, and the mags won! All in all, I found them to be very tough, properly dimensioned, and very reliable.

The springs in the ETS magazines, are stout, to say the least. So it takes some effort from beginning to the end loading these magazines. So I recommend that you invest in a magazine loader. The ETS mags are easy to disassemble for cleaning, too – I like that. However, you’d be surprised at how many gun owners who never take their mags apart for a good cleaning, and they cuss out the gun because if fails to function properly, when it wasn’t the gun – just a filthy magazine.

Now, I wouldn’t walk around with my M&P with the 30-rd magazine sticking out of it. There are too many things the mag will catch on. However, when it comes to a reload, I’d sure have some spare extended ETS magazines ready to go. In a SHTF scenario, I would have either my M&P, Glock .40, or SIG P320 in a Blackhawk SERPA leg holster, with a standard capacity factory magazine in the gun, and on the leg platform, I’d have two more factory supplied mags for reloads. On top of this, I’d have four additional ETS 30-round mags inside of a leg magazine pouch. Now, let’s see how all this adds up: A S&W M&P 9mm that holds 17-rounds, plus one in the chamber, and two more 17-round mags in the mag pouches on the leg platform, and they 4 of the 30-round ETS mags in a leg mag pouch on the opposite leg. That brings us up to a grand total of 172 rounds available. That’s a lot of firepower to have and it doesn’t take up much room. I’d say you’d be well-armed if you were out and about.

One Odd Problem

Now, as stated, I’ve tested ETS magazines extensively and I only had one strange problem. That was with the SIG P320 30-round 9mm magazines, and it eventually corrected itself. With every magazine I have for the SIG, it would lock the slide open, with the very last round still in the magazine – very strange. I noticed at the beginning of my testing, that the followers on these mags really stuck up at a high angle. However, after loading each mag 3 or 4 times, the followers weren’t sticking up like they were at the start of my testing. The first 29 rounds always fed, but when it came to the last round in the magazine, the slide would lock-up with that last round. But it did stop doing that after the 3rd or 4th time the magazine was filled.

If I had to bug out on a few minutes notice, and I could only grab an AR, and one handgun, I wouldn’t feel under-armed in the least. My BOB and my A.L.I.C.E. web gear would provide me with six spare rifle mags, fully loaded on my web gear and one loaded mag in the AR.  And my Blackhawk Serpa tactical leg holster would provide me with a handgun and two spare mags on it – always loaded, and the leg magazine pouch…what’s not to like here? I’d have more than enough food for several days, and other survival gear, plus two firearms – the AR and more than likely my Glock 19X – plus there are always spare ammo cans in my truck, and more survival gear.

Blackhawk formerly produced a three pouch leg pouch for submachinegun magazines, but for some reason, they discontinued them – too bad! I didn’t some searching on the Internet and found a place somewhere in Kalifornia that is selling a 4 pocket leg pouch for 9mm submachinegun magazines. If you do a search on you can find these mag pouches and if I recall, they were only $12.99 each with free shipping – great deal if you ask me.

With a little bit of practice, you can hit a man-sized steel target out to 100 yards. So you wouldn’t feel very handicapped if you were forced to shoot at someone who was shooing at you from that distance. Of course, our goal is to always avoid getting into a gun fight to start with. However, when the Schumer Hits The Fan, we never know what we might encounter, and a rifle is a handy thing to have with you, along with a handgun. And, quite honestly, most people – and I’ve trained thousands over the years, couldn’t hit a man-sized target at 50 feet when they first came to me for some training. And, a lot of hunters don’t practice and miss a deer at 100 yards. So do some training and be one step ahead of those trying to do you harm.

I’m full sold on the ETS extended capacity magazines, and best part is most are around $20 to $22 – we’re talking quality made mags at a great price…and I’ve yet to hear anyone complain after a gun fight, that they had too much ammo. I purchased all my ETS mags through Midway USA and I’ve found they are a great place to do business.


  1. I understand on the not all magazines are equal concept. Perhaps it is just my pistol. I bought a CZ75 in German in the late 80s and brought it home. The two magazines it came with are great. Every other magazine I have bought, including from the factory, have issues. The magazines fail to drop, even when full. Several gunsmiths “think” the gun is tweaked somehow. Who knows? All I know is it is a pain in in the…..rear to buy magazines for it. I now have to bring the pistol with me, and try an empty drop test with the magazine before buying one. Thanks for the article.

  2. I have a couple of mec gar mags for a springfield mil spec double stack .45. the little bit I’ve used them, I’m happy. they are the same mags that are or were used in the P 14-45 Para Ordnance frame. Yrs ago I had a remington 10 c ( I think that was the model ) that used plastic mags, that did not stand up to two boys shooting it every chance they could get. they wore out 5 or 6 mags in nothing flat, but at $ 5 a pop, compared to $25 to $ 30 now. So I am or was a little hesitant when I purchased a mag pul for a 308 / 7.62. It has plastic feed lips. so I’m waiting and wondering.

  3. I’ve always preferred steel magazines whether for Pistol or Rifle. Just something about plastic I despise, in guns as in everything else. Have found that Kimber magazines work fine in my Sig 1911’s, not quite as smooth, but just by a wee bit. I’ve always had trouble finding magazines to fit the H&K MR 762A1 & MR 556A1 without going through the factory. Their prices are what you would call prohibitive, at least for me. Does anyone out there know of any aftermarket suppliers for magazines for these excellent weapons?

  4. I bought my first Glock pistol from a cop. I bought if from him because I knew that it would likely be almost unused….which it was. A Model 22. It had five LE/Govt Use Only magazines with it. Possession at that time, of the Govt Only mags was a felony. But I knew the ban would sunset eventually, so squirreled them away and bought a few Clinton Mags to tide me over. I still used these if I MUST travel to an “occupied state”. CA, CT, etc.
    An OEM pre-ban magazine for my Glock at the time was $188.00 (US). Each. So I passed on that! A week after the ban went away, I bought OEM Glock mags for $13.00 each from Natchez. 40 of them. A month later, discovered CDNN Sports, who had the Korean knock-offs for $6.00. So I bought 150 of those.
    Know what? The KCM mags worked just fine in the G17 and G19s. The .40s do not drop free, but work just fine. The Kahn models will feed. They are not drop-free in my experience.
    HOWEVER. I discovered that dropping the Korean mags on hard surfaces often results in breakage, most often at the floorplate. Their springs tend to lose strength after only a few fully charged cycles. They still feed, though.
    I will try the ETS mags based on Pat’s endorsement. Oh yeah…the Korean extended mags don’t work at all. Buy the Glock “happy sticks” for reliable function. Maybe the ETS examples work. I’ll find out!
    I carry two Glock Model 22s on my corpse every day, on opposite sides. One spare OEM Glock magazine behind each one. Balances the weight and I never have back issues. My pants don’t sag on one side. After carrying this way for a couple of years, I could not stand to carry JUST ONE. It felt odd.
    I throw a 23 round Glock happy stick in my hip pocket now days to bring my total daily kit to 84 rounds. i don’t notice the happy stick in my pocket until I drop trou. Don’t be Jim Bridger or Davy Crocket. They died because they ran out of ammunition. Having continuity of fire in depth puts a wiggle in your walk, especially when breezing through large parking lots and public venues.
    One more little thing: a significant number of shooters are wounded in the hands during fights. That’s likely because your opponent focuses on your gun, pointing at him. So that’s the area where a lot of rounds tend to land. That also means your pistol may suffer battle damage. Got a spare? And, do you really want to pull out a mouse gun in the middle of a serious gun fight?
    Learn to fight with either hand, and you’d better be able to access that spare pistol with your remaining, functional hand. For me, I can’t reach a pistol on my opposite side. Sorry, I’m not 20 years old anymore. I don’t bend all that well anymore. So I have a full-sized, serious pistol available for either hand. You’ll see the value in that when you and Goofy are fighting for possession of your ONLY pistol. The backup option lets you simply shoot Goofy off your primary pistol.
    In conclusion, I’m not jettisoning my Korean magazines. But i carry OEM Glock magazines in the real world.
    You cannot have too many magazines. Half a dozen in each vehicle, A dozen in each dwelling, and a couple dozen in a safe reserve somewhere not in your house. If your house burns down, and all your magazines are in the house…..
    Stay well.

  5. For carry it’s Glock only.
    KCMs don’t always work in my experience.
    ETS is ok but not reliable at locking back the G26 slide which is amazing as stiff as the springs are.
    Magpuls are so so.
    No other brands are even worth mention.

  6. I’ve been using these for about 10!years now, with hard competition use. They are very scuffed you now, but after tens of thousands of rounds, I have ever had one problem with any ETS Glock 9mm magazine. Highly recommended!

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