Scot’s Product Review: Magazine Loaders

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I have long sneered at magazine loaders. I’m lucky to be strong enough to load magazines myself, and frankly, most of the loaders I’ve tried haven’t worked well enough to make me feel they offered any benefits. I have a nine-year-old son, though, and he simply doesn’t have the strength or dexterity I have and has problems getting magazines loaded. I was getting tired of loading them for him and felt that my doing his work for him was a bad example. I, therefore, became receptive to the concept but had no idea if there are any magazine loaders that actually work.

A few weeks ago, some friends I trade email with were talking about magazine loaders and several of them had very good things about the ones from maglula. (That’s how the name is spelled, all lower case letters, which confounds my word processor.) My friends noted that, just like my son, people in their families often lacked the strength to load magazines and the maglula products worked very well for them. I decided I should overcome my prejudices and take a look.

maglula, Ltd., http://www.maglula.com/ by the way, is a privately held Israeli company that makes magazine loaders and unloaders for the Israeli military. Ran and Guy Tal, a father-son team, invented, developed, and supervise the production of the loaders, which are sold in the U.S. by Butler Creek http://www.butler-creek.com/. The tools are sold in gun shops as well as on the Internet. I got mine from Amazon.

Since my son is currently in the thrall of the AR-15, something that would handle AR magazines seemed like the first thing to look at. I have been using stripper clips for years, so I was intrigued when I spotted the StripLULA . It takes the standard US GI stripper clips that work with .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO ammunition and load it into AR-15 magazines. As I read through the large number of positive reviews (with very few negative ones) on Amazon, I discovered something that made me even more interested. It works with loose rounds. You just slip 10 rounds into the channel that also accommodates the stripper clips and push the rounds down into the magazine.

To use the StripLULA, you snap it onto a magazine and feed it a ten round stripper clip (it works with Canadian Thermold clips as well as US GI ones) or ten loose rounds. There is a lever that pivots out of the way so you can insert a stripper. It then flips over the rounds to give you excellent purchase, as you cram the rounds into the magazine. Let the clip drop out, grab another loaded one or ten more loose rounds, and you have a loaded 20 round magazine. Do it again, and you have a loaded 30 round magazine.

This thing works really well, though I have a couple of small caveats. First, if your rounds are close to maximum overall length, you have to watch as they go in the magazine. The bullet tip, should a round slip forward, can hang up on the magazine lips, which will derail your rapid load exercise.

The second issue is that when you are putting in the last few rounds, be sure to hold the loader tightly on the magazine. The magazine spring tension is getting strong at that point. A few times my son slipped and that lead to a mess.

I am far more pleased with this thing than I expected to be. It is much better than a standard GI guide or the Thermold loader for stripper clips. You also can’t use the GI one with loose rounds. While you can use the Thermold with loose rounds, it simply is not as good as the StripLULA at this chore. The only drawback compared to the GI or Thermold loaders is price. The StripLULA is $20.00 on Amazon. The GI ones can be found for a couple of bucks while the Thermold goes for about $10.00. The StripLULA is the best mousetrap of the three by a good margin.

The Strip LULA has a tab that can be used to flick rounds out of the magazine. Unloading magazines is a pain in the thumb, so this is a handy feature.

While looking at the StripLULA, I also spotted the LULA loader. This is intended purely for loading loose rounds one by one into the magazine. It snaps onto the magazine and has a clever lever that flips back and forth. With each flip, it changes which side of the magazine follower is pushing down and it guides the next cartridge into the right place. Its not until you play with it a bit that you realize how clever it is. It snaps into the cutout for the magazine catch, so it stays put while you are loading.

Adding to its repertoire, when you don’t drop another round in, you can point the magazine down and the top round drops out with every flip of the lever. Keep flipping and you rapidly and painlessly have an empty magazine.

This loader was a huge hit with my son. It has a lot of gadget factor with the lever flipping, and it was extremely easy for him to use. The fact that it snaps on so securely makes it much easier for him to hold it. The lever provides plenty of advantage to make pushing the cartridges into the magazine a piece of cake for him. I’m sure anyone without the strength to load magazines easily will be as happy with it as he is. I need to get one for my sister, as I know she sometimes has problems with this sort of thing.

Again, maglula has a product that works well. In fact, I found nothing to complain about this one at all, which is my sole complaint. Reviewers like to find at least one detail to whine about and when we’re deprived, well, we have to go and sulk someplace.

The LULA for the AR goes for about $24.00 on Amazon.

I tried both of the loaders on as many brands of AR magazines as I could get my hands on. They worked well with all of them. This included US GI, Magpul PMAGs, Lancer, Thermold, Orlite, Tango Down, and some British ones originally intended for the SA80 rifle that also work on the AR.

Along with rifles, my son likes shooting pistols, specifically, the Glock 19 (I know, I’m a 1911 guy, what happened in the gene pool?) Glock magazines can be a bit tough to load, especially the 33 round ones that make his eyes light up really big. Thankfully, maglula offers pistol magazine loaders too.

The one that works for the Glock 19 is the UpLULA. It is actually a universal loader for most 9mm to .45 pistol magazines. While it does work with most magazines, as issued it works best with double stack magazines. I was able to get it to work with 1911 magazines, but if you add an adapter, you will be a lot happier. This would be helpful with any single stack magazine such as those for a SIG 220 or a P-38.

My son was not as fascinated with the UpLULA as he is with the LULA. There is something about flipping the LULAs lever that he finds mesmerizing. With the UpLULA, you press the magazine down on a convenient surface, push the UpLULA back and then down. You then drop in a cartridge. Let it go forward and up and a part inside the loader will ride over the top cartridge when you push it back and down again. You drop in another cartridge and repeat until the magazine is loaded. My son found he could get all 33 rounds into one of those Glock magazines without much trouble. He normally can only get about 10 in, so this is a big help for him. He just doesn’t think it is as much fun as the LULA. I hate to admit it, but he found it more intuitive that I did. I had to watch the video. He didnt.

The UpLULA is about $28.00 on Amazon, and the adapter for single stack magazines is about $17.00 for a package of two.

They pretty much have a loader for everything, including M1As, Mini-14s, SCAR 17s, G-3s, AR-10s, and more. As expected, Israeli arms like the Galil and Uzi are included. The Tavor uses AR magazines, so it’s covered. They handle most pistols with three versions of the UpLULA and two other loaders that handle .22 magazines with side buttons.

Check out their site for videos of their products. As well as selling them, the videos show how to use them. All of the loaders are made of rugged, high quality plastics with a few metal parts.

At the end of playing with these, I’ve decided they fulfill a real need, and I’m glad I bought them. If you have weak, sensitive thumbs, or small hands, you should look into them. Personally, the one I found the most useful is the StripLULA and that’s for loading magazines with stripper clips. My hands and thumbs otherwise do pretty well loading magazines, though when I’m nearing the end of a Glock magazine, I do think about grabbing the UPLULA. I am, however, very fond of the LULA for unloading AR magazines. I find that a terrible bother, and this makes it go a lot smoother. I haven’t loaded SMG magazines very often, but I bet I would want one of these loaders if I did. My son has found all of them useful, and I suspect he will continue to until his hand size, dexterity, and strength grow some more.

My biggest downside is that my son is finding it easier to burn through my ammo, so I have more work to do on the reloading bench.

Something I didn’t get to see was the BenchLoader. As the name says, it sits on a bench and loads magazines. You lay the appropriate number of rounds into a kind of trough, then put in a magazine, and push the rounds into it. It looks very fast and painless. It is also pricey, running about $340 on Amazon. They make them for a variety of AR-style magazines, the Galil, the HK G36, and the Steyr AUG. maglula says it is for daily loading of hundreds of magazines at shooting ranges and armories. It looks well up to the task. I found it interesting but not something I expect to be buying for myself. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Scot Frank Eire

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