If you learned to fill magazines the old fashioned way, you may still prefer the manual method, or you may have delegated that chore to your shooting partner. Lucky you. Students in my NRA Pistol classes often found it difficult to balance two round cartridges on top of each other while trying to overcome magazine spring pressure and follower friction, all while steering each cartridge under the magazine feed lips.
I've used the manual method long enough that it has become second nature. However, I considered the idea of using an auto-loader when I began loading 20 magazines, 12 rounds each, for action pistol practices during my lunch hour at work. I’ve heard others comment on the oily residue left on the fingers after manually loading magazines, or the challenge of inserting the last few rounds under increasing spring pressure. Regardless of the reason, anyone who may be reluctant to shoot because of the challenges of loading mags should put an auto-loader on their “to do” list.
When I first saw the advertisement for the Model 110002 Universal magazine loader, I had some doubts. “Universal” means all magazines, and there are many sizes on the market. How well can a machine duplicate the dexterity of the human hand? As it turns out, the folks at Caldwell did an excellent job of it.
The easy-to-understand Caldwell instructions include a chart that lists the settings for six magazine groups, from “small single stack” to “very large.” By setting the two rollers on either side of the magazine well to the proper setting, the Universal loader easily accommodates the various magazine widths. By tightening the large tensioning dial against the backside, the magazine becomes captured in two planes—fore-and-aft, as well as side-to-side. Watch the Caldwell film to see how it works.
Displayed above (l. to r.) are the recently unveiled Caldwell Universal Pistol Magazine Loader, popular Maglula UpLULA Pistol Magazine Loader and a standard “sleeve.”
Depending on your preferences or possible skepticism, I assure you that the “Universal” works well. It takes medium grip strength, so you get two devices for the price of one—an auto-loader and a mild grip strengthening exerciser. The best attribute of the “Universal,” aside from making things easier, is that you don’t need a tabletop to support the magazine. As for packing it in your range bag, it’s a little larger than the other models illustrated above, but a retainer clip keeps the squeeze mechanism in the closed position. The street price of $30 is competitive with all but the simple auto loading sleeve that is included with some handguns. NRA Publications Photography Director Peter Fountain and I discovered that the Universal can be used ambidextrously. By holding the “trigger” in the palm of your hand, you can pull the “grip,” effectively using either hand.