Whether facing zombie hordes, preparing for a carbine class, or simply spending a day at the range with the family, loading magazines need not be a tedious, time-consuming chore.
Loading magazines by hand is not only a slow and often painful process, but it also causes unnecessary wear and potential damage of the magazine feed lips. A magazine loading device will speed up the loading process and save your fingers and magazines from damage.
A variety of magazine loading devices are available for both pistol and rifle magazines. We will look at commercially available magazine speed loaders for AR-15/M16 magazines. All these magazine loaders are designed for use in the field, as opposed to the larger bench loaders. Some of the loaders also double as magazine unloading tools.
The original USGI M16/M4 magazine filler/stripper clip guide (commonly referred to as a spoon) is designed to allow magazines to be loaded quickly using a ten-round stripper clip and thumb pressure. It’s simple and works as designed, but there are better options.
When using the issue magazine filler, take care not to lacerate your fingers. Press down on the rear of the top cartridge, but be aware that the inside edges of the stripper clip are sharp. And we all know blood attracts zombies like sharks in the water.
All the major manufacturers of loading devices for the AR-15/M16 agreed to participate and provide samples of their field loaders for the S.W.A.T. AR-15/M16 Magazine Field Loader Round-Up. Although the loaders do differ in design and features, they’re all well proven.
All loaders in the round-up are designed for use with any STANAG 4179 compliant magazine. STANAG 4179 is a dimensional standard for detachable box magazines that was proposed by NATO in 1980 after adoption of the 5.56x45mm cartridge. This includes aluminum, polymer, and steel magazines.
Brownells® 30-Round Gray AR-15/M16 Magazines w/ CS Springs and SureFire® 60-Round MAG5-60 High-Capacity Magazines were employed for the article. Brownells is a contract manufacturer of standard-capacity (30-round) magazines for the U.S. military. SureFire MAG5-60 High-Capacity Magazines have been issued an NSN (National/NATO Stock Number) by the U.S. government and are in U.S. military service.
SureFire High-Capacity Magazines were designed and are produced in partnership with L. James “Jim” Sullivan and Bob Waterfield of Arm West, LLC. Jim Sullivan is best known for co-developing the AR-15 rifle with Eugene Stoner and Robert Fremont, and developing its original 20-round 5.56mm box magazine and the 5.56x45mm cartridge. Available in both 60- and 100-round capacities, SureFire High Capacity Magazines employ a patent-pending 4×2 quad-stack configuration.
Let’s get started and take a look at what’s available in AR-15/M16 magazine speed loaders designed for in-the-field use. While we may have missed a few loaders, all the major players are included here and listed in alphabetical order.
BETA LCMS10 C-MAG SPEED LOADER M16 & LCMP05 C-MAG PERSONAL LOADER M16
Beta Company is best known for its Beta C-Mag® 100-round twin-drum high-capacity 5.56x45mm (.223 Rem), 7.62x51mm (.308 Win) and 9x19mm Parabellum magazines. The magazines are available for a variety of weapon platforms, with additional weapons/calibers under development. The C-Mag is also a Jim Sullivan design.
Beta Company offers two speed loaders for the M16/ AR-15—the Beta LCMS10 Speed Loader M16 and the Beta LCMP05 Personal Loader M16. Both loaders also work with the Ruger® Mini-14® and similar magazines. Beta Company also offers an orange version of the Beta LCMP05 Personal Loader M16 that’s designed for use with blank rounds.
The Beta LCMS10 Speed Loader M16 and the LCMP05 Personal Loader M16 have each been issued an NSN and are being used by the U.S. military. They feature heavy-duty fiberglass- reinforced nylon construction and are made in the USA.
The Beta LCMS10 Speed Loader (NSN 10050136330199) is designed for use with ten-round ammunition stripper clips for rapid loading. It may be used for loading loose ammunition as well.
To use the Beta LCMS10 Speed Loader, simply place the loader assembly on top of the magazine, remove the plunger and drop the ammunition clip or loose ammunition into the housing, and use the plunger to press down on the ammunition to load the magazine. Then remove the plunger and repeat the process until the magazine is loaded. A magnet in the plunger handle removes the empty metal stripper clips.
The Beta LCMP05 Personal Loader M16 is designed specifically for loading loose or bulk ammunition—it won‘t work with stripper clips. It can load up to five rounds at a time. To use the Beta LCMP05 Personal Loader M16, place the loader on top of the magazine, raise the plunger, insert five rounds through the loading slot in the side of the loader, and depress the plunger. Repeat the process until the magazine is loaded.
The Beta LCMS10 Speed Loader M16 has an MSRP of $19.50. The Beta LCMP05 Personal Loader M16 has an MSRP of $16.50. They’re covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
BUTLER CREEK LULA & STRIPLULA
Butler Creek is more than just scope covers. They offer two speed loaders for the AR-15/M16 that are designed for use in the field—the original LULA® and the new StripLULA™. They also offer a benchloader for the AR-15/M16 called the BenchLoader®. Butler Creek magazine loaders are manufactured in Israel by Magula®. They’re standard issue to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The AR-15/M16 LULA also works with Ruger Mini-14 and similar magazines. The M16/AR-15 StripLULA is designed specifically for STANAGcompliant magazines. There’s a separate model of the StripLULA for the Mini-14. Both the LULA and StripLULA are constructed of rugged fiberglassreinforced nylon.
The LULA features a compact design that snaps onto the top of the magazine. The LULA has a lock tongue that locks onto the magazine in the same manner as a mag catch. The LULA will fit but isn’t recommended for use on HK steel mags (HK416/SA80), as it may prematurely unlock from the magazine.
The LULA is designed for use with individual loose rounds only. To load with the LULA, just work a lever up and down with one hand while dropping rounds in with the other. To unload, point bullets downward and move the lever up and down.
The bottom of the lever has dual staggered cams that grab and push down on the ammo. Each throw of the lever creates space for the next cartridge or allows a cartridge to fall out if unloading. The lever on the LULA is designed to fit into the loader to make it even more compact when not in use.
The StripLULA is the most compact loader in our round-up. It’s ultra compact and fits in most double-stack pistol mag pouches. As with the LULA, the StripLULA can be used for both loading and unloading.
To load with the StripLULA, attach it to the top of the magazine, slide a loaded stripper clip or loose rounds into the loader, turn the slider over the rounds and force it toward the magazine using two fingers. Turn the magazine upside down to drop an empty stripper clip from the loader. Repeat until the magazine is fully loaded.
To unload the magazine using the StripLULA, use the tail of the loader to press on the second round in the magazine to unload the top round.
MSRP for the LULA is $29.95. The StripLULA has an MSRP of $30.95. They come with a limited lifetime warranty.
Cammenga Company makes compasses for the U.S. government. They also make a speed loader for M16/AR- 15 magazines called the EASYLOADER ™, as well as a unique 30-round magazine for the M16/AR-15 called the EASYMAG™. The EASYMAG features a patented open-case design that allows for fast loading, unloading, and cleaning.
There are two versions of the M16/AR-15 EASYLOADER: the REL223SC and the REL223. The REL223SC is designed to work with stripper clips, the REL233 with loose or bulk ammo only. Cammenga provided S.W.A.T. with the latter.
The EASYLOADER is made to facilitate quick loading of AR- 15/M16 magazines. Both versions also work with Ruger Mini- 14 and similar magazines. The EASYLOADER is constructed of rugged impact-resistant fiberglass-reinforced nylon. It has the highest capacity of any loader in the round-up—20 rounds at a time—and is also the largest loader we tested.
To use the EASYLOADER, insert the magazine into the loader, lift the loader cover, insert your ammo, close the cover, and pull the lever on the side of the loader to load the magazine.
The REL223SC EASYLOADER and REL223 EASYLOADER each have an MSRP of $29.95. They’re made in the USA and covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
THERMOLD MAGAZINES MC-M-16/AR15 & MC-SC-M-16/AR15 MAGAZINE CHARGERS
Thermold Magazines was one of the first companies to offer polymer box magazines using a nylon resin called Zytel ®. They offer two magazine loaders for the AR-15/MI6: the MC-M-16/AR15 Magazine Charger and MC-SC-M-16/AR15 Magazine Charger. The latter comes with four polymer stripper clips, but the products are otherwise identical. They work with Ruger Mini-14 and similar magazines as well.
The Thermold Magazine Charger is of single-piece injection-molded polymer construction. It’s a simple design with no moving parts. Place the magazine charger on top of the magazine and push loaded rounds into the magazine with your thumb. It works with both polymer and metal stripper clips, as well as individual rounds. You can load up to 10 rounds at a time.
The MC-SC-M-16/AR15 Magazine Charger has an MSRP of $12.95. Additional SC/10/223 Polymer Stripper Clips run $4.95 per pack of ten. MSRP for the MC-M-16/AR15 Magazine Charger is $4.95. Thermold Magazine Chargers come with a limited lifetime warranty. They’re made in the USA.
There you have it: the available magazine loaders for the AR-15/M16. All loaders did the job they were designed to do without any issues, and they’re all well made. Selection of the appropriate loader for you will depend largely on personal preference and individual needs.
I would like to thank all the companies that participated. Special thanks go out to Hornady®, Mil-Spec Monkey, MTM Case-Gard™, and ZMB Industries.