You’ll learn to hate loading mags if you shoot enough, especially at the range. If you are renting range time, you waste precious minutes loading mags, and you pay for those minutes. Hell, half the reason I own so many magazines is so I can load them, compete, and call it a day. A much cheaper option than another $45 Sig magazine is the ETS CAM Loader. The ETS CAM Loader is universalist for 9mm and .40 S&W magazines. (.357 Sig, too, if anyone is still shooting that.)
ETS makes one for .45 ACP and .380 ACP too. While I have guns of both those calibers, I don’t shoot either often so I opted for a more common option. I’ve used the rifle loader a ton and absolutely love it so I decided to give the handgun mag loader a try.
I’ve been shooting some competitive matches lately, and I really like to keep my mags loaded throughout the match. I don’t want to be that guy holding everything back. I also hate having sore thumbs. I even bring extra mags, but I can’t help but compulsively load. With that in mind, the CAM loaders seem to aim to make life easier, and I enjoy things that make life easier.
What is The ETS CAM Loader?
The CAM loader is a two-piece system that is different than similar options from Maglula. This system has you load your magazine in the bottom, gather rounds in what’s essentially a fixed stripper clip, and then use a plunger to load the mags. It’s simple and very similar to the rifle option in that regard.
I mentioned it’s universalist because it’s not truly universal. While it will work on the majority of magazines, the ETS website gives a warning that it doesn’t work for 2011 mags, Taurus G3 and PT709, Walther CCP mags, and Sig P938 magazines. In theory, it’s mostly universal. Oddly the Taurus G3 maths as Sig P226 / 229 / 224 patterned, so maybe P224 mags won’t work either?
How It Works
The general idea is pretty clever. You insert your magazine into the bottom of the speed loader. It accepts most mags, and it locks them in place with a series of friction clasps.
The rod where the rounds sit have a slot to hold the cartridges by the rim. When you pop a box of ammo open, the rims are likely facing up in a foam or plastic holder. You can run the slot over the rims of the round as they sit in the foam or plastic container, and the CAM Loader picks them up.
This makes it super quick to load the loader and to get your mags loaded. Once the stick is loaded, place the plunger on top of the rod and press the cartridges downward and into the magazine. The motions to get the magazine loaded don’t take much effort, and you can load magazines extremely quickly. It’s much faster than a Maglula, although not as universal.
Does the ETS CAM Loader work well?
That’s the golden question, right? It mostly works really well. There are some tricks and tips to make it work reliably with nearly any ammo type and magazine. When you mix a modern double-stack magazine with brass-cased ammo, then it works without much issue. Things can get tricky when you get to cheaper ammo and wonkier magazines. Single-stack mags load really easily, but the newer hybrid style P365, Hellcat, and other micro-compact mags can be a bit trickier.
The P365 12 and 15-round magazines were really easy to load. The shorter 10-round magazines were quite difficult to load properly with the CAM Loader. Also, loading steel-cased ammo into any mag is a little trickier than brass cased. I do have a few fixes for these small problems with the CAM loader.
First, ensure the CAM Loader is lubricated. It does come pre-lubed, but I added a little extra, and this made loading all magazines easier. When I loaded steel ammo, this drastically improved my ability to load magazines. I advise loading five to seven rounds at a time with steel-cased ammo and 10 rounds at a time with brass-cased ammo.
Additionally, make sure the magazines are properly inserted. It’s really easy to think the magazine is fully inserted. Give it a nice nudge to be sure. This turned out to be the problem I had with the P365 10-round magazine.
Getting Loaded Up
Once it’s working and you understand how it works, the ETS CAM loader works wonderfully. It’s a very capable tool that makes loading makes magazines extremely easy. The amount of pressure required varies depending on how many rounds you are attempting to load at once. ETS claims that the magazine loader is designed for even petite shooters.
That is true if you acknowledge that loading 10 rounds takes a lot of pressure, but loading five does not. If you load five at a time, then yes, anyone can use it. When you get up to 10 rounds, it admittedly gets tougher to load, but still not difficult. If loading 10 feels too much, then try just five.
The ETS CAM loader has been a godsend to me. I grab it every time I have to load pistol mags. It makes loading 33-round Glock mags much quicker. It’s small enough to toss in my range bag, and it’s ultimately a very convenient add-on for any shooting but is especially handy for high-volume days.
My only real complaint is that I wish the plunger had a lanyard to attach it to the main body of the loader. This way, I don’t lose the plunger in the depth of my range bag as I dig and search.
Load ‘Em Up
I had no problems loading JHPs in traditional brass cases or nickel-plated cases, and I admittedly only loaded 9mm guns. I tested the CAM with Glock, P320, P365, 1911, CZ 75, and Arex Delta mags, and they all worked with various ammo types with the tricks listed above. Keep it lubed, and unsurprisingly, higher-quality ammo loads easier.
The ETS CAM Loader is a great tool with a few quirks. If you can get past them, it’s a very handy and quick way to get your mags loaded without sacrificing your thumbs.