Since the invention of the 9 x 19mm 9mm Luger cartridge, semiautomatic pistols have revolutionized personal carry, and quietly pushed out revolvers.
But regardless of which type of cartridge (or barrel) you use, reloading it is a pain. One of the more time consuming, and sometimes painful, aspects of shooting a semi-auto pistol or rifle is repeatedly loading bullets into the magazines.
When you shoot multiple rounds, the magazine spring does all the work of pushing the bullets up into the chamber, but before it can, you have to do all the work of pushing them down into the mag.
Filling a box or two worth of rounds into a magazine by hand can leave your hands sore and cramped. And the more your hands hurt, the slower the loading goes, quickly sucking all the joy out of an enjoyable time at the range. Tiring your hands too much will also make your aim lousy.
That is where the best magazine loaders come in. A mag loader is a simple device that presses the magazine spring for you and allows you to load magazines by easily adding rounds with minimal effort and without discomfort.
Some of these loaders you can also use as unloaders. By diminishing the spring tension, you can easily pull out bullets in no time, which can come in handy after your time on the shooting range.
In A Hurry? Here’s Our Top Pick
Speed Beez 38/357 5 Shot Speed Loader
Why is it better?
- Easy to use
- Reliable clamp system
- Made in USA
5 Best Magazine Loaders
With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.
Let’s dive into the specifics and review each magazine loader individually. You can use the list below to jump and review specific models, or you can read along and go through all the information.
Speed Beez 38/357 5 Shot Speed Loader
Revolvers are a different story when it comes to almost everything. Reloading them is an egregious process, but it can be made a bit easier with the Speed Beez.
This simple reloader holds onto each bullet with a clamp system on the inside.
This keeps them in place until you’re ready to load, so you can have 2-3 of these at-the-ready with your ammo box or bag, and just keep popping off.
Once you run out, open the chamber of your revolver, and give a quick tap to send those shells to the ground. Sink this into the chamber and push the gold plunger, releasing each of the bullets.
As a pro tip, after you press it down, give it a quick twist to the left, then the right, then pull it out. Every now and again, one bullet will get stuck in its spot and be a bit tricky to get out.
Get into the habit of doing this from day one and it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out. An added bonus for this reloader is that it’s made in the United States.
McFadden Machine Ultimate Clip Loader
- Proven to fit Ruger Mark II, III, .22/45
- Proven to fit Colt Woodsman
- Proven to fit Old Military High Standard
Loading an entire clip is, at the least, annoying.
Thumbing each bullet into place gets on your nerves, and you can feel that light sting on your fingertips while you’re gripping your gun. McFadden’s pistol mag loader takes care of that.
This doesn’t work if you buy boxes of loose ammunition (which is always recommended), but it’s perfect if you purchase smaller boxes where the bullets will be face-down in the plastic cartridges.
You can simply hook and groove the first bullet base into the end of this loader, and slide it down across the entire bullet line in the plastic holster. It’s a real thumb saver.
Pick it straight up, aim it right, and the rest is history. McFadden’s clip loader is really inexpensive, and that’s because it’s made of high-grade yellow ABS plastic instead of metal.
Unlike other full mag loaders, this doesn’t have an additional piece attached to the top, which helps keep the cost low.
There’s a limited list of weapons that this will work for, so be sure to inspect it before ordering.
HKS 587-A Revolver Speed Loader
- Fits medium size speedloader case; Made in USA
- Loads cartridges into revolver instantly
- No cartridge jiggle
Revolvers: they’re not fun to reload. You always have to twist the chamber just a bit to get that last one in, and it takes a while.
It explains why they’re not practical in firefights anymore. But with the HKS, it’s easier to reload them quickly.
This is the cheapest revolver reloader out there that we’ve been able to find that’s of any worth.
The HKS uses a metal knob with a diamond weave texture (for superior grip). Place the bullets in, twist the knob, and they’ll stay in place.
This reloader is going to take some practice. Once you load it a few times, you’ll get a feel for how finicky the knob can be. Twisting it to drop the bullets can take a few turns.
After a while, you’ll build up some excellent speed, but at first, you’ll have to twist the knob 3 to 5 times to get the bullets to drop.
It works well, and it’s the most budget-friendly option available to reload your revolvers with ease.
Caldwell Universal Pistol Loader
- SPECS: Accepts 9 millimeter, 10 millimeter, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45...
- VERSATILITY: Works with many different calibers and with double stack...
- EASE OF USE: Numbered, adjustable side shims allow for easy magazine...
This mag loader is a pure beauty of engineering. It’s a universal pistol magazine loader and unloader that is a real thumb saver and will cut your loading times by a factor of 5 or even 10.
Basically, it’s not much more different than using a staple gun. This solution not only greatly decreases your loading time, but also allows you to operate in smaller spaces.
Then there is a handle that provides leverage for much easier usage. It features a polycarbonate construction with a die-cast aluminum handle to ensure long life, stability, and no flexing while in use.
To be honest, it can be a little awkward to use at the beginning, but once you get used to it, you won’t encounter any difficulties. That’s why it’s a good thing that it comes with detailed instructions.
Being a universal, you can use it to reload handgun magazines for your Sig Sauer, Taurus, Wesson, Ruger, Glock, Beretta, and the rest of this merry company.
It doesn’t fit AR-15 magazines, though, so make sure you get a rifle magazine loader one for it (check out Caldwell’s AR Mag Charger AR-15 Magazine Loader). This includes both single stack magazines, as well as double-stack mags.
MakerShot Custom Magazine Speedloader
- ✔ CUSTOM RELOADER: This is NOT a universal loader. We offer over 200...
- ✔ PROTECT YOUR FINGERS: MakerShot speed loaders allow you to drop...
- ✔ HANDLES SMOOTHLY: Perfectly fits onto each selected magazine for...
The idea behind this pistol magazine loader is simplicity.
There are no moving parts, and it’s designed to fit both single and double stack magazines.
This means it’s powered by the strength of your thumb. You push down on the loader, and it, in turn, pushes bullets and the spring down, making it very easy to load more bullets inside the mag.
It’s remarkably durable, considering its small size. This was accomplished by using a high-quality polymer.
This pistol speed loader also provides great speed and ergonomics.
The only downside of this loader is that it’s limited to 9mm, .40, and .380 caliber magazines.
Anatomy Of Speed Loaders
You have three main types of speed loaders. Each of them has its own working parts and different primary operating functions. They’re going to feel very different to use.
Simple and precise, revolver loaders come in a few different styles but generally operate in the same capacity.
You load each individual bullet into the loader, base first, and either turn a knob or pull a plunger to lock them into place.
So you have the bullet holes, the activator (knob/plunger), and the locking mechanism. That lock kicks into gear when you agitate the activator, which will hold onto the butt of the bullet and keep it in place.
You can hold the loader upside-down at this point to see that the bullets won’t fall out.
If you have a knob, then there’s likely a metal latch system. These don’t last as long as spring-loaded systems, which are synonymous with plunger handles.
These allow you to load bullets quicker since you don’t have to fiddle with the knob.
Spring Clip Magazine Loader
You load the magazine through one end (the bottom), which is one of three working parts.
Next, you take the loader (a plastic tongue and groove) and run it over the stack of face-down bullets.
That holds onto each bullet base. Pull it up and load it onto the main piece. Now, you have a small plastic piece that goes over the top of the loader.
You push it down like a cartridge, and the spring inside allows the bullet holder to depress into the magazine. It pops out and the bullets rise up behind it, staying in the magazine to be loaded into your gun.
These can allow you to load a 9mm pistol in about 3-5 seconds total. A few seconds to load the mag and grab the bullets, and one second to depress it into the magazine. Presto.
Like our top pick, this uses the entire magazine that loads into the bottom of the plastic chamber and holds onto it firmly.
You have to click it down to stay on top of your magazine. These are generally made up of three main parts.
You have the first section of the chamber, which stays stationary. It’s the backbone of the unit that grasps onto your magazine.
The second part opens to allow the magazine to fit inside in the first place. The third and most important is the loader. This little trigger-like part is what takes the tip of the bullet and presses it into the magazine.
You release the main chamber so that it pops open, put a bullet in, squeeze it shut, and then pop the trigger-like switch down to force the bullet into the magazine.
Due to the minimal number of working parts, these should last you for years. Two subtypes of these are available: one for double stacks, one for single.
Magazine Loader FAQ
WHEN WERE SPEED LOADERS INVENTED?
1879, by William H. Bell. The first reloader was for a revolver, as you might imagine given the time period. Back then, Bell was ahead of his time when he created a rotating disk that held onto six revolver rounds.
It was a revolutionary invention that changed the way warfare was waged, though it’s not referenced a whole lot in early military history. They were cheaper to manufacture back then, but they weren’t as effective.
You would have to really wiggle this in, since the industrial revolution hadn’t quite hit and each reloader was subject to imperfections. Soldiers would sometimes carry three to six of these on them at any point in time, and use them for their first few rounds of ammunition in a firefight.
After that point, they would fall back to a defensive line and rekit their reloaders so they would be more useful for longer stretches during battle.
WHAT ARE SPEED LOADERS?
Speed loaders do exactly what they sound like: they help you reload at a higher speed. They’re essentially temporary holsters for ammunition that will eventually be deposited into the actual gun magazine and then loaded into the gun.
They hold onto X amount of bullets and can fully load a magazine in a single second. Some can load one bullet per second for more complicated magazines, which is generally three times faster than a person can do it on their own without the assistance of a speed loader.
Speed loaders are tactical gear that allows you to fire more rounds in less time. You can use them in mid firing, but the most ideal way to use them is to load up your mags before you head out to the firing range. You can spend 3-5 minutes loading up a ton of mags instead of a half-hour.
ARE SPEED LOADERS LEGAL?
It varies from state to state. Having a ready-to-go speed loader (with bullets in place) is generally not considered a magazine, and therefore is legal. Every state has rapidly changing gun laws, so it’s always best to check an official government source before deciding to bring one with you anywhere you go.
Speed loaders are often considered to be tools, not magazines. If the bullets are not in the chamber of the gun, then the bullets are not in a magazine: simple. In almost every scenario, you will not get in trouble for having a speed loader.
To be safe, if you’re transporting weapons and ammunition for a camping trip or upstate firing range visit, keep your speed loaders clear of ammunition until you reach your destination.
HOW TO KNOW IF A SPEED LOADER IS COMPATIBLE WITH YOUR REVOLVER?
It all depends on the caliber of bullet. Most revolvers don’t accommodate multiple bullet sizes, so you can simply check the listing on the sales page of the speed loader you wish to purchase to find out what bullet calibers are compatible.
If a loader holds onto .45 bullets for your standard magnum, they’re not likely to hold onto .38 snub nose shots.
The slots for each bullet type are cut with one caliber in mind.
Even if you found a way to have a loader hold onto .38’s when it’s not supposed to (by locking them in place with the plunger/knob), they may not sit entirely straight when you try to load them into the gun. Get one for each caliber of bullet.