October 19, 2021

Caldwell Universal Magazine Loader

When you’re a “gun guy”, you find yourself always on the lookout for products that make Range Day an evermore enjoyable event.  If you’re anything like me, you’re not grabbing one or two pistols and an ammo can full of goodness…you’re grabbing the BIG case, a half-dozen of ammo cans, raiding the locker and gearing up for an all day excursion.  With all of the fun you’re planning for the day, the last thing(other than cleaning your guns when you get home) that you want to do is spend half of your time loading the various magazines when you could be putting lead down range.

You could opt for speed loaders for each type of mag you have, having to always remember which loader goes with which mag, or you can choose to get your hands on something that promises to make the job easy, quick, affordable…not just for one mag type but for all of them. Well I did the latter.

Truth be told, I don’t have any issues loading magazines. I have strong, nimble fingers and excellent motor skills, so acquiring this product was more about curiosity and to aid those that accompany me to the range that do not have tens of thousands of rounds that have passed through their fingers.  SO with that all said, let’s get on with the review.

The Caldwell Shooting Supplied Universal Pistol Loader promises to make the job of loading magazines quick and easy.  The manufacturer claims that the loader has the ability to load everything from .380 Single Stacks to .45acp Double stacks, and all sizes in between.  The Mag Well on the device utilizes rotating cams that, when put into a specific position, allow a variety of magazine thicknesses to be fitted into the device. Then once the magazine is inserted, a quick turn of the tension knob secures the magazine into position. Once the mag is seated and secured, the operator slides one projectile at a time into the small port on the side of the device, and with a quick, firm squeeze of the handle, the round is pushed up and into the magazine.  Sounds Simple enough, but it took me several rounds of each caliber to get myself not only used to the procedure, but to the amount of force required depending on the caliber and magazine type.

I found that the tool was very useful when it came to some of the more standard magazines from the more popular manufacturers.  Whether they were Beretta, Sig Sauer, or Glock Double stacks, once I got used to the procedure, loading them was effortless, but a little more time-consuming than my regular method of thumbing them into position…years of practice vs. a new system.  It is also worth noting that the magazines I was loading have all been in service for many years and may not have the same spring tension that newer mags have.  I came to see a difference when a friend loaned me her “fresh from the box” Glock 17 Mag and I compared it to a well-worn stick of the same type.  Needless to say, loading the older mag was a tad bit more easily accomplished, especially when getting to rounds 9 and 10. Being in New York, and having capacity limitations, I wasn’t able to test the device with high capacities.


While the loader did work with double stack magazines as well as Single Stack Mags for a 1911, the difficulty came when trying to load mags for single stack .380’s.  Given the recent growing popularity of micro pistols, this seems to be this products greatest shortcoming.  The .380 rounds are, as you know, small, and the single stack mags are generally pretty short, so hand loading them is often a bit more challenging for someone like myself with hands the size of dinner plates. Often,  the people who would most commonly carry a micro pistol in .380 are generally going to have much smaller, maybe even weaker hands with less dexterity and have them as their primary self-defense sidearm. Having the ability to easily load them would be of great benefit for someone who finds the task difficult to do by hand.  In my opinion, this may not be the best product for that task or for those people.  3 out of every 5 rounds that I tried to load into a .380 Single stack would cause the mag to rise out of the mag well as I tried to apply enough pressure to seat the round itself.  So every few rounds, I had to remove the mag, turn the device upside down and drop the unseated round out of it and try again.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough tension that can be put on these magazines to overcome the forces pushing the round into them.

While I found that this design was innovative and effective for certain applications, in short time, mostly due to my own impatience, I found myself ditching the device and just going back to my tried and true methods. Maybe if I have 30 or 40 magazines that I want to load before I hit the range, I will be able to find more usefulness in it, or perhaps I can hand it to someone who enjoys loading more than shooting.  In either event, it’s small and light enough that it doesn’t take up much space in the range bag, but it will probably be relegated to my cleaning kit…because to me it seems to be more useful at home then out in the field. With a retail price ranging from $39.00-$49.00 (depending on retailer) it would be wise to find someone that has one and spend some time loading your preferred mags before deciding to purchase one for yourself.

(Pictured from Left to right are magazines for – Walther PPK .380, Glock 19 9mm, Sig Sauer P229 9mm, Beretta 92FS 9mm, and Colt 1911 ,45acp.)

2 thoughts on “Caldwell Universal Magazine Loader

  1. Thank you Frank for this review! Since I shoot my .380 more often than any of my other pistols (at least by a small margin ?) I will think twice before purchasing a universal loader at this time. I will however; as you sagely suggested, try out a friend’s asap in order to gauge my own personal results. As always your experience and advice are deemed relevant, helpful, and appreciated. Thank you for ALL you do!!!

    1. Glad I could be of assistance Brandy. I will look and see what loader gets good reviews for your sidearm and let you know what I find.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: