A spare hand (3DHatch Ltd Mag Loader)
Most of us were brought in to this world with two hands and ten fingers, and that has worked out pretty well for us as a race for a good few years now... However there are notable times in our lives where having an extra hand or a couple or extra digits to help out with a task could really prevent thoughts of wanting to rapidly evolve a new arm right there and then.
So, instead of waiting to mutate, we invent cunning contraptions to assist us with (in most cases) slightly inconvenient tasks and sigh in success as our lives become easier for that one small moment, no matter of often that moment is repeated thereafter.
This is the purpose of innovation, and inventors are driven, like thrill seekers, to find and capture those moments and bring them to the masses. A new player in the hunt has just stepped forward to reveal its latest conquest; 3DHatch Ltd.
Based in the United Kingdom, 3DHatch are small team known for producing designs that serve the belief of "saving time for the fun stuff, not for wasting on ardous tasks", which pretty much hits the head on the nail if one were to describe their current flagship product - the "Mag Loader".
The Mag Loader, a name for a 3D printed part that does not rely on any subtle features or fanciful marketing to highlight its purpose, as you can see in the image above. 3DHatch, like most parts designers, are Airsofters themselves, and they designed the Mag Loader to address the frustration of manually holding back a spring loaded pistol magazine follower during the process of reloading the magazine.
I think "frustration" is perhaps too light a word to describe the reloading of an Airsoft pistol magazine, in fact there are quite a few more adjectives that could better describe it that are best left in the dictionary at this time. Instead, we'll move on to some of the problems that the average Airsofter has with the reloading of a magazine without a Mag Loader so that we can appreciate just how well the Mag Loader addresses these problems later on.
Maintaining a manicure
First up on the naughty list:
Wearing gloves and attempting to catch the edge of a magazine follower (especially on the MK23 magazine, with its incredibly shallow follower grip) and keeping it in place for the duration of your reload is a nigh impossibility for all but the most dexterous of users and glove thicknesses. You can simply forget about attempting to perform a combat speed load wearing gloves, you may as well throw your speed-loader at your enemy. Just check out the clip below, take a yoga class when you're done, and then carry on reading.
The most common workaround for this problem has been to sheer off the fingertips of the gloves in order to maintain dexterity of the index and thumb finger. Whilst adding a edgy tactical look and a bit more tactile feeling on your trigger and weapon handling, its a sure way to mess up a pair of gloves.
However fingers tips still need nails, and that leads us in to the next problem.
If you are a nail biter or have stubby digits without a fingernail longer than a couple of millimeters, you're going to have problems catching the magazine follower and bringing it down for your reload. At a best case, you actually have nails that can hold it down but you'll likely find it a pain to put the spring tension against your fingernail.
3. Feed lips.
Now the third problem occurs as a result of combining issues 1 and 2. In fact, you can see the problem in the video clip shown in the gloves video. In case you missed it, the issue is losing grip on the magazine follower so that the spring tension shoots it with full force in to the feed lips. The impact of the follower can result in the feed lip becoming deformed, or at worse and usually in the case of the clone magazine, the bridge of the feed lip cracking and snapping off - rendering the magazine useless until the feed lip is replaced. If you're skeptical of just how easily this happens, here's a photo from our attempts to make it actually occur (it did not take long or many tries)...
If you add in adverse weather conditions, like rain, snow or cold temperature when the fingers become difficult to operate the follower - these 3 issues all rise on the frustration scale pretty fast.
Unfortunately, the hope here is that 90% of our readers will have experienced the items on this list and can sympathize with just how annoying they are to encounter, even if they really are small problems in the grander scheme of things that lost only a few minutes in an average skirmish day. The fact remains, these tedious issues exist - and a solution to them is very very welcome.
Lending a hand
Now since you have already seen a preview of the Mag Loader on some various magazines earlier in the post, you already know where we are going to find out solution to these issues, and hopefully can now see the simplicity of the design and truly appreciate it's function with an understanding of the issues. So let's take a closer look at the Mag Loader itself.
Immediately, we see the version marking, indicating which magazine the Mag Loader is intended for (helpful since there is such a large range of supported magazines for this item). The finish of the print is great, with no obvious signs of loose filament or defects which helps a great deal when defining with the curves on and bends used in the design. To the rear, we see a wide curved section, which serves the purpose of a finger rest / grip. The inner area of the Mag Loader is large enough to completely fit over the magazine it is intended for, with enough space to the sides and rear to prevent any unwanted tightness or friction. The part can be printed in a range of colors, with our sample selected in Blue for increased visibility.
Taking a look at the inside of the Mag Loader, we can see our first glimpse of how the Mag Loader functions.
As you can now see, the inner side facing the version marking side contains an angled tab. This tab, when placed over the magazine and dragged down and over the follower, catches the tab and pulls the tab down with the Mag Loader as the user brings it down to the base. The tab is deep enough in to the BB channel that it grabs both the TM and the Clone follower without issue. The angle of the ramp allows the Mag Loader to apply natural retention against the magazine at any point when the Mag Loader is not pressed against the body of the magazine and is at a resting position.
Lets take a look at how the Mag Loader installs on to the magazine. First up, some fixed positions to show you the initial stages of mounting the Mag Loader, followed up by a video clip demonstrating the process from start to finish.
As the video demonstrates, the entire process is incredibly quick, simple and comfortable to repeat. It's at this point we should take a moment to revise our 3 issues form earlier and ask ourselves if we feel that these issues remain a concern for us when using the Mag Loader?
The Mag Loader is large enough and offers enough surface area and angles to provide ample control of the magazine and the magazine follower. There is no need to remove the finger tips of your gloves or to take off your gloves to operate it.
You can have a full set of stiletto nails and not have a worry in the world about reloading your magazine or holding on to the magazine follower, the Mag Loader has you covered and might even match your nail paint.
3. Feed Lips.
The Mag Loader follower tab is deep enough to keep a hold of your follower at any spring tension, rain or shine - although we'd probably recommend keeping a firm grip on the Mag Loader at all times and not rely totally on the friction retention just for peace of mind in the event that you accidentally apply pressure of the Mag Loader and release the friction hold.
3DHatch's first entry to the MK23 market has done its homework and revised well for the test - received passing marks. Our quality of life performing a reload whilst using the Mag Loader was assuredly improved and we had very little to comment on, although there were a few things we noted as a welcome future revision to the design.
Getting a touch up
Whilst handling our sample of the Mag Loader, we noticed that the texture of the filament on the outer sides was a bit slick to the touch, making it very easy to drag a naked finger over it like silk. We felt that the addition of serrations to the design would go a long way to improving the grip and feel of the texture and would likely help user interaction in wet or sweat conditions.
We also noted that, despite the size and color (if you opt for a brighter color like the blue) of the Mag Loader, it is of course a separate doodad to have in your possession or on your person during an Airsoft game - which means that it has the chance of being lost out in the field, or simply difficult to find in the maze that is typically an airsofters kit bag. We'd love to see a lanyard or keyring attachment point added to the Mag Loader to allow it to be attached to a belt loop or MOLLE loop and stored in a pocket or pouch.
Of course, we have passed on our feedback to 3DHatch as of publishing this article, and our thoughts have been met positively and we're hopeful to see some changes in a future revision of the Mag Loader - so keep an eye out for that.
In summary, we're really pleased with 3DHatch's achievement, it's incredibly simple yet serves its purpose exactly. It's very pleasing to see that innovators like 3DHatch are still surfacing and providing the MK23 community and general airsoft community as a whole with parts that don't ultimately change the game, but ease day to day issues and frustrations, that, as a whole add up to quite a large blob of hassle over a years worth of play. With more and more compatibility options being added to the Mag Loader range, its clearly a sign of it's success and demand in the community - and we hope that this article has made for a clear explanation for it.
You can find out all the necessary details on the Mag Loader and 3DHatch's other products at the following media: