Ode to the humble speed loader
Defensive training and the shooting sports are, like it or not, still predominantly male arenas. Female firearms instructors are increasing in number but still comfortably a minority in the world of teaching people how to shoot. This has never bothered me personally, as I have a thick skin and quite enjoy being underestimated, but some women in the gun community get a little irked by the machismo that still lingers like a puff of gun smoke at just about any coed shooting event or gun class.
Just a few days ago, a couple of young men came into the gun store asking to see speed loaders for 9mm magazines. I showed them our colorful collection of UpLULA mag loaders, made by Maglula (Amazon affiliate link), and they balked. See, the way to load a magazine without a speed loader is to feed it one round at a time with your thumb, pushing the cartridge down and then back, repeating the process with the subsequent rounds until the mag is full and won't depress any farther. It's kind of like loading a Pez dispenser, except you can't pull the whole tray out to load the entire package at a time. As you add more rounds, the tension on the spring inside the magazine gets heavier and heavier. The edges at the top of the magazine are sharp and metal, and you really have to exert some force to get the final rounds down in there. Since the rounds are, well, rounded, forcing the final cartridges into the magazine can be difficult. By the time you've loaded 15 rounds into a double stack magazine, your thumb will not appreciate you.
UpLULAs make this process simple, fast, and painless: you place the speed loader over the mag, squeeze it tightly to bring the two halves together, and push it firmly down. A tongue depresses the follower (that little plastic seat that the first round sits in, and that shows when the magazine is empty) and you load a round into the magazine. Release it so that the two sides separate again, let it pop up, and repeat the process. Once you get the hang of it, you can rapidly load magazine after magazine with minimal effort and absolutely no pain.
One of the guys had heard of these marvelous contraptions and wanted to check them out, while his buddy scoffed at the very idea of using it, let alone spending upwards of $30 on one. Despite my assurances that they'd enjoy the product, they ended up leaving without any speed loaders at all, not even the little $0.99 ones that come with every Glock. On the way out of the store, the skeptic commented that they'd be able to load their 30-round extended magazine just fine without it. I'm sure they could do that...but why?
Not everyone uses speed loaders, and not everyone even likes them. But if you find yourself struggling to load those last few rounds in the magazine, or if you end every range day with a bruised and cut thumb, give the UpLULA a try. It's a reasonably inexpensive way to save your skin and make a day of shooting that much more enjoyable. You'll load your magazines much faster, which leaves more time for the fun stuff, and it won't hurt a bit. Just don't be too surprised if the macho man who made fun of your little speed loader at the beginning of your next gun class is asking to borrow it by the end of a long day of shooting. It's up to you whether to say yes and help him out, or let him suffer as just deserts for mocking your superior loading technology. I confess to having done both.
Load faster, shoot smarter, and stay safe out there!