Equipment Review: Elite Tactical Systems Group (ETS) Glock Magazines

One of the virtues of choosing the Glock family of pistols for my main defensive handgun use was the relatively cheap price of their factory magazines when compared with other brands.  I had started out with pistols made by Sig Sauer, and their magazines tended to be in the upper $30 range.  I know that Heckler and Koch and CZ factory magazines tend to sell for even more.  By contrast, Glock factory magazines can usually be found easily from $20-25.  That may not be a huge difference, but if you buy a fair number of magazines (and I like separate magazines for training/practice vs. carry/defensive use), that difference can add up to the ability to buy several more magazines.

Probably due to the fact that Glock factory magazines are already fairly cheap, there have not been many comers to the aftermarket magazine market for Glocks.  Sure, there are those Korean KCI magazines that often sell for $9, but never having read a positive review of them (and being burned by aftermarket magazines in my Sig days…..I’m calling you out, ProMag!), I never felt the need to try them.

A year or so ago, Magpul Industries released their GL 17 magazines (they have more recently released the 15 round version for the Glock 19).  I’ve generally seen these retail in the $15 range.  Not a huge difference compared to factory, but again, for practice magazines, maybe worth it.  The Magpul GL 17 magazines have had some hiccups; fortunately, Magpul stands behind their products and seems to be working with the buyers to fix the issues.

Problems or no problems, my biggest issue with the Magpul Glock magazines is the lack of witness holes in the back of the magazine.  Readers of this blog know that I’ve taken many (and plan to take many more) training classes.  Very often for drills in these classes, the instructors will have the students download magazines to 3 rounds, or 5 rounds, or some other number.  On factory Glock magazines, which have witness holes down the back, it’s easy to see exactly how many rounds are in the magazine.  The Magpul versions only have a witness hole about halfway down the magazine body and another near the bottom that would indicate when the magazine is full.  I like knowing the exact number present.  The aftermarket nature of the Magpul magazines and their cost would make them ideal for practice/classes, but they are lacking in the key feature I would like in practice magazines (other than reliability, of course).  Because of this, I have not bothered to purchase any of the Magpul Glock magazines.

A few weeks before Christmas, I learned of a new company entering this realm:  Elite Tactical Systems Group.  This is a new company which seems to currently be focused on making aftermarket magazines for two of the most popular firearms out there:  the Glock family of pistols, and the AR-15.  The most striking feature of their magazines is that they are all made of a smoky clear polymer.

20160110_221658_24306784935_o
3 ETS Glock Magazines: 15, 17, and 22 Rounders

I must confess that, at first, I dismissed their Glock magazines as gimmicky.  On a rifle/carbine, where much of the magazine body extends below the magazine well, I could see the utility of clear magazines.  But on a pistol where the magazine is completely enclosed within the grip, the “clearness” of the magazines seemed a waste.  Plus, Lancer AR-15 magazines aside, I’ve always found things of clear plastic/polymer tend to be, or at least feel, brittle.

However, a few things made me decide to purchase some to try out.

  1. Price.  They run in the $16 range.
  2. Variety.  They make magazines in all of the 9mm sizes (31 rounds, 17 rounds, 15 rounds, 10 rounds for Glock 26, neutered 10 rounders for the Glock 17 and 19 for use in the liberal states, plus a 22 rounder!) and some of the .40 sizes as well.
  3. Customer service.  Their owner has appeared on some of the gun forums offering money back guarantees or fixes for them if anything fails.
  4. The clear polymer!  It hit me that they could be very useful for practice/classes, since I can figure out how many rounds are in them at a glance.
  5. Not a huge deal for me, but they are made in the U.S.A. in the Volunteer State.

So, I went ahead and ordered just one each of the 22 round, 17 round, and 15 round varieties.  I paid full price off their website and am not being compensated in any way by ETS.  This review will serve as a “first look”.  Once I start using them, I will post future status reports.

20160110_224253_24281036316_o
ETS 22 Round Magazine (bottom), Glock Factory 33 round magazine (top)

Shipping

Shipping was a little slow, probably due to the fact that these had just hit the market.  Also, it was the holiday season, so the United States Postal Service was quite busy.  No big deal.  However, packaging did leave something to be desired.  They arrived in a small-sized USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate box with NO packing materials or packing slip/receipt inside.  This was not an anomaly, as others on some of the gun forums had the same experience.  Having said that, they arrived in good shape.

First Look

I gave them a good once-over and nothing seemed amiss.  I took out a few factory Glock magazines to compare.  Besides the clear color (and, obviously, no full metal lining on the inside, which allows you to see in), the most obvious difference between the magazines is the wider baseplates on the ETS magazines.  It is noticeably wider and with a pronounced “lip” on each side, all the better to assist ripping it out if it becomes stuck inside the magazine well.  It is similar to the aftermarket magazine bases offered by Vickers Tactical and other companies, but a little bit smaller.

20160110_222023_24224330091_o
ETS magazine baseplate

The polymer of the magazine bodies is quite smooth (other than some raised lettering for ETS and 9mm) and felt a bit brittle/cheap (?).  Just for comparison’s sake, I held one and then a smoke Lancer AR-15 magazine; the Lancer magazine had more of a light texture to it and definitely felt more durable.

I also tested out the magazine springs in each by pushing down on the followers with my thumb.  The spring on the 15 rounder seemed very tight.  The spring in the 17 rounder seemed more like a factory 17 rounder.  The spring in the 22 rounder felt incredibly stiff; I was able to force it down just a few millimeters.  I knew from some of the forum posts I’d seen that some people have had issues with the 22 rounders; a representative of ETS said that about 75 shipped with bad springs, which they only realized after the fact.  However, if the buyer ends up with one with a bad spring, a call or email to their customer service gets a new spring out in the mail within a few days.  So far, ETS seems to be backing up their products.

Dummy Rounds

I figured I’d start with some dummy rounds and just make sure the magazines feed.  I put a few dummy rounds in each magazine and set about racking them into and out of the chamber of my Glock 19.  They all fed fine into the chamber and ejected fine.  Each magazine follower also successfully activated the slide stop, indicating the magazine was empty.

Loading

Next, I grabbed a couple of boxes of ammunition and loaded the magazines to their full capacity.  To assist me, I used the Glock loader that comes with every Glock pistol.  As indicated by the earlier “scientific” technique I had used to test the magazine spring strength in each magazine with my thumb, the 17 rounder loaded easily.  Getting the final round into the 15 rounder was a little bit tougher, but the 22 rounder gave me the most trouble.  I had to count twice to make sure that I was not trying to put 23 rounds into the magazine!  Nope, 21 in, but round #22 was problematic.  I actually thought I had it in, but it stood very proud between the feed lips and actually ejected itself, leaving two small grooves from the case head in the polymer lips!  I tried again, this time pressing even harder with my fingers and the loader, and this time I got it in.  I will note here that the 22 rounder is listed on the ETS website as being 140mm long and therefore “competition legal”, not unlike the +5 extensions sold by Arredondo and other companies.

20160110_222945_24224478441_o
“Spine” view, ETS 22 Round Magazine
20160110_222800_24224452411_o
Side view, loaded ETS 22 Round Magazine

I decided it might be a good idea to leave them loaded for a few days and see if anything weird might happen.  A check a few moments before I sat down to begin this post revealed nothing unusual.  The magazines had not bowed outward, the baseplates had not separated and were not deforming, and the rounds were all still in the magazines.

To the Range!

It’s been a day since I wrote all of the above.  I finally had the chance to take them to the range today to try them out.   Trying to get some good practice in along with the magazine test, I decided to try the Dot Torture Test.  I made sure the magazines were loaded to full capacity, taped the Dot Torture Target to a standard B-27, and got to work.

I started with the 15 rounder, flush fit in a Glock 19 (I was using my Generation 3 Glock 19).  Performance through 3 full capacity loadings and firings—plus a few loadings to less-than-full capacity– was flawless; all 40+ rounds through this magazine did what they were supposed to do.

20160110_221759_24011215330_o
ETS 15 Round Magazine (left) vs. Factory Glock 19 15 Round Magazine

I worked the 17 rounder into the rotation and shot 2 complete loadings through it along with a few loose rounds.  All told this magazine saw 42 rounds, and it performed flawlessly.

20160110_221846_24011226640_o
Glock 19 with ETS 17 Round Magazine inserted

The 22 rounder did not perform as well.   I loaded it to full capacity and it started out very well.  However, when I got to round #16, it did not feed the round into the chamber.  The round was pointed up quite high and would not allow the slide to close (most of the cartridge was still down inside the magazine).  So I racked it out and tried again, and it had the same issue with round #17.  I then racked that round out and tried again, and it fed and ejected the last few rounds just fine.

20160110_221904_24011238420_o
Glock 19 with ETS 22 Round Magazine

I noticed that when this occurred, I was at the stage of the Dot Torture Test that involves support-hand only shooting.  The thought occurred to me that I could have limp-wristed it (this has never been an issue before, but you never know).  I again loaded the magazine to full capacity and did some shooting at distance (I’d completed the dot drill with one of the other magazines), this time shooting with both hands for every shot.  Once again, when I got down to round #16, the slide failed to chamber the round.  When I tried to tap-rack my way through it, I ended up inducing a mild double-feed.  So I cleared that, removed the jammed rounds, and then ran the last 4 rounds through the magazine without issue.

In total, I shot 100 rounds today, all through these three ETS magazines.  In hindsight, I should have brought a few different brands of ammunition with me to test.  In the event, I mostly used Blazer Brass 124 grain FMJ and a handful of 124 gr +P Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points; all the failures were with the Blazer Brass rounds.

20160114_190759_24276475732_o
My Dot Torture Test results. Got some work to do!

I was lacking in time at the range (real life intrudes!), so I did not get to perform any drop tests, but I can do that anytime on my basement floor.  My current plan is to contact ETS Customer Service and see what they can do for me regarding the 22 round magazine.  I would probably be content simply replacing it with a 15 rounder, as I don’t really have the time or large quantities of ammunition available to keep testing the product; I would rather just go with a known quantity.  If, however, they want to send me a replacement spring or the like, I would be willing to give that try.

I will return to this blog post and edit it as I perform drop tests and test out ETS Customer Service, so please check back in a week or two.  For those who follow me on Twitter, I will be sure to tweet when future edits to this article take place.

At this point, if I had to sum it all up, I would say that I’m happy with the 15 and 17 round magazines, but disappointed in the 22 round magazine.  Even if I can never get the 22 rounder working, I would be perfectly happy to continue to use and purchase more of the other “standard capacity” magazines.

UPDATE 1/22/16

I posted the above article on 1/14/16, and posted links to it on a couple of the firearms forums.  I was almost immediately contacted via private message on one of those forums by “Eddie” from ETS asking for my address so a new spring could be sent to me.  I provided my address, and a new spring arrived on 1/21/16.

I replaced it last night.  It felt noticeably “looser” when unloaded, i.e., it was easier to press the follower down with my finger.  I loaded it with the full 22 rounds, and that last round was still a chore to get in there, but it stayed.

I went to the range today and shot 100 rounds through it:  50 of American Eagle 115 grain FMJ, and 50 Estate 115 grain FMJ.  I used the same Glock 19 as last time.  I even loaded the chamber a few times and then seated the full 22 rounder, giving a total of 23 rounds on tap.  Although the magazine was a little difficult to seat with the slide closed and chamber already loaded, it was not any more difficult than doing so with any fully loaded Glock factory magazine, and a sharp slap seated it just fine.  I am happy to report that I experienced NO issues.  Every round chambered and fired as it should, and the magazine locked back on empty as it should.

I will continue to evaluate all three magazines with different ammunition types and brands.  But, to this point, I am satisfied with the “fix” on the 22 rounder, and I am VERY impressed with the customer service provided by Elite Tactical Systems!

 UPDATE 2/26/16

I installed new sights on my Glock 19 (new article/review to be posted soon) and so hit the range last night to try them out (and I needed the practice anyway!).

I had pre-loaded the 3 ETS magazines with 124 gr Blazer Aluminum FMJ ammunition (as a change-up from only trying brass cases in these magazines).  I did this pre-loading a few weeks ago so that I might see how the magazines performed after being loaded for a while.

I did not have a lot of time to spend at the range, just enough to make sure my sights were zeroed, do the Dot Torture Test, and then do a little bit of shooting at 25 yards.  I fired a total of 90 rounds (mostly the above Blazer Aluminum, but also some 124 gr Blazer Brass as well) through these magazines.  The 22 rounder was loaded to full capacity twice (44 rounds total), and the remaining 46 rounds fired through the 15 and 17 round magazines.  I am happy to report that there were no malfunctions of any kind (well, except my accuracy a few times!).

I realize that I have not put thousands of rounds through these magazines like some others out there are doing, but I will continue to T&E them at my slow pace and post my findings here.  Thanks for reading.

UPDATE 5/14/16

I have continued to use my three ETS magazines while practicing at the range and they have been flawless in reliability.  I am no longer keeping a specific round count, but I’m in the hundreds of rounds through each at this point.  Also, I have now tried all of them in two Glock 19s, one Glock 17 (well, I didn’t try the 15 round magazine in this one for what I hope is an obvious reason), and one Glock 26.  No issues.

However, I do have one major gripe that I discovered a little over a month ago.  Presumably because they are not metal-lined like Glock factory magazines, the ETS magazines are a little thicker than Glock factory magazines.  They work fine in my pistols.  The issue is that they fit too snugly in my Raven Concealment Systems magazine pouches!  Though the RCS pouches do include a screw to adjust the retention, I find this to be a bit of an inconvenience to have to constantly tinker with my magazine pouches depending on which magazines I am using.  As a result, at the present time I am STRICTLY using the ETS magazines for basic range practice and will not use them in classes (I chose to use factory magazines in this class) or for self-defense.  Classes invariably involve rapid reloads, and given that I only have three ETS magazines (i.e., not enough for a class), I would have to use a combination of factory and ETS magazines, making the whole magazine pouch issue a pretty major one.  This is a shame, as my primary rationale for purchasing these magazines was to use in classes.  Perhaps if I purchase more ETS magazines I will have enough for a class, and at that point I can set up my magazine pouches specifically for these magazines.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Equipment Review: Elite Tactical Systems Group (ETS) Glock Magazines

  1. I dropped a .40 caliber 16 round mag (I could only fit 15 in, but that doesn’t bother me). I dropped it while getting out of my patrol car at my house. The magazine broke into pieces and spilled my precious 40 Cal kisses all over the pavement. You had said you would conduct a drop test, I guess I did that by accident. Obviously, this is concerning, as a mag could fall during a life and death situation. I should clarify, nothung actually broke, but the floor plate came apart from the magazine and spolled the rounds and spring onto the pavement. I haven’t tried to replicate this. I also bought the 31 round 9mm mag and cannot load more than 29 rounds into it. I did use them at an advanced handgun class and they worked well, no feed issues. Maybe I will contact ETS for spring issues.

    Like

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for sharing your story, and sorry to hear of this issue! Honestly, I never got around to doing drop tests on these magazines. I don’t really know a “scientific” way to do it (i.e., making sure that I test falls from set heights on specific points/edges of the magazines, full magazines vs. partially loaded, etc.), so I figured over time I would just test “accidentally”, as you have done. Hmmmm. Definitely a concern. At this point I’ve relegated my ETS mags to strict range use, not for “serious social purposes”. I’ll soon be testing out a few of the Magpul Glock magazines (15 and 21 round models) to see if they fair better.

    Thanks again!
    –Robert

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s