Have you ever noticed that gun folks have a few strong opinions? Or that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west?
Yeah, same answer.
On the one hand, this is a great thing. We need strong people in the gun community to stand up for us and do what is right. Thank you to all the folks who do that. You know who you are, and we appreciate every one of you.
On the other hand, sometimes a strong opinion can get in the way of looking at the totality of the situation, and we can develop tunnel vision, not allowing us to see the whole picture. I’m not just talking about a self-defense shooting situation where you need to look for additional threats. This same principle applies to selecting gear.
We all have our favorite brands – just ask diehard Glock fans and they’ll tell you all about why Glock is the preferred firearm choice of God Almighty Himself. As a gear reviewer, I get to try out a ton of different goodies from a wide assortment of brands. Some of them are outstanding, while others are pure crap. Most fall in between.
One area where most gun guys (and gals) have a strong opinion is aftermarket magazines, especially extended capacity. You love them or hate them. And everyone has a story to tell about the time aftermarket mag brand X failed them on the range or crapped out under stress. Yep, it happens.
Elite Tactical Systems—A Company with a Ton of Disciples and Detractors
ETS is known for their signature smoky mags. You can spot one a mile away. As a guy who has spent most of my professional career in marketing, I appreciate this iconic look. It does its job: standing out among the crowd. You know when you see an ETS mag.
But aside from marketing, how well do ETS mags work?
Ask ten people and you might get ten different answers. Some will love them while others hate them. So before we get into why ETS mags are pretty awesome, let’s establish some criteria.
First, understand that magazines are wear items. Just like tires on a car, eventually, mags wear out. They can last for years and years, through thousands of rounds put downrange, but at some point, they will die, either through attrition or abuse. It happens to the best of them. Second, don’t judge any product by its price. While it’s often true that you get what you pay for, sometimes an inexpensive product is exactly what you need. (Exception: High Point. But we won’t go there today.)
All that being said, let’s look at why ETS rocks the mag world.
If you’ve priced magazines recently, you know they aren’t cheap.
It’s kind of like buying a printer for your computer. The printer itself may be relatively inexpensive, but try refilling the ink on a budget. Mags are the same way. If you get the factory mag/ink, you’ll pay high manufacturer prices. But if you buy aftermarket mags/ink, you’ll save a ton of money and get just as good performance.
Typically, ETS sells their compatible mags for 20-25% less than manufacturer prices, sometimes even lower. Assuming the quality is the same (more on that in a minute), why pay higher prices for something that doesn’t need to be more expensive?
2. Specialized Selection
ETS carries a limited selection of pistol magazines for four of the top gunmakers: Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, and HK. Sig selection is limited to the P320, HK is VP9 only, Smith & Wesson is M&P and Shield, and Glock, with its ridiculous compatibility with itself and so many other brands, is a full-line offering for pretty much anything Glock on the market.
What this means to you is ETS isn’t trying to do too much at once. They have resisted the temptation to be all things to all people, cranking out mags for every gun and its brother on the market. Instead, they smartly figured out their niche: well-made mags for the most popular guns.
Now, the “specialized selection” comment only applies to their handgun mags and two rifles: the MP5 and CZ Scorpion. If you want the more universal AR mags, you’re in luck. ETS offers those mags in a variety of options, from single mags to interlocking mags to mags with colored followers and base plate fill indicators.
3. Awesome Colors
Speaking of colors, while most of us are familiar with the clear or smoky mags ETS is known for, did you know they also make mags in other colors? Yep, you can get them in blue and orange for Glocks, but not for the other three brands. Not sure why, since the mold is the same for all colors. How awesome would a blue VP9 mag look?
This is more than just an aesthetic advantage.
Clear and colored mags let you see what’s inside. One criticism of many aftermarket mags for Glocks, especially, is they don’t have the signature Glock Dots on the back to show how many rounds are inside. Instead, you have to do the math, often involving counting on your fingers to remember how many rounds you have left to load.
With clear or colored mags, you can see exactly what you have in the mag.
For M4/AR mags, you can opt for a color package that includes matching follower and base plate loaded indicator. When the cartridge-shaped indicator sticks through the bottom, you know you have all 30 rounds loaded.
The bright follower makes chamber press checks easy, too, because you’ll see the color sitting right on top of the empty mag.
Speaking of colors, ETS is big on the red, white, and blue because every mag they sell is made right here in the USA.
Remember way back near the top when I mentioned magazines are like car tires?
If you wear a set out after a few years, the manufacturer will happily sell you a new set but won’t replace them for free. Most magazine companies are the same. You get a year warranty against manufacturer defects and that’s about it. Unless you can show the mag fouled up because it was poorly made, you’re on your own to replace it.
Not with ETS.
They offer a full lifetime warranty, no questions asked, on every magazine they sell. So even if you are one of those few people who has a bad experience with one of their mags, you can get a new one, at no charge.
One of the only criticisms I have heard about ETS is that “they’re junk.” (Actual quote, but I cleaned up the language.)
This is hard to believe because of ETS’s warranty. They seem to stand behind their products to an extra degree not found often in the mag biz. Also, if you Google articles or videos about ETS mags, it’s hard to find any real complaints. Many of the reviews even mention that while ETS has a reputation for being “junk,” the reviewers themselves hardly found any reason to complain and instead were extremely impressed with how well the mags performed.
So much for internet rumors being true – as if that ever happens, right?
If you’re looking for outstanding extended or replacement mags for one of these guns, it’s hard to beat the value that Elite Tactical Systems offers.
Up Next: ETS CAM Rifle Magazine Loader.
David Workman is an avid gun guy, a contributing writer to several major gun publications, and the author of Absolute Authority. A logophile since way back, Workman is a quickdraw punslinger and NRA RSO and Certified Pistol Instructor. He helps train new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as practicable. “Real-world shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”
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