Nobody likes to run out of ammo in an airsoft game, and so doing some planning and carrying a few magazines to the field is generally considered a good idea.
Yet, at some point you will have to fill those magazines with BBs and sitting around filling 6 to 7 150 round mags isn’t usually anyone’s idea of a fun evening.
Much like their real steel counterparts, airsoft speed loaders can be a cheap and convenient way of dealing with this issue, saving players a good deal of time and effort (not to mention stress).
In this guide, we’ll take a look at airsoft speed loaders, discussing what they are, how they work, the different kinds of loaders out there, things to look for, things to be careful with and a few of our favorite models.
What Is An Airsoft Speed Loader And How Do They Work?
An airsoft speed loader is a pretty simple device that is designed to quickly load a number of BBs into a magazine, replacing the need for users to do so manually.
In its essence, airsoft speed loaders are basically a fixed container of BBs (holding anywhere from 50-200+ BBs) with some sort of mechanism attached to push a number of rounds through an exit hole at the base.
By loading multiple BBs at once, they can save a considerable amount of time when compared to having to fill a magazine up one BB at a time.
They can also help prevent annoying mistakes, like dropping BBs on the floor while reloading or overfilling a mag.
Although the specifics can differ depending on the loader in questions, speed loaders tend to work (on a basic level, at least) pretty much the same way.
Users first pour BBs into the loader, which tends to have a fixed capacity.
They then align the loading nozzle of the loader with the feeding port of an airsoft magazine (or gun in some cases), making sure that the speed loader is positioned in a way that will allow BBs to “flow” down into the receptacle.
Users then activate some kind of release mechanism (a plunger, for example) that then sends a stream of BBs down through the loading nozzle and into the awaiting mag.
This process continues until users have filled the magazine to its maximum capacity or until the speed loader has run out.
What Kinds Of Airsoft Speed Loaders Are Out There?
In general, there are quite a few different kinds of speed loaders out that players should be aware of.
Pistol Vs Rifle/SMG Speed Loaders
The first thing people tend to notice when shopping around for an airsoft speed loader are that some look like pistol mags and others look like various rifle or SMG magazines.
Their different shapes allow them to better fit into different mag pouches and better blend in with a user’s existing equipment.
Shape aside, the main difference between these is in how many BBs they contain.
Being designed for smaller capacity magazines, pistol loaders tend to only hold between 50-150 BBs (like those found in full auto and Hi Capa airsoft pistols), while a rifle or SMG speed loader can hold significantly more – usually 400 or more, meaning one full speed loader can fill up quite a few 100-150 round mid-caps before becoming empty.
Plunger Vs Crank Mechanism
The most obvious difference between loaders is in how they expel BBs into a gun or magazine.
Plunger-operated airsoft speed loaders are the simplest models out there.
To use them, players simply press down on the plunger, which expels BBs from the reservoir, usually sending out a few (4-6 or so) per press, something that makes them ideally suited for midcaps or for when care is needed.
Generally speaking, plunger-based speed loaders are the most compact and cheapest options out there, due to their rather simple mechanism, which is a bonus for those who already have a hard time squeezing accessories into their loadout or who may only use these occasionally.
The other main kind of airsoft speed loader out there are the crank-operated devices.
Crank-operated airsoft loaders are a bit more complicated in their mechanism of action, but also faster to use.
To work one, users turn a handle or crank on the device which then expels BBs from its reservoir, generally at a rate of 10-12 BBs per turn, which can make them a lot easier to use when dealing with large loadouts, especially as they also tend to be able to hold more BBs than plunger-operated rivals (up to 1600 or so) so they don’t need to be themselves refilled quite as often.
On the downside, crank-powered airsoft speed loaders are larger, bulkier, and pricier than the plunger models.
There’s also an issue of potential damage.
As a magazine fills with BBs, the tension in the crank mechanism increases.
When the magazine is full, this can damage the mechanism, so you have to be much more careful when using it than with a plunger.
Airsoft Revolver Speed Loaders
Finally, although a bit more unusual than mag-based devices, airsoft revolvers can have their own kind of speed loader.
Unlike traditional airsoft speed loaders, these don’t feed BBs into a mag but rather help users load a number (usually 6) of airsoft revolver shells into a gun’s cylinder at once.
In this way, these are very much like real steel revolver speed loaders, which is quite cool and, aside from being a lot faster than loading shells individually by hand, can really increase the sense of realism in a game.
Airsoft Speed Loaders and High Cap Magazines
Airsoft speed loaders are typically used for quickly filling mid-capacity magazines (those that tend to hold between 100-200 BBs).
The reason for this is simple – high-cap mags tend to have a little latch that allow you to simply pour BBs in.
Although perhaps tempting, using a speed loader on a high cap magazine is not only unnecessary, it can risk damaging the magazines internals,
Most high caps use some kind of winding mechanism to tighten the mag’s internal spring and allow its BBs to feed properly.
Feeding BBs in through the top can risk damaging the magazine’s spring and anti-reversal lever, especially if it is somewhat wound already, making them essentially dead weight.
What To Look For In An Airsoft Speed Loader
Before going out and picking up your first airsoft speed loader, there are a couple factors you’ll want to consider.
Compatibility: Universal vs Mag Specific
Many speed loaders out there are universal, meaning their nozzle will easily fit (lip to lip) the loading channel of most standard magazines without jamming or otherwise messing things up.
While there are exceptions one of these devices will fit and fill a number of different standard (usually TM-standard) mags, such as AKs, M4s, MP5s, MP7s and so on.
Now, where things get a little complex (and they usually do with airsoft) is when a model of airsoft gun comes with a slightly unusual feeding system/proprietary magazine.
In such cases, the nozzle of a universal speed loader may not fit correctly and users will then have to go out and either look for specifically designed loaders or find an adaptor for it.
Ultimately, you’ll want to be sure any speed loader you get will work with the magazines and weapons that you own.
Capacity is also something you’re going to want to consider when picking up an airsoft speed loader.
If your preferred magazine holds 150 rounds, then buying an airsoft speed loader that only holds 50 bbs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since it will run dry.
In a similar vein, if you’re the type to only take a few pistol mags to an event, then picking up one that holds 1500 BBs may not be ideal either (being a bit too much).
Ease Of Use
A good rule of thumb when it comes to airsoft is the simpler, the better – the more things that can go wrong in a device usually means they will.
Generally speaking, although there can be some pretty fancy devices out there, you want your airsoft speed loader to be as simple and as easy to work with as possible, so that it can reliably feed your mags for years to come.
This is all especially true if you’re planning on taking your loader to the field ( are unfortunate enough to suddenly run out of ammo), where any additional time spent fiddling around with a loading mechanism can mean less time on the field (or more time spent under fire).
For the most part, you want your reloading efforts to be as fast and efficient as possible.
While all airsoft speed loaders are faster than manually reloading, they aren’t all created equal.
The standard rate of reloading for plunger-style airsoft speed loaders is around 4 BBs per press, while for crank-style speed loaders its more like 10 or 11 per turn.
Ultimately, which is best depends on the mags you’re planning to fill.
While you probably won’t have much of an issue if you mainly run a couple mid-caps, if you’re planning to take 8 good sized mags to the field, the speed of your loader can become something of an issue.
Although they aren’t usually the most expensive piece of kit around, as with the rest of your airsoft gear you want your airsoft speed loader to last a good while.
If your speed loader quickly begins to misstack BBs or even breaks the very first time you try to use it, then it’s a bad buy no matter how cheap its price tag.
We like our speed loaders to be made of durable plastic (either high quality ABS or polymer) so they can been taken to the field (and stuffed into a pouch) without getting damaged, and to have large and easy to press buttons (or smooth, easy to turn cranks).
At the end of the day, an airsoft speed loader is a pretty simple plastic device that you might use once or twice before (or during) a game.
As such, although for the reasons mentioned above you probably want to pay for some quality, there are more important and critical things you could spend your money on.
Typically, we like to see our plunger-style airsoft speed loaders in the $10-20 price range and our crank-style versions well below $50.
Airsoft Speed Loaders We Like
Odin M12 Sidewinder Speed Loader
|Durable||Little on the pricey side|
|Easy to use||Needs an adaptor for gas or non-rifle mags|
|Clutch system prevents overfilling, damage|
|Easy to carry and store|
|Huge 1600 BB capacity|
Many regard the Odin M12 Sidewinder as one of the very best airsoft speed loaders money can buy, and it’s not hard to see why.
To start with, it boasts a very high ammo capacity – the Sidewinder holds 1600 rounds, which should fill enough midcaps to last you (and maybe even a team mate or two) through all but the most frantic airsoft matches.
As a speed loader, the Sidewinder is quite easy to use.
It fits snugly over m4 and m16 magazines (with users sliding them in much as they would into a gun) and decouples just as easily so there’s no need to fiddle around with things for two long and/or risk misfeeds.
Refilling the BB reservoir is also pretty easy.
Users simply slide the top hatch open and start pouring, with the rather capacious device holding up to 1600 rounds.
The device itself is made of a sturdy reinforced polymer and is well made, with its parts fitting together nicely, its crank action smooth and reliable and no burrs or other artifacts left over from the molding process.
One feature we really like with the Odin is its clutch system, which activates and causes the gears to “slip” once a mag is full, preventing you from overfilling and damaging your magazine.
Finally, it’s fairly easy to carry and store the Sidewinder.
Though it is a bit larger than most airsoft speed loaders, it still fits in most double mag pouches, so you can fit it pretty easily into your loadout.
On the downside, designed for an AR AEG platform, the Odin Sidewinder will need an adaptor for fit other mag types and gas magazines, which is something to keep in mind.
In terms of price, the Sidewinder isn’t exactly all that cheap for an airsoft speed loader, usually coming in at just under $40.
However, given its build quality, durability, reliability and capacity for quickly loading lots of BBs, if you’re an owner of an airsoft M4 or M16 and are looking for a speed loader, the Odin Sidewinder is definitely worth a look.
Elite Force EFSL14 Speed Loader
|Reservoir holds 1800 rounds||Designed for M4/M16 mags, needs adaptor for others|
|Fun pump action||Not the cheapest option out there|
|Really fast – loads 40 BBs per pump||Kind of Big|
|Easy to use|
|Durable polymer construction|
One of the most unique speed loaders around, the EFSL14 definitely seems to turn conventional wisdom about these devices on its head.
To start with, it’s neither plunger-powered nor crank controlled.
Instead, the EFSL14 uses a pump mechanism to load BBs, being (and looking) something like a pump action shotgun.
It’s also surprisingly simple to use.
Users simply fill the device with BBs (it holds an impressive 1800), insert a magazine and pump it to start loading mags.
Aside from the fun factor, probably the biggest advantage the EFSL14 has over more conventional speed loaders is speed- it loads 40 rounds per pump.
For those keeping track, that makes it around ten times faster than a standard plunger speed loader, meaning you can fill an entire loadout in just a few minutes.
Further, being made of reinforced polymer and put together quite well, the EFSL14 is very well made and durable.
When we handled one, its action slid back and forth quite nicely and it reliably did what it was supposed to – filling up a 150 round midcap in 4 pumps.
On the downside, it’s not cheap, usually coming in at around $40 or so, and is also built for STANAGs and so will need an adaptor if you want to fill MP5s, AKs or other makes.
But likely the issue that some users may have with the EFSL14 is its size.
Being built like a pump action shotgun means its not exactly a speed loader you’ll be able to chuck into a vest pouch.
Nonetheless, if you’re the type of player who needs to fill lots of airsoft magazines quickly and size isn’t an issue, then this is probably the choice for you.
Valken 400rd M4 Style Airsoft BB Speed Loader
|Fits into standard M4 pouch||A little care needed when filling it|
|Capable of loading lots of different types of mags, including gas pistol|
|Transparent material lets you keep eye on BBs|
|Easy to use|
If you use a range of different weapons, you’ll probably want an airsoft speed loader that can service them all
If that’s the case, the Valken Airsoft speed loader is definitely worth a look.
The main device fits most low and midcap magazines, as well as shells and even airsoft grenades, and even comes with a small adaptor that can help it load gas pistols as well, which is actually quite helpful.
The Valen is about the same size and shape as a standard M4 mag, meaning it will be able to fit into most pockets and pouches (the plunger mechanism even fully retracts, which can help protect it from damage), and is made from durable, transparent polymer materials.
On the downside, you do have to be a bit careful when loading BBs into this device but once you get used to that, you might find the Valken to be of great value being versatile, durable and easy to carry.
Airsoft speed loaders can be an invaluable tool for any enthusiastic airsoft player.
Whether plunger style or crank, rifle or pistol size, with their convenience and efficiency, airsoft speed loaders can save you a lot of time and effort that could be spent, well, doing pretty much anything other than manually filling magazines.
David Lewis – A longtime airsoft and airgun enthusiast and collector, our editor David’s lifelong passion for tactical sports began in high school with some friends, a cheap knock-off airsoft M4, and an open field behind his parents’ house.
When he’s not plinking around, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of airsoft and helping those just starting out.