Popular Online is not Always Better: ETS

I am a firm believer in always carrying at least one firearm and a back up self defense tool. My gun of choice is the Glock 19. I love the 19 for many reasons, capacity and reliability being the top two.

Between undercover police work, bounty hunting, and carrying as a civilian I have run into a few situations where a smaller gun would have worked out better. Unfortunately, not many small handguns meet my criteria for an everyday carry gun. First and foremost, any EDC gun I carry must be as reliable as my Glock 19. Before I carried my Glock 19 I put 3,000 rounds through it without cleaning it. This was not an easy 3,000 rounds, it was outside in the middle of a Michigan winter, freezing rain, snow, sleet, and cold. The Glock 19 never experienced a hiccup in those extreme conditions.

I require my carry guns to have a trigger that I can manage, the sights must be visible to me in all lighting conditions and have a minimum capacity of 10 rounds. I am not a big fan of just adding an extension on the mag without adding an extended spring as this could cause reliability issues. The Glock 43 would be my #1 choice to fit this role however it only holds 6rds in the mag.

Looking at my options I came across Elite Tactical Systems Group Magazines. If you’re not familiar with ETS mags flip through some pictures on Instagram and you will see people using clear magazines in their guns. These magazines look cool and are also about $12 cheaper than factory Glocks Mags.

I am a little wary of aftermarket products, so I bought one of their 9 round mags for the Glock 43 for a test run. This would give me 10 rounds in the gun and with a new set of sights meet all my criteria for a carry gun. Before I use the 43 with ETS mags part of my EDC I need to run it through some range testing and abuse.

Excited to give these new clear mags a try I hit the range. On the first run I had 3 failures to feed issues out of the 9 rounds I had loaded into them. This was a little disappointing but not game over. They were new and perhaps there was a problem with the gun or the ammunition. To rule out the gun I ran 50 rounds through the factory Glock mags without a hiccup. Switching back to the ETS mags for the next 100rds I had numerous failures to feed. The first few rounds would feed properly but as you got to the end the rounds would dip down and not feed into the chamber.

I also noticed issues with loading the mags. Sometimes the mags would only accept 8 or even 7 rounds. I had to unload and reload them to get them up to capacity. The mags are clear so I could see that the spring would compress differently every time I loaded them.

ETS has a lifetime warranty on their products so I sent them an email to alert them of my issues. About a month went by with no communication from them. My editor sent them an email and quickly got a response. They found my original email and were unsure why it went unnoticed. ETS assured me they had not experienced nor had any other complaints like mine, so they sent me two more magazines to test out.

A beautiful day, a clear range, and a clean gun meant my new ETS mags were ready to be tested. I loaded both mags with 9 rounds of Federal 115gr Range, Target, and Practice rounds and was not surprised with the results. The first new mag experienced 3 failures to feed where the bullets dipped, the second mag experienced 4 failures.

Having more than one mag allowed me to do some mag changes. This is where the most severe issues crept up. I found that while removing the ETS mag from its support side mag holder or the pocket any pressure on the top bullet caused it to stand straight up, slowing the reloading process greatly.

I could not just pop the bullet back in place I had to completely remove the bullet before feeding the mag into the gun. The Glock factory mags had none of these issues.

Back at the shop we took a good look at the ETS mags for the Glock 43. Being a single stack mag there is no taper at the top like there is with the Glock 19 mags. This places all the spring pressure on the feed lips. The original Glock mags are supported by a metal sleeve in the mag. The ETS mags do not have this sleeve the lips are a little weaker. With very little pressure the mag follower will almost pop out of the ETS mags.

ETS also says their magazine will survive a drop from 8 feet. The magazine shouldn’t be affected if it is accidentally dropped while I am going for my spare magazine.

The first free fall drop from waist height resulted in 4 rounds ejecting from the mag and some stress marks in the plastic. I continued to drop test all the mags from waist height never exceeding 5 ft. I found that if the magazine hits on the base plate it would eject the rounds, the most rounds ejected in 5 drop tests was 6. I also drop tested the factory Glock mags in the same manner and experienced no ejections.

Wanting to see if I randomly had 3 defective magazines I stopped at my local gun store and opened every ETS Glock 43 mag they had to test the weakness of the follower. They let me load some dummy rounds in them. Every one of them had the issue of the round flipping up with very little pressure. I picked up an ETS mag for my Glock 19 to see if it had the same issues. I ran it through the same tests and had no issues. The ETS 19 mag fed the rounds perfectly into my Glock. Dropping it on the ground the mag kept all the rounds in place. I had none of the issues that I had with the 43 mags, however I will never fully trust the ETS mags for EDC.

After my experience with my ETS mags I have added one more requirement to my EDC criteria, I only use factory magazines in my carry guns. The ETS mags look cool, they are great to use in a training class where students can see the inside of a mag and watch it function, but they have no place in a carry gun. Whenever I get something new that I am thinking about using to protect my family and myself I will always test it extensively then ask myself these simple questions.

What is its purpose?

Why do I need it?

Is it better than what it replaces?

I shudder to think what could have happened if I had to use my ETS 43 mags in a gunfight. Always test your carry equipment before you put it into service, I am glad I do.

Mike Westra
Mike relies on the on the knowledge, skills and attitude he developed while working as a deputy sheriff, bounty hunter, and firefighter to educate and train his students and customers. Mike manages a gun store and is also the Lead Firearms Instructor with Ammo-Inc. On his days off you can find him tearing up the skies over Michigan in a Cessna. #mikeisawesome