We first reported on the Podavach magazine loader in January this year, mentioning that it had some unique features in an industry saturated with “unique”. First and foremost, more than a simple magazine loader, it incorporates a multi-caliber design, with layout options for 7.62x39mm AKM patterned magazines, 5.45x39mm AK74 patterned magazines, .300 BLK and 5.56x45mm patterned magazines. The ability to not only load multiple calibers but more importantly the two most common rifle magazines so prevalent within numerous military, law enforcement, and civilian sectors isn’t something to not take lightly, given its potential.
From viewing videos of previous bench loaders from numerous other companies, they initially seemed to be very ineffective as taking the time to correctly assemble every round in the tray looked to be more tedious than just jamming rounds in by hand. Some of this stays the same in certain respects, but the reality of the loader will be discussed in this review.
The Podavach loader comes in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic wrap underneath. It has a soft material to protect the bottom of the loader as well. The packaging is very precise and well done, in fact, this concurs with everything else about the product in that it is a very well thought out loader from an aesthetics standpoint. From the paint, markings, cardboard packaging, to even the website of the company, there is a very professional and well taken care of feel for the loader. For our review, we received the green as well as the black finish loaders.
Stated directly on the front of the cardboard box and MOLLE field cover is the statement “Battle-Tested by Special Forces”. As of this writing, it is difficult to ascertain what Ukranian SoF groups were actively using it, or have found it useful. However, the loader has been in use with various fighters in the Ukranian conflict, apparently both Government and volunteer sides of the fight. It isn’t a primary issue item or anything but has found its way to the frontlines through private purchase. Specifically, the model used is an earlier model that is configured just for 7.62x39mm. Below are a number of Youtube videos that illustrate this point-
The image below was provided by the Podavach, showing the latest multi-caliber version in usage. The majority of the rifles in use by the Ukrainians are various Kalashnikov platforms, either 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm. However, there are some 5.56x45mm NATO AR15s locally produced, in addition to 5.45x39mm Tavors. Within this logistical nightmare, a magazine loader that accommodates all three calibers could be a tremendous help.
This is a statement from Podavach detailing the use within the rank and file troops-
Since 2014 Ukrainian soldiers are actively using Podavach loaders at the frontline. During these 2 years over 1,000 loaders were spread among different battalions. Ukrainian soldiers expressed an extremely high interest in the product due to it’s usefulness under the continuous fire and impactful loading time shortening. After we shared the information about our product in Ukraine a lot of volunteer organizations contacted us in order to develop cooperation. This demand was satisfied and we did our best to provide as many Ukrainian battalions with Podavach loader as we could.
So granted, the loader is seeing active usage in the Ukraine conflict. But I really wish that the company would attach more literature or material to back up this SoF usage claim.
The magazine loader does work as advertised in that while using stock STANAG magazines and standard Kalashnikov magazines inserted into the feed lip holder, it was able to very quickly load an entire magazine with just a simple shove of the push piece after having gotten the channel loaded. With the STANAG magazines, a user would have to physically press against the magazine to get it to load. The Kalashnikov ones simply clicked into place.
Weight and case were very convenient, with the weight of 1.43 lbs being brought down by the wooden construction while the carrying case was a nice addition to being able to carry it in the field.
It being multi-caliber this is a huge plus in the United States where oftentimes people can be going to the range with a multitude of calibers. This allows the efficient loading of at least two very popular cartridges, in addition to two others not very far off when it comes to the carbine/rifle market.
Getting this loader up to the speed required careful placement of the rounds into the feed channel. Personally, I saw the many videos of simply dumping the rounds into the open area and then pushing them into the feed channel to be time-consuming, and it was during the actual testing. Instead, what I found to work better was if you dump your box of rounds into the channel at an angle that is conducive to the rounds falling primer end first, allowing for them all to line up correctly. Both techniques are acceptable into getting rounds to channel correctly, but I can’t cut this attribute either way for being bad or good.
The price of the loader is around $75, or combined with the companies rifle rack system, is $95. It does appear high, but compared to some other bench loaders on the market, this is actually a little cheaper for the market value.
Aesthetics of the magazine loader are top notch, and it is a good feeling to have a product that was designed with an eye for this. However, the aesthetics really do need to come second in priority to actual design and operation.
As mentioned previously, the device worked great with the stock magazines, except for the 5.45x39mm AK74 bakelite. Now, maybe other bakelite magazines, polymer 74′ would have fit in perfectly fine, but with the bakelite I had, it had to be forcefully wedged into the feeding lip catch. It would load fine, apart from one or two tries where the magazine didn’t quite line up with the rounds coming in and had to be tilted one way or another. The 74′ magazine also led a major chip of the wood underneath it, where it was extremely snugged into the feeding portion.
But the larger problem was with the aftermarket polymer 7.62x39mm magazines. We used a US Palm 30 round and Magpul 30 round magazine, both of which couldn’t be fully inserted due to the rib design on the front that couldn’t be pushed in all the way.
Who this would work for
I can see a very clear use for this magazine loader in a number of occupations, but unfortunately, I just can’t see the Infantry efficiency of it, while on operations. For one, there is a clear reason why almost nothing in most military services are made out of wood and that is because it breaks much easier than metal or polymer in many cases. Of course, another reason being that wood is difficult to decontaminate after an NBC attack, but to a grunt on the line, this isn’t a large priority. So even if the loader doesn’t break during actual usage of it through the warranted 20,000 magazine loads, the thin wood is going to snap just from everything infantrymen are doing in the field. Jumping off of trucks, tossing packs several meters, falling/slipping down slopes, etc… In addition, if the claim to fame is that it allows magazines to be loaded much quicker, I’d be asking why these grunts are expending that much ammunition on a daily basis from their service rifles. Machine gun teams need colossal amounts of rounds, mortar teams need rounds. Riflemen should be taking well-aimed shots at targets of opportunity, not dumping lead downrange. If these men are really that much in a hurry to load magazines, you probably have more important tasks to worry about, such as being overran, instead of trying to jam an entire ammunition crate into your empty sources of ammunition.
Another point is that if this product really is designed for the front, that is an entire pound and a half that is now going to take up a large amount of space in my ruck. That is a pound and a half that could be another radio battery, or even food to sustain a patrol. I’ll deal with the sore thumbs if that means I can have a fuller belly.
Other than the military application, I think the civilian application cannot be ignored and is certainly extremely useful for a large number of purposes. For loading over 5-10 magazines within the AR or Kalashnikov platforms, especially at range days or in otherwise relatively calm environments, the Podavach loader would really shine due to the multi-caliber versatility. I can see this really coming in handy during industry range days or shoots where a lot of outsiders are shooting at a couple of stands/tables. It looks pleasing to the eye, it shows a company/group/representative can have some taste in accessories, but more importantly, it’ll be able to load the hundreds of magazines sometimes needed to get hundreds of people through a live fire event. Especially if a company has multiple calibers on hand like many specialized rifle companies have, where going from a 5.56x45mm AR being shot, to a .300 BLK AR (considering the safety precautions with this of course) could be happening within the same hour.
Bare in mind though, this would only be useful when utilizing ammunition that comes in standard cardboard cases or the Soviet paper wrapped pouches in the spam cans, and not the stripper clips.
TFB just received this update from the company about a new version of the loader, with the attached photograph-
What changed: It became lighter: 1,1 lb or 500 gr.; 1.5 times thinner; more stable and convenient pusher; new design.People who will first subscribe to our newsletters on our website (www.podavach.com) will receive special -10% discount coupons for this version. Coupons are limited.
Much thanks to Jason D. and Richard L. for allowing me to borrow some of their magazines and .300 BLK for this review, the assistance really came through in a pinch!