Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away….. the sport of Practical shotgun was created by those poor souls in Great Britain who could no longer shoot handguns after 1997. When the sport was conceived, we had nothing better to hold our ammo than converted clay or game shooting belts. Next came various versions of the caddies which enabled the shooter to grab multiple shells and work them into the loading port while holding the gun up with one hand.
Then a clever chap went to a plumbers merchant and bought pipe clips which he turned into a rig that held 2 shells vertically and Load-2 was born. Chameleon, Taccom, Invictus, Safariland and others made commercial Load 2 rigs and eventually Quad-Loading came from Load-2. Up to this point all rigs relied on moulded plastic to hold the shells in place, which sometimes wore out or cracked and was a bit stiff in terms of release force in order to guarantee sufficient retention. This improved when companies like Ghost and AP Custom made metal spring clips but the real revolution came when a couple of clever Finnish gents made the first magnetic retention rig and called it King. Since then magnetic retention has become the norm for most manufacturers and is now moving in some cases away from 3-d print to injection moulded construction.
This brings us to the present day where 95% of shooters in Standard, Standard Manual and Modified at the IPSC World Shotgun Shoot III in 2018 were using one of the following five most popular magnetic caddies: King, Magload, Awen, Z-Gun (pictured L-R above) and Ezload who are about to launch a new rig (so we didn’t get one in time for this review). We asked them all to supply 12 shell rigs as they are used by both Practical shotgunners and 3 gunners, however each company can provide holders from 8 to 32 rounds in multiples of 4.
We tested each caddy for Weight, Width, Crush resistance, Pull resistance, Magnetic force, Finger room, max length of shells, minimum length of shells and amount of shell visible for your thumbs. The results are in the accompanying video and can be summarised as follows:
Awen Innovations – http://www.awen-innovations.com/
Awen are based in Spain and can be purchased from their website. The basic design is similar to most with a metal back plate and plastic components, they are well made and none of the springs are exposed to the elements, however they have a fairly short ‘micro’ adjustment range and are one of the heaviest caddies in the test. In terms of shell release and retention they sit right in the middle of the group but are the only ones in the test where release force can be adjusted (the factory settings were used for the test).
King Compitition – https://www.kingcompetitionproducts.com/
King Competition products are the love child of Kim Leppanen and Jaakko Viitala, two of the best practical shooters in the world who were the first to use magnets to hold the cartridges in their caddies. The Gen 6 is a very well built, tried and tested design, utilising a thin metal back plate with strong steel rods to give rigidity, this makes their caddies the lightest on the market without compromising retention. Retention and macro shell length can be user adjusted with one allen key. The rods and springs are open to the elements which, depending on your point of view, could mean they can get clogged up in muddy conditions or could mean they are easy to clean. With that said, they obviously work well in the Finnish weather!
Magload – https://magload.co.uk
Magload products are the brain child of ‘Conners’ from the UK, he’s a keen competitor himself with more than a touch of the ‘Mad Scientist’ about him! His caddies, although using a backplate like the others, has a very different design. It has the lightest release of all the caddies and uses only one magnet at the top, relying more on the constant spring pressure from below to hold the shells firm. It provides the second largest adjustment range of all the caddies, without ever needing to adjust anything, but its unique selling point is it can be user configured for left or right hand use.
Z Gun – https://ishooter.ru/
Z-Gun, from Russia with Love – they are built like a tank, with the best anti crush force and the heaviest release force. They use a plastic back plate which makes them almost as light as the Kings, they are beautifully built and allow the most ‘Finger room’ for big Russian hands. They only have a relatively small shell adjustment range, but this should be adequate for most shells used by Practical shotgunners.