[Ed. note: The ITW FastMag is a different, and perhaps superior, method of carrying loaded AR magazines in combat and competition. The current FastMag is the thrid generation of the product. One of our regular contributors, Aaron, has used these mags on his SWAT rig, and has a detailed review of the product. Aaron previously reviewed the ITW MagBoot.]
Gen III FastMags
While at SHOT Show this year I was able to meet up with the ITW Military Products group, and had the great opportunity to get some ITW gear for testing and review. The Generation III FastMags were some of the products I was really interested in, as I am a heavy user of the 5.56mm AR-15 platform. The original FastMag was designed and developed by Down East, Inc. of Bridgton, Maine, and is marketed exclusively through ITW Military Products. I had first learned about the FastMags at the 2010 SHOT Show, and quickly loved the advantages and possibilities they provided.
The FastMags are a polymer AR-15 magazine carrier with an open-top, and an elastic tension band. The band provides tension between the front and back pieces that overlap each other. The front side of the FastMag will move outward, but only so far before the enclosed sliding parts meet the end of the sliding track.
In addition to eliminating the need for a top flap cover like nylon magazine pouches, the FastMag’s hard polymer provides a much easier ability to quickly store magazines. The FastMag also offers these features:
- Compatible with most 5.56mm/.223 ammunition magazines – metal and polymer
- High-impact resistant polymer case with anti-fragmentation properties
- Can attach to any 1” MOLLE/P.A.L.S. gear in an up or down position
- Duty belt versions are available.
- Duty belt version can attach to Molle version through attachment slots on front
- Attachment slots for Malice clips or double-stacking
- Tension strap is adjustable to meet individual user preference on friction lock
- Ghillie TEX IR Signature Reduction Technology
To load an AR-15 magazine into the FastMag simply insert the top of the magazine into the FastMag and give it a good push until it fills the carrier. Due to the tension strap, the user may have to start the insertion, give the magazine a slight twist to cause the front panel of the FastMag to open outward slightly, then complete the insertion of the magazine. To retrieve the magazine the shooter simply pulls the magazine out, overcoming the tension keeping the magazine in place. If the tension is too tight for quick retrievals, the shooter can twist and pull the magazine at the same time. This process will cause the front panel to open slightly allowing easier removal.
The FastMag offers a huge advancement in magazine storage opportunities and technology. There are several great improvements that have been made to the Gen III FastMags over the Gen I and Gen II FastMags.
First, the Gen III tension band is much stronger, eliminating any need to add bands for tension strength (see below). Now officers can confidently mount the FastMag with the open-top facing down.
The second big improvement is the addition of mounting slots on the front side of the FastMag. The Gen III Fast Mag was the first model to have mounting slots on the front side so FastMags could be double-stacked.
There are two versions of the Gen III FastMag. The MOLLE/P.A.L.S. model has two tabs on the top of the back side. These tabs slide under two MOLLE attachment tags for greater retention. The second version is a stacking model that does not have the MOLLE attachment tabs on the top. Both versions have MOLLE compatible mounting straps on the back side.
The third improvement is an adjustable/removable duty belt adapter. Now the stackable version of the FastMag can also be secured to a duty belt. This belt adapter slides through the two MOLLE compatible attachment straps on the back side. The belt adapter is tight enough on the MOLLE straps to adjust the fit to match the belt you’re wearing, but loose enough to slide right off the MOLLE compatible straps if the intended use of the FastMag is to attach to the front of the MOLLE Fast Mag.
The ITW Gen III FastMags come in four different colors to meet the particular needs of the individual user:
- Foliage Green
- Coyote Brown
Gen III FastMags
Our SWAT Team issues each team member two of the Gen III FastMags, most have more than that. We found them to be incredibly durable and fast for reloads. The Gen III FastMags has several advancements over the earlier FastMags. Most notably was the elimination of nylon attachment straps with snaps, to the current rubberized attachment straps with a tension hook securement. The Gen I and Gen II FastMags also did not have the slots on the face that allow for FastMag stacking.
Through heavy testing in full SWAT gear we did find that the retention band on the first Gen III Fast Mags did have a limitation.
An early Gen III Retention Concern
Most operators had placed the FastMags on their heavy vests so that the magazine would insert upwards into the FastMag (open top facing down). That provided the most ergonomic and efficient way to retrieve a magazine for reload, as the operator would be pulling the magazine downward during retrieval. That worked fine for most situations, but we found that on a few activities involving excessive jarring or running a magazine would occasionally fall free from the FastMag. That is never a good thing in a gunfight.
Several Team members immediately switched their FastMags so the magazine would insert downwards like a traditional magazine pouch (open top up). That way the magazine is not fighting against gravity. This still provided a quick method of magazine retrieval, however, an upward retrieval is not as fast or natural as the downward retrieval. There have been no issues with the FastMags in an upward opening position.
However, some team members discovered that the retention band looked a lot like the rubber bracelets that seem to be everywhere today. Those team mates found that the Fast Mags have two slots for a retention band, allowing for individual preference on tension strength. When a second rubber band is added to the original, the tension increases on the inserted magazine.
Once the addition was made, those team members have not had another accidental dislodging of a magazine. They have also found that the added tension does not interfere with a quick retrieval for magazine reloads.
Note: Not all of those rubber bands will fit properly on the FastMag. We found that the smaller versions apply the necessary tension.
The early Gen III fix!
I’m not sure exactly when Down East, Inc. made a change to the tension strap, but I’m fairly confident that it came from user feedback. The Gen III FastMags that I picked up at SHOT Show this year, and the ones I just recently purchased, have a much stronger tension strap than the Gen III FastMags our Team purchased about 3 years ago. Although definitely noticeable from the earlier Gen III tension strap, I have not had any trouble retrieving magazines.
With the increased tension I feel much more confident having my FastMags mounted to allow for the fastest withdrawal using a downward motion. If you have FastMags and are having some retention problems in the downward mounted position you probably have the earliest Gen III models. Try adding another retention band and you should be fine.
The FastMag also comes in the FastMag Heavy, which has all of the same, great features as the FastMag, but is designed to hold most 7.62x51mm ammunition magazines. The FastMag Heavy also comes in the MOLLE/P.A.L.S. version, and the duty belt/stackable version as well, with the same color options as the original.
One of our snipers, who shoots a semi-auto .308 rifle, has mounted a FastMag Heavy on his gear pack. The FastMag Heavy has lived up to the same reputation as the FastMags, and has proven to be reliable and fast in the field. Our sniper has used the Heavy to hold metal magazines with no problems, and I’m confident that it will handle the polymer magazines in like fashion.
To expand on the popular FastMag rifle series, Down East, Inc. through ITW Military Products, has produced the same great features in a pistol magazine carrier. The FastMag Pistol comes in a MOLLE/P.A.L.S. version with a MOLLE tab on back, and a duty belt version without the MOLLE tab. Both versions are a single magazine carrier. The urethane tension strap is adjustable for personal preference on release tension, and the MOLLE strap on back allows the FastMag Pistol to be mounted to either a FastMag or FastMag Heavy.
Coming in the same color offerings as other FastMag products, the Fast Mag Pistol is designed to hold most of the following pistol magazines:
- Double stack 9mm
- Double stack .40 caliber
- Single and double stack .45 caliber.
I have a FastMag Pistol on my personal rig, holding a full-size Glock .40 cal. magazine with no problems. The sniper with the FastMag Heavy has also mounted a FastMag Pistol to his duty rig. He has provided me a resounding thumbs up on it’s performance and durability.
Acceptance in Law Enforcement
The ITW FastMag is quickly finding approval in the law enforcement arena. The ITW Gen III FastMag is “Member Tested and Recommended” by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA). I can add with confidence that my SWAT Team would fully agree with that endorsement.
Availability & Price
The ITW Fast Mags are available directly through ITW Military Products, and several law enforcement product distributors, such as Midway USA, Cheaper Than Dirt, LA Police Gear, and Simmons Law Enforcement. The prices were nearly identical among the different distributors.
- The Gen III Fast Mags were around $30 each.
- The Fast Mag Heavy was around $33 each.
- The Fast Mag Pistol was about $28 each.
From testing and seeking out feedback from others I can say without a doubt that the ITW FastMag series are high quality magazine carriers. The speed at which magazines can be retrieved and stored is simply amazing. The durability and reliability, especially the upgraded Gen III, are solid. Personally, I have several FastMags on my own rig, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. If you try out the FastMag I’m confident that you will agree – and you’ll likely never go back.
Aaron is a sergeant with a midwestern police department, where he serves as a trainer, supervisor and SWAT sniper. In addition to his broad tactical knowledge, Aaron has experience in DUI, DRE and undercover narcotics investigations.