STRAC Tech FAST M4 Magazine Dispenser
STRAC Technologies F.A.S.T. System M4 review by Booligan
Table of Contents:
Real Steel History
I had seen various videos of this item floating around, and I was impressed with the design and the advertised improvement in reload times; into the sub-2 second range. Being that it is a product designed for real operators in real conflicts, I figured I would not be able to review one here on Airsoft Retreat. Then I saw that they started advertising here on ASR, so I contacted them to see what their interest in the airsoft market was. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they are quite committed to the airsoft market, and the niche group of hardcore mil-sim style players that this rig is perfect for. So here we are, with the first review of the STRAC Technologies F.A.S.T. System on an airsoft website, something only Airsoft Retreat could make happen!
Real Steel History:
Since this is a real steel item itself, the history will be about this actual product.
"The STRAC Technologies F.A.S.T. System model M4 allows operators continuous sub 2-second reloads while keeping their weapon and eyes trained on the threat. Muscle memory is accomplished in a very short period of time by reaching for the magazine in the same location. Tested and evaluated by the US Special Forces, the F.A.S.T. System model M4 is currently in use overseas by US Operator in the support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Made of high impact, Mil-Spec composite material, each F.A.S.T. System is covered by a lifetime warranty (Excluding mounting hardware and spring). Each F.A.S.T. System is completely ambidextrous and can hold up to 3 standard M4 magazines. PMAGs are not compatible with the F.A.S.T. System. Each F.A.S.T. System is shipped with a 1000D Nylon Carrier, manufactured by our committed partner, Eagle Industries."
(Taken from www.stractech.com)
I obtained this item courtesy of STRAC Technologies in order to review it here on Airsoft Retreat. I received mine approximately 2 weeks after ordering, which is quite good considering the company ships out to its military and LE customers first, and advertises a 4-6 week lead time in ordering. I always have, and will continue to have respect for companies that put Mil and LE customers first, as it's their lives on the line. We're just playing dress-up and imitating them, so they deserve to be first in line. Pricing on this item is $248.11 for the civvy population, and $219.61 for the Mil/LE/PMC community, which is a fair price considering it's designed, developed, and built in the USA by military contractor companies, and is engineered to take abuse far above and beyond what any airsofter could arrange. They also have a tac-vest designed for use with this system called the 10-0 Tactical Vest, which is manufactured by Eagle Industries, and priced at $62.66.
So what is this thing? Basically, it's a magazine for magazines. It keeps three standard M4 magazines under spring pressure for quick access from the same location every time. This keeps your spare mags close at hand for super fast reloads, and allows you to learn where the mags will be in a very short amount of time. F.A.S.T. stands for "Fast And Smooth Transition", according to company literature. For those of you who use something other than an M4, they are currently working on an MP5 and G36 variant as well.
The system arrived in a plain USPS shipping box, which, combined with the system's rugged design, got to me in one piece with no damage. In my dealings with real products, I've learned that they don't need fancy packaging, or any at all in some cases. The products usually speak for themselves.
Included with the F.A.S.T. System is the system itself (duh), the 1000D nylon carrier in your choice of currently 6 patterns (Black, OD, Khaki, ACU, Marpat, and Multicam), and previously two designs (zipper access front or MOLLE front, only MOLLE currently available), and a quick reference card to help you setup and use your F.A.S.T. System. I ordered the Khaki MOLLE carrier, and that is exactly what I received.
From here on, click all pictures to enlarge
The internal unit itself measures approximately 10"x7.65", with the front mounting tabs extending it to 8.2". The composite material it is made out of shows no flex at all, in any direction. It has an open front (which is covered by the carrier, but can be accessed with the zipper front one) to clear any possible jams in the magazine due to a spring failure or other situation. Of note, during 2008 testing in Iraq with US Army Spec Ops operators, there were a grand total of ZERO magazine misfeeds. The internal unit is manufactured by Wilcox Industries, who builds everything from NVG mounts, M203 sights, modular illuminators, land based life support systems, and other things that I'm sure they can't list on their site. The unit is tightly (very much so) inserted into the carrier, but can be removed if needs be. Mine is so tight that I haven't tried pulling it out.
Stock photo of the inner unit. Note the heavy stainless steel spring
The follower is made of the same material as the rest of the unit, and is contoured to fit a standard M4 magazine. It is seated inside the unit to prevent jamming, as well as to prevent debris from getting inside the unit.
The carrier is manufactured out of 1000D nylon in your choice of pattern and design. I can't comment on the original zipper front system, as I only have the MOLLE design carrier. The original system tested by US Army Spec Ops was the zipper front system, but they expressed their desire to retain MOLLE real estate on top of the F.A.S.T. system, so the MOLLE carrier was designed. I prefer it, because I like having as much MOLLE real estate as possible for mounting additional "refill" mag pouches, or other MOLLE accessories. The carrier also has a dust/dirt cover that is attached over the exposed magazine via velcro, and is designed with a pull loop to rapidly remove it to access the magazines. The cover is attached by a buckle (one on each side of the carrier for ambidextrous use) which allows it to hang down, clear of the system once removed. There are elastic loops on the carrier to secure the dust cover once you have time to do it safely, as it takes a bit of time to get it secured in there.
In my use, the unit takes up 4 columns and 3 rows of MOLLE real estate, which is actually less than my current triple mag pouch (6x2-3). The MOLLE attachment on the back of the carrier, and the extra MOLLE on the front are to proper specifications, as would be expected from Eagle Industries.
Rear attachment MOLLE
Both the carrier and internal unit are designed for ambidextrous use. With the carrier, all you have to do is mount it on the other side of your body (left side for right handed shooters, right side for left handed users, provided you're setting it up for typical strong side recovery), and attach the dust cover buckle so that it's on the bottom buckle. When mounted on the left side of the body, the MOLLE will thread down through the webbing. When mounted on the right side, it'll thread up.
With the internal unit, you must ensure that the "Finger Relief Plate" is situated properly. With the unit installed on the desired side of the body, the STRAC logo and patent info should be right side up, with open part of the relief plate situated at the bottom, to allow you to properly grab the magazine. It can be flipped for right or left handed users by unscrewing the nine phillips head screws from the rear and repositioning it for your use, taking care not to overtighten and strip the screws upon reinstallation.
Finger Relief Plate, these marks should be right side up when mounted.
I've tested the F.A.S.T. System with:
This is where the difference between real steel and airsoft manufacturing is shown. Real M4 mags are pretty much all the same size, and have a slanted in feed lip at the top. Airsoft magazines, for the most part, are smaller than real M4 mags (but not consistently so), and have a 90 degree somewhat harsh edge at the top of the mag. This means a few things.
If the mag is too short (SRC hicaps did it), the mag will come out smoothly, but the second mag may (rarely) "stovepipe" and come off center in the holder, which looks bad, but isn't that serious of an issue. You can still remove the mag easily.
If the mag is too tall (G&G mags did it), then the harsh 90 degree edge may catch a bit, causing a slight delay in getting the mag out. Some sanding of the top of the mag to smooth it out a bit will help with this.
If the mag is just the right balance of not being too small or too big (MAG mids, ARMY L85 hi-cap, TM low), then it won't be able to stovepipe, and won't get hung up at all, allowing a smooth exit.
ARMY L85 hi-cap, perfect fit
MAG mid-cap, shorter, but not too short as to stovepipe
STRAC reported to me that TM T89 mags are some of the best to use in it, which would make sense to me. The inconsistency in airsoft magazines is quite noticeable in this picture.
Six mags, about 5 different sizes
The system comes with a fast reference card that will basically teach you how to use this thing in a matter of seconds, but I'll go over the basics here.
Quick Reference Card
First, you need to install the system on your carrier. Positioning is somewhat important, and according to the QRC (quick reference card), the top of the unit should be close to parallel with the armpit, and the magazine stops should be within 1"-2" of the center of the sternum. Their 10-0 tac vest is designed with this in mind, but I only had my CIRAS to try it with, so I had to mount it slightly lower and more to the left. It fits the side bit of MOLLE real estate perfectly, and positioned it quite well for me.
Mounted on my Maritime CIRAS replica
There are molded tabs on the internal unit to mount it even more securely to the MOLLE on your rig using zip ties, paracord, or whatever else you have handy, but this is optional. Information on this can be found on this video:
Then, load up the internal unit with 3 M4 mags. The QRC states that the first mag is loaded with one hand, and the subsequent mags are loaded by pushing in the loaded mag with one hand, and inserting the new mag with the other hand. Pretty common sense, and can be done quickly after a bit of practice.
Loading the first mag
Push in the earlier mag, then insert next mag
Now, strong side recovery is accomplished like this. Take your non shooting hand and bring it down to the unit. Slide your fingers along the plate until you find the open section, and can now grab the magazine. Holding it securely, pull it back into the unit slightly (to clear the magazine stops), and quickly rotate it out of the unit, pulling it up towards the magwell. With literally 10 minutes of practice, I got my reloads below 2 seconds for the first time in my life.
Fingertips in the proper position
Here is a photo sequence showing proper use for strong side recovery. Weapon was unloaded with no battery and on safe, so no safety eyewear was worn.
Mag in, shooting, run out of ammo
Drop mag, bring non shooting hand down to F.A.S.T.
Use finger plate to guide fingers to the proper position, grab mag, pull back into unit, and start to pivot out
Pull mag out of unit, bring up to magwell (note next mag pushing the one being removed out of the unit)
The positioning when it comes out of unit allows it to be easily brought up into magwell
Click mag in, hit bolt release if equipped (real steel, GBB, Systema and some newer system M4 users only pretty much) and commence firing again.
It's a very quick process, and if you notice, my eyes and weapon could stay on target the whole time.
Weak side recovery, with the unit on the same side as your weapon is executed by reaching across your body, putting your thumb behind the mag and grasping the front bit with the remaining fingers. Slightly push in, then rotate the mag out and into the magwell.
Here are some video's from STRAC Technologies about the proper use:
Overall, the system is quite easy to use, and does exactly what it's supposed to. One complaint of the unit is its low capacity (3 mags), but honestly, how often have you been in a continuous firefight that lasted more than 3 mags at one time, before you could move to cover and take 10-15 seconds to reload the F.A.S.T.? The use of this as your primary magazine holder, combined with a few more mag pouches to refill this in downtime on the field makes you a pretty serious force to be reckoned with.
Super fast reloads
Very strong materials
Manufactured by Wilcox and Eagle, two trusted names in military and LE products
Retains MOLLE real estate (with the current MOLLE carrier)
Expensive for the average airsofter (about $250)
Low capacity (addressed in the above section, but some will consider it a con still)
Slightly bulky (but not overly so, due to contoured design)
Some magazines are tricky to use, due to airsoft's lack of consistency
I am more than impressed with the F.A.S.T. System. It sped up my reloads exponentially, and does everything that it's advertised to do. It is also a very cool piece of kit that you won't see too often on the field, which helps set you apart from the crowd. Now, this isn't really the thing for casual players. It's more for the hardcore mil-sim guys out there where that extra second it takes to reload without it could lead to your elimination from either a game or training scenario. It's great for Mil/LE players who demand the best, and can take their gear with them from the playing field to the battle field. As a training tool, it's great, as you can use it with both airsoft and real firearm magazines, and develop that muscle memory needed to be tactically proficient. Overall, I think it's a very good tool, and am very pleased with mine.
Many thanks again to STRAC Technologies, Sparky D for the patch that's full of win, and of course, AirsoftRetreat!