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A Viper Innovation Cell and CATM Collab - Shaw AFB Implements 3-D Printed M-4 Magazine Speed Loading Ram

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kevin Dunkleberger
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) non-commissioned officer in charge and innovation lead cross paths in a commissary parking lot… What sounds like the start of a joke, is the actual event which led to one of the most efficient upgrades to the CATM range by way of the Viper Innovation Cell at Shaw AFB.

Part of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nickalos Richards' responsibilities as the 20th Fighter Wing innovation lead at the Viper Innovation Cell, is to implement creative solutions to workplace problems around base.

Richards discovered the design for an M-4 Magazine Speed Loading Ram (MMSLR) uploaded by an Airman on the AFMaker Community on OpenHive, an online military 3-D printing file repository. The website allows a problem solved at one base to be shared across the military so other units can discover solutions to shared issues.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stephen Jogerst, 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft mechanic, developed the MMSLR at Phoenix Spark, the innovation lab at Travis AFB, California, and uploaded the design to OpenHive.

Jogerst reverse engineered a civilian loader to improve efficiency for the CATM section at his base after an order instructing every member of Air Mobility Command to shoot 10 rounds down range was authorized, and loading times became a bottleneck when executing the process.

“I became involved with OpenHive because our Spark Cell needed a convenient hosting repository to share [3-D printing] designs and projects across the Air Force,” said Jogerst. “Any unit across the globe can simply download the [MMSLR] design, go to their nearest Spark Cell, and print out what they need. This process effectively short circuits the normal acquisition systems and demonstrates the value and flexibility of distributed additive manufacturing to the Air Force mission.”

Jogerst’s design reduces the time it takes to load one of the primary weapon systems utilized by the United States Air Force, by inserting a 10-round strip clip into the main body hopper of the MMSLR, which is attached to a M-4 magazine, and then forces the rounds into the magazine with the 3-D printed plunger, leaving the empty strip clip behind.

The MMSLR alleviates the time taken by thumbing 30 rounds one-by-one into a magazine, which can also be a safety hazard, pinching or cutting service members on the metal magazine during the loading process.

Richards saw an opportunity to improve efficiency and safety at the CATM range at Shaw AFB, so when he spotted the iconic red hat worn by CATM members at the commissary, he introduced himself to Staff Sgt. Brandon Murray, 20th Security Forces, CATM non-commissioned officer in charge, and proposed bringing a prototype of the MMSLR to the range.

“With the recent relaunch of the Viper Innovation Cell, we want to secure as many wins as possible to validate the cell’s impact at Shaw,” said Richards. “Being able to problem solve for our units and help them to be more effective and mission-ready directly aligns with the cell’s mission.”

After Murray tested the invention and was pleased with its ability to reduce reload times, Richards began working on printing the more effective and versatile loader.

The file Richards accessed from Jogerst included the design for the loader, however, Richards had to experiment with various printing filaments to print the MMSLR.

Richards selected Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene for the main body, a durable plastic which is cost effective, easier to print and would not need to withstand much force during use. For the plunger component, Richards chose a Polycarbonate filament; a stronger plastic able to handle the stress from thrusting the ammunition into the metal M-4 magazine.

With a printable design finalized, Richards printed 42 loaders for CATM, a primary and backup for each of the 21 shooting spots at the range.

Upon delivery of the full set, Murray commented on the benefits of the loaders throughout a full course of fire, which includes firing upwards of 300 rounds, previously requiring each round to be loaded one at a time.

“Properly utilizing the Speed Loading Ram will save approximately 15 minutes during training, allowing our Airmen to properly load a full 30-round magazine in less than a minute,” said Murray. “Having the loader here reduces training times for the 20th Security Forces Squadron and proficiency training courses for the rest of the force, allowing us to ensure mission-ready status for all members of Shaw AFB.”

The loader is the latest example of the Viper Innovation Cell’s contributions to Shaw AFB.

“The cell is a hub for collaboration and creativity,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Reader, 20th Fighter Wing Viper Innovation Cell alternate lead. “We can problem solve issues in our own workplaces, as well as other career fields. Something we may come across at the cell may benefit another workplace, as was the case with the loader, which is why we invite everyone to visit the cell.”