For the newbies out there, and for people who just don’t know much about guns, there is a difference in the whole magazine vs clip thing. You’ve probably noticed that some people go bonkers when someone mixes up the two.
Thanks to media and the movies, the two terms are used interchangeably by actors, laypersons and also politicians who don’t know the difference. One ponders whether a person who knows absolutely nothing about something should be allowed to suggest or introduce legislation about it, but that’s a discussion for another time.
So, let’s go ahead and get into the difference between a magazine and a clip. We aren’t going to get into the technical details of specific makes and models of firearms, though we will mention a few along the way as illustrative examples.
First, what are clips? A clip is basically a bracket that holds a few rounds together. There are no parts; it’s literally a piece of metal that’s stamped or machined to hold a few cartridges together. Insert rounds into the clip and the clip holds them there, ready to be inserted into the gun.
But what is a magazine? A magazine is a container of cartridges with a spring and a follower (which pushes the cartridges out) that feeds them to the receiver of the gun. The most common are tubular magazines (lever-action rifles, most shotguns) and box magazines, found on most rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
Tubular magazines are just what they sound like; a tube of cartridges or shot shells. A spring at the front of the tube and a plug is compressed as the tube is loaded.
The tension pushes the next round into the receiver and cycling the action (with a lever, pump or semi-automatic mechanism) puts the next round into the chamber of a firearm.
A box magazine is literally that…a box that holds cartridges. It can be an internal magazine (inside the gun itself, such as on most bolt-action rifles) or external. It can be fixed or detachable.
There’s a follower (that green thing, above), that the cartridges sit on, and a spring underneath the follower. As the rounds are inserted into the magazine, the spring gets compressed. As rounds are fired and cycled out of the firearm, pressure from the spring pushes the next round up until it’s empty.
There are some additional magazine designs such as rotary magazines (Ruger 10/22, Savage 99) drum magazines (Thompson SMG) and pan magazines, but we’ll save that for another time.
A clip, on the other hand, is literally just a bracket that holds cartridges together. Some guns actually have both a magazine AND use clips, which we’ll get to.
Clips come in three distinct varieties.
The one you’re most likely to run across these days are moon clips, which are circular clips with cutouts. These hold rimless rounds for revolvers. If the cylinder has been machined to use them, you insert either a “whole moon” clip (all six) or half-moon clips (three) into the cylinder. There are two-round moon clips too, but they’re very rare.
These have two primary benefits. First, since revolvers require rimmed cartridges (meaning the base is larger than the case) moon clips allow use of rimless ammunition usually used in semi-automatic pistols. Ergo, you can shoot .45 ACP in a revolver that would ordinarily only shoot .45 Colt. (I don’t want to hear a word about AutoRim; you can’t find it anywhere and it’s stupid expensive when you do, so don’t even start.) Second, moon clips also aid in ejection.
Another common type of clip is the en bloc clip. An en bloc clip is inserted into the action of the firearm itself and is either ejected or has to be extracted after the ammunition is depleted. Guns designed for en bloc clips do not work without them.
The most famous example is that of the M1 Garand, the American service rifle of the mid-20th century chambered in the finest round ever known to man, .30-06. (Yeah, I said it; leave a nasty note in the comments and see if I care, ha!)
The M1 Garand (pronounced “gare-und” like “errand” and not “guh-rand“) accepts the 8-round en bloc clip, basically a metal strap that holds 8 rounds of ammunition. The M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles eject the en bloc clip as soon as the last round is fired.
Stripper clips, also known as charger clips or speedloader clips, are basically a strip of metal with lips. You push rounds into the stripper clip, which holds the rounds in place. Use is fairly simple.
The receiver of a rifle that takes them has a channel machined into it. You put the stripper clip into the stripper clip notch and push the rounds down into the magazine. You then toss the clip away (or put it in a pocket) and close the bolt, chambering the first round.
Basically, it’s a speedloader for a rifle. In fact, some detachable rifle magazines have channels for using a stripper clip to load them. The big difference between a stripper clip and an en bloc clip, however, is that a rifle that takes en bloc clips can ONLY be loaded using one. A rifle that allows use of stripper clips, however, can be loaded one round at a time.
Examples of firearms that take stripper clips include Mauser 98 and Lee Enfield rifles, and early semi-auto pistols such as the “Broomhandle” Mauser C96.
So…why do people confuse them?
Because clips AND detachable magazines both insert rounds into a firearm. Since these are two objects that perform the same task, some folks will use the terms interchangeably…especially people who don’t know the difference. Complicating things even more, some people used rounds on stripper clips to load box magazines (such as the AR-15 or M16).
It rankles firearms enthusiasts just like it would rankle a car guy if you confused their Ford Mustang with a Chevy Camaro, or if you called a paring knife a filet blade in front of Gordon Ramsay. (IT’S RAW!) While a person can make the occasional slip of the cigar…I mean tongue…confusing the two is usually a sign that someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Any other gun terms that people get wrong that irritate you? Seriously want an M1 Garand now that I’ve mentioned them? Jealous of people who own rifles in .30-06? (You should be.) Sound off in the comments!