Magazine -

Clip vs. Magazine

I've touched on it before but it's time to go in depth. I’m hearing it so much lately that now it’s like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Hollywood gets it wrong, the media gets it wrong, video games get it wrong and even firearm instructors get it wrong. This only goes to further the problem. Should it bother me as much as it does? Probably not. At the risk of being annoyingly pedantic, however, I want to set the record straight:
“Clip” and “Magazine” are not interchangeable terms.
A clip is a device used to assist in loading a magazine. It’s a metal strip that holds the ammo in place and in line so you can quickly slide them into a magazine. These were used in older rifles with internal magazines. The only guns made in recent years that use clips are revolvers which use what’s called a “moon clip”. Again, it’s used to quickly reload the revolver but it’s not the primary thing that holds the cartridges. There are also some quick reload kits for AR-15 magazines that use a combination of a clip and a plunger to save time refilling the mags.
There is a “missing link” type of clip called an “en bloc” clip. This holds the cartridges in place and, unlike most other clips for rifles, the clip stayed in the rifle during shooting and was usually automatically ejected once the last round was fired. The M1 Garand is a famous example of a rifle that used en bloc clips. This type of clip eventually paved the way for the removable magazines as we know it today.
A magazine, however, is still an entirely different beast.
Unlike a clip which is solely used for loading, the magazine actually stores the cartridges and assists in the feeding of the cartridge into the chamber for firing. While the designs vary widely, from integral/removable box mags to drums and rotary magazines, they all consist of similar parts. There’s a spring of some sorts and a plate that sits between the spring and the cartridges (called the “follower”) that pushes them into position. Magazines can be removable like the ones in your AR-15 or semi-automatic pistol or they can be built into the gun like in many bolt action rifles and pump action or semi-automatic shotguns. Yes, the tube that holds the shells for your shotgun is a magazine (a “tubular” mag, to be precise).
The the quick rule of thumb is as follows: if it has a spring, it’s not a clip.
So pop quiz, hotshot, see if you can recognize which is which and leave a comment with your score:

Answers: 1) Magazine, 2) Magazine, 3) Clip, 4) Clip, 5) Magazine, 6) Clip
Images used under creative commons license from Wikipedia.