Saturday, April 28, 2007


Clip Versus Magazine; Tempest in Teapot

One of my European readers has been ragging on my belief in the interchangeable use of the words 'clip' and 'magazine' to denote the means for rapidly loading cartridges into modern rifles and pistols. Here's a little illustrated gun history to show why there is really only one essential difference between the two terms. I'll leave it to the smug to say if it is an essential difference. I don't find it to be so.

Here is one thing I think we can all agree on. A magazine is the place in the gun where the cartridges are before they are loaded singly into the chamber for actually firing the gun. If you keep that in mind, it all begins to make sense.

In 1896, the Mauser gun company began manufacturing the first successful and widely used self loading handgun, often called the Broom-handle Mauser, a beautiful gun, carrying in its magazine 10 powerful pistol cartridges--it is pictured below. It remains a bitch to load.

You have to use a stripper clip, a folded over piece of metal with a separate piece of metal inside to act as a spring to hold the rounds in the clip by spring tension.

This is the same method for loading the then state of the art military rifles like, say, the Mauser 1895 edition, which I don't own, so I'll substitute our stolen copy of that, the Springfield 1903 pictured below with the stripper clip inserted above the rifle's 5 round magazine. You have to push the rounds into the magazine off the stripper clip and it's a little clumsy and slow. A detail of the Mauser stripper clip showing the internal simple spring is shown below left. You can see the bent metal of the frame and the bent metal interior spring. Just so you know.

Because of the slowness of reloading with a stripper clip, at least in pistols shortly after the C-96 "Broom-handle" Mauser pistol became popular, a better sort of clip was introduced to put the cartridges into the pistols' magazine. The best of the new lot was the P08 Luger shown below, another beautiful weapon.

Here's some detail of the device which introduced and fed the rounds in the magazine of the Luger. As you can see, it is metal, it encloses the rounds rather than merely holds on to their ends, and it has a spring inside it to push the rounds up towards the bolt and chamber of the pistol. This is a single stack magazine so the metal end of the internal spring is fairly plain, though slightly sloped to tilt the round up for easy introduction into the chamber.

Now let's look at some details of the magazine of the C-96 in which the ten rounds are double stacked so that there are two rows of rounds to be fed into the chamber by the bolt traveling back and forth, one at a time.

On the left, the internals of the magazine are displayed disassembled and, on the right, the top view of the reassembled internals of the magazine are evident. What I want you to focus on is the large piece of metal on the top of the accordion bent leaf spring. That is the thing which feeds the double stack of rounds singly into the chamber due to the complex slope of the metal and is visible inside the magazine in the top view to the right.

With reference to the next two photographs, it is clear how the spring and metal top inside the magazine of the C-96 was combined with an expanded stripper clip, a box clip, to create an external magazine, that is, a magazine that could be removed from the gun. So those who insist on calling the box clip a magazine are or course right to do so. It is a magazine and, once inside the gun's internal magazine, it is congruent with that magazine--so congruent as to be one with it and deserving the name magazine, even if it is removed from the gun's internal magazine.

This use of the folded spring and molded, sloping top is easy to see in a modern double stack magazine, or box clip as some still call it. Focus on the black plastic thing on the left. That's the essential difference between a clip and a magazine in that it is unique to clips that can be called magazines..
The plastic top shown in detail on the right has the same complex slope of the big metal piece at the top of the magazine inside the C-96 Mauser so that only one cartridge is tilted up and ready to be fed into the chamber. Sorry it's so hard to see.

During WWII most of our boys used the standard issue M1 Garand, which was a better weapon than the Germans bolt action standard issue K-98 (and much better than the antiquated and underpowered bolt action Japanese rifles). It was semi-automatic and had an 8 round interior magazine which was clip fed. Below are the gun and several clips, some empty, one ready to be inserted into the magazine.
As you can see, there is no sloped top or any internal spring in these clips. They are a single piece of bent metal which hold the rounds in place through spring tension but which do not push the rounds up to the top for insertion into the chamber. These are just clips. The mechanism which feeds the rounds up is visible inside the magazine of the rifle.

So, in review, some of the 20th Century guns use clips with a spring but no top, some with no springs at all. These are just clips and should never be called a magazine. But what about the box clip that has both spring and slopping top? Are they not merely an evolution of the clip? Are they not just a specialized clip? Could they not properly be called a clip? Of course they can. But this sort of box clip, which reproduces the internal magazine of the C-96 so completely, can also be called a magazine, as explained above. Yet only a prig would say it can only be called a magazine. Here below is the evolution of some clips (although not in historical order) left to right. The two on the right can properly be called magazines as well.
Hope this was helpful.


In my 27 years in the military, the terms "clip" and "magazine" were used pretty much interchangeably.

Most of us simply used the term "clip", us being monosyllabic neanderthals and what not.
Me too, although I was never in the military (military school in Alabama but that doesn't count). What branch of service were you in?
I was in the Air Force/Air National Guard. I had a total of about 5 1/2 years active, the rest was reserve time.

I was a comm/computer systems guy, so I didn't spend too much time pulling triggers.

I did OK on the M-16, but I kinda sucked on the pistols (S&W .38 in the early years, then the Berretta 9MM).
"A magazine is the place in the gun where the cartridges are before they are loaded singly into the chamber for actually firing the gun"

This is actually called a "magazine well". I think this is where your confusion comes from.
What Lysander said.
I have never heard the term 'magazine well' before Lysander wrote it. I'm not saying it's not a real term, just not one we gun nuts throw around when were seriously discussing the fine points of guns. My confusion. Sheesh!
Eric, I liked the S&W .38 worn over the pilot's lung--it really looked cool, but I guess half a dozen .38 rounds kind of paled up against an AK. Except for the cool Italian design and 7 more rounds, was anything improved by adoption of the M9? I think not; bring back the 1911A2 and the M14 in semi auto only.

There,, now you have heard it three more times.....

Want to know what you will never hear other than on this site??? The area you describe in the M-1 rifle where the CLIP goes being described as a magazine.

And I dont know what gun nuts you hand around,, but the ones I do all know what a mag well is.

Sorry to be so hard on a fellow conservative but this is one of my fields of expertise.
And I used to think it was one of mine as well. Thanks for the info. A magazinw well. Got it.
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