Magazine or Clip? Understanding Firearms Terminology
Today’s blog was written by one of our phenomenal volunteers, Beth Shotwell Willey. Beth brings a whole host of talents to the Cody Firearms Museum. She is a former world mounted shooting champion, was a founding director of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, and had a long career with Galco. Her work for us is invaluable.
Many new shooters do not realize this, but there is a difference between a “clip” and a “magazine.” It is a part of firearms terminology that is often misused.
While teaching a kid’s firearms safety class in Arizona, a young boy asked me “why do they call it a magazine?” Not knowing the answer myself, I promised to get back to him once I researched the reason. Than I called him at home with the answer.
A magazine is a storage unit for stuff. Magazine, in the case of written publications, is a storage place for a collection of written articles.
This explains why magazine publications share the root word “magazine” with gunpowder magazines, artillery magazines, firearms magazines, and so on.
- A gunpowder magazine is a magazine (building) designed to store the explosive gunpowder in wooden barrels for safety.
- The ammunition and weapons storage area aboard a warship is referred to as a magazine or the “ship’s magazine” by sailors.
- As part of setting up an artillery battery, a designated place would be used to shelter the ready ammunition. In the case of batteries of stowed artillery the temporary magazine will be placed, if possible, in a pit, or natural declivity, or surrounded by sandbags or earthworks.
- In the case of a camera, the magazine is a light-tight supply chamber holding the film and supplying it for exposure as required.
When we refer to a firearms magazine it can be either fixed, removable, box, tubular, rotary, etc. Magazines come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a rifle mag that may hold three rounds, to a machine gun magazine that might hold hundreds of rounds. There are magazines that are an integral part of the firearm, as is the case with tubular magazines on auto feeding rifles like the Winchester 1873.
A magazine is what is used to feed the firearm itself, whereas a clip is used to feed the magazine. Clips make loading of magazines much easier and faster, and in some cases, a clip is required in order for the magazine to work. Most SKSs, bolt actions, shotguns, and Garands have fixed magazines.
So what is a clip? Stripper clip is where you actually strip the rounds from the clip into the magazine of the rifle. In the case of the M1 Garand the clip stays in place until the last of the eight rounds have all been expended and then it makes a “Ping” or “Pinging” sound as it is ejected. The definition of a clip is: a device to hold cartridges for charging the magazines of some firearms.
There is also the Moon clip which is a medal clip, circular in shape with notches to hold the rounds for some rimless cartridge revolvers. They are available as full round or half round moon clips. They stay in the gun when loaded and are ejected with the empty cases still attached to the clip.
The defining difference between clips and magazines is the presence of a feed mechanism in a magazine, typically a spring-loaded follower, which a clip lacks.
It is speculated that the confusion and misuse of the terms came about in the world of guns when troops who used the M1 Garand in the U.S. Military started using other firearms and continued to use the term “clip” when referring to what was actually a magazine.