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Handgun Reviews

Magazine or Clip?

by Scott E. Mayer   |  May 24th, 2011 15

Q: When at the range, I frequently hear other shooters referring to how many “clips” they have for a gun or how many rounds a “clip” holds.  I’ve also heard the term “magazine” used for what I think are the same parts of guns? Is there a difference between a clip and a magazine? —Earl J.

A: The terms “clip” and “magazine” are incorrectly used interchangeably these days. Purists, myself included, consider a magazine as the ammunition reservoir for charging the gun’s chamber, and the “clip” as the reservoir for charging the gun’s magazine. Unfortunately, reality is not so black and white. For example, there are internal magazines such as on the Remington Model 700 or SKS and detachable magazines as on the M1A and most semi-automatic pistols. There are also internal magazines that are detachable, such as on the Browning A-Bolt.

Magazine (top), stripper clip (bottom).

There are “stripper clips,” which hold cartridges that are stripped down into a detachable or integral magazine that are removed from the gun before firing such as with the Mauser ’98. There are also charger clips that are placed along with their component cartridges into the magazine. The best-known examples are the M1 Garand and Italian Carcano. There are also “moon” and “half-moon” clips meant to allow the use of rimless semi-automatic pistol rounds in revolvers.
For most folks, who have only general knowledge of firearms, the terms will continue to be interchangeable. For others the difference between the terms “clip” and “magazine” is comparable to the difference between the terms “wheel” and “tire.”–sem

  • Tom

    Yes there is a difference between a clip and magazine. To me the best explaination clips are temporary cartridge holders which load magazine i.e. On an M1 Garand a clip is loaded into the rifles internal magazine. The process would be you load a clip with individual cartridges, the clip loads multiple cartridges into the magazine, the magazine feeds individual cartridges into the chamber. Unless you have a beer riding on the answer it isn't worth correcting someone, unless you have been specifically asked. What do you think when some gives unwanted answers, besides does it really make a difference? it is like asking if a tomatoe is a vegetable or a fruit.

  • David

    This is simple. A "clip" is merely a retention device whereas a magazine is both a retention and feeding device. Hearing someone use the terms incorrectly grates on my nerves and I must gently correct them. Perhaps that is the teacher in me.

  • jeff a

    I have corrected people and they say,"You know what I meant". Yes, I know what they meant, but did they mean to appear so ignorant? One of the best examples lately is the brady boobs with their "assault clips". Magazine and clip…there is a difference. Learn it.

    • Semperflyboy

      Bless you Jeff! I share your opinion completely. When I hear an anti-gun bozo use the term "clip" I can be assured it will be used incorrectly. Especially at those times, it sticks in my craw too.

  • Joshua S

    Yes there is a difference between magazines and clips. A clip is something that your ammo clips to or a strip or some device is used to hold your ammo. A magazine is something that you insert your ammo into and feeds your ammo into your weapon

  • a.g.falabella

    the differencce debate btween the use of the word magazines and clips will go on for ever just like the use of the word motor[electric] and the word engine[fosel fueled] .we know the difference but continue to use them interchagebley.

    • smayer

      I did not know the motor/engine distinction. Thanks!

    • Jeff Lachance

      Your way off on the engine thing… MOTOR mounts, MOTOR oil, MOTORING down the highway.

  • Howard

    Simple explanation: A magazine has a spring, a clip doesn't.

    • Scott E. Mayer

      Yes, some do. I have stripper clips for my Mauser that have flat springs in them to help retain the cartridges.

  • John

    Simple remedy as well… if you're at a public range and find yourself next to someone who refers to magazines as "clips," you should gently retreat to a position further away from that sort. They often have similar problems with things like 'safety on' and 'safety off.'

    • db


  • Satin Bug

    I agree with all distinguishments made between magazines and clips, except for the one that about "A magazine has a spring, a clip doesn’t." The first time I was exposed to detailed weapon nomenclature was in the military, and it was on an M1 Garand, which has a clip. The way I was taught to distingish between a clip and a magazine was that a magazine has a follower and a clip does not have a follower (The M1's follower is located inside of the receiver.)

    • Ron

      This sounds like a reasonable explanation, but now we have the question, "what is a Follower"!?

  • Jaimie Livingston

    The notion of a a “high capacity clip” is nonsense. Clips rarely hold more than 10 rounds, as they become too unwieldy to effectively use. in 30 years as a firearms enthusiast, I’ve only seen one clip that held more than 20 rounds, and that was for a Browning BAR

    Also, most clips can be reloaded. A clip cannot be reloaded quickly, and reloading a clip often requires a specific tool, but it can be done. Because of the hassle involved in reloading clips, most are discarded, much like spent cartridge casings. The inconvenience associated with reloading clips is why detachable magazines have replaced clips in modern arms.

    There are two basic types of clips used with rifles.

    The most common is the “stipper” clip, used as a reloading aid for getting cartridges into a fixed, integral box magazine. These are referred to as “stripper clips” as the cartridges are stripped from the clip into the magazine.These are used with many types of rifles, but I’ve never seen one with a capacity greater than 10 rounds.

    Less common, but still in use, are “en bloc” clips. These are clips used to hold cartridges into a specific bundle arrangement (a.k.a. the stack) and are inserted along with the cartridges into a rifles internal box magazine. The clip is ejected as the last cartridge is fired and ejected, leaving room for the next clip to be inserted. En bloc clips are most often associated with the M1 Garand and it’s ilk, and hold 8 rounds.

    Basically, the politicos don’t know their elbows from apples when it comes to firearms in general, and wouldn’t recognize a clip sitting on a table in front of them. Whenever you hear a pol say “clip”, simply do a mental substitution with “magazine”.

    For more information, go to Wiki

    “By failing to
    prepare, you are preparing to fail.” –Benjamin Franklin

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