The Difference Between a Clip and a Magazine

3rd Feb 2017

The Difference Between a Clip and a Magazine

It’s something that gets thrown around in movies all the time and sends even the coolest of heads into a word induced rage - the incorrect use of ‘clip’ and ‘magazine’ in films and TV.

There’s absolutely no reason to get mad about it, but we do because the difference is just so simple to understand the mistake shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

First, let’s talk about a magazine. A magazine is a container that holds cartridges (bullets, rounds, etc), where they are fed automatically, usually by a spring, into the breech of the gun to be fired. What a lot of gun novices don’t know is that a magazine is simply that and is not defined by its ‘detachability’ from the gun.

Take this Mosin Nagant for instance:

Mosin Nagant

Just forward of the trigger you can see the magazine. The magazine on the Mosin Nagant (and a lot of old rifles) was fixed to the gun. Its sole purpose is to hold the rounds that you manually feed into the magazine through the breech.

I hear what you’re saying. You’re right, it was a long process. A skilled shooter would take several seconds to reload, even with all the cartridges laid out in front of them ready to go.

As you can imagine, in the heat of battle, you don’t often have time to line up all your future rounds on the table in front of you, it’s just not practical.

In comes the CLIP! The clip is exactly what its name suggests. A small metal clip that holds together all of the rounds that you need to reload your magazine in one handy stack. The results meant you can push a whole magazine full of rounds into the magazine in seconds, and then return the (empty) clip to your pocket.

It was a huge time saver and massively improved combat effectiveness.

Then a smart person, for a number of reasons, decided that they’d rather have guns where you can simply detach the magazine and attach a new, already filled one to the gun. With this, the detachable (and most common today) magazine was formed.

Today’s magazines are small boxes that hold all the rounds you need, ready to be loaded into the firearm by the reciprocation of the bolt. When one magazine runs out of rounds, simply remove it and replace it with a magazine that’s already pre-filled with cartridges.

In short: Clips refill magazines, magazines refill firearms.

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