Clip vs. Magazine: What You Really Need To Know


Most of us wouldn’t care much if we interchanged the words “clips” with “magazines”. It is, however, crucial to realize that they are not the same and come with a considerable difference. We will be covering all the relevant details that you need to know between a clip and magazine in this article.

We have all marveled at the ease with which Arnold Schwarzenegger has handled his guns in movies like Predator and The Terminator. While the on-screen effect seemed unbelievable and mind-blowing, there is more to guns and ammunition than rippling muscles and adrenaline!

In this article, we will be exploring gun terminologies namely “clips” and “magazines” and throw some light on factors like how they are not the same and how will you be able to identify one from another and prevent a foot-in-the-mouth moment the next time you are discussing guns and ammo within your social circle.

Clip vs. Magazine

It is very important to be familiar with the terms used in a particular subject when you are discussing it. Having a sound knowledge of the subject would give you an added advantage to make your mark when you are conversing about it with your family members, friends or peers.

Just as we tend to use specific terms like offensive backfield, quarterback and fullback while discussing football, we would also need to get acquainted with the specific terms that are generally used in the area of guns and ammunition.

Clips and magazines are the two terms which are used interchangeably quite often and one is mistaken for the other. This is not true and there is a large difference between the two when it comes to their design, composition and usability in a gun.

A clip refers to a device that is used to store rounds of ammunition in a single pack. This means that it holds together individual rounds of ammunition and helps to keep them as one. It holds the ammo together so that it can be loaded easily into a magazine or a firearm cylinder.

A magazine, on the other hand, is a device that is designed to hold ammunition together and keep it ready to be fired when required. It loads the ammo into the chamber of the firearm.

Since these definitions may take time to sink in, it is quite easy to spot the reason behind the confusion created by these terms. In simple words, a clip comes in handy while feeding rounds into a magazine when required while a magazine is used to feed rounds into the firearm chamber in return.

When To Use What

Now that we have cleared the fog surrounding clips and magazines, it is quite apparent that the two are very different from each other and one cannot be substituted in place of the other. It is now important to understand when to use which term when there is a discussion about guns and ammunition.

A clip is a usually created out of a steel stamping and are engineered in different patterns depending on the type of gun into which it is to be loaded. Their main function is to load ammunition into a magazine that loads single rounds for firing.

Rifles come with a detachable and a non-detachable setting and the clips used in each type vary in their design. For riles that come with a non-detachable magazine, the clips are used to load bullets directly into the firearm. A clip can be loaded into a detachable magazine but such a setting is uncommon and not frequently seen.

A magazine is essentially an area from where ammunition is fed into the firing chamber as and when required. A magazine can be fitted internally into a firearm or it can be removable. It is almost the size of the gun itself that is responsible for feeding ammo into the firearm chamber.

A clip is smaller in size and therefore cannot hold more than 10 rounds while magazines have a larger capacity and are capable of holding up to a 100 rounds.

Types Of Clips

Since clips are used to load ammunition into the magazine, they are compact and are easy to load. They also help in saving a lot of time which would otherwise have been spent on loading ammo every time you fired from the gun. These clips come in various forms and can be used in a wide variety of guns that are available today.

Stripper Clip

This kind of a clip is used to load internal box magazines where a stripper clip binds the ammunition together on a piece of metal and keeps it ready to be loaded. This is the most widely used type of clip that is available today.

In order to use this clip, you will need to position it on top of the magazine and give it a push down into the magazine to load it in bolt-action rifles or semi-automatics. It can also be used in a detachable magazine by using the same operating mechanism.

  • Original Russian Made Pouch
  • 5 stripper clips (repros)
  • Cleaning kit

En Bloc Clip

An En Bloc clip is an ejectable clip that is automatically discarded from a gun once all the ammo has been used up. It is inserted completely into the magazine which pushes the rounds up into the chamber and keeps them ready for action.

This clip is found in old guns and is not very popular today due to the availability of stripper clips and their ease of use.

Half Moon/Full Moon Clip

These are the classic ones that we have seen in movies where the round chamber within a revolver rotates to load a fresh bullet after the previous one has been fired. These clips are usually seen in revolvers with pistol cartridges such as 0.45 Auto and 9mm.

A half moon and a full clip can hold 3 and 6 rounds respectively as they can be easily inserted into the firing cylinder of a revolver. While this type has faced a stiff competition from speed loaders, their advantage is that they help to discard the shell casings almost immediately after the rounds are fired.

Types Of Magazines

Magazines are available in a variety of types today. While some are detachable, the others are internally attached. Some even have the capacity to feed the rounds directly from the tube! We will be discussing a few of these types in this article.

Box Magazine

This is the most common and the most famous type of magazines that can be seen today. It comes in two variants - the internal box magazine and the detachable box magazine. The loading and firing mechanisms may be a bit different from each other but their functions remain the same more or less.

It is commonly seen in bolt action rifles and in the older versions of semi-automatic rifles like the SKS and M1 Garand. The magazines can be loaded in two ways - through the top of the gun or with the use of clips.

Detachable Box Magazine

Magazines are a tool to load the ammo straight into the firing chamber so that it could be used when the need arises. A detachable box magazine is also one of the most preferred types of magazine that is in demand today and is seen in popular rifles like the AR-15, Ruger 10/22, semi-automatic rifles and AK variants.

In this, the detachable box stays apart from the firearm despite it is loaded. This makes it a safe and also makes it quicker to use when the need arises. It is also easy to carry and transport than many other magazines.

STANAG Magazine

These magazines are designed according to the NATO agreement that permits soldiers to exchange their rifles even though the models are different. This magazine is designed to fit with rifles of different makes like 5.56mm and firearms belong to AR, M16 and M4 families along with others like IMI, Beretta and SIG.

Tubular Magazine

Firearms come with a fixed magazine in the form of a tube that uses the combination of a tube, a spring and the trigger to load ammo into the firing chamber. The rounds can be loaded one at a time into the magazine from where they are loaded into the firing chamber.

This type of a magazine is usually seen in firearms like .22 rifles, shotguns and lever action rifles.

Other Gun Terms That Are Wrongly Used Interchangeably

1. Grip vs. Handle

“Handle” and “grip” are frequently the same elements when talking about many items humans use daily. Knives, scissors, and other tools all have handles and grips, and the two terms both talk about the part of the thing you put your hands on. But when we are talking about guns, these two terms are not interchangeable. Usually, when you’re talking about the handle or the grip, you're just trying to say grip.

Term grip is talking about to the part of the gun that you hold in the form you take as you open fire. The grip is what helps you aim, use the trigger, and safety.

On the other hand, handles are the part of a gun that you can hold onto when you are carrying it around. This isn’t the part you grip to fire the weapon. It’s all about carrying it around. If you were to mix these two up, you'd look pretty silly.

2. Precision vs. Accuracy

To some people, the various meanings between “accuracy” and “precision” don’t make much of a difference. But if you want to become an improved shooter, and be knowledgable on the topic, the difference is actually very significant.

Accuracy is talking about the proximity your shot is to the target. If you fire the shot in the bullseye, then you had an accurate shot.

Precision means how tight your group of shots is. If you fire an entire barrel and the grouping of all the shots fired is in the same clumped area then your shoot was precise.

If you are a good shooter, your fire will be both accurate and precise. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind for both outcomes is that you need to place a harmonious number of shots close enough to your target. If this is a struggle for you, training and practice can help a ton to reach the goals of being precise and accurate. Aim to get both outcomes, not just one or the other. This is the practice of a good shooter.

Some tips to help you achieve these two terms: pay special close attention to the shots that do get close to the target. Become aware. Take note of what exactly your posture and position when you made that shot. Once you realize your form and the reason for success, practice duplicating it every time you shoot. This can increase your precision and accuracy.

3. Pistol vs. Handgun

In the shooting world, it really depends on what kind of person you are. Some use these two terms interchangeably, while others fight you to the core that they are separate, and should not be used as one and the same. With this term specifically, it’s truly up to you which you use. Let's discuss.

The term "handguns" should speak of any gun that is held in your hand and then fired.  Usually smaller, these don’t set up camp on your shoulder like rifles or shotguns.

4. Fully Automatic vs. Machine Gun

Machine guns and fully automatic guns don’t mean the same thing in every instance, though they can. This is another instance where the two words are similar in meaning but distinct enough to be important.

Fully automatic applies to the firing mode that's set up on a gun. Depending on the mode, one pull of the trigger can fire tons of bullets, but one at a time. Machine guns are fully automatic, and the law lumps all of these and fully automatic guns into the same, controlled categories.

All machine guns are fully automatic weapons, but not all fully automatic weapons are necessarily machine guns. The determining factor is how long and fast they are meant to be fired for. These two terms can be pretty confusing, but the good news is that they are not super vital to keep separate. It is mostly a matter of your own personal preference.

5. Silencer vs. Uppressor

This one is more difficult to pin down than the two before it. The term “silencer” is not the proper term, but it is said frequently. If you want to get technical, then suppressors will describe it accurately.

Suppressors are parts that connect to the barrel of your gun to reduce the loudness of a gunshot. They don’t completely eliminate the sound, so do not get your hopes up. What they are technically doing is stifling the amount of air being released at the point of release in order to restrict the sound, and therefore get the loudness under control.

The term "silencer" was coined from the entertainment industry. It has been said in movies, TV shows, and podcasts, but it is not an accurate phrase, and does not represent what is happening to a gun correctly.

6. Negligent Discharge vs. Accidental Discharge

Knowing how to decipher between accidental and negligent discharge is vital. This is because correctly using the terms can change the public’s comprehension of firearms and the safety that's involved. When people use the term “accidental discharge” inaccurately, it’s strengthening the idea that guns are innately bad. This is not true. Actually, the majority of crimes called accidental discharge covered aren’t accidents. They are intentional.

Accidental discharge is when your gun fires involuntarily because of an unexpected and essentially unpreventable failure of the weapon. This happens rarely, almost never, unless there is a built-in issue already present.

Negligent discharge is most common. This is when the gun fires because of unsafe use or negligence toward the weapon.

The reason these two distinctions are so crucial to make is that negligence is preventable by using proper safety and accidental is not, because it cannot be avoided or foreseen.

When a gun fires while in the holster, this is usually negligent in nature because the gun owner left the safety on. This could have easily been avoided if safety was applied. Though this isn't a reason for applause at all, naming it correctly takes the guilt off the gun itself and puts where it applies, which is on the negligence of the gun owner.

Shoot It!

We have covered already covered the basics related to clips and magazines along with the differentiation that proves that they are not the same and can definitely not be used interchangeably. There is always a lot of information available for you to read up in case the talk about guns and ammo fascinates you.

Being able to tell a clip from a magazine with add to your credibility the next time you are out discussing guns with your social acquaintances or taking shooting lessons from the experts. The easiest way of distinguishing the two would be to know that a magazine comes with a spring while a clip does not!

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