Clip Vs. Magazine: Which is right?


While cruising the streets of Atlanta and listening to my favorite playlist the other day I so happened to hear The Notorious B.I.G. make a mention to “emptying out the clip.”  This immediately got me to thinking….. “I wonder if Mr. Wallace even knew the difference between the correct term he was referring to and the actual word he used?”  Well… guess what Hot Shot? PSA has decided to give its readers a quick rundown of the correct nomenclature to use when engaging ourselves in those spirited conversations about firearms.

It never ceases to amaze me how much popular culture and the mainstream media affects our perceptions of certain aspects of life (not just firearms).  At Peach State Armory, we understand that firearm proficiency goes beyond squeezing a trigger (PLEASE don’t pull the trigger!!!).  With that in mind, as always, PSA is here to help!

Starting with the beloved term “clip.”  Unfortunately, Mr. Wallace and many of us, have used the term “clip” erroneously.  In firearm language a clip (or stripper clip, charger clip, etc.) is a tool used to quickly load some form of an internal box magazine.  Internal box magazines are designs built into firearms that are constructed to provide quicker access to additional rounds (be it through bolt action, semi-auto action, etc.), where as clips are tools used to quickly load these.  In other words, clips feed magazines. Clips make loading of magazines much easier and faster.  In some cases, a clip is required in order for the magazine to work.  Examples of such are the venerable firearms: the M1 Garand and the Mauser.

The correct term for Biggie (and many of us for that matter!!!) to use was in-fact: “magazine.”  If not internally constructed, a magazine is detachable and houses from 3 to sometimes well over a dozen rounds (depending on the firearm).  A magazine is what is used to feed the weapon itself and, regardless of the construction, is used to house additional cartridges for more rapid deployment.  So for all of you rookies….the next time you’re at the range and you’re putting ammo into that little black thing that inserts into the grip of your Sig Sauer P226, remember…. its a magazine not a clip!!!

Being a self-proclaimed “gun-nerd” I think it important to include a brief history lesson on the evolution of each of these terms.  I promise this will be just as interesting as the rest of the post!!!  The term “magazine” is a firearms term that has been used since the late 16th century as “a place to store a quantity of arms and weapons in time of war.”  Circa the late 18th century, the term had evolved into describing “a chamber for a supply of bullets.”  This definition, although going through subtle changes since then, still describes that.  As far as “clip” goes, there is no certain time period in which it first appeared to describe an accoutrement of firearms, but there are historical texts from the early 1700’s that show the term used to describe “a repository attached to a bandolier, designed to house gunpowder.”  In our history lesson it is important to note (for all of you idealists our there!!) that circa 1909, the United States Army Ordnance Dept. circulated documents in which it referred to the detachable box magazine for what would become the U.S. M1911 pistol as……….a clip (go figure!!!).

Putting this topic to bed plainly for our “bottom-liners,” both “magazine” and “clip” (although different terms with different meanings) are a genuine part of firearms language that regardless of their true definitions, have been used interchangeably to describe a detachable device used to feed the action of a firearm.

***This discussion is not intended to be the end-all-be-all discussion about the terms magazine and clip… so as with everything in life…do your research people!

We thank you for visiting our small part of the world wide shooting range and look forward to your next visit!

And as always…watch your six and stay low.

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