Magazine or clip: What is it?!?

Firearms Nomenclature: Get it right!

There are few things that get me irritated more quickly than people using the wrong terms when talking or writing about firearms. In the uninformed I can, usually, overlook it. However, when an otherwise knowledgeable firearms owner does it, it starts to give me hives.

Authors particularly authors of stories where firearms figure prominently, and, where the protagonist is often described as some kind of expert who use incorrect nomenclature really poke the demon inside me.

One of my favorite authors, Chirs Philbrook, author of the zombie apocalypse series Adrian’s Undead Diary (The series is on Amazon, get it. Get it now), who is a member of a firearms forum I am a member of (and would totally be my bro if we, like, hung out and stuff) uses the term “clip” instead of “magazine” to describe the loading devices for semi-automatic rifles and pistols. This practice =  Makes. Rooster. Crazy.

On this particular forum “asshole” is a term of endearment and given that we all are (assholes that is) we promptly called him out on it. He explained that he originally started writing “magazine” as he knows the difference, but most of his audience did not. Therefore, in subsequent posts of what originally was an internet blog, he used “clip” instead.

Far better in my opinion to educate your readership, but it’s too late for that now and as I said the story is otherwise jam up and Chris is good people.

In the interest of preserving what little of my own sanity remains and making sure you guys aren’t that guy, I will endeavor to educate.

The difference between a magazine and a clip 

First off, I’ll let ol’ Webster help me out with some definitions.


noun \ˈma-gə-ˌzēn, ˌma-gə-ˈ\

: a type of thin book with a paper cover that contains stories, essays, pictures, etc., and that is usually published every week or month

: a radio or television program that discusses different topics

a part of a gun that holds bullets


transitive verb \ˈklip\

:  any of various devices that grip, clasp, or hook

:  a device to hold cartridges for charging the magazines of some rifles

:  a piece of jewelry held in position by a clip

Both a magazine and a clip hold ammunition, but their application is completely different. Now, if you decided to be a complete smartass, and look up the definition of clip yourself (because, you know, you’re a douche like that) you’ll see that Webster’s includes the language a magazine from which ammunition is fed into the chamber of a firearm in the definition of clip. Well, ol’ Webster’s began including common, or popular, usage in definitions a long time ago. Regardless of common usage, it’s wrong. I will explain…

A magazine is a device attached to, attachable to, or included in the design of, a rifle (and semi-automatic pistols).

Let’s take a look at some examples.

The above picture shows a reproduction of an 1800’s era Henry Navy Rifle. The tube underneath the barrel is the magazine.

Now, this picture is of your run-of-the-mill AR-15. See that box thingy just in front of the trigger? Yup. Magazine. In this case, it is a 30 round box magazine.

I know at this point your ADD is getting the best of you and you’re wanting to know where the clip comes in. Well, let’s talk about that.

I bet you’d be surprised to know that your average bolt-action hunting rifle also has a magazine. Yup! Let’s take a look at a Mauser 98 action.

The part labeled #20 in the illustration is designated as the trigger guard. That is because the trigger guard and magazine body were integral. However, if you look at parts 19 and 23 you will see the words magazine follower, and magazine spring respectively.

Bear with me. I’m getting to the clip part…

If you’ve ever loaded a bolt-action rifle, I’ll just about bet that you placed the rounds one by one into the magazine by pushing them in with your thumb. Right? Well, sometime after 1882, while competing to become the arms manufacturer for the German army Paul Mauser developed what would eventually become the “98” action. One of the rifles main features was the ability to charge the magazine via stripper clips.

Stripper clips haven’t lost their utility over the decades. They can be used to rapidly charge box magazines.

Semi-automatic pistols also use magazines, not clips.

The venerable 1911.