A short recap of Clips and Magazines

We have been enjoying a spirited debate over the use or misuse of the term “clip” for generations.  I firmly believe that we can blame this entire argument on the adoption of the M1 Garand rifle as it was the last of the clip loaders.  Former soldiers and Hollywood popularized the the expedient term.  Much like saying “Kleenex”, clip has gained widespread use.  But what should we say?

MagazinesMagazines are storage systems for ammunition that feed the cartridges into the action systematically by means of a spring-driven follower. They can be fixed or detachable; most modern firearms are the latter.

Magazines are the very definition of repeating arms and will be found in anything that isn’t a single shot gun. They may be boxed single stacked, double stacked, rotary, tubular, or even helical.



Stripper Clips (Chargers)Stripper Clips, perhaps more correctly known as chargers, are devices used for rapid and easy loading of ammunition into the magazine. Cartridges are held together on the clip and then manually stripped into the magazine. They are very simple and can be made of anything from steel to cardboard.

Stripper clips were popularized by Paul Mauser and his namesake rifles. They were the standard on military arms until the detachable box magazine became popular.




EnBlocsEn Bloc Clip system firearms are slightly trickier. They feature fixed magazine springs and followers, but cannot retain cartridges on their own. The ammunition is held together by an en bloc clip, the whole of which is inserted into the gun. The clip then becomes part of the magazine. When the last cartridge is expended, it is released from the gun.

En bloc clips were developed with Ferdinand Mannlicher’s rifles. They were often preferred for their speed and ease of loading. The actions, however, were usually left open to allow ejection of the empty clip and were therefore vulnerable to dirt and grit.  They predate the stripper clip but were mostly abandoned until the M1 Garand’s unique ping gave them one last gasp.


Moon-ClipMoon Clips deserve a mention, although they don’t add much to the confusion. They are simply a means of allowing revolvers to manipulate rimless cartridges.

During WWI the US was having trouble meeting the demand for pistols and so contracted for revolvers in .45 ACP. Because this is a rimless cartridge, the given extractor system would not work. A solution was found in the moon clip system, where all six rounds are attached to a round clip ahead of time. They may then be loaded as one into the cylinder and the extractor pushes against the center of the clip to eject the whole packet for reloading. Ultimately the military adopted the half-moon clip, which is pretty self explanatory.


When in doubt follow the follower. Since a magazine retains and feeds the ammunition it must contain a follower. Simply put, clips bundle cartridges, whereas magazines move them.


Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


  • Geoff a well-known Skeptic

    I liked the R. Lee Ermey explanation from “Mail Call” but it isn’t in Youtube. Sigh.
    Who loved the explanation from a gunshop clerk to an old geezer, who asked for a clip for a 1911, “The boss and the manufacturers want us to call them magazines, they are too expensive to use such a short name.” Old guy bought an 8 and 10 shot McCormick, took them back to the range and proceeded to tear the centers out of a load of bull targets at 25 yards.

  • John

    It’s almost like it’s come to a point where the firearms community refers to magazines as magazines, and the rest of society refers to them as clips…
    Then there are the people who say magazine clip in an attempt to cover all bases (a new trend?)… but only make it more painful

    • Cymond

      Yeah, and we all know how those “magazine-clips” are ammunition and get used up …
      (too political?)

      • Anonymoose


  • Leonard

    I’m so glad we don’t get this confusion in the German language:
    Magazine are magazines
    Ladestreifen are clips

    Not even the most clueless persons confuse the two, although a few in the online gaming community admittably use the word “clip” for magazines as well…

  • Geo
  • gunslinger

    So what kinds of clips are those in the pictues. I can get the M1 Clip and the MN91/30 (7.62x54R) but i’d like to know what other guns/calibers use clips shown.

    • Leonard

      The brownish looking ones (made from phenol) are Swiss 6 round 7,5×55 clips for use with the G11, K11 or K31 rifles/carabines.

    • Canadiangunner

      Looks like there is a 8mm Lebel clip in there too! love that cartridge

    • Othais

      Magazine Picture (left to right): Astra 300 in .380 , SMLE No.1 Mk.III* in .303, M1 Carbine 30rnd in .30 Carbine, M1911A1 in .45.

      Chargers Picture (clockwise): M1903 in 30-06, Mosin-Nagant in 7.62x54r, SMLE in .303, Swiss rifles in 7.5 Swiss,

      En-blocs Picture (left to right): Steyr M1895 in 8x56r, M1 Garand in 30-06, Berthier in 8mm Lebel, Carcano in 6.5×52.

  • Asdf

    “When in doubt follow the follower.”

    Not true. The Boberg xr9’s magazine doesn’t have follower.

  • Samuel Suggs

    how are magazines “the very definition of repeating arms” their are many feed systems that dont use magazines just to list a few feed strips http://www.forgottenweapons.com/medium-machine-guns/perino/ ,belt feed, feed hoppers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agar_gun everything mention here except the magazine http://www.forgottenweapons.com/gatling-gun-feeding-mechanisms/

  • jamezb

    Does this count as an assault rifle magazine?

    • jamezb

      Because I thought those were battle rifles…

  • Samuel Suggs

    Is it just me or are you guys taking on a bunch of new writers lately, I mean Othais did fine with his first article aside from the understandable generalization’s. I think this will ultimately improve the website bye lending variety what do you guys think? I understnad that its very easy for you to reach out to a new writer as it basically reqires that they have an E-mail address and the ability to write an intellible article on a particular subject matter so how do you pick new writers?

  • Nathaniel
  • Steve Truffer

    Clips load magazines,
    Magazines load guns,
    It’s not hard!

  • MOG

    You just can not make it simple enough that somebody can not find a way to complicate it.

  • Nadnerbus

    I always used the spring test. Is there a spring to store mechanical energy to feed the rounds? It’s a magazine. Is it just a device that holds the rounds, with no way to store mechanical energy? It’s a clip?

    • Samuel Suggs

      Did you have trouble with this before discovering this system

  • Zius Patagus

    Until gun manufacturers stop referring to magazines as clips or “clip magazines or magazine clips” the confusion and improper usage of those terms will never go away.

    • Othais

      I’ve actually been looking for any mention of a magazine as a “clip” in commercial firearm marketing BEFORE WWII. I have a going theory the companies adopted the lingo of veterans for sales. Remington reinvented itself as a rifle and shotgun maker due to fixing on soldiers post war.

  • fred

    Yes yes.

    We know the difference.

    We also know what people mean when they say clip.

    Get over it.

    Correcting people on the details of what the metalic ammo container should be called is just stupid….

    • Samuel Suggs

      NOoOOoOo they are wrong and must be punished

  • Ben 10

    i wish more new guns are produced using the en bloc clip system, would be a great system for a semi auto rifle chambered in 6.5×55 or .25 remington , like a clone of the swedish lungman or french mas-49 but using stamped metal like the ak.

    • Samuel Suggs

      You have unusual tastes Sir have you checked out Forgotten Weapons yet? it’s quite informative and Ian’s personality is infectious. http://www.forgottenweapons.com/

  • Stanislao

    Not all en-bloc clips are ejected when the last round is fired. Actually, the Garand is the only weapon I can think of that does so. Mannlicher’s drop the clip when the last round is chambered and the Lee-Navy rifle drops the clip when the first round is chambered.

  • Ronaldo Olive

    Just a curiosity: here in Brazil the typical rifle (e.g. Mauser, ) or pistol (e.g. Mauser, again) clip has for long been called “pente” (comb), from its general appearance. A magazine is known as “carregador”, but a lot of people still call them “pentes”…

    • Othais

      That’s actually cool to know.

  • greensoup

    If you go all high and mighty about correct terminology for something stupid like clip vs. magazine. Well think about all the hundreds or thousands of thing you talk about where you are making slight errors and nobody got high and mighty on you. Everyone knows what they mean. Being a smart a$$ about it makes us all look bad.