Magazines Vs. Clips, the confusion continues
If you’ve spent any amount of time around guys who have been collecting firearms for a while, or range instructors, or military armorers, chances are good that you’ve seen them cringe when someone calls a magazine a clip. I blame it on the proliferation of half-informed media and popular culture. When someone who knows little if anything about firearm use starts making gross generalizations about the vernacular of a subject of which they are ill equipped to speak, you’re going to get a lot of half truths and incorrect assumptions. Nowhere in this industry have I seen this more than in the clips vs. magazines debate.
To understand the difference, here’s a great photo showing both several kinds of magazines and some clips.
Most modern semi-automatic firearms use magazines. These can be permanently affixed or they can be removable. One of the hallmarks of an “assault weapon”, along loosely based term that is often misused, is the use of detachable magazines. A magazine is an encasement, usually made of polymer or steel, that holds cartridges under spring pressure. When the firearm feeds a round from the magazine, the spring keeps tension on the remaining cartridges as it pushes each round, one at a time, into the firearm’s chamber. There are many different styles of magazines, including box magazines, banana magazines, drum magazines and rotary magazines. Each magazine is made to fit a certain design of firearm and they are not usually interchangeable with firearms of different types. Note that firearms of a given pattern (AR, AK, 1911, etc.), regardless of manufacturer, should be able to use compatible magazines from any other manufacturer. That said, a 1911 pistol magazine will never fit a Glock pistol and an AK-47 magazine will not fit an AR-15, even if the AR is built with a 7.62×39 (the common round size for AKs) upper receiver.
On the other hand of the debate is the clip. A cartridge clip has no spring, is not fully encased like a magazine and it does not feed cartridges directly into the chamber. Instead, clips hold cartridges in a pattern designed to resupply a specific firearm’s magazine on the fly. In place of loading the magazines by hand, one round at a time, a clip of cartridges is pushed into the magazines and reloads the magazine sequentially and quickly. To see this at work, look at videos of how stripper clips are used with the SKS platform.
There’s a really great video on the subject here: