Why You Should Know the Difference Between Magazines & Clips

It is common to hear people use the terms clip and magazine interchangeably. These terms are mutually exclusive. You most frequently hear people use clip when they should say firearm magazine. One has to wonder if there is a link between the way these terms are used in popular entertainment, such as on the television or in movies, and how many people use these terms. Movies and television have a reputation for depicting how firearms work incorrectly.
The thing about the way the human mind works is that when we hear phrases repeated again and again, they filtrate into our vocabulary. Our definition for these terms is based on inaccurate information we receive from entertainment.
It is different for those of us who understand how guns work. When we hear someone say clip when they should say magazine, it is jarring. It is like listening to someone take their nails and scratch them on a chalkboard.

Why Is It Important to Distinguish between a Clip and a Magazine?

Someone will read this and wonder why this writer being such of a stickler. Is there really that big of a difference between a magazine and a clip? Aren’t the two terms interchangeable?
No. The terms are not interchangeable. There is a difference between a magazine and a clip. There are two valuable reasons you need to know the difference.
The first reason has to do with how others perceive you. If you are having a conversation with someone who knows firearms, you want them to take you seriously. If you use terminology incorrectly, your credibility will take a hit.
The second reason has to do with functionality. If you talk to someone who understands guns and you say you want a clip, they will think you really want a clip as opposed to a magazine. This could create a confusing and in extreme circumstances dangerous situation.

Understanding the Difference between a Clip and a Magazine

The simplest way to explain it is that a clip feeds magazines. Magazines feed firearms. You rarely see a clip in the design of a modern firearm. This is because gun engineers design firearms to have removable magazines. An example of a removable magazine is the magazines used in rifles.
If we could hop in the Way Back machine and go back to World War II, then you would see firearms, such as the M1 Garand, that had a non-removable magazine. This firearm was fed by a clip.
Magazines are divided into four main components. Modern magazines can be removed from the firearm, allowing you to load a new full one quick.
If you look at AR 15 magazines, they have a polymer, steel, or aluminum body. A magazine's bottom is built with a floor plate. The floor plate’s job is to hold the spring and the follower inside the body. The spring and the follower work together to make it easier to feed the cartridges that are inside the magazine into the chamber.
The clip is just a little piece of metal. They have designed it with a shape that allows it to hold cartridges in a row. You push these into a magazine by hand.

The Final Word

Knowing the difference between a magazine and a clip might not be a big deal for Hollywood. People watch movies because they want entertainment. The success of movies depends on people being able to suspend reality. If not, every time a superhero flew around, the entire audience would think to themselves, “Well, this doesn’t happen in real life.”
However, if your interest is in learning about firearms and using firearms, it is important that you get the terminology down. If you use the wrong phrase, people will know that you are a newbie. You will have no credibility with your shooting peers. And they will always question what it is that you want or what you mean.
Here’s something I can help you with as a memory aid. When you think about the term clip outside of firearms, what do you think about? Most people think about a short television clip, a newspaper clipping, or a clip of audio. This is something smaller than a magazine.
A magazine is a full publication. So magazines are a hundred pages or more. Clips of text make up a big magazine. If you can remember the difference between a magazine and a magazine clipping, then you can remember the difference between a clip and a magazine.
The clip is the small device that holds only 10 rounds. It is loaded into a larger magazine. Magazines hold 100 or more rounds. Also, a magazine will always have a spring, and a clip will not.
Carla Arbuckle

Carla is a staff writer for Fishing.org and Shooting.org. She is an avid outdoors enthusiast and photographer. She can be found most weekends fishing and exploring the wilderness.