CLIP vs. MAGAZINE

There still seems to be some confusion over the nomenclature of “CLIP” vs. “MAGAZINE”, and current dictionaries don’t seem to help the matter much. Consulting: Merriam-Webster, 2002 online edition Clip (noun) 2: a device to hold cartridges for charging the magazines of some rifles; also : a magazine from which ammunition is fed into the chamber of a firearm.

I personally feel only the first part of the definition sentence is correct, and the 2nd part refers to “slang” usage. Correct nomenclature usage could save your keister. If you were out of ammo during a firefight while equipped with an M-16, and yelled “Toss me an ammo clip!” you might get exactly what you asked for; a 10-round clip of 5.56mm ammo from a buddy’s bandoleer without the magazine charging adapter, instead of what you *really* needed; an already loaded magazine! The extra time required to
load the magazine from the clip just might cost you and your fellow Marines dearly.

Older service rifles, such as the 03-A3 and M-1 Garand, have magazines that are a permanent part of the rifle’s receiver, and are loaded using a “clip”. The current M-16 service rifles are loaded using a detachable magazine, which may be loaded either by inserting a single cartridge at a time, or by using a “clip” and a magazine charging adapter.

Perhaps the following definitions would be more clearly understandable and useful when applied to service rifles:
“CLIPS” – hold cartridges together in a compact unit, and are used for rapid loading of magazines. “MAGAZINES” – hold cartridges together in a compact unit, are nearly fully enclosed, and have a spring-loaded cartridge follower that positions the cartridges for loading into the chamber of the rifle.

But I’ve only been shooting for around 40 years, so some of the real “Old Corps” readers might have some better definitions.

It’s only the rounds that hit the targets which count.
The rounds that hit the targets quickly save lives.

Great newsletters, keep ’em coming!
Semper Fi,
Steve “Wookie” Wilke, SGT, USMCIR (29MAR74-30MAR80) MOS 6657 (Airborne
Weapons System Specialist, F-4J/S)

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15 thoughts on “CLIP vs. MAGAZINE”

  1. Good assessment, Steve. I think when we transitioned to the M14 and then fairly soon to the M16, the old salts were not all willing to substitute ‘magazine’ for ‘clip.’ By the mid-Eighties, most Marines had the correct terminology down, and there was little confusion or misuse of the term ‘clip’ when ‘magazine’ was meant. You’re right that precise language is quite important! Harry’s also right when he says most civilians don’t know or care about the difference.

    S/f, Tom Harleman, LtCol USMC Ret 1970-1999

  2. CORRECT! Clips “Clip” the rounds together at the base in the small metal “Stripper Clip” (Ahem). They can then be quickly loaded into the MAGAZINE. The only “Clip-Fed” weapon I know of (and know it well) is the M-1 Garand. The 03-A3 Springfield family had a notch above the breech to accept the stripper clip, which beat loading the rounds one-by-one (try THAT under fire!) Remember – these terms come from Hollywood where holding the .45 or other pistol SIDEWAYS while firing is the norm. These are the people who say the crime scene smelled “like cordite” – what, were they using British Enfields?? Pardon an old Corpsman’s babblings, but it had be said. Semper Fi Mac – “Doc” HM-2 FMF 1st Mar.Div RVN.

  3. I have always understood as most that a magazine was attached to the rifle and a permanent part. Unlike a detachable unit. Such as a tube fed unit – 30-30. .22 rim fire. Or an attached spring fed Winchester, Remington, Browning most of the older hunting type rifles that are loaded thru the chamber from under the floor plate. Where a clip was a detached unit and held ammunition that could be loaded as a separate attachment.

  4. That is an excellent description of clip vs magazine. We used clips in our M-l Rifles in Korea. BAR’s used magazine’s I think, if my memory isn’t in sick bay. Hello Corpsman…got anything for brain malfunction?

  5. Clip vs magazine: I was well schooled in the proper terminology back in ’62 when I was issued an M-14 in bootcamp at MCRD San Diego, and an M-1 Garand at Camp Pendleton for ITR training. Depending on who I’m having a discussion with (and how many beers have been consumed!) I have been known to try and correct the terminology used, sometimes my knowledge goes over well and sometimes we need to place bets… and order another round.

  6. I had a similar problem when I was training rookies on the Police Dept.. Finally I held up a hair clip, and said CLIP IS FOR YOUR HAIR, magazine is for your your weapon.. someone said a magazine is something your read…I said whoever said that must have been in the NAVY..end of discussion.

  7. M1 Rifle has a clip with 8 rounds, which is loaded in a firing chamber. Never heard the term magazine. I have a M1 thumb to prove it.

  8. Hi Steve, I to am a 6657 (Fire Control Technician) F-4J/S. 1976-1982. MCAS Beaufort, SC. With VMFA333 ☘️☘️☘️ I agree with your definition of “clip VS Magizene” SEMPER FI Brother 🇺🇸 SSGT. Tony Woconish, USMC

  9. I got to Vietnam during the TET offensive and was sent up to Phubai. They issued me an M16 with a bandalero of clips, and “ONE” magazine. They told me everything was shipped up to Hue Then I was put in a 6X6 for a convoy through Hue to Quang Tri. The explanation that a magazine has a spring, and a clip does not, is correct.

  10. When I went through boot camp we were taught that a clip had no moving parts and a magazine did. Very simple. This was in 1957.

  11. I went into the Corps in 1954 and was told a clip for the M-1 was disposable, but a magazine for the BAR, .45 cal M1911 were not disposable, and you better damn well come back with what you went out with, magazines, not ammo.

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