Clip vs Magazine

Nothing can get on a gun guy’s nerves faster than calling a magazine a clip.  The simplest and most basic answer is that a magazine has some type of spring in it to force the loaded cartridges into a specific position to then be picked up by the firearms mechanisms.

An AR-15 magazine (cut-away). Notice the coiled spring under the cartridges. Image borrowed from

A clip on the other hand is simply a device that holds a certain number of cartridges in a specific position.  With a clip, there is no spring.

A clip from an M1 Garand Rifle. Image borrowed from

Confusion can sometime set in when you consider that a clip is often used to quickly load or fill a magazine.  This can be the case with firearms such as the M1 Garand which have an internal magazine inside the rifle.  To facilitate a faster reload the user would have many clips of ammunition at the ready to feed the internal magazine of the firearm.

A clip being loaded into the internal magazine of an M1 Garand rifle. Image borrowed from

A different example would be the AR-15 which has a detachable magazine that can be loaded either by hand or by 10-round clips (in this case known as stripper-clips) of ammunition.  The detachable magazine is then reinserted into the rifle and can be fired.

A STANAG magazine being loaded by a 10-round stripper-clip with the aid of a ‘spoon’.

A Technical Shooters Blog