Written by Phillip Chambers

Clip vs. Magazine: Is There A Difference Between The Two?

This is one of the most commonly mixed-up terms in gun lingo. I would even venture to say you’re not a real gun owner unless you mess these terms up at least once. 

In fact, I have a funny (well, actually embarrassing story) about how I messed up these terms myself. 

I had just got my first firearm (a Glock 17 Gen 4) and was on my way to being a responsible gun owner. 

I was so excited! 

Before leaving the store, I realized I wanted to get another magazine for my car (just in case).  

So I asked: “Hey friendly store owner (I didn’t actually say that, but you get the jist), can I get an extra clip?” 

Errrrr. What?

The store owner looked at me, with love and understanding, and he said: “Son, what you’re looking for is a magazine, not a clip.”

He was patient, although the employees were chuckling a little. 

Let me tell you, I was beet red, but learned my lesson quickly. Which is why I’m giving you this advice so you don’t mess up yourself. 

Magazine vs. Clip: How Are They Different?

Now that I know the difference, I have to say it’s funny hearing people (especially politicians or public figures) make the same mistake I made. 

It’s an indicator they’re not as knowledgeable about the subject as they might claim to be. 

Before we talk about the difference, you should know the two tools are often used synonymously when trying to describe the mechanism for loading the firearm. 

Plus, let’s face it, if you asked your buddy at the range to hand over a clip, he would know what you’re talking about. 

However, you need to know there are separate functions for both a magazine and a clip. They’re used for completely different purposes.  


Let’s dissect the difference. 

What Is A Magazine?

A loaded 223 rifle magazine on top of a loaded 9mm pistol magazine on a white background

These are magazines. 

They are spring loaded storage for ammunition that also feeds the firearm. 

They come in both fixed or detachable versions. For instance, the ones above are detached magazines where the bullets are fed into the firing chamber.

Other weapons like the M1 Garand have internal magazines which are not detachable. 

In fact, there’s a good assumption that it’s because of the M1 Garand that there’s such a confusion about the difference between a clip and magazine. 

The soldiers in WWII would feed a clip into the M1 Garand which put the bullets into the internal magazine. So they were technically correct when asking for an extra clip. 

What Is A Clip?

These are clips!

A clip is a device used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together. It does not have a spring which presses bullets up into a firing chamber. 

Clips are used to help speed up loading magazines, or weapons with an internal magazine like the M1 Garand mentioned earlier.

They’re usually a bent piece of metal, like steel or brass. 

The clip on the left of this picture is called an en bloc clip, and are inserted as a unit into a firearm to help with loading the internal magazine. 

The clip on the right is called a stripper clip and helps reload external magazines easier. 

Now that you know the difference, go forth and shoot! 

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