What's the Difference Between a Clip and a Magazine?

One of the most hotly debated topics among gun enthusiasts is the terminology used to describe firearms and related accessories. Even people who are extremely knowledgeable about gun components might find themselves misusing terms, specifically when it comes to details such as defining the difference between a clip and a magazine. Let's dig into the difference and ensure that you can educate your friends at the next debate!

What Is a Magazine and How Is It Used?

A detachable ammunition source for a rifle is almost always considered a magazine. There are two key types of magazines: detachable and internal. With a detachable magazine, ammunition is stacked within the removable device. This allows for faster access to fresh ammunition, i.e. reloads when the previous magazine runs empty. Guns that are fed by a magazine are traditionally bottom, side or even top loaded such is the case with the KelTec P50. Alternatively, an internal or fixed magazine is part of the firearm that is not removable and ammunition is typically loaded at the breech from either the top with most pistols in this configuration or the bottom with most tube-fed  shotguns for example. 

Pump-action and semi-auto, tube-fed shotguns are the most common example of an internal magazine, with the magazine fixed below the barrel.

What Is an Ammunition Clip and How Is It Used?

Clips, as opposed to magazines, are considered more of a guide -- a way to load ammunition cleanly into fixed magazine firearms or cylinder fed firearms, such as revolvers. Clips can be purchased pre-loaded with ammo and disposed of after a single use while others can be reused. Clips are ideal devices to speed up the reloading process. Multiple rounds can be attached to a clip for loading as opposed to loading the rounds individually. Anyone in a high-volume shooting situation, such as a competition or tactical shooter can greatly benefit from the speed that clips deliver during reloads.

Understanding Clips v. Magazines in Simple Terms

While there is a simple sentence that describes the difference between clips and magazines, there is also plenty of nuance in the terms. In general, the term clip is used when your ammunition is fastened to or “clipped” to a holder, while a magazine is used to describe the mechanism that interacts with the firing sequence  to deliver live ammunition to the breech. Magazines are typically made up of three main components, the magazine body or housing, the magazine spring and a follower. While clips can be used to load or direct ammunition into a magazine, it certainly doesn't work the other way around! We hope this nomenclature lesson was helpful. 

Want to learn more about modern firearms and which might be the best for your unique needs? Reach out to the KelTec team of professionals. You'll not only find top-notch guns and accessories, you'll also find individuals who are passionate about exceptional service and ensuring that each customer is able to safely use their firearms. Thanks for being here and until next time, train hard and be safe.  

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