View Full Version : Why called Magazines?

October 1, 2008, 08:30 AM

I am interested to know the history of why the ammo holders in semi autos are called 'magazines.' Does anyone know? :confused:

October 1, 2008, 09:12 AM
"Magazine" is French for storehouse or storage place. The "storage places" for cartridges in firearms in general are called "magazines," whether they are detachable—as in the detachable box magazines generally found in automatic pistols—or fixed. The Mauser C96's magazine, for example, is filled by stripping rounds into the magazine from a stripper clip. The Garand's magazine is filled by inserting an "en bloc" (there's that French again, just what it sounds like, "in block form") clip of eight cartridges.

Incidentally, "clips" are not "magazines." When we refer to, say, an M16's "30-round clip" what we really mean is "30-round magazine," which is shorthand for "30-round detachable box magazine," the full and correct description.


PS French for the printed publication we call a "magazine" is "gazette." Go figure.

October 1, 2008, 11:03 AM
Ditto; a "magazine" is simply a storage place for any type of arms, ammunition, or explosives, which is why blasters keep their explosives in a "magazine", or why battleships kept their powder in a "powder magazine".

October 1, 2008, 11:53 AM
Warships, fortress', and castles all had "magazines", as in a room/space, dedicated for munitions - long before firearms had magazines.

BTW - An ammo "clip", is actually a sheet metal device/strip (there are many different designs) that holds a given number of loaded rounds aligned, ready to be "stripped" from the (stripper) "clip" into the magazine.


October 1, 2008, 01:02 PM
Hey! Merci Bien!!

Thanks for the quick replies and the detailed information! Now I'll know what to tell my students and what forum to head them to!

Bon jour!! (I studied little french in High School....oh.....many, many years ago!


James K
October 1, 2008, 02:38 PM
A point of distinction. In general, a magazine has a spring and a follower (the part that pushes on the cartridge). It can be detachable or built into the gun. A clip has no spring or follower and simply holds several cartridges (usually 5-8) together for easier loading into an internal magazine. If the clip enters the magazine and becomes part of the action, it is called an "en bloc" clip (like the M1 rifle and Mannlicher designs). If it simply holds the cartridges so they can be stripped out and into the action, it is called a "stripper clip", or just a "clip"; in British terminology, it is called, more accurately, a charger.


44 AMP
October 1, 2008, 05:45 PM
There is also the "half moon" (3rnd) and "full moon" (6rnd) clips designed to allow the use of rimless ammo (.45acp) in DA revolvers. I even have a couple dozen or so 2nd clips for the same purpose.

Half moon clips made their first appearance (that I know of) with the 1917 Colt and S&W .45 ACP revolvers made for WW I. The DA extractor normally pushes against the case rim, but the rimless .45acp had nothing to push against. So cases had to be poked out one at a time with a stick, or rod, which really slows down the reloading.

The solution was the half moon clip, or .45 Auto Rim ammo. The half moon clip (named because it resembles a half moon, a half circle) is a flat piece of spring steel that holds 3 rounds in proper spacing to be inserted into the cylinder. The rounds stay in the clip, the fired cases and the clip are extracted together. 2 half moon clips is a very fast way to load and reload a DA revolver. This idea has been used in some modern guns as well, for the reason of its speed and simplicity. Full moon clips are complete circles, holding 6 rounds, and working just like 2 half moon clips, only being one unit, it is even faster. Moon clips will only work in guns that have been made for, or modified to accept them. In an unmodified gun, the added thickness of the clips prevents the cylinder from closing, or if it closes, it normally can't turn.

Auto Rim brass was made to be used in the guns that used moon clips, without the clips. .45AR brass has a very thick rim, equaling the thickness of the .45ACP ammo and the clips.

In mechanical jargon, a clip is a something that retains or fastens something. In guns, clips do the same job for some parts (and may be called retaining clips, or snap rings, or something similar). When referring to ammo, clips hold ammo together. Many designs have the ammo removed for feeding/firing, (stripper, enbloc) but some (like moon clips) do not.

Mike Irwin
October 1, 2008, 09:35 PM
The word goes back farther than French.

It has roots in old Italian, Arabic, and possibly as far back as Aramaic around the time of Christ.

October 1, 2008, 09:39 PM
Learn something everyday...thanks guys. Now I wonder what I forgot. :o