Rifle Magazines and Clips: Types and What They Do
Apr 25th 2023
All repeating and autoloading arms, except revolvers, feed from some sort of magazine, be it fixed or removable.
And, all rifle magazines hold cartridges and feed them into the rifle’s action. But, not all rifle magazines are the same.
Here’s what you need to know about the difference between a few different types of rifle magazines, as well as the difference between a mag and a clip.
Tube Mags/Tubular Mags
Tube magazines, also known as tubular magazines, are fairly uncommon in rifles, although they are very common in shotguns. In a tube mag, the mag typically sits below the barrel and houses the cartridges end to end, in a row.
Rifles with tube mags tend to be either pump action or lever action. Because of the nature of a tube mag, in which the cartridges are stacked end to end, the nose of one cartridge is pressed up against the base (and primer) of the one in front of it. Consequently, cartridges loaded with spitzer bullets cannot be used in tube mags as there is a risk of unintentional chain fire when the action is cycled.
Detachable Box Magazines
Detachable box magazines are, far and away, the most common type of firearm magazine. It is not only the case that most rifles accept detachable box mags, but most pistols do too, and so do some shotguns.
In a box mag configuration, the cartridges are housed within a magazine body. They can be arranged in a single stack, staggered stack (like a double stack), or arranged in a spiraled pattern, such as in a rotary mag.
These are much more common and preferable because they are not fixed and several charged mags can be carried at once and easily swapped out. The ability to remove the magazine also makes loading and magazine maintenance much easier.
Fixed Internal Magazines
Not particularly common today, fixed internal magazines are similar to box magazines except the device is integrated with the rifle, and there is no mag body that can be removed. The spring and follower can often be removed but usually not as a single unit.
Fixed internal magazines must be loaded either with loose rounds through the open action port, or by using some sort of clip (see below).
Rifle Magazine Parts
While there are several different types of rifle magazines, in general, they all have the same parts.
- Body: The magazine body is the part that houses the spring, follower, and cartridges. In fixed internal magazines the body may be integrated with the structure of the firearm.
- Base Plate: The base plate is a component on most box magazines that is removable to make it easier to access and clean the follower and spring. In some rifles with tube magazines, in place of a base plate, there may be an end cap on the end of the mag.
- Follower: The follower is a component, usually either polymer or steel, that is in contact with the last round in the magazine and pushes on it, forcing the other rounds toward the action.
- Spring: The spring is the internal component of the magazine that stores potential energy and provides the force necessary to feed ammunition. Most rifle magazine springs are either coiled, spiral springs, or, in the case of some box or internal magazines, leaf springs.
Clips, often confused with magazines, are not the same thing. Clips hold ammunition and can either be inserted directly into internal magazines, or used to strip the rounds off and into the magazine to charge it. There are several different types of clips.
Probably the most common type of clip, a stripper clip holds cartridges and can be positioned over the magazine; then, by pushing down on the top or on the cartridges, each round can be “stripped” off, charging the mag.
Many famous military rifles were designed to be charged with stripper clips, including but not limited to the M1903, Mauser G98, Lee-Enfield, and Mosin-Nagant.
En Bloc Clip
An en bloc clip is a relatively rare type of clip that is designed to hold cartridges and which can be inserted directly into the firearm’s magazine.
Certain rifles, such as M1 Garand rifles, can be loaded with en bloc clips. When you see someone shooting an M1 Garand, and the last round is fired, the rifle ejects the spent clip, making the characteristic “ping” sound. The magazine, however, is fixed inside the firearm. It is the clip that gets ejected.
For more information on M1 Garand clips, Garand thumb, and the classic “ping” sound, consult our previous articles.
Moon/Half Moon Clips
We’ll mention moon or half-moon clips here only because there are technically some revolving rifles out there, such as those made by Uberti and Colt.
Half-moon and moon clips are clips designed to hold cartridges in either a half-ring or ring configuration to make it easier to charge a revolver’s cylinder.
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If you can’t find a pistol or rifle magazine for your gun, get in touch with us at 610-250-3960 or come visit us in Easton, Pennsylvania. We carry a huge collection of gun parts and kits as well as rifle and pistol magazines for sale.
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