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The Old Man

How To Write Realistically About Guns: Clip vs Magazine

Clip vs Magazine

If you know anything about guns, that knowledge has likely ruined the best books you’ve read. It’s hard to think of an author who gets it right. Even my favorite authors make glaring mistakes when it comes to factual information about guns. No matter how gripping a story is when I read about a safety on a Glock (a gun well-known for being manufactured without any external safeties), all the credibility the author has built up in the narrative is immediately lost. In a good book, factual errors like that are heart wrenching.


So I thought I’d post a blog series about how to write realistically about guns.


Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's Endorsement of PATRIARCH RUN



In this first installment of the series, I’ll cover one of the most common errors writers make. DON’T USE THE WORD CLIP!


Not unless you’re referring to one of these:

Stripper Clips



 Magazines look like these:




So what’s the difference?

Simply put, a clip feeds magazines. A magazine feeds the weapon.


magkitsIf we’d like to add more detail, we could say that a clip makes it easier to charge a magazine. Moreover, some magazines require a clip to function. One of the differences between a clip and a magazine is that a magazine functions with a spring. It uses that spring to help feed cartridges into a weapon. The image to the right shows two disassembled magazines. 


There are variety of magazine types: box, drum, tubular, rotary, etc. Most of the magazines being written about these days are detachable, but some magazines are fixed: such as most tubular magazines. A tubular magazine is commonly used with pump and lever action guns.


Unless you’re writing about a vintage weapon (think M1 Garand, the United States Armed Forces service rifle during WWII), the weapon you’re writing about probably doesn’t use a clip. It probably uses a detachable magazine.

M1 Garand with en bloc clip


Where did the term “clip” come from?

The word clip is widely misused. Some speculate that this error in language was introduced by veterans after World War II. The M1 Garand uses an en bloc clip to charge its fixed magazine. The speculation is that troops familiar with the Garand adopted the term clip after the war when referring to the magazines in their civilian guns.


If you’d like to learn more about how to write realistically about guns, you can find other installments of this series on my blog.