by Jeff Johnston - Thursday, May 9, 2013
Gun people are happy to jump all over the poor novice who calls his new handgun's magazine a “clip”, but should they?
In order to explore this question we must consider a few sources. First, technical terms, as defined by Webster and other such definitive sources, are vital. Secondly, usage can change over time, so we must consider jargon of the day, to some extent. Third, manufacturers play a big role in shaping gun terms. For example, Benelli's inertia system is now simply called an "inertia-driven" or inertia-operated gun thanks to that company's marketing push. So, lets get back to the question, clip or magazine?
Webster defines magazine as: a supply chamber; a holder in or on a gun for cartridges to be fed into the gun chamber automatically.
Webster defines clip as: a device to hold cartridges of recharging the magazines of some rifles; a magazine from which ammunition is fed into the chamber of a firearm.
If we viewed strictly from the contact of Webster's definition, the first clause of the clip definition implies that the clip is to recharge the internal box magazine of "some" rifles. Some rifles would be the M-1903 Springfield, for example. This definition implies that a stripper clip, or clip, is different from a magazine. However, then there's the second clause that implies magazine and clip can be used interchangeably. But is Webster the authority on gun nomenclature?
The Inevitable Johnston Deferral
NRA's fact book, which I take as the gospel, says that purists tend to use the term magazine for the spring-loaded device that most guns (modern handguns like the Glock, for example) use, and reserve the word clip to distinguish the aforementioned stripper clips that are used to reload the magazine, as well as half moon clips for revolvers. These devices that purists call clips tend to not have springs. But then the Fact Book states that not all manufacturers "adhere to this oversimplification."
" … in 1909-1910 U.S. Ordinance reports referred to the "clip" of the upcoming service pistol." This would indicate that the U.S. armed forces, at least in some capacity, called what we know as magazines "clips."
For most of us, saying clip when meaning magazine is wrong--like calling a barrel of a gun its trigger. But technically, if we are to appreciate Webster, it might be more like calling the fore-end of the gun the "fore-arm" or a cartridge a round, which we accept as synonyms and not incorrect.
This interchangeable definition of clip and magazine, however, would be easier to confirm if we could find one modern manufacturer of magazines who calls them clips. If you can find one, please bring it to my attention. Then we'd have to ask ourselves, 'is the company wrong?' or, are we being overly sensitive to such a trifling issue of semantics?
The Judgment Call
Frankly, we should probably give the kid at the range who calls the magazine a clip a break, but we won't because the next thing you know he'll be calling his gun a gat and forgetting who fought whom in WWII.
Therefore, I'll take the side of the hunters and shooters before me, shunning Webster—who was a word-nerd anyway—and continue to call my Glock's 15-round magazine a magazine.
"Honey, please let me buy 100 more Magpul clips," said no respectable gun guy, ever. I'll save clip for what I ask of my hair stylist … I mean, barber.
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