( post 2 of 2 today )
Mags and Clips: What's the Difference, and are Clips Outdated?
J N Morgan
Magazines have been in use for a remarkably long time. In its most basic form, when applied to a firearm, it merely holds more projectiles. For instance back in the late 1700s there was an air rifle designed that did see some Military use, in Austria if memory serves. Virandoni Air Rifle? The name eludes me, however along the right side of the receiver was a tube for holding several musket balls, and in a way perhaps that might have been the first magazine ever in use in spite of it having no springs to speak of, no spring tension. The person credited for creating the box magazine is typically James Paris Lee, a Scotsman who lived in Canada for quite some time before moving to the US, and yes, he is the very Lee who designed the Lee Metford and Lee Enfield rifles. The initial versions of them anyways. Before those he worked on a Remington-Lee Rifle in hopes of getting sales with the US Military, and as I recall the US Navy bought some.
As far as clips are concerned, those are somewhat more recent. The 1888 Commission Rifle may have been the first rifle to utilize clips, an en bloc clip specifically. Best known for its use on the M1 Rifle, better known as the M1 Garand, an en bloc clip is inserted into the magazine itself, it is a part of the magazine essentially, and the clip is disgarded when the last round is chambered in most cases, or in the case of the legendary M1 when the last round is fired. The stripper or charger clip that is known so well, came about around the same time. The first Mosin rifles, the M1891 or "Three-Line Rifle" meaning three-tenths of an inch, .30 cal, to my knowledge were able to use stripper clips.
To sum it up nice and simply, the magazine feeds the chamber, and the clip feeds the magazine. The en-bloc clip is part of the magazine, for if you have no en bloc clip the rifle is essentially only a single-shot, and this includes the venerable M1 Rifle. You could have all the M2 Ball .30-06 in the world, but if none of it is in the required en bloc clips and you have no en bloc clips to load with the ammo, then you've got yourself an auto-ejecting single-shot rifle.
Now that the difference is over, for a clip is not a magazine and a magazine is not a clip, is the clip truly outdated? Other than the SKS-45 which is still reportedly in service in China and North Korea, modern firearms don't typically use clips anymore. The AR/M4/M16 design, the AK designs, the G36, the L85, none of them can even accept clips. Still, clips were still in use after WWII and not just the en bloc clips in the M1 which saw service even early on in the Vietnam War. The M14, designed in 1957 or so, could accept either 5-rnd stripper/charger clips or of course its detachable 20-rnd box magazines. Likewise the vZ.58 assault rifle designed in teh late 1950s could be reloaded with either 10-rnd SKS clips or detachable 30-rnd mags. Said vZ.58 looks strikingly similar to an AK, but the two are practically nothing alike. There is even less in common between an AK and a vZ than there is in an AK and STG, and the last article I wrote on this blog told of how very different the Kalashnikov of from the Sturmgewehr.
So why would you want to be able to carry both clips and magazines? Surely magazines would be better, right? Well in many cases, yes. First, let's look at the ol' Lee Enfield rifles. 10-round magazines that were meant to only be removed for cleaning, and 5-round clips. To remove a Lee Enfield mag is no easy matter; they fit VERY snuggly, are about as far from drop-free as you can get, and you will have to use both hands pretty much every time. It's easiest if you break contact with your right hand, move it over to the action while one of your fingers are in the mag well to push up on the mag release, and this gives you a more stable platform for renching the mag out, and then muscling the fresh mag back in. It is a slow process, and the scarcety of the Lee Enfield magazines means you do NOT want to just discard it; you must put it back on your person, which further slows things down.
All in all, with practice, I can top off an empty Lee Enfield with two clips within 5 seconds, and if that's at all slower than swapping mags, then it's negligible at best. Even if mag swapping is indeed a little bit faster though, then surely it would be worth it to completely outfit yourself with as many Lee mags as you can get your hands on, right? In my opinion, Hell no. One Lee mag is far bulkier than two .303 clips making your loadout more ungainly, it's FAR heavier, WAAAAAAY more costly, and all just to try to shave half a second or maybe one full second off reload time, which I'm still dubious of if you can even manage that much?
That's why the British never bothered outfitting their troops with spare mags. The difference in reload speed is so negligible that it simply wasn't worth it to spend all that money and weigh down all those troops with the bulky steel mags. The SVT-40 is a different case however. Firstly, you can empty your mag far faster. Secondly, Mosin clips aren't as smooth as Lee clips and they also don't eject automatically upon closing the bolt which further makes them slower. So giving a few spare mags to their troops for a faster emergency reload is quite practical, but still most of their ammo was in clips, and as WWII progressed I believe they stopped giving spare magazines at all.
However once you get past 10-round capacity, the value of having mags to swap out truly comes into play. With an M14 or a C1 (Canada's FN FAL, one of the few, or possibly the only, FAL variant to allow clip-loading), you can either reload from empty with four 5-rnd clips which will probably take a good 8-10 seconds at least, or you can remove the mag and put in a new one. Even if the mags aren't disposable and you have to retain them, it will most certainly be faster than that. Same with the vZ; 3 of those SKS clips, or just one magazine? So if it's so much better to reload with magazines once you get past 10-round capacity, why did they still issue clips?
Ignoring the fact that clips are cheaper and less bulky than mags, let's look at the weight.
3 SKS clips (30 rounds): 1.2lb (Just over .5kg)
vZ.58 Alloy mag (30 rnd): 1.65lb (About .75kg)
8 vZ mags (240 rounds): 13.2lb (6kg)
24 SKS clips (240 rounds): 9.6lb (Under 4.5kg)
4 vZ mags and 12 SKS clips (240 rounds): 6.6lb+4.8lb=11.4lb (Just over 5kg)
7 vZ mags (210 rounds): 11.55lb (Just over 5kg)
So for the same amount of ammo, having half of it in clips instead of all of it in mags can save you almost 2lb, over 750g. If you've got to lug your gear a long distance, every pound you can shed helps, or this weight could be put towards carrying more ammo. 4 SKS clips is 1.6lb, so for still slightly less weight than carrying all mags you can have 4 mags and 16 clips for a total of 280 rounds instead of 240. In actual fact, a loaded STANAG mag for an AR/M16/M4 is about 1.1lb, so with 3 SKS clips being at 1.2lb, an SKS can carry almost as much ammo as an M16 with nearly the same weight. Sort of pops that "7.62x39 is way heavier than 5.56" bubble, don't it? The weight difference between clips and mags can be quite substantial.
For the M14, it is a similar matter; roughly 1.5lb for a 20-rnd mag, and roughly 1.1lb or 1.2lb for 4 5-rnd clips. Not only that, but what if you have frequent opportunities to take your time to top up your mag? What if you're not firing every magazine to its extreme, or sometimes there's a need to IMMEDIATELY have a full mag to fire? You've got partial mags! Well your rifle is a mag-loader; top off your partial mag, then put it in one of your puches. Get an empty or partial mag, and you'll have it topped off in seconds with clips. What if you have a reserve of lots of clipped ammo but all your mags are empty? With an AR variant or an AK variant, you're essentially screwed, but with a vZ or an M14 or C1, you can start clip-loading your rifle. If you get a lull in firing, then start ramming those clips into mags. Got someone who's not shooting? Give him the empty mags and have him load them with clips with his own rifle.
So this is my view on clips, as well as my experience on their usefulness. In the modern world with 20-round and 30-round magazines being very common, basically standard capacity, a firearm can easily get away with not having to use clips. Just use full mags to reload and you'll be perfectly fine, but I personally believe that clips still have a place in the modern world, and if I had the choice, I'd choose a design that allowed me to carry both magazines and clips so I could either have a lighter loadout, or a loadout with the same weight but with more clips or one extra magazine. To each their own however. To be fair, it does take practice to become quick and efficient with clips, but its value in making your gear lighter, cheaper, and less bulky is irrefutable.
Living amongst the Dead
Just to make it TREMENDOUSLY clear; these books are FREE for Kindle/eReader from Mar 14-16. Whether you review or not, have at 'em, and I hope you enjoy them! If you have any friends who are into zombie survival or LOTS AND LOTS of guns and they like to read, let them know so they can get in on the action too! Check out the review Jim left me on the Living amongst the Dead page; bugger made me blush! Well I hope you enjoyed the article, and I hope you get and enjoy the books too, cheers!
J N Morgan
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