22 May 2015

FWS Armory: The Magazine

A gun without magazine is like a car without gas tank! Shoot, reload and repeat. To minimize the reloading process the gun magazine holds the cartridges inside the gun waiting for their turn to be chambered and fired. Though essential to firearm operation the magazine usually poorly portrayed in movies, TV shows etc. both in general media. This is especially true in science fiction, and even in military science fiction. In this installment of the continuing series FWS armory, we'll examine the magazine from top to bottom: definition, types, ammo counting, reloading and more. So, time to lock & load!
Definition- What is an Magazine?    
For the purpose of this article the definition for magazine is:"Device in the gun, integral or detachable, that holds pre-chambered cartridges and includes mechanism, usually spring, to consistently place one cartridge in chambering position." This definition doesn’t include revolvers & metal storm since all of the revolver rounds are already chambered inside the cylinder and the metal storm "rounds" are already chambered  in the barrel.Where the word "magazine" come from? The term "magazine" as a device contains pre-chambered cartridges was originated from the French word "magasin" that means storehouse or storeroom. The word "magasin" usually refers to storeroom of ammunition/gunpowder in a building or a ship, from there the word neutrally evolved to the storage "room" inside the gun for ammunition.
Clip vs. Magazine and the M1 Garand  
There is a great confusion between the terms "magazine" and "clip", and they are often (and wrongly) used interchangeable. The early rifles with un-detachable box magazine were loaded manually, round by round into the magazine. A clip is basically a device that holds several cartridges together allowing the shooter to insert quickly several cartridges to the magazine at once.Most of those clips, known as strip clips, weren't inserted inside the magazine but merely placed on top of the magazine entry while the shooter pushes the cartridges from the clip to the magazine.The en-block clips are different; those clips are placed inside the magazine with the rounds and removed from the magazine after all of the rounds were fired. The M1 Garand fed exclusively from such 8 round en-block clips; when the last round in the clip had been fired the gun magazine spring eject the clip with a distinctive PING sound. The common confusion between 'magazine' & 'clip' in the USA is probably because of the popularity of the Garand and wide use during WW2, coined the term "clip" to every metal rectangle with cartridges in it that you insert into a gun.

Magazine types
Unless stated otherwise, all those magazines are detachable.

Un-detachable tubular magazine
The first magazine developed were tubular, the cartridges placed one after the other inside a tube usually parallel to the barrel.The earliest tubular magazines didn't contained spring but were "gravity" magazine, rifles, like the Girandoni air rifle, need to been cycle with the barrel pointing upward. With the compression spring in the tube the cartridges could be chambered in any orientation. Today, most of the tubular magazine guns are shotguns, grenade launchers, and basically guns that fire bullets without pointy-noses.

Un-detachable box magazine
With the introduction of cartridges with pointy-nose & center-fire primers the tube arrangement of a row of cartridges with several potential strikers behind several primers becomes a bit dangerous…The solution was to re-arrange the round side-by-side inside a rectangular box magazine. As with the tubular, the first box magazines were "gravity", magazine placed on top of the gun and the rounds fall from the mag to the chambering position. The adding of compression spring meant the mag could be positioned below or left/right to the gun. The fixed box magazine was seen in guns like the Lee Enfiled and the SKS

Detachable box magazine
Reloading those Un-detachable box magazines were a long process, even with the assistant of the clips. The next logical step was to carry several loaded magazines and simply swap them with the empty one in the gun. Most of modern guns are feds using detachable box magazines. This revolution in firearms technology began in 1908 with the Savage Model 99, but the detachable box magazine technology would later allow assault rifles to evolve and domain the world of military small arms.

Drum magazine
Drum magazines are squashed cylinder where the rounds are arranged parallel to the magazine rotation axis in a single-row along a spiral path. A rotating mechanism, usually a torsion spring, pushes the rounds along that path toward the feed lips. Notable examples: Thompson gun (Tommy gun!!), Soviet PPSh-41, Magpul D60.

Saddle-drum magazine
Saddle-drum or double-drum magazine consist of two drums feeding single magazine neck from both sides. The two torsion springs compress in two opposite directions.
Notable examples: Beta-mag family of magazines.  

Rotary magazine
Rotary magazine, also known as spool or sprocket magazine is based on star shape sprocket acetate using a torsion spring. The spring rotates the sprocket, pushing fresh rounds to chambering position.

Helical magazine
Helical magazine is a drum mag where rounds are arranged along helix path. The cartridges are parallel to the magazine rotation axis. Notable examples:  Calico family (seen in several sci-fi films), Chang Feng ,PP-90M1 & Bizon SMG.

Pan magazine
Pan magazines similar to helical magazine in that there storing round in a single-row along a helix path. The difference is those round aren’t parallel to the magazine rotation axis but perpendicular to it with bullets point to the axis.Those heavy magazines usually mount on top of the gun and rotate using moving cam in the gun rather than a torsion spring. Notable examples:  Lewis gun, Bren gun, Degtyarev machinegun & American-180

Detachable tubular magazine
SRM Arms innovate with new layout for the old trusty tube magazine shotgun, their new family of shotguns is fed from a under the barrel magazine, this magazine construct of four spring tubes which contain 4 shot shells each. After 4 shots the shooter simply rotates the mag 90 degrees to the next fresh tube. After all 16 shots were fired the shooter replaces the empty mag with a fresh one.  

Hopper magazine
During WW2 the Japanese developed and deployed two unusual and unsuccessful machineguns, Type 11 & Type 89. The idea behind was to have squad level machine guns that could be fed using the regular rifleman ammunition and the regular strip clips as well. Those machine guns had something that could be called 'magazine of clips', the 5 rounds clips of Type 38 rifle placed inside Un-detachable box magazine, while firing a moving cam in the gun push rounds from clip to chambering position, when all 5 round been fired the spent clip ejected or fall and the new clip takes it place.Type 11 had "gravity" magazine holds 6 clips; Type 89 had two spring loaded magazines each holds 9 clips. Other rare examples of 'magazine of clips' concept are German 08/18 Maxim SMG, Norwegian Eriksen machine gun, & Russian Kubynov hopper-fed DP28; all been experimental.

Conveyor magazine
Conveyor or linkless feeding magazine consists of circled loop belt acetate using a torsion spring. The rounds place in small niche on the belt and push by the spring to chambering position.
The only MILSPEC Conveyor magazine I found is the H&K HK73 magazine for the HK23 5.56mm NATO light machine gun.

Special and uncommon Detachable box magazine designs
The Detachable box type is the most common and successful type of magazine from the beginning of the 20th century till now. Naturally a few unusual variants of box magazine devolved ever the years.  

Horizontal magazine
The FN P90 PDW is fed using horizontal magazine that rest above the barrel; the rounds are perpendicular to the barrel and a special non- rotating ramp in the feeding lips rotate the round to line them with the barrel. Currently only P90 and AR-57 (AR-15 conversion to 5.7mm) use this configuration, but back in 2008 an experimental shotgun named P-12 developed by Monolith Arms used a scale-up 5.7mm horizontal magazine for 12 gauge shotshells. The company been bought by Magpul and sadly no info about this gun appeared ever since.

G11 sealed magazine loaders
Sometime it's not the dish that matter but how it's been delivered, and that are true of Hooters waitress and G11 magazine loader alike! Most rounds supplied to troops in a simple ammo box, the solider grab a few rounds and load them manually to the mag. Cause of the fragile nature of the G11 caseless rounds H&K worried that soldiers with their dirty hands might damage the propellent casing when loading them to the magazines. The solution – send the ammo inside disposable plastic loaders, each loader contains 15 round and it is factory sealed with cover foil.  

Casket magazine
Casket or Coffin magazine is box magazine with 4 columns of rounds (quad stack) instead of single or double stacked. All of those magazine tapers near the feed lips area and usually have rather complex design of springs & followers to allow narrowing 4 columns to two or even one cartridge in feeding lips. Notable examples: Suomi KP/-31, B&T KH9, Hafdasa C-4, Spectre M4 & QCW-05 are SMG while SureFire 60round & 100round and AK-12 are Casket magazines for assault rifles.  

Blanks magazine
Blanks are standard ammo without the bullet. Blanks loaded into the gun using magazine like standard ammo.Blanks are used wither to launch rifle grenades or force-on-force training with loaded weapons that act exactly like regular rounds without the bullets leaving the barrel (think of Mobile Infantry training in Starship Troopers :-) ) Since blanks are a bit shorter than standard ammo some of those magazines are also narrower, allowing only blanks to be insert into the magazine.

The Israeli Hitchhiker's Magazine
It's common to see in Israel soldiers hitchhiking on their way home or back to base. Usually for safety reasons the driver's demand the soldier to remove the magazine from the gun and cycle the gun before entering the car. During the late 80's & early 90's there was a kidnapping threat, Arab terrorists pretending to be Israelis gives a ride to soldiers and kill or kidnap them.As so called "counter-measure"; some soldiers (against military orders) home-machined and home-weld a Shorty M-16 mag of 4 or 5 rounds. Totally concealed inside the M-16 magazine sleeve the hitchhiker mag gives the solider the ability to be armed with one round in the barrel and 3 or 4 extra in the hidden mag. The mag usually machined with a small knob at the bottom for extract the magazine from the gun.

Tandem magazine 
This rare concept consists of one magazine box with 2 followers & 2 springs placed one-in-front-of-the-other in the same mag. Each follower carry a column of rounds, push them to the magazine feed lips.Inside the gun, an elaborate mechanism locks the rear follower with its rounds a bit down. At first cycles the bolt move back & forward above the rear rounds and chambers the upper round in the front column. When the front column is empty the front follower actuates the mechanism and the rear column rises. The bolt then drags the rounds from the rear column into the now empty front follower and then to the firing chamber.This columns switching is automatic and (in theory) continuous & smooth.Two examples, both experimental guns, are: The bad-ass SPIW with 60 flechette cartridges, fire rate of 1700 rounds/minute and muzzle velocity of 4700 ft/s!!Vesely Machine Carbine with 60 9x19 pistol cartridges.    

Snail magazine
Snail magazine is a regular long box magazine curved sideway allows the shooter to prone or kneeling without a long magazine difficulty.

Typewriter magazine
One of the early Italian machine guns in World War One was the Fiat-Revelli M1914 that used an interesting feeding system. The magazine was a bulky 10 columns metal cage; each column contains 5 rounds, follower & spring. The magazine is loaded to the left side of the gun, the gun fires the first 5 rounds from first column and draws the mag slightly to the right; placing new column. When the last column been empty the mag fall from the right side.This unique feeding system appeared only once with the M1914.

Ammunition counting methods
"I know what you're thinking.'Did he fire six shots or only five?'" Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"Keeping in mind your remained ammo both in the mag in the gun and mags in your vest is very important. Counting shots made and subtract the number from initial amount is difficult in the heat of battle.Other then guessing, weighting, push your thumb against the upper rounds in the mag or gust feeling damn lucky there are few other methods to be inform on your ammo status:

Tracers are cartridges with bullets filled with illuminated substance.It's common to have 2 or 3 last rounds in the magazine to be tracers; the last rounds give an indication to the shooter (and enemy) that magazine is almost empty.This method of counting is more common in military organizations equipped with AK or other guns that don't have last round bolt stopper.    

Holes & slots
Open holes and/or slots in the magazine allow observing the rounds status in mag.The disadvantages – danger of dirt enter the mag & gun via the opening. One of the most infamous examples of slot magazines was the French Chauchat. The dirty and muddy conditions of the Western Front during the First World War caused jamming in the Chauchat due to the ammo slot in the banana-shaped magazine. United States Expeditionary Forces used the Chauchat until it was replaced with the hearty M1918 BAR. These have become more popular during the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have been seen in use with Special Forces units. It is likely that the use of the transparent window magazines by Special Forces indicates that it is not yet acceptable equipment for the big army since SPECOPS can carry whatever kit they desire.Of course, since some soldiers are buying these on their own, they are more apt to NOT drop them on the battlefield.

The magazine or parts of it composed of transparent high resistance polymer. While there are a few gun and magazine manufacturers that product transparent magazines, they are more rare due to concerns about cracking and the overall integrity of the material itself.

Round counter
CAA Tactical produce magazines with 2 round counters, one in the back of the mag allow the shooter to check the counter without leaving firing position and the second on mag bottom indicate the ammo status for the mags in the vest pouches.  

Pop-up pin
In terms of darkness or if the shooter don't want to turn is sight down to the vest pouches there need to be a way to find which mags in the vest are full and which not. CAA Tactical indicator magazine include a pop-up pin on mag bottom giving the shooter indication whether it full by passing the fingers on top of the bottom.

Electronic counter 
Ammo electronic counter is a common trope in science fiction that really began with the iconic M41A1 Pulse Rifle from ALIENS,  but to date no military or police adapt this technology. Currently there two companies who develop electronic counters RadeTechnology Corp offers magnetic magazine followers for AR-15 & pistol magazine and encoders for the AR-15 magazine sleeve & pistol handgrip. MagCount offers pistol magazine floor equipped with LED digital display.

Speeding Up the Reloading

Clips, strip clips, en-block clips
Reloading Un-detachable box & tube magazines one round at a time is too slowly.
Using clips allows the user to load several round at once. This was more common in weapons used during World War II than today. Weapons like the British Lee-Enfield and the American M1 Garand.

Rubber magazine bottom
The first trick in the book is release the mag, let it fall to the ground while the other hand pull fresh mag and insert it to the gun. The problem – the fall could damage the mag.
The solution – add rubberized magazine bottom to soften the hit.

Additional magazine attaching point
Shorting the reloading time by placing the spare magazine/s attaches to the gun.
Common attaching points: forgrip & buttstock  

Magazine coupling
If attaching spare mag as close to the empty mag as possible shorten the reloading then the next logical step be attach the fresh mag to… the empty one.Strapping two or more magazines together is known as coupling or "Jungle Style". Few coupling armaments: magazines parallel and same direction, parallel and opposite, perpendicular, collinear bottom-to-bottom and more.The most early & simple way to couple is home-made duct tape, nowadays coupling been done using factory made plastic or metal couplers. Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) took the coupling idea to its extreme end by manufacturing polymer mags with "integral" latches to couple them with other EST mags.

Dual magazine housings
One variant of World War II German MP-40 9x19mm submachine gun was the MP-40/I. Similar to regular MP-40 with two magazine housings mount on slide. When one mag is empty the solider slide the doable housings, align the fresh mag between the barrel and bolt ready to been used.Unlike the tandem or typewriter magazine- mags switching isn't automatic.  

Taping magazines against helmets 
It is common to see in movies involving the Vietnam War Americans soldiers tapping the upper side of their M-16 STANG magazines on their helmets before inserting them to gun. Why did they do that? The answer isn't so clear. The M-16 had serious teething pains, one of them was misfeeding due to irregular contour of the magazine – the upper is a straight box and the lower is curved. If the round weren’t placed correctly in the magazine the spring couldn't push the column of rounds to the gun. Banging the mag against same hard surface allegedly fixes this problem.  


By far the most common material magazine are made of is a metal- aluminum or steel.
A metal magazine is generally cheaper and more reliable. The downside is those mags are also less agronomic; when it very hot or very cold it unconformable to hold without gloves, when your palms are sweaty they can slip, the mags colors are usually uniform meaning no camouflage patterns.        

Plastic or more accurate "high resistance polymer" magazines are made entirely out of plastic save the spring. Those mags are a bit lighter and could be made in any color/pattern for camouflage and with coarse skin for better grip. Down side is there more expensive and less reliable, especially regarding the feed lips which tend to wear off.      

Metal-plastic hybrid 
To combine the advantages of metal and plastic Lancer Systems Company develop the M5 & M7 Advanced Warfighter Magazine; those magazines are plastic body with metal feed lips for better resistance.

The Future of Magazines

Near Future:

High capacity magazines
The push toward high capacity mags will continue; whether it is drums, casket, tandem, etc. The trend in the following years seems to be developing new mags to existent guns like AR-15 rather than develop new weapon system for new mag. To date no major military convert to high-cap, the main obstacle is the reliability issue, the KISS rule have no exception! The complex nature of those devices is prone to jamming.Other then reliability there is the issues with cost, weight, field maintaining & ergonomics.          

Sealed and/or disposable magazines
The G11 little experiment with sealed magazine loaders give a hint of how the logistic of caseless ammo could unfold. Caseless, polymer cased rounds, Gyrojet rounds or some far future cartridges might be too fragile for the foot soldier to load by his/her own so factory pre-loaded mags will be supplied instead. Those delicate rounds might be easily corrupted by the elements (especially other world's elements…) so the mags will be also hermetically sealed. Such development will be natural extension of the process the cartridge itself once past – instead of "assemble" the components (primmer, bullet, propellant) into a cartridge inside the gun those cartridges supplied packed with the components in a cased, weather resistance shell. The disposable magazines will perform the same – soldiers will be supplied with one time magazines similar to today one time cartridge.

Electronic counter 
Future advance in miniaturization of electronics could fulfill the promise of rounds electronic counter, those future counters will probably be build-in as part of the gun design...and we all know what iconic firearm of sci-fi has one of these.

Far Future:

Disposable power cells
If and when science delivers us the super batteries essential to DEW or EM-KEW those batteries could be formed as small disposable units and not single block battery. Modern technologies like flex compressor (not flex capacitor!) or super capacitors (not flex capacitor!) seem to be good candidates for this role. Such devices could be stacked like modern cartridges in magazines and be chambered, used, extract & eject like cartridges.    

Rail, Gauss & Plasma bullets
Rail, Gauss & Plasma guns – all rely on throwing atoms of some sort toward your foe.
Rail and Gauss bullets with their sabots (if needed) will be stacked like modern pellets in a BB gun or paint bullets in a paintball gun, those guns propel their bullets using compressed air while the EM-KEW will use electric current from power source. In the case of plasma gun small ampoules of liquid or solid pellets will be stacked in magazines ready to be "chambered", super-heated and accelerate out of the barrel.

Rail, Gauss & Plasma cartridge
A marriage of the two previous concepts is the Rail/Gauss/Plasma cartridges. Combined projectile and a power source, the combined cartridge eliminate the need of two separate feed source of magazine & battery.

Science Fiction and the Magazine
There is a disconnect between magazines in the real-world and magazines in sci-fi. In the real-world, magazines have been the subject of laws and lobbying along with being a big business in both military and civilian markets. Consider that manufacturers and the NRA spend millions on lobbying Congress to allow high-cap magazines to be legal and sold to civilians, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. When I was a kid going to gunshows, banned high-capability magazines for pistols and assault rifles were sold for high prices. When I bought my first pistol, an SIG P229, I could not buy high-cap mags for it. But times change, and today, high-cap mags are legal and once again, big business in the US civilian rec-shooting market.
All of the attention and energy paid to magazines in the real-world is not mirrored in the realm of science fiction. There are few examples of futuristic innovation with regards to magazines, mostly magazines are rarely thought about. Part of this has to do with sci-fi being obsessed with DE "ray gun" weapon for the better part of fifty years. A majority of the time, these ray gun blaster never ran out of energy death bolts until the plot called for it (sort of like 1980's action movies). After the Pulse Rifles of ALIENS, the world of sci-fi began to embrace more KE type weapons, causing the need for magazines. Of course, it was often the case with these bullet-firing sci-fi guns that they too had bottomless magazines and reloading scenes were used for plot devices or just to look cool.
When computer technology allowed it, sci-fi shooter video games caused the majority of magazine usage and development. In games like Half-Life, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Call of Duty, and HALO, we see the player having to consider their ammunition and amount of time to reload. This is especially true in the online shooting games and the "active reload" gameplay mechanism in the Gears of War series. Of course, this often the only real attention paid to magazines, and these amount of time spend on their form and function can bear little reality.
One of the prime examples for me was the massive capacity of the UNSC MA5B ICWS assault rifle. Fully loaded in the original game, the MA5B could carry 60 rounds of 7.62x51mm ammunition in a magazine. Even if the MA5B fired caseless rounds, the 7.62mm NATO round is still too large for that kind of capacity, let alone traditional ammunition. A 60 round 7.62mm mag would be a drum or Beta C-Mag! This was corrected in future HALO games and by Halo 4 and HALO: Reach, the various MA5s had more realistic capacity. Most weapons, with regards to magazines use technology to reinvent the concept. Look at weapons like  3-D printer rifle from COD: AW, the MP35 from the Old Man's War, and the weapons of Mass Effect. All use advanced futuristic technology that replaces the conventional magazines. The poor attention of magazines in sci-fi is unlikely to change...


The M41A1 Pulse Rifle electronic counter from the ALIENS Universe
The colonial marine standard rifle, the M41A1 Pulse Rifle, hold 99 caseless 10mm cartridges in detachable box magazine. The gun has build-in Electronic counter. Oddly the digital display isn't place where the marine could read it without leaving fire position. More strange is that the display is in right side of the gun making it ideal to left-handed marine but unfit for right-handed, strange… is the colonial marine core only recruit left-handed?

The FN SCAR "Jacket" Reloading System from Edge of Tomorrow
The UDF exo-skeletons known as "Jackets" mounts an FN SCAR-H on the right arm frame of the exoskeleton. When reloading time is due, with a switch of a button the mag released and fresh mag emerge from a container on the right exoskeleton leg frame. The Jackets operator or the Jackets computer (unclear from the movie which one takes control at the reloading) guides the exoskeleton frame to place the gun magazine sleeve on top of the mag.

The Lara Croft backpack Reloading System from Tomb Raider 
Dual wield is a cool and fun… until you need to reload, then you need an extra pair of hands. In keeping with the amiko tactic used by the video game heroine, the film heroine attempts to mimic her dual-wielding habit. In the first movie of Tomb Raider, Ms. Lara Croft use a backpack with two rails of pistol magazines pointing right & left. When Lara's pistols (Heckler & Koch USP Match) are empty she starch her arms backward (here is a nice picture to run in your head) and placing the pistol handgrip on top of the mags. At least one innovative idea come from that bad movie…

The CARB Sealed Disposable Magazines from AVATAR
Leave it to James Cameron to sweeping old guns concepts & ideas and insert them to his movies, changing the mindset of any MSF movie/computer game/novel afterward! In 2009 the movie AVATAR introduce one interesting concept, taken from G11 program – the RDA security operators use caseless ammunition packed in sealed disposable mags/boxes in their CARB guns. Like G11 loaders, the CARB mags are sealed with foil cover. This, sadly, wasn't seen on-screen.

The M7 SMG  Horizontal disposable magazines from the HALO Universe 
The M7 is the standard UNSC sub-machinegun, firing an 5x23mm caseless round out of unusual 60 round magazines. These mags are horizontal type placed on the left side of the gun with ramp points to the front side of the gun and the rest of the mag points to the stock. The mags are also pre-loaded & disposable; I guess the UNSC don’t want the SPARTANs with their power armor's gauntlets stack caseless rounds to mags…    

The Chemrail Two Separate Feeding Systems from Elysium
While in Elysium armory Max De Costa grub a Chemrail rifle and spray death thru walls and one bad guy. The gun is a hybrid of chemical propellant/railgun. The front box is the magazine and the bullpup rear box is the power battery.Since no casing ejecting and no ejecting window are visible in this gun those rounds most likely are caseless. There is a little info about the gun reloading since Max doesn't reloaded the gun but simply pick anther from the armory shelves… keeping loaded guns in the armory… The Elysium security needs to replace their safety inspector ASAP!            

The 2mm EC Gauss cartridge from  Fallout 2 & Fallout Tactic
The most powerful and rare ammunition in Fallout 2 & Fallout tactics is the 2mm EC.
A Combination of 2mm Gauss slug and Electric Source this cartridge packed in magazines feeding pistol, rifle and minigun. Its power and armor piercing is what you need when fighting against those Enclaves with their black power armors!    

The Westinghouse Model M-25 Phased Plasma Rifle Plasma bullets from the Terminator Universe
In the battlefields of LA of 2029 (only 14 years from now!) human resistance fighters are taking the machines down using the M-25 plasma rifle and a box magazine full of 40 cartridges of hydrogen slush. A secondary power source in the gun ionized the slush and accelerates it at hypersonic speeds. This concept was developed by Christopher T. Shields, for his excellent Terminator 2029 website.

The Colonial M78 PIG - Plasma bullet from the Colonial Marine Technical Manual 
Similar to the M-25 phased plasma bullpup rifle of the Terminator universe, this future RPG in service with the Colonial Marine Corps use a power source in a backpack to vaporized cadmium telluride pellets and shot them towards their target (normally an armoured vehicle). The gun holds 30 pellets inside what most likely be an un-detachable magazine. This weapon was seen in the 1996 Colonial Marine Technical Manual. 

The REF H90 Mars Gallant Disposable Protoculture Cell from the ROBOTECH Universe
This gem of a weapon system appeared several times in FWS armory articles and for a damn good reason. The basic H90 is an oval shaped particle beam pistol, fed from small disposable capacitors. Each capacitor holds 4.5 KJ of energy and could power the gun for 3 anti-personal shots of 1.5KJ or one armor piercing shot. Eight capacitors are held in a magazine under the foregrip, short pull of the foregrip and spent capacitor is eject like a pump-action shotgun, long pull and the mag is exposed and the shooter can replace it with new one.
Converting the pistol to a carbine is done by attaching stock the gun. The stock contains flat protocultured battery replacing the capacitors in powering the beam emitter. A dial on the left side of the stock indicate the battery power depletion.            

The Bone Pistol from eXistenZ 
In this poor-man Matrix a member of the "realistic movement" tries to assassinate the world most famous virtual reality game designer. To pass the security scanners he use organic pistol compose of bones and tendons of bio-engineered small lizards. The ammo are human molar teeth, the magazine is part of human lower jaw… yeah, gruesome. The target of assassination who is lightly hurt jokingly wonders if "they use baby tooth for smaller caliber" and "the tooth fairy could enter the arms business".          

The M1216 Detachable tubular magazine from COD: Black Ops 2
The M1216 shotgun of Black Ops 2 is an accurate portrayal of the revolutionary SRM 1216M 12 gauge shotgun with its 4 rounds burst/ 4 bursts a magazine and with its mags reloading. This one of those rare occurrences when Call of Duty gets it right with both the gun and reloading animation.

The EL-10 CAS  Horizontal magazine from F.E.A.R 3
Gone but not forgotten! The P-12 shotgun sort of reappeared in F.E.A.R 3 as EL-10 CAS. With a transparent horizontal magazine hold 12 shotshells 10 gauge size. This feature could be lifted from the FN P90 design.

The Helghast STA-52 LAR Transparent Tandem Drum from the KILLZONE Universe  
Build in a bullpup configuration the STA-52 LAR fed from what appear to be tandem drum. However the mag capacity is only 50 rounds! Say again? Modern Magpul D-60 with similar diameter hold 60 rounds and that drum don't have tandem layout.  

The Thermal Clips from the Mass Effect Universe

One weird example of magazines in sci-fi is the Thermal Clips from Mass Effect 2 and 3. While not a "magazine" per se, it is directly tied to the ammunition used by the weapons of the ME universe. In the original game, the player could fire their weapon until thermal buildup shut the weapon down and there was no limit on the ammunition. This was designed to counter the nearly endless magazine in each of the original game's weaponry. In the second and third games,  BioWare added these oddball thermal clips that allowed the user to eject built up heat instead of monitoring the heat gauge, causing the thermal clips to be just as important as the ammunition itself. The game made an excuse that thermal clips allowed for greater rate-of-fire. These thermal clips were good for so many rounds based on the weapon type and its power. Until used up, they acting as a quasi-magazine in the game. When the player runs out of thermal clips, the weapon could not fire, despite still having ammunition. Of course, in the gameplay itself, thermal clips might as well as be ammunition. No word if the thermal clip will be returning for the next ME games.

The Overwatch Pulse Rifle Energy Fixed Side-Magazine from the Half-Life Universe
One of the best weapons in the Half-Life universe is the OSIPR, or just "the pulse rifle". This alien weapon is a directed energy assault rifle that has an interesting magazine system. The OSIPR as an odd looking box magazine, similar to metal ammo box used on current issue heavy machine guns. Inside this side-mounted box magazine is the capsule shaped energy cores that are fed into the OSIPR via these creepy robotic spider legs. Once in position, the OSIPR's "bolt" hammers the capsule to product the DE bolts. The users of these alien DE rifle, Overwatch and human resistance, are never seen replacing the side-mounted magazine, and it means that they must place the new energy cores inside the magazine, similar to magazines in the British Lee Enfield rifles that used stripper clips to reload the undetached magazine.  

Next on FWS Ammo Shelf...
When and if the need for extensive bursts arises – it is time to drop the magazine and belt up! In my next FWS article we'll examine the ammunition belt and the belt fed weapons: Types, package sizes, dual feeding, feeding method, tracers' ratio, advantages & disentangles, future of, belts and science fiction and more…  

Next Time on FWS...
The modern military term of "battle taxi" is referring to classification of armoured vehicle designed to transport infantry in security to the battlefield. These vehicles are commonly referred to as "armoured personnel carriers" and "infantry fighting vehicles". In the next blog article, we will examining the interesting world of APCs and IFVs...and yes, we will be talking a great deal about the M577 APC from ALIENS. 


  1. "and domain the world of military small arms."

    Enjoyable as always. I'm not too sure we'll see an electronic round counter anytime soon, though.

  2. The US army has been working on a "Shot counter" That counts the total number of shots fired. There have been some Round counters that pop up some even electric but generally it's not really practical yet. Electronic features like that are better left for some time in the future where Combat weapons used by the infantry integrate computer assisted aiming and power rail accessories.
    The CARB rifle ammo box/magazine I find somewhat interesting Basically the ammo would be factory loaded and would only really work for caseless ammo.
    The Jackets Idea form edge of tomorrow using rifles rigged to the forearms never seemed right to me. and the reload was poorly thought out in my opinion. I mean if your going to bolt a automatic weapon to your powered arm why not go whole hog and mount a light belt feed weapon to it with a flexible chute running along the arm?

    In Real life
    In North Korea a few years back images leaked of The Young Dear leader with his bodyguard at a military outpost rallying the troops the body guards were armed with cut down versions of the AKS74 fitted with Helical magazine probably 75 rounds

    One bit not covered of course it the preloaded barrel tech, Yes I know metal storm is defunct but the tech was shown to work and eventually the idea will return. If it does... When it does will the next version use swap able loaded barrels? who knows,

    The Question for the next generation of military weapons I think is how will Composite Ammo effect the loading of the next generation of weapons? CT polymer cased ammo like that being looked at for the American LSAT and Canada Smart rifle will change the shape of bullets for carbines and assault rifles moving to a more cylindrical shape with a lighter weight meaning that the next generation of magazines might be more like larger caliber SMG magazines like those used in the HK UMP 40/45

    1. The LSAT Machinegun and its Composite Ammo (and its caseless ammo) will appear in the next armory article – "The ammo belt" and I'm planning to explain the impact of the new rounds on the gun inner mechanics.
      You right about the Jackets reloading system – a backpack with flexible chute would have been a better choice. Both backpack & flexible chute will appear in the next article.
      I preferred to narrow the "magazine" definition to exclude both Metalstorm & revolvers. Otherwise the article was much longer…


    2. Keep good working, Yoel!

  3. Excellent post, William!! :) You always gather the best content when it comes to SF firearms design. Lotsa interesting real-life magazine designs here. I definitely learned a lot.

    Needless to say, magazines are a vital part of traditional chemfuel slugthowers. We will no doubt be using those for a long time. But going further afield, any weapon that slings projectiles at a target- even if they do it with EM fields- will need a magazine or hopper to hold the bullets. Designs could vary widely.

    But what of energy weapons? The term "magazine" seems slightly less appropriate when your weapon uses electrical power from batteries or burns chemical fuel. You might carry your power supply on a belt or backpack and hook it into the gun with a wire. Or just use an extension cord to the nearest power station. :-) But remember the "laser bullets" Nyrath mentions on his Atomic Rockets pages. If you use single-shot capacitors, it might not be so different from modern guns after all. Except I see no reason to have a feed mechanism if you are just feeding electricity into a laser.

    It would be nifty if we could transform the energy from a explosive cartridge directly into "juice" for the laser like an EPFCG, but I have no idea how far the physics will let us miniaturize these things.

    A long while ago a company named TRW System let on that they were going to build a chemical laser rifle that could silently burn a hole in a soldier from a mile away. Nothing came of it, but the idea was apparently based on a new type of fuel cartridge designed to both hold the deuterium flouride fuel and absorb the poisonous reaction products. I've investigated the tech, and it was apparently originally designed for a chemical anti-optical "blinder" laser. I though this was quite an interesting "magazine" design for laser weapons- it contrasts remarkably with the electrically powered weapons of SF!

    One final note- I have never played Mass Effect (right now, the only game I'm playing is Kerbal Space Program, heh heh), but the thermal clip is an interesting idea. One of the ways to keep an energy weapon from overheating is using a heat sink- a block of something that will store excess heat by undergoing a "phase change" (i.e., solid to liquid). I once read an article about researchers designing a heat sink for laser weapons. If we were to swap out these things, that would be similar to a "thermal clip".

    BTW, William- wtf is up with that supposed Russian laser pistol? Is that thing for real or just a hoax or rumor?

    1. You right, I shouldn't have used the term "chambering" referring to single-shot power source because those rounds won't enter to any pressure chamber, but some sort of feed mechanism could still be needed. Couple the power cells' electrical contacts with the gun's contacts before firing and decuple it after fire could be mechanical process.
      I know there are ways of totally electronic switching so several power cells could be loaded parallel and the gun simply switch from one to another.
      Such two methods, parallel & serial, could existents simultaneous like today revolvers (rounds are parallel and cylinder revolve couple & decouple the rounds from barrel & striker) and magazine fed (serial).


    2. If the single shot power source was an explosively pumped flux compression generator then it quite likely would require being housed in a pressure chamber, since the generator "cartridge" must be detonated to provide power to the system.

      I'm currently working on a story in a retro-futurist setting, and one of the experimental weapons undergoing development is a cartridge based laser small arm, either using an explosively pumped gas dynamic laser method of operation. The cartridges are contained in and manipulated by the receiver and action of a military surplus bolt action rifle. So basically, it's a bolt action laser. The rear section is that of a traditional rifle, the front houses the later stages of laser beam generation and the focusing optics. The gasses generated by the combustion byproducts were originally designed to be vented into the atmosphere, but having a system that absorbs the volatiles would be much safer.

      Another weapon system I'm working on for a more traditional sci fi setting is a slugthrower rifle using electrothermal chemical combustion, with an electric primer squib and liquid propellant. The magazine contains a stack of projectiles, fuel tankage, and a battery compartment all in one replaceable module.

      By the way, good article. Hoping to see more from Yodel in the future.

      One thing that could be added to the tandem magazine section was the Gerasimenko VAG-73, which I believe was covered in a previous article. It used a back to back magazine layout giving the pistol a very impressive 48 round capacity.

    3. Wow so many typos.

      Hoping to see more from Yoel* in the future.

    4. Hey! The VAG-73 is one great gun! The term 'Tandem magazine' isn't widely accepted, I'd barrow it from Forgotten Weapons website so google it won't result in any list of guns.
      You have got some interesting and unorthodox ideas for small arms. Have you heard about Light Gas Gun (LGG) or ram/scram accelerator gun?
      Here is a good short article about them:


      I added a comment regarding the real issues of designing and operate real LGG

    5. Light gas guns and scram cannons are both interesting technologies, one idea I'm working on is ground-to-orbit artillery pieces, possibly using LGG or Scram technologies. These would be mounted on large trucks, which are mobile and harder to target from orbit than large stationary targets, but as they are not connected to the electrical grid railguns and coilguns are impractical. LGG or Scram cannons could be used as their electrical requirements are lower, and they would likely allow for more ordnance to be delivered into orbit than a truck loaded down with bulky orbital missiles. It is likely that missile and gun trucks, as well as laser trucks using perhaps an explosive power supply, would all be used together during an orbital assault to complement each other.

      Your comment on that other blog post was interesting, your point on open-versus-closed bolt operation was spot on. Your design idea for a light gas gun was ingenious, and definitely sounds viable. I believe the rupture discs used by most LGG and scram designs would have to be replaced before they would be viable for use as artillery, as the disc would have to be replaced for every shot. Some of my designs use high pressure valves, however one uses seperate combustion chambers similar to the German V3 cannon, or "London Gun" from WW2. In place of the rocket motors that the v3 used, my design injects a spray of propellant into each chamber, and as the projectile passes by in a parallel chamber it detonates the fuel air mixture. This would likely require computerized timing and would require a large, heavy barrel and generate large amounts of heat, but it would allow each combustion chamber to potentially provide supersonic combustion, which in turn provides much greater impulse and efficiency from the propellant. This would actually function closer to a pulse detonation aircraft engine than either scram or light gas guns, but is really only a different method to achieve the same effect.

      Another interesting development is scramjet boosted artillery shells. I believe I read that from an Iowa class battleships 16 inch guns, scramjet artillery would have a range of 300-500 miles, versus the 60 or so of unboosted shells. While they would lack the precision of cruise missiles they would be able to provide much superior, not to mention far cheaper, area bombardment capabilities. The battleship would be able to carry as many as 900 shells, versus 120 or so cruise missiles form a Ticonderoga class cruiser. Additionally the battleship could be re-armed at sea, whereas a cruiser needs a specially outfitted port and drydock to be totally re-armed. Guns have numerous advantages over rockets and missiles, and as anti missile systems improve I believe we will see a shift back towards large bore long range artillery, and quite possibly some exciting new technology in that area as well.

    6. I just had another thought pertaining to "magazines" for energy weapons. Before moving on to other technologies my early directed energy weapons used replaceable batteries, more advanced versions of what we use today. The issue I struggled with and ultimately compromised on was rechargeable versus non-rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries would simplify logistical concerns, granting the operators the ability to replenish their "ammunition" from nearly any electrical source, but rechargeable batteries would likely be bulkier, or have a lower energy capacity due to having to accommodate recharging. Disposable non-rechargeable batteries would likely allow for more shots to be fired between swapping modules, the equivalent of having a higher capacity magazine.

      What I settled on is standard loadout for most infantry is at least 2 rechargeable modules and at least 6 non-rechargeable modules. Each soldier would be equipped with a compact fuel cell which is capable of providing electrical power for several days, and could be used to keep rechargeable batteries at full capacity. For limited engagements on a long mission, rechargeable batteries could be used and later recharged, and for more intense conflicts the higher capacity units could be employed. For light reconnaissance or shorter term missions non rechargeable units would be issued as these soldiers would have lighter equipment and couldn't accommodate the recharger.

      Another interesting thing about electronic weapons is because electricity is such an accessible source of power and easily transportable, it could be possible for a directed energy small arm to be attached to a cord and use a source of power from a larger or fixed source. While in urban conflicts it would be unlikely a soldier would use a wall outlet, due to the vulnerability of the civilian electrical grid as well as crippling the infantrymans mobility, it could be potentially used in transport vehicles or fixed defensive emplacements. It would be possible for an APC or IFV to have firing ports to accommodate directed energy weapon small-arms fire, although the small arms themselves would likely be limited by their ability to reject waste heat, an ability that would likely be inferior to fixed emplacement weapons, which could use lagrer radiators or heat sinks.

      And finally, weapon batteries could likely be used to power non-weapon electronics, and if they were designed as stackable cells that can be scaled up or down as the job requires, it would be possible to have universal batteries, that can be used in practically everything.

      Anyways these are just some more ideas I had that I figured I'd share.

  4. What kind of magazine is used in Rick Deckard Pistol from Blade Runner? This looks like revolver, but that barrel seems to be ,,in the middle". I can imagine small snail mag inside this beautiful weapon...

  5. The .44 Magnum M2019 Detective Special used in that iconic 1982 film was a revolver, or at least the revolver used for the prop gun was, and it is likely that the M2019 that Deckard uses is an revolver...but we never see it reloaded on-screen.

  6. All of the credit for this blogpost goes to Yoel. I did very little on this, very little. The Russian laser pistol did indeed exist! Called the Soviet Laser Pistol, the pistol was in prototype phase to allow their astronauts to pop the suits of our astronauts in case of a 3rd World War, in which orbital space would have been a battleground.
    Here is a good article on it:

    1. In times when this pistol was designed, in my country ,,ours" were Russians unfortunately... I need time displacement device! Interesting thing to know what is this pist, but i ve heard something about TIS 1 laser rifle designed in USA in late
      90s, if i remember correctly. I found some links, but something with my phone is not good, and i can't paste it here! I will do it tomorrow, hmm, at edge of tomorrow. And is that Yoel from comments the same with Yoel who wrote blogpost?

    2. Yes, the same. He reached out to me with an damn good idea for the blogpost, and he wrote 99.9% of the blogpost. Damn fine work

  7. Well, Yoel did a damn fine job- lots of thanks to him for the time he spent putting this together!

    Hmm, I've read about that Soviet laser pistol but I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I'm not sure if it's mechanism makes sense, though the idea of pumping a laser with flash powder is interesting. It was supposed to only be an anti-optical or spacesuit popper, not a flashy death ray, so just maybe it makes sense.

    Someone mentioned the TIS-1 laser rifle- now, I know that one was a joke concept. The Stavetti TIS-1 was a supposed "concept" laser rifle to replace the M-16 in the near future. It was described as being a gasdynamic laser, which is all well and good until you reach the power source. The fucking thing was supposed to be powered by the radioactive decay of polonium!! Yup, the heat produced by this polonium would heat the active medium that is channeled through the laser.

    This is totally insane because a. polonium is fucking expensive, b., polonium is freaking dangerous, and c. the polonium "battery" would spew out hundreds of watts of heat non-stop for its entire half-life whether the laser is using it or not, making the laser too hot to hold or store safely. Charlie Stross has a deliciously biting analysis you can find on the Atomic Rockets sidearm pages. Note that if you ditch the Dr. Strangelove power source this laser might work- but you would need a humvee to power it!

    Christopher Phoenix (not on his blogger account at this moment)

  8. Christopher Phoenix... He should work here! A man who mentioned TIS1 and Deckard blaster is called:
    MrAnderson, i forgot