Definition- What is an Magazine?
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.
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
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 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 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, 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 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 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
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 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.
G11 sealed magazine loaders
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.
The Israeli Hitchhiker's 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 is a regular long box magazine curved sideway allows the shooter to prone or kneeling without a long magazine difficulty.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Science Fiction and the Magazine
The M41A1 Pulse Rifle electronic counter from the ALIENS Universe
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 Chemrail Two Separate Feeding Systems from Elysium
The 2mm EC Gauss cartridge from Fallout 2 & Fallout Tactic
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
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.
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