Washington Post (January 19 issue) carried an article reporting the latest results of Washington Post / ABC News poll, in which I came across the phrase high-capacity magazine clips.

My understanding of magazine clip was just a piece of article or its excerpt cut out from a magazine, like a tearsheet. What does high-capacity magazine clip actually mean?

Poll shows high marks for Obama on Tucson, low regard for political dialogue. Like similar violent events in the past, the Arizona shootings did not generate greater support for tougher gun-control measures in general. But a majority — 57 percent — said they support a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazine clips such as the one the shooter in Tucson used.

6 Answers 6


Here magazine and clip refer to parts of a gun that contain bullets. They are not used in the same sense as a clip cut out from a magazine for reading.

High-capacity refers to the ability of the magazine to store many bullets.

  • here is a picture of High capacity magazines. tgscom.com/images/sharedimages/GunSourceFrontPage/Images/…
    – Tester101
    Jan 20, 2011 at 17:10
  • Tester. I looked at the picture of HIgh capacity magazine on the site you gave me. It just looked like a cut of a tire, or piece of black rubber for me who have never seen and toutched a hand gun. My naive confusion of magazine clip of a gun with a tearsheet of magazine may derive from my, today's Japanese illiteracy of gun and gun culture(fortunate or unfortunate, I don't know). By the way, I remember I sat in the magazine seat in a Broadway theater long time ago. Is it still the same 'magazine' as for paper magazine, gun magazine. Why the usage of the same word is devided like that?- Yoichi. Jan 20, 2011 at 22:26
  • Off-topic, but there are more Japanese words that have more than one meaning than there are in English (because of the smaller number of syllables in Japanese). For example kami can mean "paper", "hair", or "God".
    – MGOwen
    Jan 21, 2011 at 5:13
  • 2
    @jasper - in this case it's really the same meaning. Magazine is from an arab word for storehouse, then became specifically a military word for an explosive store then for the part of a ship that held the gunpowder for the cannon - then finally for the bit of the gun that holds the bullets
    – mgb
    Apr 13, 2011 at 4:32
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    @YoichiOishi, I'm a bit late here, but I think the part of the theater you sat in was probably the mezzanine.
    – Marthaª
    Jan 8, 2013 at 14:28

A magazine is the (often detachable) part of a firearm that stores the ammunition. A clip is a slang (and technically incorrect) term for a removable magazine. The phrase "magazine clip" is redundant, rather like referring to a bicycle as a "bicycle scooter".

In this context, high-capacity means "holding more ammunition than some people think is acceptable", not "holding more ammunition than normal", since the magazines this term is used to refer to are the normal size for many firearms.

  • 1
    This youtube tutorial is at pains to point out that magazine and clip are two totally different things. I do like the incisive distinction between "normal" and "acceptable" in OP's particular context. Jul 23, 2011 at 17:21

I love the word "magazine" because of its origin (From Online Etymology Dictionary):

1580s, "place for storing goods, especially military ammunition," from M.Fr. magasin "warehouse, depot, store," from It. magazzino, from Arabic makhazin, pl. of makhzan "storehouse" (cf. Sp. almacén "warehouse, magazine"), from khazana "to store up." The original sense is almost obsolete; meaning "periodical journal" dates from the publication of the first one, "Gentleman's Magazine," in 1731, from earlier use of the word for a printed list of military stores and information, or in a figurative sense, from the publication being a "storehouse" of information.

The intended use in the quote is a container for bullets attached to a gun, which carries a greater than usual number of bullets.

  • 2
    I believe the original meaning (a place for storing goods/ammunition) is still widely used aboard naval vessels. Jan 20, 2011 at 17:46
  • Omar, your explanation about the origin of Magazine is very interesting. I raised the above question about the derivation of diverse meanings of 'magazine' to Jasper, a part of which seems to be resolved by your explanation, but I don't know why a section of theater is called 'magazine,' which I think is French. - Yoichi Jan 20, 2011 at 23:31
  • Section of theatre - do you mean "mezzanine"?
    – MGOwen
    Jan 21, 2011 at 5:09
  • MGOwen. Woop! I consulted dictionary. It was 'mezzanine.' I took it for 'magazine' up until now ever since I sit in 'mezzanine' sheat of Broaddway theatre long, long time ago. This is the second blushing blunder I committed in tandem to the first one confounding magzaine of handgun with a clip of Playboy magazine in the same question. - Yoichi Jan 21, 2011 at 5:57
  • Correction: 'sheat' and 'magzaine' of hand gun of the above coment should be respectively 'seat' and 'magazine' (of handgun). - Yoichi Jan 21, 2011 at 6:11

The magazine clip holds ammunition for a gun.

  • troynt. Ah, being told, I scarcely remember that magazine has a meaning of ammunition or the part of gun storing bullets. Big blunder. I totally forgot. I was obsessed with the notion of magazines for reading and associated magazine crip. -Yoichi Jan 20, 2011 at 8:46
  • 1
    Jasper. That's right. I meant magazine clip. Reason for my misspelling. We Japanese don't have distinction of pronounciation between L and R sound. We pronouce 'Right' and 'light' in the same L sound (We don'have R sound).This ofen lead us to confound spelling of the words containing R and L, though I know that can't pass as an excuse of my misspelling magazene crip. - Yoichi Jan 20, 2011 at 10:32
  • "Magazine clip" tries to split the difference, but the terminology is fairly precise - a magazine holds cartridges, and a clip is more like a fixed block or string of them, as shown here: tinyurl.com/4ae8k8x
    – The Raven
    Jul 23, 2011 at 19:06

Some guns use "magazines," which hold cartridges for the gun and, with the aid of a spring, feed them into a chamber. A "high capacity" magazine holds many cartridges; the number that is considered "high capacity" is fixed by law in some places.

A "clip" is something completely different. It is used to store cartridges in such a way that they can be rapidly fed into magazines. There are many pictures on the internet that explain the difference between a magazine and a clip. There is a good picture here: http://miaanstine.com/2012/12/18/clip-vs-magazine/.

People who are not familiar with guns sometimes say "clip" when they mean "magazine." Accordingly, they call for regulation of "high capacity clips" when what they really want is regulation of magazines. Newspapers make this mistake on a regular basis, and the White House has done it also.

A "magazine clip" is a newspaper's awkward attempt to refer to gun magazines while continuing to misuse the word "clip." There is no such thing as a "magazine clip."


A "high capacity magazine" is an arbitrarily large magazine. Some of the states in the US limit magazine capacity to 5 or 30 rounds, so anything that holds more than 30 rounds would likely be considered "high capacity", and a magazine with more than 5 rounds might be considered "high capacity" as well, depending on the speaker.

The magazine that the Tucson shooter used held 31 rounds, so it is definitely "high capacity", though there was no reason to refer to it as a "magazine clip" rather than "magazine".

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