Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

. Magazines may be integral to the firearm (fixed) or removable (detachable). The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action
Firearm action
In firearms terminology, an action is the physical mechanism that manipulates cartridges and/or seals the breech. The term is also used to describe the method in which cartridges are loaded, locked, and extracted from the mechanism. Actions are generally categorized by the type of mechanism used...

 of the firearm. The detachable magazine is often controversially referred to as a clip
Clip (ammunition)
A clip is a device that is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the magazine or cylinder of a firearm. This speeds up the process of loading and reloading the firearm as several rounds can be loaded at once, rather than one round being loaded at a...


Magazines come in many shapes and sizes, from bolt action express rifle
Express rifle
The term express was first applied to hunting rifles and ammunition beginning in the middle 19th century, to indicate a rifle or ammunition capable of higher than typical velocities. The early express cartridges used a heavy charge of black powder to propel a lightweight, often hollow point...

s that hold only a few rounds to machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s that hold hundreds of rounds. Since the magazine is an essential part of most repeating firearms, they are sometimes subject to regulation by gun control
Gun control
Gun control is any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to restrict or limit the possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, and/or use of guns or other firearms by private citizens...

 laws seeking to limit the number of cartridges they hold.


The earliest firearms were loaded with loose powder and a lead ball, and to fire more than a single shot without reloading required multiple barrels
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

, such as pepper-box
The pepper-box revolver or simply pepperbox is a multiple-barrel repeating firearm that has three or more barrels grouped around a central axis. It mostly appears in the form of a multi-shot handheld firearm...

 guns and double-barreled shotgun
Double-barreled shotgun
A double-barreled shotgun is a shotgun or combination gun with two parallel barrels, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession.-Construction:...

s, or multiple chambers, such as in revolver
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...

s. Both of these add bulk and weight over a single barrel and a single chamber, however, and many attempts were made to get multiple shots from a single loading of a single barrel through the use of superposed load
Superposed load
A superposed load or stacked charge is a method used by various muzzleloading firearms, from matchlocks to caplocks, as well as newer Metal Storm weapons, to fire multiple shots from a single barrel without reloading.-Design:...

s. Breech loading
Breech-loading weapon
A breech-loading weapon is a firearm in which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded into a chamber integral to the rear portion of a barrel....

 designs such as the needle gun
Needle gun
The Dreyse needle-gun was a military breechloading rifle, famous as the main infantry weapon of the Prussians, who adopted it for service in 1848 as the Dreyse Zündnadelgewehr, or Prussian Model 1848...

, and paper cartridge
Paper cartridge
Paper cartridge refers to one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and, in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent...

s sped the loading process, but successful repeating mechanisms did not appear until self contained cartridges were developed.

The earliest magazines appeared not on firearms, but rather on air gun
Air gun
An air gun is a rifle , pistol , or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm, which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft...

s. Without the need for powder, the magazine contained only the balls, the power was provided by high pressure air supplied by an air reservoir in the butt of the gun. The Girandoni Air Rifle
Girandoni Air Rifle
The Girandoni Air Rifle was an airgun designed by Bartholomäus Girandoni circa 1779. The weapon was also known as the "Windbüchse", which means "wind rifle" in German.-History and Use:...

, dating to around 1780, was fairly typical of the repeating air rifles of the time. The Girandoni held 22 balls in a gravity fed tubular magazine, located beside and parallel to the barrel. Due to the use of a large air reservoir, the rifle could fire all the shots in its magazine before the reservoir was depleted enough to require recharging. Firing was accomplished by raising the muzzle of the gun to allow the balls to fall to the rear of the magazine, sliding a ball from the magazine into the barrel with a sliding breech-block, then cocking the hammer (which was connected to a valve) and firing.

Lever action

The first successful repeater to appear was the Volcanic Rifle
Volcanic Repeating Arms
The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company was a company formed in 1855 by partners Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson to develop Walter Hunt's Rocket Ball ammunition and lever action mechanism. Volcanic made an improved version of the Rocket Ball ammunition, and a carbine and pistol version of the lever...

, which used a hollow bullet with the base filled with powder and primer (an early form of caseless ammunition
Caseless ammunition
Caseless ammunition is a type of small arms ammunition that eliminates the cartridge case that typically holds the primer, propellant, and projectile together as a unit...

) fed into the chamber from a spring-loaded tube called a magazine, named after a building or room used to store ammunition. While the anemic power of the Rocket Ball
Rocket Ball
This article is about a specific type of ammunition for firearms, For the sport known as rocket ball, see RocketBallThe Rocket Ball was one of the earliest forms of metallic cartridge for firearms, containing bullet and powder in a single, metal cased unit.-Construction:The Rocket Ball, patented in...

 ammunition used in the Volcanic doomed it to limited popularity, the basic design of the tubular magazine and lever action survive to this day.

The first magazine fed firearm to achieve widespread success was the Spencer repeating rifle
Spencer repeating rifle
The Spencer repeating rifle was a manually operated lever-action, repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine with cartridges. It was adopted by the Union Army, especially by the cavalry, during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle-loading rifled muskets in use at the...

, which saw service in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The Spencer used a tubular magazine located in the butt of the gun, rather than under the barrel, and used new rimfire
Rimfire ammunition
A rimfire is a type of firearm cartridge. It is called a rimfire because instead of the firing pin of a gun striking the primer cap at the center of the base of the cartridge to ignite it , the pin strikes the base's rim....

 metallic cartridges. The Spencer was successful, but the rimfire ammunition did occasionally ignite in the magazine tube, which would destroy the rifle and potentially injure the user. The lever action Henry
Henry rifle
The Henry repeating rifle was a lever-action, breech-loading, tubular magazine rifle.-History:The original Henry rifle was a .44 caliber rimfire, lever-action, breech-loading rifle designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850s. The Henry rifle was an improved version of the earlier Volcanic...

 and Winchester rifle
Winchester rifle
In common usage, Winchester rifle usually means any of the lever-action rifles manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, though the company has also manufactured many rifles of other action types...

s, evolved from the earlier Volcanic, saw service with a number of militaries, such as Turkey, while Switzerland and Italy adopted similar designs.

A modern removable box magazine was patented for lever-action rifles in 1908 by Arthur Savage
Arthur William Savage
Arthur William Savage , was a businessman, inventor and explorer. He is most famous as the inventor of the Savage Model 99 a famously innovative lever action rifle, which remained in production for over 100 years, and the founder of Savage Arms, a gun company...

 and later appeared in a version of the Savage Model 99
Savage Model 99
The Model 99, and its predecessor models 1895 and 1899, are a series of lever action rifles created by the Savage Arms Company in Utica, New York.-History:...

. Other lever-action rifles used detachable magazines, such as the Winchester 88 and the Ruger 96/44.

Semiautomatic pistol

The first successful semiautomatic pistol, the Borchardt C-93
Borchardt C-93
The Borchardt C-93 pistol was designed by Hugo Borchardt in 1893. Ludwig Loewe & Company of Berlin, Germany, a manufacturer of machine tools, produced the C-93, a semi-automatic pistol that he had invented based upon the Maxim toggle-lock principle. He also developed the 7.65×25mm Borchardt...

 (1893), incorporated detachable box magazines. Nearly all subsequent semiautomatic pistol designs adopted detachable box magazines.

Bolt action magazine rifle

Beginning in the 1880s, the new bolt action rifle began to gain favor with militaries, and these were often equipped with tubular magazines. The Mauser Model 1871
Mauser Model 1871
The Mauser Model 1871 adopted as the Gewehr 71 or Infanterie-Gewehr 71 was the first of millions of rifles manufactured to the designs of Paul Mauser and Wilhelm Mauser of the Mauser company.During 1870-71 trials with many different rifles took place, with the "M1869 Bavarian Werder" being the...

, originally a single shot action, added a tubular magazine in its 1884 update, and the Jarmann M1884
Jarmann M1884
The Norwegian Jarmann M1884 was among the first bolt action repeating rifles to be adopted in the Western world. Its adoption, and subsequent modifications, turned the Norwegian Army from a fighting force armed with single-shot black powder weapons into a force armed with modern repeating weapons...

, adopted the same year, also used one. James Paris Lee
James Paris Lee
James Paris Lee was a Scottish-Canadian and later American inventor and arms designer, best known for inventing the bolt action that led to the Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield series of rifles.-Early Life and Career:...

 patented a box magazine, which held rounds stacked vertically, in 1879 and 1882, which was first adopted by Austria in the form of an 11mm, straight-pull bolt action rifle of Mannlicher design in 1886; along with this rifle came the cartridge clip, which held 5 rounds ready to load into the magazine.

Along with the evolution of the magazine rifle, the military cartridge was evolving too, from large bore cartridges (.40 caliber/10 mm and larger) to much smaller bores, firing lighter, high velocity bullets, along with new propellants. The Lebel Model 1886 rifle
Lebel Model 1886 rifle
The Lebel Model 1886 rifle is also known as the "Fusil Mle 1886 M93", after a bolt modification was added in 1893. It is an 8mm bolt action infantry rifle which entered service in the French Army in April 1887...

, the first rifle and cartridge to be designed for use with smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

, used an 8 mm wadcutter
A wadcutter is a special-purpose bullet specially designed for shooting paper targets, usually at close range and at subsonic velocities typically under 800 ft/s . They are often used in handgun and airgun competitions...

-shaped bullet, loaded from a tubular magazine. This later became a problem as the Lebel's ammunition was updated to use a more aerodynamic pointed bullet, as modifications had to be made to the centerfire case to prevent the point of a bullet from igniting the round in front of it in the magazine.

The bolt action Krag-Jørgensen
The Krag-Jørgensen is a repeating bolt action rifle designed by the Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen in the late 19th century. It was adopted as a standard arm by Denmark, the United States of America and Norway...

 rifle, designed in Norway in 1886, used a unique rotary magazine that was built into the receiver. Like Lee's box magazine, the rotary magazine held the rounds side-by-side, rather than end-to-end. Like most rotary magazines, it was loaded through a loading gate, this one located on the side of the receiver. The rotary magazine could be loaded with one round at a time, or with a clip of ammunition. While reliable, the Krag-Jørgensen's magazine was expensive to produce, and was adopted by only three countries, Denmark in 1889, the United States in 1892, and Norway in 1894.

The Lee-Metford
The Lee-Metford rifle was a bolt action British army service rifle, combining James Paris Lee's rear-locking bolt system and ten-round magazine with a seven groove rifled barrel designed by William Ellis Metford...

 rifle, developed in 1888, used an eight- or ten-round detachable box magazine. In 1890 the French adopted a new rifle, firing the same 8mm Lebel
8 mm Lebel
The 8×50mmR French rifle cartridge was the first smokeless gunpowder cartridge to be made and adopted by any country. It was introduced by France in 1886. Formed by necking down the 11 mm Gras black powder cartridge, the smokeless 8 mm Lebel cartridge started a revolution in military rifle...

  cartridge, that fed from en-bloc clips; the clips were required for feeding from the internal magazine, and empty clips were pushed from the bottom of the action by the insertion of a loaded clip from the top. Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 was also developing box magazine-fed (including detachable) variants of his Model 1871 during this time, many of which used en-bloc clips, with models from 1889 through 1893 in various calibers were adopted by various militaries at this time.
In the arms race that preceded the start of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 there were many short lived designs, such as the M1895 Lee Navy
M1895 Lee Navy
The Lee Model 1895 was a straight-pull, cam-action magazine rifle adopted in limited numbers by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in 1895 as a first-line infantry rifle...

 and Gewehr 1888, eventually replaced by the M1903 Springfield rifle and Gewehr 98
Gewehr 98
The Gewehr 98 is a German bolt action Mauser rifle firing the 8x57mm cartridge from a 5 round internal clip-loaded magazine that was the German service rifle from 1898 to 1935, when it was replaced by the Karabiner 98k. It was hence the main rifle of the German infantry during World War I...

 respectively. The Russian
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

The Mosin–Nagant is a bolt-action, internal magazine-fed, military rifle invented under the government commission by Russian and Belgian inventors, and used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations....

, adopted in 1891, was a good example. It was not revolutionary; it was a bolt-action rifle, used a small bore smokeless powder cartridge, and a fixed box magazine loaded from the top with stripper clips (called chargers by the British), all of which were features that were used in earlier military rifles. What made the Nagant stand out was that it combined all the earlier features in a form that was to last virtually unchanged from its issue by Russia in 1894 through its use by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Of the major combatants, only France retained the outdated tubular magazine; all other combatants used rifles that were overall very similar to each other.

An interesting feature of many late 19th and early 20th century bolt action rifles was the magazine cut-off, sometimes called a feed interrupter. This was a mechanical device that prevented the rifle from loading a round from the magazine, requiring the shooter to manually load each individual round as he fired, saving the rounds in the magazine for short periods of rapid fire when ordered to use them. Most military authorities that specified them assumed that their riflemen would waste ammunition indiscriminately if allowed to load from the magazine all the time. By the middle of World War I, most manufacturers deleted this feature to save costs and manufacturing time; it is also likely that battlefield experience had proven the futility of this philosophy.

World War II and later

One of the last new clip-fed, fixed magazine rifles widely adopted that wasn't a modification of an earlier rifle was the M1 Garand rifle. The first semi-automatic rifle that was issued in large numbers to the infantry, the Garand was fed by a special eight round en-bloc clip. The clip itself was inserted into the rifle's magazine during loading, where it was locked in place. The rounds were fed directly from the clip, with a spring-loaded follower in the rifle pushing the rounds up into feeding position. When empty, the bolt would lock open, and a spring would automatically eject the empty clip, leaving the rifle ready to be reloaded. The M14 rifle
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

, which was based on incremental changes to the Garand action, switched to a detachable box magazine.

The Soviet SKS
The SKS is a Soviet semi-automatic rifle chambered for the 7.62x39mm round, designed in 1943 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. SKS-45 is an acronym for Samozaryadnyj Karabin sistemy Simonova, 1945 Simonov system, 1945), or SKS 45. The Sks is a scaled down version of the PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle also...

 carbine, which entered service in 1945, was something of a stopgap between the semi-automatic service rifles being developed in the period leading up to World War II, and the new assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 developed by the Germans. The SKS used a fixed magazine, holding ten rounds and fed by a conventional stripper clip. It was a modification of the earlier AVS-36 rifle, shortened and chambered for the new reduced power 7.62x39mm cartridge. It was rendered obsolete for military use almost immediately by the 1947 introduction of the magazine-fed AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 assault rifle, though it remained in service for many years in Soviet bloc nations alongside the AK-47. The detachable magazine quickly came to dominate post-war military rifle designs.

The M1911 semi-automatic pistol set the standard for most modern handguns and likewise the mechanics of the handgun magazine. In most handguns the magazine follower engages a slide-stop to hold the slide back and keep the firearm out of battery when the magazine is empty and all rounds fired. Upon inserting a loaded magazine the user depresses the slide stop, throwing the slide forward, stripping a round from the top of the magazine stack and chambering it. In single-action pistols this action keeps the hammer cocked back as the new round is chambered, keeping the gun ready to begin firing again.


With the increased use of semi-automatic and automatic firearms, the detachable box magazine became increasingly common. Soon after the adoption of the M1911
The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, and recoil-operated handgun chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. John M. Browning designed the firearm which was the standard-issue side arm for the United States armed forces from 1911 to 1985. The M1911 is still carried by some U.S....

 pistol, the term "magazine" was settled on by the military and firearms experts, though the term "clip" is often used in its place (though only for detachable magazines, never fixed). The defining difference between clips and magazines is the presence of a feed mechanism in a magazine, typically a spring-loaded follower, which a clip lacks. Use of the term "clip
Clip (ammunition)
A clip is a device that is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the magazine or cylinder of a firearm. This speeds up the process of loading and reloading the firearm as several rounds can be loaded at once, rather than one round being loaded at a...

" to refer to detachable magazines is a point of strong disagreement.

Function and types

All cartridge based single barrel firearms designed to fire more than a single shot without reloading require some form of magazine designed to store and feed cartridges to the firearm's action. Magazines come in many shapes and sizes, with the most common type in modern firearms being the detachable box type. Most magazines designed for use with a reciprocating
Reciprocating motion
Reciprocating motion, also called reciprocation, is a repetitive up-and-down or back-and-forth motion. It is found in a wide range of mechanisms, including reciprocating engines and pumps. The two opposite motions that comprise a single reciprocation cycle are called strokes...

 bolt firearm (tube fed firearms being the exception) utilize of a set of feed lips which stops the vertical motion of the cartridges out of the magazine but allow one cartridge at a time to be pushed forward (stripped) out of the feed lips by the firearm's bolt into the chamber. Some form of spring and follower combination is almost always used to feed cartridges to the lips which can be located either in the magazine (most removable box magazines) or built into the firearm (fixed box magazines). There also two distinct styles to feed lips. In a single feed design the top cartridge touches both lips and is commonly used in single column box magazines. A dual or alternating feed magazine consists of a wider set of lips so that the second cartridge in line forces the top cartridge against one lip. This design has proven more resistant to jamming in use with dual column magazines. Some magazine types are strongly associated with certain firearm types, such as the fixed "tubular" magazine found on most lever-action
Lever-action is a type of firearm action which uses a lever located around the trigger guard area, to load fresh cartridges into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is worked. Most lever-action firearms are rifles, but lever-action shotguns and a few pistols have also been made...

 rifles and pump action shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

s. A firearm using detachable magazines may accept a variety of types of magazine, such as the Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

, which would accept box or drum magazines. Some types of firearm, such as the M249
M249 light machine gun
The M249 light machine gun , previously designated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon , and formally written as Light Machine Gun, 5.56 mm, M249, is an American version of the Belgian FN Minimi, a light machine gun manufactured by the Belgian company FN Herstal . The M249 is manufactured in the...

 and other squad automatic weapon
Squad automatic weapon
A squad automatic weapon is a weapon used to give infantry squads or sections a portable source of automatic firepower. Weapons used in this role are selective-fire rifles, usually fitted with a bipod and heavier barrel to perform as Light machine guns...

s, can feed from both magazines and belts.


The most popular type of magazine in modern rifles and handguns, a box magazine stores cartridges in a column, either one above the other or staggered zigzag
A zigzag is a pattern made up of small corners at variable angles, though constant within the zigzag, tracing a path between two parallel lines; it can be described as both jagged and fairly regular....

 fashion. This zigzag stack is often identified by the misnomer
A misnomer is a term which suggests an interpretation that is known to be untrue. Such incorrect terms sometimes derive their names because of the form, action, or origin of the subject becoming named popularly or widely referenced—long before their true natures were known.- Sources of misnomers...

 double-column when in fact, it is a single, staggered column. As the firearm cycles, cartridges are moved to the top of the magazine by a follower driven by spring compression to either a single feed position or side-by-side feed positions. Box magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable.

Box magazines may be metal or plastic. Plastic magazines are sometimes partially transparent so the operator can easily check the remaining ammunition.
  • An internal box or fixed magazine (also known as a blind box magazine when lacking a floorplate) is built into the firearm and is not easily removable. This type of magazine is found most often on bolt-action
    Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon...

     rifles. An internal box magazine is usually charged through the action, one round at a time. Military rifles often use stripper clip
    Stripper clip
    A stripper clip or charger is a speedloader that holds several cartridges together in a single unit for easier loading of a firearm's magazine. A stripper clip is used only for loading the magazine and is not necessary for the firearm to function...

    s or chargers
    Stripper clip
    A stripper clip or charger is a speedloader that holds several cartridges together in a single unit for easier loading of a firearm's magazine. A stripper clip is used only for loading the magazine and is not necessary for the firearm to function...

     permitting multiple rounds, commonly 5 or 10 at a time, to be loaded at once. Some internal box magazines use en-bloc clips that are loaded into the magazine with the ammunition and that are ejected from the firearm when empty.

  • A detachable box magazine is a self-contained mechanism capable of being loaded or unloaded while detached from the host firearm. They are attached via a slot in the firearm receiver usually below the action but occasionally to the side (Sten
    The STEN was a family of British 9 mm submachine guns used extensively by British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II and the Korean War...

    , FG42, Johnson LMG) or on top (Madsen machine gun
    Madsen machine gun
    The Madsen was a light machine gun developed by Julius A. Rasmussen and Theodor Schoubue and proposed for adoption by Captain Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen, the Danish Minister of War and adopted by the Danish Army in 1902...

    , Bren gun, FN P90
    FN P90
    The FN P90 is a selective fire personal defense weapon designed and manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium. The P90's name is taken from 1990, the year it was introduced...

    ). When the magazine is empty, it can be detached from the firearm and replaced by another full magazine. This significantly speeds the process of reloading, allowing the operator quick access to ammunition. This type of magazine may be straight or curved, the curve being necessary if the rifle uses rimmed ammunition or ammunition with a tapered case. Box magazines are often affixed to each other with clips, tape, straps, or built-in studs to facilitate faster reloading: aka jungle style
    Jungle style
    The term "Jungle Style" usually refers to the practice of taping or securing two gun magazines together, with one taped upside down while the other is inserted into the rifle. However, a rifle may also be jungle styled by using plastic divider or cradle in which the two magazines sit, usually upright...


There are, however, exceptions to these rules. The Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 rifle had a detachable box magazine only to facilitate cleaning. The Lee-Enfield magazine did open, permitting rapid unloading of the magazine without having to operate the bolt-action repeatedly to unload the magazine. Others, like the Breda Modello 30
Breda 30
The Fucile Mitragliatore Breda modello 30 was the standard light machine gun of the Royal Italian Army during World War II.The Breda 30 was rather unique for a light machine gun. It is magazine fed from the right side and the magazine was attached to the gun and was loaded using brass or steel 20...

, had a fixed protruding magazine that resembled a conventional detachable box but was non-detachable.


Today, drum magazines are used primarily for light machine gun
Light machine gun
A light machine gun is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.-Characteristics:...

s. In one type, a moving partition within a cylindrical chamber forces loose rounds into an exit slot, with the cartridges being stored parallel to the axis of rotation. After loading of the magazine, a wound spring or other mechanism forces the partition against the rounds. In all models a single staggered column is pushed by a follower through a curved path. From there the rounds enter the vertical riser either from a single or dual drums.
Cylindrical designs such as rotary and drum magazines allow for larger capacity than box magazines, without growing to excessive length. The downside of a drum magazine's extra capacity is its added weight. Many drum-fed firearms can also load from conventional box magazines, such as the Soviet PPSH 41 submachine gun, Russian RPK
The RPK is a 7.62x39mm light machine gun of Soviet design, developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the late 1950s, parallel with the AKM assault/battle rifle...

 light machine gun and the American Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

. Another notable design is the Beta C-Mag
Beta C-Mag
The Beta C-Mag is a 100-round capacity magazine designed by Jim Sullivan and adapted for use in numerous firearms firing the 5.56×45mm NATO, 7.62×51mm NATO, and 9×19mm Parabellum cartridges. C-Mag is short for century magazine, referring to its hundred-round capacity. It has two drum units, each of...

 for AR-15
The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation. It is manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials....

 model rifles.


Another form of box magazine, sometimes referred as a quad-column which can hold a great amount of ammunition retaining the length of a standard magazine although wider. Casket magazines can be found on the Suomi KP/-31, Hafdasa C-4
Hafdasa C-4
The HAFDASA C-4 is a submachine gun of Argentine origin and is chambered in 9mm and .45 calibres. It has an aluminium lower receiver and is fed from a wide box magazine . Its magazine insert has a dust cover that folds open forward to form a grip shrouding the front of the magazines...

, Spectre M4
Spectre M4
The Spectre is an Italian submachine gun that was produced by the SITES factory in Turin. It was designed by Roberto Teppa and Claudio Gritti in the mid-1980s. Production in Italy ceased in the year 1997, with the closure of SITES, but proceeded in very small numbers in Switzerland through Greco...

, QCW-05
The QCW-05 is a suppressed submachine gun...

 and on 5.45x39mm AK rifle derivatives. Magpul has recently been granted a patent for a STANAG
STANAG magazine
A STANAG magazine is a type of detachable firearm magazine proposed by NATO in October 1980. Shortly after NATO's acceptance of the 5.56x45mm NATO rifle cartridge, Draft Standardization Agreement 4179 was proposed in order to allow the military services of member nations easily to share rifle...

 compatible casket magazine, and such a magazine was also displayed by SureFire in December 2010 as the High Capacity Magazine (HCM) in 60 and 100 round capacities.


Often referred to as a drum magazine, the pan magazine differs from other drum magazines in that the cartridges are stored perpendicular to the axis of rotation, rather than parallel, and are usually mounted on top of the firearm. This type is used on the Lewis Gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

, Bren Gun, Degtyarev light machine gun
Degtyarev light machine gun
The Пулемёт Дегтярёвa Пехотный or DP was a light machine gun firing the 7.62x54mmR cartridge that was used by the Soviet Union starting in 1928. It was cheap and easy to manufacture - early models had fewer than 80 parts and could be built by unskilled labour. The DP was especially able to...

, American-180 submachine gun and the 2B-A-40
The 2B-A-40 is an assault rifle of Russian origin. The weapon uses a delayed blowback operation and is chambered in the 7.62x39mm round. The 2B-A-40 also came as a light machine gun as the 2B-P-40.-See Also:*AVB-7.62*ČZW-556/ČZW-762*FAMAS*TKB-517...

 assault rifle. A prototype polymer pan magazine was also developed and tested for use with the RPK-74 light machine gun.


Many of the first repeating rifle
Repeating rifle
A repeating rifle is a single barreled rifle containing multiple rounds of ammunition. These rounds are loaded from a magazine by means of a manual or automatic mechanism, and the action that reloads the rifle also typically recocks the firing action...

s, particularly lever-action
Lever-action is a type of firearm action which uses a lever located around the trigger guard area, to load fresh cartridges into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is worked. Most lever-action firearms are rifles, but lever-action shotguns and a few pistols have also been made...

 and pump-action
A pump-action rifle or shotgun is one in which the handgrip can be pumped back and forth in order to eject a spent round of ammunition and to chamber a fresh one. It is much faster than a bolt-action and somewhat faster than a lever-action, as it does not require the trigger hand to be removed from...

 types, used a single or multiple tubular magazines that store cartridges end-to-end inside of a spring-loaded tube typically running parallel to the barrel, or in the buttstock. This type of magazine is usually fixed to the firearm, meaning that it is not removed in use. Tubular magazines can still be found today, commonly in shotguns, rimfire rifles, or firearms designed to use round-nose, flat-nose, or otherwise soft-pointed bullets. The tubular magazine was made obsolete for most military purposes with the introduction of pointed "Spitzer" bullet
A bullet is a projectile propelled by a firearm, sling, or air gun. Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration...

s due to the risk of ignition when the bullets tip impacts the primer of the cartridge ahead of it during recoil. Tubular magazines remain common in shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

s, as all shotgun shells are flat tipped.


The rotary or spool magazine consists of a star-shaped rotor, or sprocket
A sprocket or sprocket-wheel is a profiled wheel with teeth, cogs, or even sprockets that mesh with a chain, track or other perforated or indented material. The name 'sprocket' applies generally to any wheel upon which are radial projections that engage a chain passing over it...

, actuated by a torsion spring. The magazine may be fixed or detachable. Cartridges fit between the teeth of the sprocket, which is mounted on a spindle parallel to the bore axis, with a torsion spring providing the pressure necessary to rotate the rounds into the feeding position. Rotary magazines are usually of low capacity of ten rounds or less, depending on the cartridge used. The rotary magazine was first used by the Savage Model 1895 & 1899
Savage Model 99
The Model 99, and its predecessor models 1895 and 1899, are a series of lever action rifles created by the Savage Arms Company in Utica, New York.-History:...

 rifles and is still used in a few modern firearm designs, most notably the Ruger 10/22
Ruger 10/22
The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic rimfire rifle chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It has a removable 10-round rotary magazine which allows the magazine to fit flush with the bottom of the stock. Higher capacity magazines are also available...

 and the Steyr SSG 69
Steyr SSG 69
The SSG 69 is a bolt-action sniper rifle produced by Steyr Mannlicher and serves as the standard sniper rifle for the Austrian Army....



In the horizontally-mounted feeding system, the magazine sits parallel to the barrel, fitting flush with the top of the receiver and the ammunition is rotated 90 degrees before being chambered. This feeding system is unique to the FN P90
FN P90
The FN P90 is a selective fire personal defense weapon designed and manufactured by FN Herstal in Belgium. The P90's name is taken from 1990, the year it was introduced...

 personal defense weapon
Personal defense weapon
A personal defense weapon is a compact semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm similar in most respects to a submachine gun, but firing an armor-piercing rifle round, giving a PDW better range, accuracy and armor-penetrating capability than submachine guns, which fire pistol-caliber cartridges...



A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 magazines extend the drum magazine design so that rounds follow a spiral path, allowing for a very large ammunition capacity in a compact package. However, this requires a complex mechanism and thus increases the likelihood of a firearm malfunction
Firearm malfunction
A firearm malfunction is the partial or complete failure of a firearm to operate as intended. Malfunctions range from temporary and relatively safe situations, such as a casing that didn't eject, to potentially dangerous occurrences that may permanently damage the gun and cause injury or death...

. This type of magazine can be used by the Calico M960, Danuvia VD-01
Danuvia VD-01
The VD-01 is a handgun manufactured in machine pistol and pistol variants by Danuvia of Hungary. It is chambered in 9mm Parabellum round fed from a 33 round helical magazine.-References:***...

, PP-19 Bizon, PP-90M1
The PP-90M1 is a 9x19mm Parabellum Russian submachine gun developed by KBP Instrument Design Bureau in the 1990s. It features a 64-round helical magazine, and other than sharing a manufacturer is unrelated to the similarly named PP-90M....

, and CF-05
The CF05 submachine gun developed by Chinese Chang Feng in early 1990s in response to China's demand for a new submachine gun design. It was developed by the same team who designed the QSZ-92 pistol, which is now the main pistol used by PLA and PAP...

  submachine guns.


Shortly after NATO's acceptance of the 5.56x45mm NATO
5.56x45mm NATO
5.56×45mm NATO is a rifle cartridge developed in the United States and originally chambered in the M16 rifle. Under STANAG 4172, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. It is derived from, but not identical to, the .223 Remington cartridge...

 rifle cartridge in October 1980, draft Standardization Agreement 4179 (STANAG 4179) was proposed in order to allow the military services of member nations easily to share rifle ammunition and magazines in the interest of easing logistical concerns. The magazine chosen to become the STANAG magazine was originally designed for the U.S. M16 rifle. Many NATO member nations subsequently developed or purchased rifles with the ability to accept this type of magazine; however the standard was never ratified and remains a 'Draft STANAG'

High capacity magazines

The term high capacity magazine is used to describe magazines that exceed a specified definition of "normal" capacity. In many jurisdictions, magazine capacity of certain firearms is legally restricted, such as it was under the United States' Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which defined a magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition as a high capacity ammunition feeding device. This law expired in 2004 and there have since been multiple attempts to renew it with no bill reaching the House floor for a vote. An attempt to only renew the limitations on large capacity magazines also failed. Currently, in the United States, six states limit magazine capacities. The limits range from 5 rounds to 30 rounds.

Magazine capacity is often limited by the design of the firearm in such cases as internal, tubular, or rotary magazines. In cases such as a detachable box magazine, capacity is limited only by its design. Some pistol and rifle magazines classified by gun control laws as "high capacity" are the factory standard magazines originally designed for use with their respective firearms. Reduced capacity magazines were created in response to enactment of the bans.

External links

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