Stripper clips and the infantryman's load problem

With hundreds of years of more or less empirical research, anecdotes and conventional wisdom, many or most armies are still overburdening their infantrymen. One of the aspects of debate surrounding the infantryman's load problem is ammunition, and how to arrange it.

It's quite evident that storing cartridges in magazines is weight-inefficient in comparison to belts (excluding cartridge weights):

100 rounds 7.62x51mm in 20 rds magazines:
approx.  900 g*
100 rounds 7.62x51mm in disintegrating (M13) belt:
approx. 400 g*

magazine pouches for 100 rounds 7.62x51mm in 20 rds magazines:
approx. 350 g*
belt pouch for 100 rounds 7.62x51mm in disintegrating belt:
approx. 120 g*

Belts win hands-down.
Yet belts are considered a poor choice for normal rifles and carbines, not the least because the mechanism required in the weapon itself tends to be heavier than for (spring-powered) magazine feed.

There is a third (old and unspectacular) option and it slightly confuses me how rarely one reads about it: Stripper clips.
Stripper clips were used to fill the fixed rifle magazines of old (the ones you hardly ever saw from the outside), but they can also be used to refill exchangeable magazines - both apart and in the rifle. Some transition guns of the mid- and late 40's had this capability. A stripper clip for 20 7.62x51 rds weighs about 16 g (80 g for 100 rds)*.

A stripper clip-compatible rifle would allow its user to carry one magazine in the rifle, two in a double magazine pouch and all other cartridges ready in stripper clips in further pouches.** The weight saving for a load of 210 5.56 mm rounds would be almost the weight of four magazines - approx. 0.7 kg (or approx one to two pounds). That would be a great deal already, since the overall weight we need to shave off is about 5-15 kg.***
Every infantryman in full equipment showing more than one double magazine pouch looks suboptimal to me. And this is just about every rifleman nowadays.

One disadvantage is that the stripper clip is fed from above into the magazine (integral or exchangeable) in a rifle. This means there could be no rail or optics right above the magazine. A reliance on clip feeding into magazines directly would allow the continued use of any rifle, of course. It's more fiddly at night, though. Clip feeding into a rifle could be made as easy as a magazine change without tools.

I suppose the return to an emphasis on aimed single shots and move away from a focus on controllable full auto (or burst) fire may benefit a re-appraisal of the stripper clip.

This is totally un-original, of course. All this has been known for decades, and there were a few (non-official) voices in favour of stripper clips. Stripper clips for quick reloading of magazines were in widespread use until the 80's or so.
This begs the question; was the 100% move from clips to magazines excessive and now no-one in an army wants to go back to reputedly 'obsolete' clips or did I miss some powerful contra-clip argument?



*: I looked example figures up and wrote "approx." because there are obviously different ones as well (old steel models can be much heavier). The exact ratio of weights depend on the which specific products are being compared.

**: Hardly any assault rifle / automatic carbine is prepared to empty more than three magazines without severe overheating problems any way.
***: In addition to dropping about 10 kg of hard body armour plates.


  1. Look at this, 2:23


  2. Ammunition (both blanks and live ammo) are still issued in stripper clips in the Danish armed forces, along with a plastic speedloader for the strips which comes in each box of ammo.

    The problem is that if you have to reload the magazines using clips, you are out of the firefight. Given the small size of todays IFV based infantry squad (6-7 men) you need every rifle on the firing line when dismounted. Reloading directly into the rifle would be preferable and acceptable, but I think the last rifle that was able to do this was the FN FAL.

    Most riflemen rarely carried more than between 5-7 magazines anyway in Afghanistan (the time where you saw people carrying 10-12 magazines were in Iraq, where patrols were often conducted more than 2-3 hours drive away from any potential help)

    The original scale of issue here was 5 magazines for the G3 (5*20), which was eventually replicated for the C7/C8 (5x28-30 depending on magazine type and how you load), but as pointed out riflemen in Afghanistan might have up to 7 or even 8 magazines.

    As to learning the men to deliver more aimed fire at a slower pace, I don´t really think that is a practical solution. The problem is target exposure once the shooting starts, since the enemy will very rarely show himself for more than a few seconds at a time (if that). Teaching riflemen to aim more carefully against something that fleeting is a lost cause imho. Teaching conservation of ammunition for when you actually have a target to shot at or you have to support the movement of another element, seems to be a better course of action

  3. The only problem I can imagine at the moment is the stripsize. Usually in WWII you had 5-6 bullets per strip. Modern magazines have 20-30 bullets. Even if you have many strips at hand, reloading one magazin would take a while.
    Normally I would say, you dont fire on full auto most of the time (at least in the German army they teach that), so you can put 6 bullets in whenever you have a break and if you really need many bullets at once, you change the magazine. Still, extreme cases occur and there will be situations where you need more than 3 full magazines at hand.

    Interesting idea, nevertheless. I would be interested in an article, where to save further weight on the normal soldier's load.

  4. There is also a problem with more dirt coming into the rifle. The magazin protects the ammunition from some of this, for example from dust. Feeding a rifle with stripper clips means, you have a reduced reliability of your rifle in the worst case.

  5. Can you use the belt feed mechanism for short belts that equal stripper clips in size?

    1. Disintegrating belts connect individual cartridges; you can choose the belt length freely. I don't see any advantage in having 10 round belt segments, though.
      I'd rather prefer to have belts of standard lengths such as 100 rds, so mere counting of belts tells me when to change the barrel.

    2. Engineering a bit in my head.
      The magazine is the heaviest container for continuous loading with usually limited capacity. It can be quickly insert and is ready to shoot. Any new system should carry on that core capability, as well as protecting as good from dirt to keep the rifle more reliably operational.
      The belt is slow to load, but the most lightweight system for continuous reloading fire. Keeping the lightness for a reloading system is the goal. If the belt is not in a container it can easily get dirty and endanger reliable operation.
      The solution, have a belt in a transparent bag with a hard magazine docking section that allows to reliably and quickly connect a new belt to the feeder system, just like a magazine. Everything but the bullets can be out of plastics. and more affordable under major war conditions.

    3. Belt feed means a fixed weight penalty for the weapon itself (about 0.5-1.5 kg) because the weapon needs to use some of its power to pull the belt in.
      That's why riflemen don't use belts. It's not only about total weight, but also about weight carried with arms. The arms tire out and consume energy, the torso tires and consumes energy.
      Best place for storage of mass is at the belt, which doesn't stress torso or arms and doesn't need to follow all those leg movements.

      A kg in the gun is about as bad as two or three on the hip.
      This blog text was really not about inventing something, but about pointing out a weight savings potential which never seems to appear in all those official procurement bureaucrats' Powerpoint slides about infantryman loads and small arms developments.

  6. Rex:

    Could be possible to have a striper clip made of cartridges sticked together with some type of glue

    It would be the same than a short disintegrating belt

    It exists?

  7. You could reduce the reload time by using larger strips, lets say 10 bullets. But I am not sure how handily you can still push the bullets in (the strip is longer). I also rather see the main advantage of strips over magazines not so much the weight as the space they take up.

  8. One factor in infantry combat is that ammunition from the dead and wounded will also be available.

    It may be good enough to simply carry any "extra" ammunition in badoliers of stripper clips.


    1. More importantly, the ammo of those who don't participate in the firefight much anyway can be distributed.

      Bandoliers tend to be supported y shoulders, which burdens the back muscles and thus tires the man quicker than support by the hip only.

    2. SO,

      The distribution of ammunition also highlights the need for messengers, ammunition bearers, donkeys, etc. in "light infantry" and the need for motorcycles, ATVs, jeeps, HMMWV, etc.for motorized or mechanized forces.

      as to bandoliers,: they can be stuffed into pouches, packs, or otherwise distributed about the soldiers person.


  9. Theoretically, you could have a rifle using a hopper mechanism like the breda 30 or nambu which loads stripper clips (though of course, the host weapon must feed from the horizontal axis). This would allow a soldier to dispense with magazines entirely, saving weight and cutting down on reload time, especially if clip holders are mounted on the rifle. Thats alot of work just to save a kg or so of magazine weight, but it could be done.

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUsz-ADDoxo