Large capacity magazines for small arms

Large capacity magazines for small arms
Large capacity magazines for small arms

In any firearm, from pistols to machine guns, magazines are used today. The magazine is a special mechanism for feeding cartridges. In this case, stores can be detachable or integral. There is a wide variety of types of stores: box, disc, screw, tubular and many others. All types of shops are used in the history of modern small arms. At the same time, the first stores were used in China in the XII century, they were found in the design of crossbows.

Much has changed since then, but one of the most important characteristics of a firearm continues to be its combat rate of fire. Combat rate of fire is the number of shots that can be fired per minute with the exact implementation of techniques and shooting rules, taking into account the time spent on reloading weapons, adjusting and transferring fire from one target to another. This characteristic of small arms has a great influence on the design of the stores. First of all, there is a tendency to increase the combat rate of fire by reducing the time spent on reloading weapons. In turn, in order to achieve a reduction in reload time, it is necessary either to increase the magazine capacity, or to improve the shooter's skills in handling weapons.

Increasing the capacity of magazines is more preferable, since in battle situations often arise when the shooter simply does not have time to reload weapons, replace an empty magazine with a full one, or even does not have such an opportunity. In addition, large-capacity stores have other advantages: they can significantly increase the density of fire, this is especially important in tense moments of battle. But a simple increase in the size of small arms stores leads to an increase in their mass, which means an increase in the mass and dimensions of the entire weapon system. Along with this, the designers have to change the cartridge feed mechanism and increase the spring rate of the magazine. All this, in turn, leads to a deterioration in the operational characteristics of the store and complicates the process of equipping it with cartridges for the shooter. All these problems have to be solved, since the combat rate of fire of the weapon is very important.


In military tactics, the rate of fire of weapons has always played an important role. Even before the advent and widespread use of automatic weapons, rapid-fire magazine rifles made it possible to achieve a cardinal superiority over the enemy, who was armed with single-shot rifles. For the first time in history, this was clearly manifested during the years of the American Civil War. And the appearance at the end of the 19th century of smokeless powder led to the development of even faster-firing automatic weapons, which, in turn, required designers to develop more and more spacious and reliable magazines and mechanisms for feeding weapons with cartridges. Even the very first automatic rifles and machine guns were able to use up the contents of a typical rifle magazine at that time (5-6 rounds) in just a split second. At the same time, the use of magazines of different types and capacities increased the capabilities of individual small arms, especially automatic ones. And one of the most common types of stores for such weapons are box magazines.

Box magazines

In a box magazine, the cartridges are parallel to each other. Today it is the most common type of store in the world. These stores are distinguished by ease of use and a high level of reliability, but most often they have a small capacity (with the exception of four-row ones). In addition, in practice, various methods are used to fasten together two or three box magazines together in order to speed up the process of reloading weapons: handicraft (electrical tape), or factory-made (staples).

Box magazines belong to one of the oldest supply systems for small arms. Early versions of these magazines were used on very famous manual rifles, including the 1891 Russian Mosin three-line rifle (5-round single-row integral magazine), the 1898 German Mauser (5-round two-row integral magazine) and the British Lee-Enfield rifle. (two-row detachable magazine for 10 rounds). Most often, box magazines contained cartridges located in one or two rows (staggered). At the same time, the volume of rifle magazines was limited by a set of practical considerations, which included the survivability and force of the springs, reliability (the larger the magazine capacity and its length, the higher the total frictional forces in it), and the dimensions of the weapon.


Most often, box magazines for light machine guns, designed for a rifle cartridge, had a capacity of no more than 30 cartridges, while similar box magazines for automatic and self-loading rifles held from 10 to 20 cartridges. For some models of light machine guns, there were box magazines with a capacity of 40 rounds, but such models were very rare. With the advent of lighter and more compact intermediate cartridges, box magazines for them began to hold up to 40-45 rounds (for light machine guns) and up to 30 rounds (for machine guns).

For mass-produced submachine guns, the capacity of box magazines sometimes reached 50 rounds, as was the case with the German MP.28 and its English clone "Lanchester". But in the vast majority of cases, the capacity of box magazines for submachine guns did not exceed 30-35 rounds. Magazine options with a capacity of 40 rounds were very rare. For example, in the famous German MP38 / 40 submachine guns, the magazine capacity was 32 rounds. This limitation was explained both by the inconvenience of loading long magazines (due to the need for strong springs) and by the inconvenience of wearing them both on weapons and in pouches.

Paired box magazines

Since the capacity of the box magazines was limited by practical considerations, and the fighters always wanted to have as many rounds as possible "at hand", some weapon designers began to try to combine several box magazines into one unit. The simplest solution to this problem was to wind two or three magazines side-by-side with the most common electrical tape, but this solution still required a certain amount of time from the soldier to change magazines. The logical development of such an idea was box stores, which were physically connected in pairs, that is, in one building. These stores required a special receiver in the weapon, thanks to which the process of switching from one compartment to another took place, which would take a trained soldier no more than a second.


One of the first examples of small arms with a similar scheme was the American M35 submachine gun of the Hyde system. In this submachine gun, two double-row box magazines were combined into one block "side by side". The block of stores was inserted into the receiver from the side. Thus, one of the magazine compartments was located on the cartridge feed line.After the cartridges in the first compartment came to an end, the shooter pressed a special latch and shifted the magazine block so that the second still full compartment appeared on the cartridge supply line.

A similar scheme was later used in Argentine-made HAFDASA "La Criolla" submachine guns. But here the store, consisting of two compartments, did not move sideways, but swayed to the right or left of the vertical, so that one of its two compartments appeared on the line of supply of cartridges. During World War II, German designers tried to solve this problem in their own way, using a receiver sliding in the transverse plane of a submachine gun for two standard 32-round magazines. This solution was even introduced into production. Erma's MP.40 / I submachine gun was produced in a small series, while the EMP-44 submachine gun remained experimental.

Large capacity magazines for small arms

Experienced American Hyde M35 submachine gun powered by coaxial magazines

Four-row box magazines

Paired box magazines, although they provided an increase in the capacity of cartridges, however, required the shooter to perform very specific conscious actions aimed at switching between the magazine compartments. For this reason, a completely logical way of developing the idea was to combine two compartments into one common outlet so that cartridges from the magazine could be simultaneously fed into the weapon from two compartments at once, without requiring the attention of the soldier to be distracted until the entire magazine was replaced.

Already in the late 1930s, the Swede Schillstrom patented a system that can be attributed to one of the first successful attempts to develop such a store. The store he proposed, which was adopted for the Swedish and Finnish Suomi submachine guns, in its lower part, represented two combined box compartments with a two-row arrangement of cartridges in each of them. In the upper part, such a store had a trapezoidal shape, in this place the cartridges from four rows were rebuilt first into two, and then into one. These magazines had a capacity of 50 or 56 rounds and had a length that was comparable to the length of conventional two-row 30-round box magazines.


The price that had to be paid for the gain in size was the price of the stores, the lowered level of reliability due to significant friction during the complex rebuilding of cartridges from four rows to one, as well as the impossibility in practice to fill such a magazine with cartridges manually without using special devices due to the installation of very stiff spring. After the end of World War II, a similar system was created in Italy for use in the SITES Specter submachine guns. And already in our time, four-row box magazines for an intermediate cartridge were created for automatic machines.

For example, in Russia 60-charge four-row magazines were developed for the RPK-74 and AK-74, and in the USA they created 60- and 100-charge four-row magazines for 5, 56-mm assault rifles of the M-16 type. Surefire company. At the same time, the popularity of such box magazines is limited by their lower reliability level (in comparison with the usual 30 round magazines), as well as their rather high cost. For example, a 60-charge Surefire store in the US can be purchased for $ 120, for the same amount you can buy from 6 to 10 regular 30-charge stores.


Tandem shops

Another way to combine two box magazines into one to increase their capacity was to place the magazines in one building in a "tandem", that is, one after the other, and not side by side, as described above. One of the earliest examples in which this concept was embodied was the Vesely submachine gun, a Czech designer designed in Great Britain in 1942-43. In his system, cartridges were first fed from the front compartment and then from the rear, where the cartridges were initially held below the feed line by means of a special cut-off.After the cartridges ran out in the first compartment, this cutoff was automatically turned off, after which the weapon began to receive cartridges from the rear compartment. This scheme complicated the design of the weapon and, despite a certain number of attempts to use it, it never went into mass production.

Drum Stores

Drum magazines are cylindrical magazines in which cartridges are located in one or more rows parallel to the drum axis near the walls. Such magazines have a large capacity, but they are less convenient to use and weigh more; the feed spring in such magazines is often cocked separately, with a special key or fingers. Drum magazines were used in some light machine guns and submachine guns, extremely rarely in self-loading pistols, assault rifles and self-loading shotguns. Drum shops date back to the 19th century. On some American Gatling grapeshot, drum magazines of the Akles system were used. The typical capacity of these magazines was 50-100 rounds. At the same time, one of the most famous examples of their use are, of course, Thompson submachine guns (stores for 50 and 100 rounds), the Finnish Suomi submachine gun (71 rounds) and Soviet PPSh and PPD submachine guns (71 rounds).


Drum magazine for PCA

For more modern light machine guns, which were already created for an intermediate cartridge, magazines with a capacity of 75 rounds (Soviet RPK of 7.62 mm caliber) and 100 rounds (Singapore's Ultimax of 5, 56 mm caliber) were developed. But the really popular these stores were prevented from becoming their significant mass and size, as well as the inconvenience of equipping with cartridges. It is no coincidence that already during the Great Patriotic War, the PPSh drum magazine was replaced with curved box magazines (35 rounds). The price of such stores also affected. For example, a 50-round drum magazine for a Thompson submachine gun in 1940 prices cost $ 21, while a 20-round magazine for this submachine gun could be purchased for $ 3, that is, 7 times cheaper at once. At the same time, a 50-round drum magazine for Thompson weighed 1.14 kg (and this is without cartridges) versus 0.18 kg for a 20-round box magazine. The situation is similar with the Soviet RPK, the 75-cartridge drum magazine of which weighs 0.9 kg (without cartridges), and the 40-cartridge box magazine is only 0.2 kg.



Paired drum magazines

But it wasn't just drum shops. In history, there were also paired drum magazines. The first production samples appeared in Germany in the 1930s. They were used in conjunction with the MG-13 and MG-34 infantry machine guns and the MG-15 aircraft machine gun. These magazines consisted of two separate drums, which had a common outlet throat. Such stores were distinguished by their significant weight, high production price, and also a difficult process of filling with cartridges. The advantage was the small overall height when installing magazines on weapons. This was due to the fact that the outlet was located between the drums.



This system was revived at the end of the 20th century and is represented by the line of stores of the American company Beta-C, which produces 100-cartridge paired drum magazines for various cartridges for different types of weapons: from 9x19 mm to 7.62x51 mm. The problem of overweight of such stores was partially solved due to the widespread use of modern plastics, but in terms of their price and overall reliability, these stores are still inferior to conventional box stores. For example, for the cost of one Beta-C twin drum chambered for 5, 56 mm cartridges (worth $ 250), you can buy from 15 to 20 ordinary 30-round box magazines chambered for the same caliber.

Auger magazines

Cartridges in auger magazines are located parallel to their axis, in a spiral, bullets forward. They are supplied by a separately charged spring.Such a magazine has the shape of a long cylinder, which has a spiral guide for cartridges inside - this is the auger - which ensures the movement of cartridges towards the exit window. The first auger shops appeared at the end of the 19th century. In 1870, the American Evans developed a magazine rifle, into the butt of which a magazine based on an auger (Archimedean screw) was built into it. This store had a very significant capacity at that time - 34 rounds.

However, due to the overall complexity of the design, such a store very quickly disappeared from the armory scene, reviving only more than 100 years later. The most famous small arms system that uses auger magazines today is the Calico family of American self-loading carbines and submachine guns. These samples use 50 and 100 round auger magazines. The magazines are made of plastic and attach to the weapon from above. Stores of a similar design, but already attached to the weapon from below, have Russian PP-19 Bizon and PP-90M1 submachine guns.


Due to their shape and dimensions, auger magazines are more convenient to carry on weapons and in pouches than classic drum magazines, and the use of modern plastics partly helps to solve the problem of their weight. But such stores are still very complex in design and therefore have a high cost.

Disk magazines

Disk magazines are often referred to simply as “disks” in a simple way. Such a magazine is similar to a drum magazine, however, the cartridges in it are located perpendicular to the axis of the disk, in one or more rows. Due to their large weight and size, such magazines were mainly used in light machine guns. Less commonly, they were used in aircraft and tank machine guns (Soviet DT and DA). At the same time, cases of using a disk magazine along with a submachine gun were extremely rare. Examples of such weapons include the American American-180 submachine gun and the experienced 1929 Degtyarev submachine gun. Due to their large diameter, disc magazines are inconvenient to carry, especially when attached to a weapon. Their distinctive feature is that they are very well suited for storing and feeding cartridges with a protruding rim and a large taper of the sleeve.

It is for these reasons that these stores had some success in the early stages of the development of light machine guns, when standard rifle cartridges with a protruding rim still prevailed in the armies of many countries of the world. Usually, single-layer disk magazines had a capacity of 50 cartridges, and multi-layer, depending on the number of layers and design, could hold up to 150 cartridges.


Lewis machine gun disc

At the same time, the capacity record holders among the mass-produced magazines for handguns are the multilayer disc magazines developed for the American-180 submachine gun. Such magazines could hold from 160 to 275 rounds, depending on the number of layers. Such a high capacity of the magazines was achieved through the use of small-bore 5, 6-mm rimfire cartridges (.22LR), which had a small mass and dimensions. At the same time, a disk of comparable capacity for more powerful rifle cartridges, most likely, in a charged state, would weigh more than the light machine gun itself. In fact, the disc magazine for 100 rounds for the British light machine gun Bren Mk.1 weighed 5, 45 kg with cartridges, and 2. 9 kg without cartridges. When using ordinary box magazines, four fully equipped 30-round magazines would have the same mass and, in addition, a couple of dozen cartridges in bulk.

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