Gun magazines have been a standard functioning piece of the modern firearm since the creation of the semi-automatic gun. Gun magazines hold a good amount of extra ammo for the firearm it is attached to but they are also designed to feed the gun a new round every time one is fired from the chamber.

Gun magazines have been improved over many years of trial and error. They also been improved from better manufacturing. Have ever wondered how gun magazines work? We have exactly what you are looking for. Let us explain and get a general overview of the pieces and parts that make gun magazines work.

Gun Magazine Operation

Gun Magazine Operation

The overall functionality of a gun magazine is very simple. Most magazines hold ammo in a linear fashion with each round stacked on top of each other or stacked in two staggered columns to save space. Straight magazines are usually filled with ammo that doesn’t have a taper like handgun ammo. Curved magazines usually hold longer ammunition like assault rifle rounds. No matter the shape or how the rounds stack on top of each other, the magazine operation is generally the same.

The Key Operation

The magic that makes the magazine be able to feed the gun a round when needed is due to the spring located at the bottom inside of the magazine. Each of these types of magazines have a specially designed spring to press against the seat of the magazine follower to push up ammo as it leaves the magazine. This insures that a round is always at the top of the magazine so the firearm can load a new round when it is needed.

The spring is a hard constructed spring that is wound up enough to generate enough pressure to ensure that it pushes up to feed the firearm it is attached to with very minimal failures. It’s extremely important for the spring to work properly or else the firearm it is attached to could fail to feed. That last thing you need in a situation where you need to fire multiple shots is for your gun to not feed the next shots because your spring in the magazine isn’t strong enough to feed your gun. It is good maintenance to make sure your magazine springs are in good condition so that malfunctions do not occur.

Ammo In and Ammo Out

The feed lip is the opening where the ammo comes out to feed the gun it is attached to. This is also the place where you load your ammo. Pushing down some magazine springs to load ammo can be a task. These things can take a bit of practice. Keep practicing and it will get a lot easier.

With the start of the firing action, you can see the rounds stacked up inside the magazine.

As you fire a shot, the handgun slides back to eject the used casing and load another round. Note the magazine spring push a round into position.

Gun Magazine Parts

Parts of a Gun Magazine

There are just a few essential parts of a gun magazine. What is described here is a break down of an AR15 magazine. This is specifically a very popular AR15 magazine called a Magpul PMAG. The Magpul PMAG has been deemed the best AR magazine by various shooters around the world. We’ll go through exactly what the main parts are.

Magazine Body

This is the main housing of the complete magazine. It houses the components of the whole magazine. Some are see through and some come in various colors.

Feed lip

This is where the ammo is loaded and where it is fed into the firearm. It is in a lip shape to make it easier for the gun to grab the next single round as simple as possible.

The Spring

Every magazine is shaped differently so the spring inside of the magazine is shaped accordingly to fit into the magazine with next to zero malfunctions. They are wound up tight to maximize the spring effect.

Spring Follower

This the piece at the top of the spring that the ammo sits on to push the ammo to the top of the magazine so the gun can feed correctly.

Floor plate

This is the piece that closes the bottom of the magazine housing.


The is the piece at the bottom of the spring that connects to the floor plate of the magazine.


As you can see, gun magazines are a really simple piece of gun equipment. Magazines are different from gun clips. Gun clips just hold ammo together without feeding the gun ammo after every shot. There are also different types of magazines other than straight or curved vertical magazines. Some guns take box and belt fed ammo. Some take a cylindrical magazine which works differently as well.

If you need to learn how to how to shoot certain guns, feel free to check our Beginner Basics section.

We will cover these unusual gun magazine types in the future. Remember, to get better with knowing the different types of gun magazines, you have to practice – Practice Makes Proficient.