Magazine
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Basic Information

Either:

1) The magazine is a fixed location in which ammunition and/or explosives are stored - for example in a ship or fortress. Such a location is generally a heavily protected room or complex, located at least partially underground (or below the waterline in a ship) and well guarded. Given that the explosion of a magazine is likely to be at least extremely damaging to the host structure - as well as leaving any surviving occupants extremely short of ammunition - fire prevention is also likely to be at a premium, to the extent that some magazines are designed to be flooded in an emergency. More advanced designs may be set up to relieve the blast in as safe a direction as possible - this is usually impractical on a ship, but far more common on land. The default direction for blast relief is straight up - leading to buildings with strong walls and a weak roof, but this is incompatible with protection from bombardment in military use.

OR:

2) The magazine is the part of a breech loading firearm that contains ammunition waiting to be chambered. In some weapons the magazine is part of the construction - such as the feed tube of a typical pump action shotgun or the built in well magazine of the M1 Garand. This is common in older designs and in civilian weapons. Technically a revolver mechanism is a built in magazine - this becomes more obvious when the revolver cylinder is larger than the traditional six shooter piece. Rounds must be loaded to a built in magazine either individually, or by using a filling device such as a strip clip or a speed loader. These filling devices can either empty into the magazine or run "en-bloc", remaining in the weapon until empty and then being ejected. En-bloc has the obvious disadvantage of being very hard to top up when partially used (viz. the American M1 Garand rifle).
The other possible construction for a magazine is as a removable box - which despite the name may be any one of several shapes from the oblong box that slots into the grip of your self loader pistol and the banana clip on your assault rifle to the drum magazine that was famously available for the Thompson Submachine Gun. These devices are pre-loaded - by hand, using strip clips or by machines - and the user carries as many as he practically can into battle with him, swapping them out as they empty.
In some cases, rifles with a removable magazine have been modified to work as though they were fixed magazine weapons - the British Army and the Army of India mistreated the Lee-Enfields of some second and third line units this way in the interwar period to save the expense of issuing several magazines1.

It should be noted that not all breech loaders possess a magazine - break action weapons do not, and many older repeating rifles such as the Martini-Henry or weapons converted from muzzle loading like the Snider-Enfield did not either. Few artillery pieces have a magazine either, although many smaller direct fire cannon do and magazine fed, fully automatic artillery is starting to become more common.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • If you need a 'critical failure' for a magazine loading firearm, the magazine is as good a source as any - it may have fallen off (the original L85 was infamous for dropping its magazine), the feed spring may have failed (perhaps through being left loaded for too long) or the base plate may have come off and thrown all of your rounds on the floor. And there are many other possibilities.
  • Magazine fiddling is a popular way of customising a rifle - from swapping a standard issue 30 round rifle magazine for a 90-100 round saddle drum magazine to taping two magazines together "jungle fashion" (strictly, "jungle fashion" is top to tail and only for amateurs -if professionals do this at all they fit a spacer and rig the mags side by side).
    • A lot of the 'improved' magazines are not really worth the effort either - for example the 100r saddle drum is tempramental and heavier than four fully loaded thirties and a lot of the stretched pistol mags make the weapon unbalanced and hard to draw and holster - and in some models they tend to fall out due to the added mass. They may look boo-ya, but professionals may draw interesting conclusions about you if you fit them.
  • How many PCs give any thought to pre-loading their mags? In reality a character who had been properly trained probably will, but a gangsta or a civilian entirely used to range day firing may not realise how many spare mags you need for a stand up fight. Hand loading magazines under fire is a hair raising experience.
  • No-one likes a cheap magazine - if your PCs are cheapskates, let them pick up a batch of poor quality ones: the RORG mags issued with the L85 were famously bad, as are most AK47 mags not made in China or the former WarPac block. Wartime magazines are often of patchy quality as well and battlefield salvage should be carefully examined and checked for corrosion, damage and spring integrity before you buy to avoid nasty surprises.
  • In some jursidictions, magazines above a certain size are restricted by law or change the catergory of a weapon - for example many states restrict a sporting shotgun to a certain number of rounds in the magazine.
  • The Fixed location style of magazine is a great objective for PCs seeking to destroy a fortification.
    • Ironically, blast relief ports may well provide a useful route of entry.
    • Or escape routes.
  • Unused magazines make very good storage facilities.
    • Or shelters.
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