The Heel Clip Magazine Release

By Chuck Hawks

Baikal IJ-70
The famous Makarov pistol. Note heel clip magazine release.

Contributing Editor David Tong wrote to me about the heel clip type of magazine release, saying:

"How is a heel clip better than the nearly ubiquitous mag release button on the side of the pistol? It is slower and requires that you extract the magazine by hand. Only H&K, on the original P7, had a heel release that allowed one to drop the mag free by depressing it. All the world's pistols, with very few exceptions, use the button. Nearly all Colts, Berettas, Kimbers, CZs, Glocks, S&Ws, FNs, Lugers and so on."

That got me to thinking, as I have never minded either type of magazine release and some of the autoloading pistols I like use some type of heel clip mag release (High Standard .22s, SIG P232, Ruger .22s, Walther PP, Makarov, etc.) The result is this little missive.

One thing I like about the heel clip is it means one less button on the side of an autoloader. Autoloaders (except Glocks and similar) have too many controls for me, as I am a revolver shooter and not used to buttons and levers scattered all over a gun. This is also why I dislike manual safety levers on autoloaders.

Extracting the magazine by hand is sensible, as you need to retain it for future use. Only in movies and games (IPSC, etc.) do shooters drop magazines on the ground when reloading. Ever notice how movie heroes seem to produce endless loaded magazines from their clothes during gunfights? Most of don't have this magical ability to produce an infinite number of magazines from our pockets with nary a bulge beforehand.

Dropping a magazine on the ground is likely to damage or lose the magazine and you need to keep it around for reloading. Autoloaders, unlike revolvers, cannot be loaded directly; a magazine must be used.

In the military they issued two mags. Can you imagine dropping them in the mud in combat and rendering your pistol useless, because you cannot find where you dropped the magazine or it was damaged?

In addition, the heel clip is very secure and will not be depressed accidentally. Magazines are accidentally dropped from pistols more often than you might think by those unfamiliar with autoloaders, because they inadvertently press the release button or mistake it for a safety.

Finally, the heel clip eliminates the problem of the mag release being damaged by repeatedly slamming magazines home. It is more reliable and more secure.

The heel clip is no longer fashionable and I think that is mostly because of the influence of IPSP gamers and the "modern school of combat shooting," which is based on games, not real war. Also, anything that departs from the sacred 1911 is automatically unacceptable to most gamers, no matter how much sense it makes.

Incidentally, during the long period the U.S. military issued 1911 pistols, they DID NOT teach letting magazines fall to the ground in combat. Nor did any other major military I've ever heard of (Germany, Austria, USSR, Japan, Italy, France, Canada, etc.)

None of the above is intended to convince anyone that a heel clip is better than a magazine release button. The point is it does have some advantages. In reality, it works just fine for me.

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Copyright 2014, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.