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July 5, 2006, 11:40 PM
A moon clip is a ring shaped piece of plastic or metal designed to hold all the rounds to a revolver in their exact positions when the cylinder is fully loaded. Their intent is to speed the loading and reloading of a revolver by placing all the rounds in at once as opposed to placing them in one at a time, and they can be thought of as the first speedloaders. They developed from the half-moon clip, and were originally made from sheet metal. Originally, they were made as half-moon clips to facilitate expedient use of .45 revolvers in World War I with ammunition made for semiautomatic pistols. Recently, plastic versions have been developed because one made of sheet metal can permanently deform if bent.
Picture from this article on GunBlast http://gunblast.com/Taurus_Tracker.htm
demonstrating the use of a moon clip in retaining rimless (or nearly so, in the case of .45 ACP) cartridges on the revolver's cylinder.
July 6, 2006, 09:00 AM
In WWI the army was needed more semi-auto pistols than were available or that could be produced in time. The moon clip was developed so that the rimless .45 ammo could be used in S&W Revolvers. Without rims, the revolvers would not otherwise be able to extract the cases.
Using .45 revolvers helped alleviate the handgun shortage and allowed a single caliber of ammo to be used by all U.S. troops whether they had a revolver or sem-auto pistol.
Originally, half-moon clips were used. These held only two or three rounds. Modern full moon-clips hold 6, 7 or 8 rounds, and allow a full cylinder to be loaded/unloaded at once.
The increase in speed and ease of loading/unloading was mostly a side benefit, the intent was primarily to be able to use rimless cases in a revolver.
July 6, 2006, 12:35 PM
Once you know how they work and the limitations of them, they are the fastest loading and unloading trick in the book. You have to know that the moonclip has to stay flat and the rims should be fairly snug in the clip.