blank cartridge

Blank (cartridge)

A blank is a type of cartridge for a firearm that contains gunpowder but no bullet or shot. When fired, the blank makes a flash and an explosive sound (report).

It should not be confused with a dummy, which does not contain gunpowder, and is completely inert.

Applications

Blanks are commonly used when the sound and flash of gunfire is needed, but a projectile would not be safe, such as in military training maneuvers, in movies that require gun fights, and in starter's pistols to signal the beginning of races. Blanks used by the military are usually used with a special blank-firing adaptor in the firearm that constricts the barrel, keeping chamber pressures from the blank high enough for long enough to cycle the firearm's action. For movie use, specially designed blank firing firearms are often used, which increases the margin of safety as they cannot be loaded with live ammunition. The 5-in-1 style of blank, designed to cycle through firearm actions and fit a variety of firearm chambers, is also commonly used in real firearms for dramatic effect.

Special blank cartridges are also used for applications where the explosive power of a cartridge is needed, but a projectile is not. Blank cartridges were commonly used for launching rifle grenades, though some types of grenades are capable of trapping the bullet of a live round. Larger blanks are also used in line launching guns, such as the line launching kit for the Mossberg 500 shotgun.

Blank rimfire cartridges, commonly called power loads, are also used in some nail guns (powder-actuated tools), where the power is tapped to force a heavy piston into the nail, with enough force to bury its full length in steel or concrete.

Some forms of fast draw competitions use special blanks that are loaded with a layer of slow burning rifle powder on top of a thin layer of faster burning pistol powder. The pistol powder ignites the slower burning rifle powder, and fires it out the barrel much like a shotgun shell. The burning powder only travels a few yards before it completely combusts, but that is far enough to burst the balloon used as a target for those competitions. Wax bullets are also commonly used for competitions and training where a non-lethal projectile is required.

A blank cartridge may also be issued to several randomly selected shooters in an execution by firing squad. This is to allow the shooter to believe that they fired the blank. This may have limited efficacy: an experienced shooter would likely be able to detect the weakened recoil of a blank round.

Safety

The appearance of a blank cartridge is deceptively harmless and may give a false sense of safety. Although blank cartridges do not contain a bullet, precautions are still required because fatalities and severe injuries have resulted on occasions when blank cartridges have been fired at very close ranges. In general, such incidents occur when blank cartridges are fired by people who are unaware of their destructive capabilities e.g. the case of actor Jon-Erik Hexum, who accidentally killed himself while playing Russian Roulette using a revolver loaded with a single blank cartridge

Blank cartridges frequently contain a paper or plastic plug which seals the powder in the case called a wad. This wad can cause bruising at medium ranges and severe penetrating wounds at close range. There is also a cloud of hot, expanding gas which is expelled at extremely high velocity from the muzzle when a blank cartridge is fired. These high velocity gases can inflict severe injuries (see powerhead for an example) at close ranges. Additionally, if there is any small debris lodged inside the barrel it will be expelled at a similar velocity to a bullet, with the ability to inflict a severe wound. Finally, the extremely loud noise of blanks being fired can damage the hearing of people in the immediate area.

Actors in particular are at serious risk of injury from blank cartridges used on movie sets. Actors Brandon Lee and Jon-Erik Hexum were both killed in accidents involving blank cartridges; Lee was killed by an old cartridge fragment lodged in the gun, while Hexum died when the wad from the blank cartridge fractured a piece of his skull, sending bone fragments deep into his brain. In the Army Cadet Force (Army cadets) and Air Training Corps (Air cadets), the hazards of a blank cartridge are often demonstrated to new cadets by 'shooting', at close range, a ration pack of burger bites and beans or a piece of soft fruit, such as an orange. The pack or fruit is ripped to shreds by the force of the explosion.

See also

External links

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