Blank Gun

Can you think of all the ways blank guns can be used? There may be a few that surprise you. Let's examine what a blank gun is; then take a look at all the different ways a blank gun can be used, from movie prop to collectible, and more.

What is a Blank Gun?

A blank cartridge contains gunpowder and has a primer, but does not contain a bullet. A blank gun, then, is a weapon that uses a blank cartridge. A blank gun can either be a gun capable of firing live ammo that has been modified, or a gun that will only fire blanks and never live ammo. Typically, to replace the bullet, a blank cartridge uses paper or plastic wadding to contain the gunpowder in the cartridge. Since this wadding is discharged when the blank is fired, blank guns are still dangerous—and deaths have resulted when they are misused. Always treat a blank gun as if it were a firearm loaded with live ammo.

Laws concerning blank guns vary across different jurisdictions. Check with your local authorities before purchasing a blank gun.

How Are Blank Guns Used?

Blank guns are commonly used when the flash and smoke of gunfire is required, but the situations isn't safe to have a projectile. Those situations include the following.

Movie Props

This is one of the most common uses for blank guns. Today, for safety reasons, the majority of prop guns are blank-fire-only guns. Even so, every movie and theatrical set should have a weapons master whose job it is to store, maintain, and control prop guns. That person needs to check every gun before and after each use.

Military and Police Training

When live ammo training would be too dangerous, specially-adapted weapons are used to fire blanks. The adaptors used keep the pressure high enough to cycle the weapon, and can also function as shredders to reduce or eliminate discharge. Blank guns are sometimes used in safety courses to familiarize students with the feel and handling of the gun.

Starter Pistols

To start sporting events, such as track or swimming, starter pistols were often used in the past. While still used in some instances, the Olympics and other venues have switched to electronic starters rather than blank guns, because of fairness and security issues.

Dog Training

Dogs are not genetically born to be gun-shy, but without proper training, even the bravest dog can become gun-shy. Familiarize your dog with the sight of the firearm from an early age. There are specific steps to take to get your dog used to the sound of a gun. Some trainers use starter pistols, while others buy blank guns specifically designed to train dogs.

Nail Guns

While many nail guns are air- or gas-powered, some are modified blank guns that use the explosive property of the blank cartridge to force a piston to drive nails for construction. All types of nail guns are dangerous, resulting in 42,000 injuries and costing $338 million for medical care each year.

Fast Draw Competitions

Some early competitors used live ammunition, but blanks are now used for safety. Because blanks discharge wadding and powder sufficient to burst a nearby balloon, blank guns are used in competitions where the object is to draw and fire quickly, but not hit targets far down the range. If metal targets are used, wax bullets are often used instead of blanks. Because no live ammo is used, it is known as the safest gun sport.

Mounted Cowboy Shooting

This is a fast growing sport where contestants ride a horse through a course breaking balloons by firing a single action revolver loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank cartridges. The blanks used can burst a balloon up to 15 feet away.


Another common use for blank guns is in battle reenactments. There are blank guns that are exact replicas of weapons used during the time period of the battle being reenacted. Most reenactors of modern era battles strive to use actual weapons from the time period that have been modified for blanks. The gun is usually the most expensive part of the equipment for reenactors. Some pay tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the actual firearms of the period.

Collector's Items

While many collectors collect actual historical firearms, it can be a very expensive hobby. For safer, more economical historical displays, replica blank-firing guns are an ideal alternative. They can look and feel exactly like the real thing.


A spear gun is a specialized blank gun that uses the propellant force of the blank cartridge to discharge a spear. The same propellant property of a blank is used to "fire" fishing line for long distance casts.

For safety reasons, most historical sites that have reenactments either do not allow visitors to touch the reenactor's weapons, or they require the reenactor to have one of his hands on the weapon at all times while it is being displayed to visitors.