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Why Can Blank Ammo Be Deadly?

Today, we’ll examine how Blank Ammo works, why it’s dangerous, and what role blanks played in three gun-related deaths in the entertainment industry. We even cover the strange and unlikely events that led to Brandon Lee’s death in 1993. What happens if you fire a blank with a squib stuck in the barrel? To find out, we tried it with ballistic gel.

A cinematographer working on the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust” set was shot and killed. Because of what happened, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not movies and TV shows should still use real guns with blank ammunition. I don’t work in that field, so I don’t know the answer. But I’ve noticed that both the general public and gun owners seem to have a lot of misconceptions about what blank ammunition is and why blanks and the guns that shoot them can still be dangerous. So today, I’d like to try to clear that up.

What’s Blank Ammo?

First, let’s see how blank ammunition works. Blanks come in many different forms. They are almost the same as real ammunition, except that there is no bullet. Usually, a round of ammunition has four parts: a cartridge case with a bullet on top, a primer on the bottom, and propellant or gunpowder inside. When you pull the trigger, the firing pin hits the primer with a very small amount of explosive compound. That starts to burn the gunpowder, which makes hot gas that is now under a lot of pressure. This pressurised gas pushes the bullet out of the case and down the gun’s barrel.

With a blank round, the gunpowder still burns and makes a flash and noise, but there is no projectile. Since there is no bullet to keep the powder from spilling out of the case, blanks may have a piece of plastic, wax, or another material to keep everything in place, or the case may be crimped.

Dangers of Using Blank Ammo

Using blanks instead of real ammo is much safer for the entertainment industry, but there is still some risk. Like a live round, a blank fires a lot of hot gas out of the barrel when the powder inside it burns. This gas could also be mixed with small pieces of unburned gunpowder or filler. When a blank is fired, it’s easy to get hurt if you’re too close to the muzzle.

At close range, the explosion from the hot gas could be so strong that it kills. In 1984, this happened to actor Jon-Erik Hexum. During a break on the set, he was messing around with a real.44 Magnum revolver that they were using as a prop. As a joke, he pulled the trigger and put the barrel against his head. A crack in the head was caused by a blank round. A few days after that, he died in the hospital.

So blanks don’t completely remove the chance of getting hurt by what comes out of the barrel. That is the biggest risk. The bigger risk comes from the fact that real guns are often used to shoot blanks.

This is a fake gun that doesn’t shoot anything. It looks like a Beretta Model 92, but you can’t load or shoot real bullets with it. Instead, it shoots these blank cartridges that can only be used in replica blank pistols.

Safety with Blanks

It seems that these fake guns can’t be used in every production, for whatever reason. So instead, they often use real guns that haven’t been changed and are loaded with blanks. I don’t question that choice because I’m sure there are good reasons for it. But having real guns makes it possible for careless people to make mistakes that could kill them.

Because of this, a good rule of thumb for anyone working with blanks is that blanks and live ammo should never be in the same place simultaneously. So far as I can tell, the entertainment industry goes even further. Most of the time, live ammunition is never allowed on a set.

From what we know about the Alec Balwin case, there are several ways live ammunition could have gotten into the gun. Baldwin had a fake 1873.45 Colt revolver that looked a lot like this one. When more than one person touched the gun, they should have checked to ensure it wasn’t loaded. From what I can tell, none of them did. Baldwin was practising with the gun between takes when he accidentally shot Halyna Hutchins with a real bullet. It’s not hard to clean a gun like this one. If I put this empty cartridge in this slot, the rim is easy to see from the side of the gun. To properly clean it, you open the loading gate, pull the hammer back to half-cock, and turn the cylinder to ensure all six empty chambers. It doesn’t take long at all.

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