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Introverted_Leo's avatar

Are (pistol) dummy cartridges particularly dangerous?

Asked by Introverted_Leo (1939points) January 20th, 2011

I’ll have you know I know next to nothing about guns. I peruse the internet for knowledge to be used in fictional stories. That is my only interest in guns.

Having said that, I am interested to learn how, exactly, dummies work. I understand they have no primer or explosive charges (I think, haha; correct me if I’m wrong). Does that mean they don’t have an actual “bullet” as well, like blanks? Also, what happens to the cartridge once the weapon is fired—it just drops to the ground? Does it even make a noise when fired?

And ultimately, are dummies relatively safe to use? Again, I’m only interested in this for fictional purposes, so you don’t have to worry about me going off and getting myself shot for no good reason.

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16 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Are you talking about dummy cartridges, or blanks?

Dummy cartridges, or snap caps, are completely inert and the only danger they pose is a choking hazard… they might as well be Lego blocks.

Blanks can actually kill you at close range.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Dummy cartridges don’t shoot anything out. Mostly they are used to protect the firing pin from damage when doing dry firing. You may hear a snap when the trigger disengages the sear and the firing pin snaps forward onto the dummy cartridge.

Dry firing is when you practice the motions of sighting and shooting the gun. It creates muscle memory and gives instuctors a chance to correct bad habits without using up a lot of expensive bullets.

They are also useful when practicing what to do when your pistol misfires.

Nullo's avatar

What the first two said, and I’d like to point out that most of the time, snap caps are painted odd colors – the ones that I bought are a sort of purple, instead of the more typical golds, reds, grays, and blacks that so characterize ammunition.
And I think that they weigh less?

I suggest that you read up on firearm safety and go out and buy yourself a nice little .22 pistol. They’re cheap, fun to shoot, and if your story is at all gun-heavy, educational. Barring that, you can also ask questions of the guys at the gun store.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Nullo you are correct that most dummy cartridges are lighter. And most are colored differently from live ammunition.

Most are made of aluminum or plastic, which are significantly lighter than the lead and powder in most bullets.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The dummy cartridges, or snap caps, I use are made of clear, red plastic. You can look inside and see the mechanical parts. You would never mistake it for the real thing.
They can be used again and again to practice draw and trigger pull.

cazzie's avatar

Wasn’t there an actor that got killed, clowning around with a pistol with blanks in it? A piece of his skull was dislodged and driven into his brain or some such? I remember it because my sister was just in love with this guy in the 80’s….

TexasDude's avatar

@cazzie, Brandon Lee was killed when a prop master made dummy cartridges incorrectly by removing the powder from some pistol cartridges and re-seating the bullet in the casing. He left the primer though, which still has enough power to propel the bullet out of the casing. The gun was fired and one of these “squib” loads lodged its bullet in the pistol’s barrel. The gun was reloaded with blanks (which do not contain a projectile) and fired again in another take. The propellant from the blank was sufficient enough to fire the lodged bullet the rest of the way out of the barrel and into Brandon’s spine.

Relevant to this thread, here and here is more information.

cazzie's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard he wasn’t the one I was referring to, but he appears on the list of actors that I posted a link to…. so, yeah, I knew about Lee, but it was another guy.

incendiary_dan's avatar

This site might be good for learning about gun stuff in reference to writing.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard: dummy cartridges, but you probably figured that out by now!

* * *

Hello, all. Thanks to everyone who responded. It was all really helpful. :)

@Nullo: err, I don’t think I have any business purchasing a gun, but it would be neat to get the “feel” for one… Scary, I feel the same way about old biplanes, too.

@incendiary_dan: wow, that is a very extensive list of things…to read. O_O Information is like a black hole for me: Once I dive in I never come back. Thanks, though. It’s nice to have that for future reference.

Hmm, I tend to avoid technical details in my fiction when possible, for the sake of covering my own hind if I screw up facts. Maybe that’s a cop-out, but at least I understand dummies now!

WestRiverrat's avatar

@cazzie Blank cartridges are not the same as dummy cartridges.

Dummy cartridges are a training aid designed to be impossible to fire. They could only hurt you if someone threw them at you.

A blank cartridge still fires, and is inherently dangerous if not repected. Just the blasting cap on some cartridges can send flames and concussive force several feet out of the barrel of a rifle. A full power blank still has a wad, a paper or plastic plug, used to hold the powder in place. Blanks can propel this wad with potentially lethal force for several yards.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Introverted_Leo you can go to a range and rent a gun. Most reputable ranges will be happy to teach you about guns.

Even if you never pick up a gun again after the class, you will have more knowledge of them.

incendiary_dan's avatar

There’s also the wad to consider. As I understand, many blanks have a paper or fabric wad. Might not hurt normally, but at 2,000 fps or something, even that can cause a lot of damage.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@WestRiverrat: hm, didn’t know that. I’ll keep that in mind.

Nullo's avatar

@Introverted_Leo TvTropes is an excellent resource. The time will fly right past you. Seriously, it’s a major time sink. Make sure that you don’t have any urgent business to attend to.
If you don’t want to buy a gun, then you can, as @WestRiverrat said, rent one at a range. Be warned that range rentals can be expensive. If you find yourself making a hobby out of target shooting, it’ll be cheaper to buy your own – a decent plinking pistol costs a couple hundred bucks. You don’t need business to purchase a gun. :)

Introverted_Leo's avatar

@Nullo: thank you, kind sir.

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