View Full Version : Blank firing pistols

Jake 98c/11b
October 8, 2002, 10:31 PM
I have recently been asked to provide a blank firing pistol for a film project by a local college student. I don't believe I will be helping in this case but I was wondering what it would take to convert a semi-auto pistol to reliable blank firing. What is necessecary to get the pistol to cycle with blanks, what about feeding from the mag and how would you make the blanks? My first thought was to thread the barrel for a plug to give the back pressure necessecary to operate the slide. The plug could not be solid, it would have to have a gas bleed hole in it to provide the muzzle signature of a real gun, it would also be necessecary to keep the slide velocity down to a respectable level so the gun would not beat itself to death. One final question is how do form blanks that would function properly since most semi-autos headspace on the case mouth?

I am not interested in the liability issue of this project, my interest is academic but it has piqued my curiosity.

James K
October 8, 2002, 11:14 PM
Pistols are made to fire blanks by obstructing the barrel and making other changes, like removing the barrel locking lugs, lightening the slide and reducing the recoil spring weight.

Blanks are made of plastic shaped with a case mouth and a dummy bullet. On firing, the "bullet" splits open but does not break up or leave any residue that could clog the plug.

There is some danger in this, especially if anyone were to load such a pistol with a live round. Also, the use of blanks in the movies and TV has been reduced considerably since some tragic events on movie sets. For the most part, the actors "blaze away" without sound or flash, both being added in the editing process in the same way the Star Wars "light sabers" were done.

For an amateur stage or movie production, I recommend one of the cheap blank firing pistols available from prop and novelty shops or from magazine ads. These are safe and cannot be loaded with live ammo by mistake. Further, most direct the blast up or down so that nothing comes out the front that could injure an actor.


Walt Sherrill
October 9, 2002, 10:01 AM
There may be bigger legal issues you should be concerned with here, too.

Modifying a gun so that it shoots blanks doesn't make it NOT a firearm. Depending on the local laws in your area, letting someone else use that weapon (in the making of a movie, etc.) could get you in trouble -- particularly if the temporary user is not legally entitled to have a handgun. Brandishing it in public, when a movies being made, could lead you to lose that firearm. (Depends how many "antis" are in your area and their state of vigilance.)

In our state, you can loan a handgun to someone if they have a handgun permit. A real gun converted to blank-firing status is still a real gun, and the controlling laws are still in effect.

There are blank firing pistols available from a number of sources on the web, and they're pretty cheap. You might want to investigate going that route. (These guns accept ONLY blank cartridges, but are almost impossible to tell from the real thing except at "take down/take apart" distances.)

Do a search on "Blanks" at


and you'll find a couple of blank firing revolvers for under $40. That would be the safest and cheapest way to go.

Also check out:


I got these from a GOOGLE search (www.google.com); there were MANY more sites I didn't check.

Jake 98c/11b
October 10, 2002, 10:37 AM
Jim, thanks for the info. I had no idea the blanks were formed as you described. The pistol modification is about what I figured though.

Not wanting to sound harsh Walt but you did nothing to answer my question, that kind of thing always bothered me some. If you look at my post in the beginning I said I would not be helping in this project and at the end I said I had no concerns for the liability, my interest was academic only.

I do not intend to offend but it bothers me when people reply to a question and do nothing to answer it.

Walt Sherrill
October 10, 2002, 12:44 PM
While your interest was stated clearly as academic, and I understood that you were not going to do it yourself...

I mistakenly assumed that your concern for acquaintances or friends might make you want to warn them against doing something potentially illegal.

You clearly had no such concern. My apologies for wasting your time.

Jake 98c/11b
October 10, 2002, 06:36 PM
Walt, like I said "Not wanting to sound harsh" and "I do not intend to offend" so I see no need to resort to such a condecending manner. I was simply responding to a source of iritation (i.e. a reply that does nothing to answer the question asked). I have always gone out of my way to avoid being offensive to others (except George Hill, who I view as an old buddy) and would hope for the same from others.

October 11, 2002, 01:36 PM
Hi Jake 98c/11b,
All you said is right as far as a conversion goes.
Typically Hollywood semi autos had this sort of a conversion done on real pistols. The barrel lugs were shaved off and the barrel was plugged with a bleed hole in it. I dont know if a lighter recoil spring was used. I say this because blanks can generate high pressure when there is a barrel blockage such as the barrel plug.

As far as blanks are concerned there are several companies that manufature blanks. But all of these may not be for theatrical use. I know Stembridge Gun Rentals(no longer in business) of Hollywood converted a bunch of their semi autos and full autos to fire blanks, they also made their own blanks. Some of these may be for sale or you could contact their gunsmith who did these conversions.

These blanks look just like the real round except for the bullet part of it. The case was longer and shaped to the profile of cartridge & having the full overall length of a real cartridge. I dont know if I am making myself clear. This profile is needed in order to feed semi autos reliably out of a magazine. Just stuffing a paper wad on a cartridge whose bullet has been pulled will not do this.

I believe some of the reloading companies make dies to load 9mm blanks. Now the blank guns you can buy commercially are generally made only for that purpose. They cannot be made to fire real rounds because they come in 8mm caliber and I dont know any live round that would fit in the magazine. Also they are usually made of a softer alloy and will probably explode even if you could load a live round in them. These 8mm blanks are what Jim Keenan described. These pistols eject the flash and gas from the top of the pistol just in front of the ejection port though a little hole or cut.

As an aside, revolvers would not need any conversion and they can fire cartridges whose bullets have been pulled.
As I understand the most reliable blanks for your undertaking would be the 9mm blanks. Although .45 blanks are available they are not as reliable and so in a lot of movies that use 1911s they actually are using 1911 lookalikes;Spanish pistols like the Astras or Echevrria Stars. This can be seen in a close up of the bad guy pointing the pistol at the accountants head in the shooting scene at the railway station in the film THE UNTOUCHABLES. The extractor can be clearly seen on the side of the pistol so its definitely not a 1911.

Any gunsmith could probably do this conversion for you, The trick would be coming up with the right sized bleed hole to reliably cycle the action and still not beat the gun to death. Making several removable (screw in type) barrel plugs with different sized bleedholes in them would allow you to fine tune.

The advantage to a real firearm converted to fire blanks is that only the barrel (and recoil spring?) is being messed around with so they are easily replaceable and the conversion can be reversed. The disadvantage is that its expensive and a real round can still be chambered in the plugged barrel and that will definitely not be good. Also blank may not be available commercially or if even they are, not cheap.