by B.B. Pelletier

Well, this one came up like thunder! And, it has nothing to do with airguns, so I apologize to all the purists. Pyramyd Air recently added blank-firing guns to their lineup and the question was – what the heck are they?

They ONLY shoot blanks
Blank-firing guns are guns made to fire blanks only. When I was a kid in the early 1950s, they were sold in comic books and almost every man’s magazine. The price was always around $6.95 for the repeaters. Later on in the 1970s, some German and Eastern European blank guns were offered in the same places (except the comic books). They were either single-shots or revolvers, and I don’t remember the price.

What is a blank?
A blank is a cartridge that contains gunpowder but no projectile. Because there is no bullet mass to resist the powder, it is purposely faster-burning than conventional gunpowder. The object of a blank is to make noise, and for that reason, they are also called salute guns. They’re also called starter pistols and are used to start races. Yachts used them to signal other craft and installations on shore. Winchester made blank-firing cannons that now have some collector value. They use 10- and 12-gauge shotgun shells and really make a bang.

Winchester 10-gauge blank cannon makes a big bang!

Since its invention, people have used gunpowder to make noise. Fireworks are one form, but since guns also made noise, they were used for this purpose almost from their beginnings. In my youth, blank cartridges were sold for firing in conventional firearms. They still are to a limited extent, but because they are not 100 percent safe there has been a move toward purpose-built guns that can only fire blanks – the blank-firing guns!

A blank has the same or greater potential energy than a conventional cartridge. Just look at heavy-duty nail guns that use special blank cartridges to drive big nails into concrete. Though they are very similar to .22 rimfire cartridges, the most powerful of these special-purpose blanks is far more powerful than a .22 long rifle cartridge. That’s why they are kept under lock and key at the hardware store. Because a conventional firearm has a barrel that’s bored through, nothing prevents someone putting something in the barrel in front of the blank and turning it into a projectile.

Outside of the U.S., the blank-firing gun has always been popular. Most countries regulate the ownership of firearms, but they permit the ownership and use of blank-firing guns, because they are purposely made so no projectile can be launched.

See and hear for yourself!
You can actually see a blank gun fire on this website! Pyramyd Air sells many different models of blank-firing guns, and the wildest one of all is the Jackal. Click on the link, and you’ll go to the description where there is a cool short video showing the gun in action. Just click on the movie camera graphic or the “See for yourself” text to the gun. The Jackal is both full-auto and semiauto, depending on where the selector switch is set. It will fire 12 rounds in under two seconds, as you’ll see on the video. This is a Quicktime video, so Windows users who don’t have the software to view it can get a free download here.

Other blank-firing guns
There are also a ton of other blank-firing guns like the Walther P99. There’s even a snub-nosed S&W revolver!

Why do they cost so much?
You can’t fail to notice that these guns are not cheap. Why is that, since they don’t shoot bullets? Well, they have to be made almost as well as firearms because they have to withstand high temperatures from the hot gasses. In the case of the Jackal, there is a lot of stuff packed into that frame to allow the gun to shoot full auto. The people who like them seem to have no problem with the prices, because these guns sell like wildfire around the world. From the look of things on the Internet, they are starting to sell well in the U.S., too.

Blank cartridges
Pyramyd also sells the blank cartridges, and they are pricey, too. But you don’t use these guns every day. Imagine a July 4th picnic where you bring one of these instead of fireworks. Or New Year’s Eve! Blank-firing guns are quite a bit safer than most fireworks because the hot gas is directed by the gun away from the shooter. The video shows that well.

They come 50 to a box. They are 9mm cases without bullets. The over powder wad is attached to the case, so nothing is projected from the gun except hot gas.

That hole in the barrel at the upper left is one of two gas ports through which the hot gas escapes. There is a similar hole on the other side of the barrel. The barrel is plugged so nothing can be fired through it.

So, that’s the quick and dirty on blank-firing guns. They’re pretty far from airguns, but among the many things we find to be neat.