Pop culture references to blanks have increased their notoriety among most people, even those who aren’t a fan of guns. Movies, television, and live theatre use blanks to produce drama. In track and field races, a starting pistol often uses a blank to signal the start of the race.
Blanks are different than bullets, but you should still exercise safety with any weapon, no matter what you choose to load in it.
What are Blanks?
A blank is a cartridge without the bullet. Often the terms ‘cartridge’ and ‘bullet’ are confused. They are not the same thing.
Typically, a cartridge contains gunpowder and a bullet. When you pull the trigger, it ignites the gunpowder, propelling the bullet toward your intended target. A blank is a cartridge with gunpowder and no bullet.
The cartridge has crimping on the end to hold in the gunpowder. Sometimes plastic, paper, or cotton seals the cartridge to keep the gunpowder contained. When you pull the trigger, it ignites the gunpowder, producing the same noise as firing a bullet, but without any projectile.
Uses of Blanks
When you need the flash and sound of gunfire without the damage of a projectile, or when a real bullet would not be safe, you can use a blank.
In movies, theatre, and television, blanks produce the flare needed to convince the audience that the gun is real. They produce the same sound but are much safer when used under the appropriate conditions.
Often, a starting pistol signals the beginning of a track and field race. The primary purpose is to make a noise that runners cannot mistake for the start of the race. It reduces the amount of false starts and clarifies exactly when to begin.
For this same reason, they can indicate the start of a horse race or hound race. In this case though, the noise also frightens the animal, triggering their response to run. Fast.
Blank cartridges called power loads can also be used in things like nail guns, where what you want is power to drive the nail in place. The noise doesn’t matter so much in this case as does the propulsion of a different kind of projectile.
Some blanks contain slow-burning rifle powder layered with fast-burning pistol powder. The rifle powder and the pistol powder ignite at the same time. The pistol powder reacts quickly, propelling the rifle powder forward.
Because the rifle powder has a slower reaction time, it combusts in the air after traveling only a few yards. This is particularly effective in quick draw competitions because it travels just far enough to pop the target balloon.
Wax bullets are effective in situations in which training requires a non-lethal projectile. Some people consider this a blank and some don’t. It depends on your perspective.
Dangers of Blanks
Make no mistake. Blanks can kill. As stated above, one of the uses of blank cartridges is for nail guns, which are very dangerous tools if not used correctly. Just because something is loaded with a blank does not mean it doesn’t have the power to do any damage.
When used at very close range, the power elicited from the explosion can still cause severe trauma. On the set of CBS’s Cover-Up, actor Jon Erik-Hexum reportedly died after placing a gun loaded with blanks to his temple and pulling the trigger.
The force of the exploding gas is the same as a real bullet, so even though it isn’t launching a projectile, it still contains a massive amount of power. Blanks often contain even more gunpowder than regular cartridges because the intention is to produce a very loud, convincing sound.
You must always exercise caution when dealing with any type of ammunition, even if you don’t think it’s harmful. There are many other reported incidents of fatalities with blanks.
Blanks are useful for many different things. Sporting events, competitions, movies, and other productions use blanks for noise and other purposes. While blanks are effective, they can also be dangerous. Always be careful and make sure you take every necessary precaution to protect yourself and those around you.