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Maxsell Blank Firing Replicas for Training

Written by Steven Tracy

Live-fire training is the best way to teach shooting skills to police officers. Firearm training of this kind requires strict safety rule enforcement on the range. However, there are certain other types of training that involve firearms that do not need attention to shot placement. Real bullets are not always necessary, and some law enforcement training does not lend itself to the confines of the firing range. Techniques that do not require bullet placement and accuracy may be better suited for blank firing replica guns.

The Dangers of Using Real Guns
Handgun holster retention, rapid response training (RRT), firing from a squad car and room clearings are not typically conducted on a firing range with a safe backstop. Handgun retention is often taught in a police station’s training room. RRT can be instructed in a vacant building or unoccupied school. Felony stops with a squad car are usually practiced in parking lots. Building or room clearing (by street officers or tactical personnel) is often taught in a condemned building.

Many police departments use duty guns for this type of non-range training. Extreme safety precautions must be taken to ensure no live ammunition or magazines are brought to the training area. All firearms used must be triple checked. Muzzles should be wrapped in tape to prove that the slides have not been racked (ensuring live ammunition was not chambered) or colored plastic barrel inserts need to be installed.

The use of duty guns with taped muzzles or plastic barrel inserts requires officers to utilize an unrealistic “click-click” sound when pulling the trigger. Blank ammunition would allow for more realism with a loud report and ejected brass. However, blanks still carry a high level of danger when used in real firearms. Actor Jon-Erik Hexum died in 1984 while filming the popular television show “Cover Up,” starring Jennifer O’Neill. He fired a blank revolver round at his own head, unaware that the paper wadding and explosive propellant exiting the barrel at a close distance would cause a fatal wound.

Actor Brandon Lee was also killed in 1993 by a blank round while filming a movie. The blank charge propelled an object lodged in the gun’s barrel, which became a deadly projectile. Tragically, police officers have also been wounded and killed when live rounds somehow found their way into training scenarios. Even when extreme preventive measures are taken, horrible accidents occasionally still take place.

Maxsell’s Simulation Guns
The Maxsell Corp. in Florida supplied several of its realistic training handguns for testing. Maxsell carries numerous blank firing replica firearms that have completely obstructed barrels. The guns cannot chamber live rounds and cannot fire any kind of projectile. They also cannot be converted in any way to fire real ammunition. However, they do have the heft, feel, levers, safeties, trigger action and ergonomics of duty guns. The replica guns are made in Europe, and some are even under license of manufacturers such as Colt or Smith & Wesson. They are so realistic that they disassemble in the same manner as their true counterparts.

I tested versions of the Glock Model 17, Colt Model 1911 and the Beretta Model 92, including a second Model 92 that fired in fully automatic mode. These training replicas fire 8mm or 9mm brass cased blank cartridges. The blank rounds load in a magazine just like live rounds. However, for safety, the replica guns do not accept the genuine versions of the gun’s magazines. The pistols all had sights similar to their genuine counterparts. The triggers were similar in action, but they were rougher and quite a bit heavier. Sharp sights and light trigger pulls are not mandatory on a gun that cannot possibly place a round in a 10-ring.

Firing these blank replicas requires eye and ear protection. The sound generated is equal to that of a real gun. Also, since the barrels are blocked, quite a bit of blast comes from the ejection port area. Wrap-around eye protection is necessary as regular prescription eyewear will not suffice.

All four guns tested worked perfectly. I expected some feeding jams due to the blank round’s flat nose profile. But there were no feeding or ejection problems of any kind. The guns all operated and fired just like their realistic versions. The fully automatic Beretta 92 has a selector switch, and it’s very entertaining to let a full magazine loose. I don’t know of any U.S. police departments with fully automatic duty pistols, but shooting this replica once sure makes you want to shoot another magazine through it!

These guns should not be used with their blank rounds for handgun retention training. An officer’s hand could easily be injured by the blast that comes from the ejection port if wrestling over control of the gun. However, the unloaded replica would be a good alternative to inert plastic guns that do not have a trigger action.

For RRT or building / room clearing, these replica guns would be excellent training tools. Officers charging down a school hallway in a diamond formation, actually firing with loud reports and ejecting brass, would be much more realistic than the simple “click-click” of empty guns. Room clearing practice at outdoor firing ranges or a “live-fire shoot house” have the chance of officers being swept by live muzzles.

The use of blank firing replicas would allow techniques to be taught that do not require bullets to be fired for accuracy. Also, many police departments to not have access (due to distance or budget) to live-fire shoot houses or outdoor ranges. Replica firearms allow the use of regular buildings for training.

These Beretta, Glock and Colt replicas retail for $129, $199, and $279 respectively. The full automatic Beretta was $299. Blank ammunition is about $29 for a box of 50 rounds. These replica firearms are very well made, and their prices reflect the excellent build quality. At less than half the price of duty weapons, a department could purchase a dozen replicas. The investment should then provide many years of service and realistic training.

Steve Tracy is a 20-year police veteran with 18 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He also is an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force less-than-lethal force and scenario based training. He can be reached at steventracy@hendonpub.com.

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2008

Rating : 10.0


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