Warning: Do NOT Mix Dummy & Live Shotgun Rounds

While we hold firearms instructors to a higher standard, we often see that they too are people. As such, they are subject to the same potential negligent and accidental discharges as the rest of us – if not at a higher risk of it becauseĀ of the round counts they put through weapons. Lord knows I have seen an instructor have a negligent discharge.

As such, when they make a mistake, it’s even more critical for the rest of us to pay attention. If by their knowledge and expertise, they are capable of negligent handling, we should pay special attention to the circumstances. The latest warning comes from our friends over at the LoadoutRoom.com

In it, they posted a negligent shotgun discharge that nearly left a classroom and into a hall. In this case, the instructor thought he was using the well-known clear dummy rounds. Unbeknownst to the instructor, a similar cased live round was mixed into the dummy ammunition stockpile.

Fortunately, the instructor was following the four safety rules (or was really lucky) and the birdshot discharged into a wall only, though was close to a doorway that may have had someone moving behind.

Learn the lesson from the instructor: check your dummy ammunition and when practicing/demonstrating, always follow the four safety rules.


TFB’s FNG. Completely irreverent of all things marketing but a passionate lover of new ideas and old ones well executed. Enjoys musing on all things firearms, shooting 3-gun, and attempting to be both tacticool AND tactical.


  • Jeff Smith

    This sounds more like it was the fault of the goober that mixed a LIVE ROUND in with a communal pile of DUMMY ROUNDS.

    I’d have to level a large amount of the blame on to that person. Yes, you’re responsible for every round you send down range (or down classroom, in this case), but someone putting live ammo in a pile of dummy rounds is the real negligence here.

  • Jared Vynn

    Or don’t use dummy ammo (or any ammo) in a training environment which doesn’t involve a range.

    Using dummy ammo leads to complacency and mistreating firearms as not loaded in violation of one of the four rules, another rule is broken in not knowing what was beyond the “target” (the wall in this case). The the trigger was pulled is a violation as well as the shooter was not ready and aiming at a proper target/safe direction. It sounds like the only rule not broken was pointing the muzzle in a safe direction.

    • Sorry but expecting people to not use dummy rounds is a non-starter. You can’t practice loading a shotgun or a revolver without dummy rounds.

      The problem here is that the person allowed live ammo to get mixed in. And that the dummy rounds were not clearly marked.

      To prevent that I don’t pulled out ammo while using dummy rounds. And I make sure that the dummy rounds are clearly seen as such. In fact I have the same dummy rounds as the picture, I didn’t like how they were too close to some live ammo, so I wrote “dummy” on each round four times.

      • Jared Vynn

        You can use dummy ammo, but you should treat it like real ammo. Anything else leads to complacency.

        • lucusloc

          Not sure what you mean. If you are using dummy ammo to train weapons manipulation at home, then are you not by definition handling them like live ammo?

          • Jared Vynn

            Treat every gun like it’s loaded. Dummy rounds or not. Point it in a direction you know would be safe to fire with live rounds (know what’s beyond your target) before pulling the trigger. Otherwise you get negligent discharge as seen in the article, which if you aren’t lucky could hit someone.

          • lucusloc

            Yep, but it still means that you will be dropping the hammer when you are not intending to discharge a round.

          • Jared Vynn

            Better to be aiming like you intended to discharge and not discharge for practice than to be aiming like you don’t intend to discharge and discharge.

          • lucusloc

            Of course. Even when training you should point the firearm in a safe direction.

      • Bill

        I stopped using that style of inert ammo just because it was too close to the real thing. I did everything possible to have “color code” ammo by differing loads and brands.

  • Fruitbat44

    Oh dear. But following basic safety rules (and/or dumb luck) did save the day. There is a very good reason for pointing a firearm in a safe direction; even if you *know* it’s unloaded.

    Oh, and I think it’s a really good idea to have dummy rounds which look nothing like the real thing.

    I recall British drill rounds which were different colours so you could clearly see they were different from live ammo, and had indentations built in so they would feel different in the dark. Because a) see above and b) you don’t want the have a bad guy pop up in front of you and get a click instead of a bang.

    Anyway glad that no one got hurt; although I suspect that some ears are still ringing.

  • Risky

    Why on earth would someone make ‘dummy’ ammunition that look like that? If I didn’t know they were dummy rounds I would expect them to fire. I know shotgun shells come in a variety of colors, but why make them clear with little fake wads and what looks like a shot payload?

    • flyingburgers

      It’s real shot and real wads. The intention is to match the mass and center of gravity of real shotshells, which you need when you’re trying to track down a problem with the operation of a gun. The alternative in that case would be to use live ammo.

      • Risky

        That makes sense. I think I would still opt for some big blue INERT lettering, or maybe some holes drilled through the brass head. I suppose maybe that’s why the brass looks blackened on the dummy rounds.

        • flyingburgers

          If you look very carefully on the one on the left, you can see where it used to say “DUMMY” but apparently wore out. The owner should have gotten a paint pen and remarked it.

          I do agree it’s a problem with shotshells being made in every single color. They should get SAAMI to define a pattern, say blue stripes, that’s reserved only for dummy shotshells.

          • I have a similar dummy rounds, I didn’t like how visible the dummy was from the factory, so I took a sharpie and wrote dummy every 90 degrees from the get go.

        • Anonymoose

          Blue used to denote slugs. They should just be all blue and have a metal weight inside them for feel.

          • Rick O’Shay

            All of my slug rounds are red. Seems more like shell colors are based on what the manufacturer likes or wants to be associated with. But yeah, with the prevalence of blue trainer guns, it seems like it would make sense to extend that to trainer/dummy ammo/snap caps.

          • Jared Vynn

            My Olin buckshot shells are green but others I have are red.

          • Jared Vynn

            Or replace the primer with a bit of bright colored rubber/plastic.

          • Bill

            The better inerts have essentially that.

          • valorius

            Bright orange hulls seems like the most obvious solution for dummy rounds.

          • flyingburgers
          • valorius

            I mean the whole case, including the “brass” bit. And blaze orange, not that dull orange in your pix. I’ve seen blaze orange dummy rounds before, they cannot be mistaken as real ammo.

          • flyingburgers

            Both of those are blaze orange (Pics from luckygunner). It can’t be a simple color, somebody will have used it. It will have to be a pattern.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/27004e854d5b0ee81cf957587ff484e07af3dad7c236f6103c89126da9662ffe.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/60dfe009e87e7d6a2ba3300af9e8a051e957718d536dce9e54c0d75fa286428d.jpg

          • valorius

            Perhaps a ATF edict that no live ammunition can be orange in color would also be (for once) helpful.

            I personally do not like the use of dummy ammo. It can cause dumb things to happen.

          • Nashvone

            Good God NO! Don’t get the ATF involved in this.

          • valorius

            I understand your reaction completely.

          • Anonymoose

            Flares, tho.

          • valorius

            There’s always some complication to my machinations.

          • MisterTheory

            I used to teach adults how to work on engines. Every time I tried to make an absolute statement like “all XYZ engines use ABC ignition”, it would immediately become apparent that there was an exception because of some oddball engine used in some specialized market. A teacher likes to be able to make an absolute statement. It is almost impossible to actually do so. Sorry, your comments just made me think about my past. Cheers.

          • Dan

            Leopard print

      • valorius

        All dummy ammo should be bright orange in color. .

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    New reports indicate that the door frame in question had knocked up his daughter and then refused to marry her.

    • Jared Vynn

      Someone doesn’t understand how shotgun weddings work apparently.

      You be the groom or you get the boom.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I thought thats what I said.
        Who knows.
        Ive been hitting the pipe all afternoon.

        • Jared Vynn

          I was commenting on the foolishness of the would be groom. Seems youngsters these days just don’t understand how a shotgun wedding works, mainly the shotgun part.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Step One: Never tell a woman youre sleeping with where you live or your christian name.

          • Disarmed in CA

            Ah, but.. nevermind..

  • Herold Fender

    Dear TFB site admin, please stop with the pop-up windows, it makes the site unreadable. Thanks.

    • Jai S.

      The newsletter pop up for me is the worst offender. Like, I already get the newsletter! Why is this thing obscuring the comments?

      • alex archuleta

        Yeah I hate that! Plus I do have AdBlocker so they obviously got through it somehow.

    • valorius

      ad blocker works.

    • Russ Kell

      AdBlockPlus and Ghostery. Between the two they get everything. Just good to have for the internet overall.

    • mazkact

      Yep, I am subscribed and they continually want me to subscribe gain.

  • “One of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)”… Looking at the photo, the shinny brass should have been a clue but I could see making the same mistake IF not paying attention… Got off cheap and a valuable lesson learned (I hope)…

    • flyingburgers

      Except that’s not a clue. They make these with shiny brass heads.

      • I’m not disputing that… If all the dummy shells that they HAVE IN THE CLASS ROOM have black brass (like what’s pictured) and you observed that you have a shiny brass shell in the bunch… That’s a clue my friend…

  • Renato H M de Oliveira

    That’s quite the reminder.
    That’s why military weapons are fitted blank fire muzzle attachments.
    The same should be used in instruction weapons, and training ammo should be totally different from live ammo in all possible aspects (color, case shape, finish, etc) to minimize chances of such NDs happening.

    • SPQR9

      Firing live ammo in a rifle with a blank firing attachment can be almost as dangerous as without.

      • Gary Kirk

        There was a story awhile back about some yahoo that fired some live through a BFA.. It stopped a couple, but eventually they went right on through

    • Nashvone

      The blank fire muzzle attachment is there to get the gas pressure up in the barrel so that the action can cycle. It’s not needed with live rounds because the bullet does the same job for the last few inches past the gas key.

      • JT303

        The thing about the BFA is that in addition to helping a self-loading firearm cycle with blanks, it’s generally designed to stop one or two live rounds that may have inadvertently been mixed in with the box of blank ammunition.

      • Renato H M de Oliveira

        But in the occasional “live round mixed with blanks” situation, the attachment also protects other soldiers, since combat exercises sometimes involve, even if inadvertently, pointing weapons to friendlies.

  • Audie Bakerson

    I keep my metal dummy rounds in their original packaging and never mix them with real ammo (only real way to tell is the plastic primer and the headstamp that lists their maker who, as far as I know, doesn’t make real ammo.). Is it possible to paint them without ruining the tolerances?

    • Steve

      You can use dykem. It’s a metal dye that won’t effect the tolerance of your ammo.

  • USMC03Vet

    Warning: water is wet

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Is it ok to mix dummy RIFLE rounds with live ammunition? Just curious. The article only talks about shotgun rounds.

    • Giolli Joker

      Those are easier to tell apart.

    • Twilight sparkle

      Ummm is that a serious question?

      • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

        Ummm, sure.

        • Twilight sparkle

          What would make you think mixing dummy rifle rounds with real ammunition would be any better than mixing shotgun dummy rounds with real shotgun shells?

          • Christian Hedegaard-Schou


            Sarcasm isn’t your strong suit, is it?

          • Twilight sparkle

            Sarcasm is my main form of humour, I do perfectly fine with it when people know how to write a sarcastic comment

    • Bill


  • valorius

    This picture clearly shows why bird shot has a lot of merit as a home defense load.

    • Jared Vynn

      Not really because it won’t necessarily stop an intruder. Might just make them angry.

      • valorius

        Unless it’s winter (where they’ll be wearing a heavy coat) i think that’s highly, highly unlikely.

        • flyingburgers

          I know somebody who shot themselves in the foot point blank with birdshot. Drove self to the hospital. Birdshot does not work.

          • valorius

            I know somebody that got shot in the thigh point blank with a .45 (shattering his femur) and was perfectly calm and conscious the entire time it took for the medics to show up and cart him away.

            I am curious what caliber you think would’ve rendered your buddy unable to fight due to a foot injury?

        • Jared Vynn

          Have you seen what birdshot does to people? You’re better off with 22lr honestly.

          • valorius

            At point blank range bird shot causes egregious wounds. (I love when i get a chance to use the word egregious ;))

            I would post pictures, but they’re very graphic- just type “bird shot wounds” into google, and hit images. I’m sure you’ll agree after seeing them that a close range bird shot wound creates horrific wounds.

            I’d much rather inflict a bird shot wound on a home intruder than a 00 buckshot wound on my 4yo daughter in the next room.

          • Jared Vynn

            I’ve seen birdshot wounds before the many times it’s viability for defensive use has been discussed. It isn’t a guaranteed stopper and leaves you wide open to civil suit. Bad idea all around just use buckshot #4 at a minimum.

          • valorius

            If there was such a thing as a guaranteed stopper, we’d all be using it. Probably the closest thing we can keep for home defense are high brass Brenneke slugs, and almost no one uses those.

          • valorius

            BTW, #4 buck will go right through a drywall. So if your no.1 concern is not penetrating your interior walls, i don’t think i’d go any bigger than about six shot.

      • valorius

        Seems to work fine on grizzly bears:

        AP, July 2, 2017:

        “There was four of them in a line . My son was third,” Elliot’s
        father said. “The (grizzly) bear came down the trail at them, fella in the front,
        who was his uncle, the bear was on him so quickly that he didn’t have
        time to take his rifle off his shoulder.”

        The (11 year old!) boy then raised his pump action shotgun and shot the bear with birdshot.

        His father said the first shot did nothing, but two more downed the bear and finishing shots by the boy and his uncle killed it.

        “That first shot hit him in the shoulder and did absolutely nothing,” he said. “The next shot hit him in the nose and traveled down through the neck.” (dropping the bear in it’s tracks)

  • roguetechie

    OK, so after reading the responses in here I’ve come up with a tentative set of guidelines for stuff like keeping live rounds out of your training ammo.

    1. Have a system with set procedures.
    2. If there’s more than one person working off the system, document the damn system!
    3. Have a guy in charge of your system who has the authority to blackball anyone who f***s with your system! This one is important because the good idea fairy usually strikes when no one else is around to stop you!

  • John

    First, don’t use dummy ammo that looks like real ammo, just….don’t. Paint it pink if you have to. All my dummy rounds are either blue, purple or orange, none of them look real (although some have real weight to them).

    Second, I mix dummys into my mag with live ammo to train out the “flinch” but then separate the two after the range. If training with dummys at home, live rounds are left in one mag and dummy placed in the other, live mag goes to one side of the table and left there (no, I don’t put live rounds in a sealed bucket and lock them in a safe, in a closet, in the house next door because I pay attention when training).

    The training mag is checked, inserted, removed, checked again, and inserted before training. Does this make it impossible to make a mistake? No, but if I mix up my Federal HSTs with my orange dummy rounds, I have much bigger problems.

    • Dan K

      The rules don’t fully apply to me because “I pay attention” or “I’m not stupid” or “I never make mistakes” mindset sets me on edge.

      It’s not like every person that has a ND is thinking, “man I’m a careless SOB but I’ll just keep rolling the dice with safety since I’m lucky”.

      There are plenty of people with holes in them thst thought they were safe and immune from accidents because they paid “attention.”

      • John

        I think you took the statement out of context. Do you believe that when you are at home training alone you should remove all access to your ammunition for an extended period of time? I don’t live in Iraq, mind you, but I believe in having access to my weapons when and if I need them. When training, I am very careful to check and double check and even with dummy ammo I follow all the rules. My comment was to say that there is an anti-gun mindset that says having your ammo in the same county as your gun is going to lead to an accident…I disagree.

  • May

    Really don’t mix dummy and live in general unless the two are clearly and immediately distinct.

  • Paveway

    An old boss of mine at my former agency was killed by a fellow instructor due to similar circumstances – negligence. The training evolution was to use blue non-firing guns only. Given no live fire or sim fire, the training was conducted in the parking lot of the office.

    The evolution was a simple threat eval. Does suspect comply, charge at you empty handed, with a knife, pull a gun – the lesson being commands and if needed draw your blue gun and get off the X.

    Agents were instructed to simply lock their firearms in their desks, come outside and pick up a blue gun.

    My former boss, an instructor, with the other agency instructor (who had decades of LE experience, plus combat experience in Vietnam – this is probably one of the contributing factors – his age) where demonstrating the first training drill. My boss was playing the bad guy, and the other instructor the Agent.

    The problem was the other instructor never took his duty G23 out of his holster. First scenario, suspect charges with a knife. One round center mass of 40 cal Hornady Critical Duty killed my former boss DRT.

    As much as we all are gun enthusiasts, these things are specifically designed to kill humans. It is like being a dangerous snake handler – you must respect every aspect of this hobby/life/work or it can kill you or someone else.

  • jerry young

    This is exactly why we allow no live ammo in our classes, the only place live ammo is allowed is at the range, we inspect each and every gun every time they are handled and no live ammo is stored in the classroom, when students bring their own guns into the classroom they are check by two people, we prefer everyone leaves with the same amount of holes in their body as they came wiith

    • Dakota Raduenz

      Well, this was training ammo in a training classroom. No live ammo was supposed to be in there..

      • jerry young

        Exactly but what probably happened is some instructors believe in the dummy method where you mix a dummy round with the live rounds while shooting, it’s supposed to teach you control when the dummy round does not go off, I don’t like that method and if that’s what happened it could explain how they got mixed up, still the best method is keep all live ammo out of the class room and always be sure of what you are using.

  • Gun Fu Guru

    That’s not fair! You didn’t show us the damage to the other side.

  • valorius

    The kid fired all bird shot…and it was a Grizzly bear.

    • Jared Vynn

      Brown bear, and the first shot was birdshot according to all the articles I have read. If it was a grizzly I doubt he would be alive today.

      • valorius

        A brown bear is a grizzly bear- they are the same animal. The article says his weapon was loaded with all bird shot.

        • Jared Vynn

          Ok since you don’t understand that grizzlies and brown bear are not the same you clearly are not someone worth having a discussion with. Grizzlies fall under brown bears, but not the other way around. Good day sir.

          • valorius

            They are the same animal dude.

            “The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp.), less commonly known as the silvertip bear[citation needed], is a large subspecies of brown bear inhabiting North America. Scientists generally do not use the name grizzly bear but call it the North American brown bear.

            Ursus arctos – the brown bear

            Brown bears originated in Eurasia and traveled to North America approximately 50,000 years ago,[9][10] spreading into the contiguous United States about 13,000 years ago.[11] In the 19th century, the grizzly was classified as 86 distinct species. However, by 1928 only seven grizzlies remained[2] and by 1953 only one species remained globally.[12] However, modern genetic testing reveals the grizzly to be a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos). Rausch found that North America has but one species of grizzly.[13] Therefore, everywhere it is the “brown bear”; in North America, it is the “grizzly”, but these are all the same species, Ursus arctos.”

            -Source Wikipedia.