PSA: What you thought were blanks will get someone killed

    Within high risk jobs that deal with small arms, a death while on duty is something that soldiers and cops make a very real realization about, sometime during their careers. However a death in training is one of the hardest tragedies to come to terms with, particularly because it was in training. This is what happened to a 73 year old lady who kindly volunteered her services to the Punta Garda Police Department’s citizen academy in Florida. The scenario involved a force on force training that consisted of an officers handgun loaded with blanks to simulate a law enforcement contact.

    Let’s stop there. Blanks. Live rounds. Firearms. Blanks. Live rounds. Firearms. Do not match under casual circumstances.

    The audacity of the Chief to almost blame this accident on the storage of ammunition is appalling-

    Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis said there was no policy in place for community demonstrations – something that will change. The department has already changed its policy on the storage of ammunition.

    Why were blanks and live ammo mixed?

    “As you know, we are a very small department. Typically you have one armory, where you have all weapons, all ammunition,” Chief Lewis told NBC 2.

    New policy

    According to the Punta Gorda Police Department: “We have instituted a new policy for the storing of weapons and ammunition in the department armory. While the previous practice of keeping these items in the same storeroom is not directly related to the events of August 9th, the decision was made to take extra measures to ensure non-lethal weapons are stored in a designated safe which is separate from the armory.”

    There are specific reasons why blue guns have come such a long way in development and complexity. Specific reasons why Simunition or other training firearms and parts kits are made so a normal round will not chamber, and if a Simunition round is fired in a live firearm, it expands to the point of locking the breech shut. This development has been painfully built on the lessons and experiences learned from such unnecessary deaths as above. The problem with Simunitions is that they are routinely more expensive than the actual firearms they are representing, which if you are a small town police department like the one mentioned in the article, you probably can’t afford. But even if you can’t afford Simunition guns, there are a myriad of options to choose from, before pointing actual firearms at people in training, and avoiding this live versus blank mix up. Non-firing replica guns, airsoft, an imagination can be a powerful thing in situations such as this.

    The Marine Corps learned this very hard lesson in ammunition storage in 2007 when a Recon Marine unloaded a magazine of live 5.56x45mm rounds through a BFA clamped barrel at another Marine in an urban training scenario. The BFA actually stopped the first and second round, but the third one blew it clean off, and the next several rounds killed the Marine on the receiving end. The result of this accident was that units were not allowed to train with blanks and live rounds on the same training day, they’d have to be separated by at least one day.


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]