This is a constantly changing market, in a slightly-less-constantly-changing field, so perhaps a state-of-the-industry check-in is in order, if I can dash one off. I’ve been submitting updates for The Theatrical Firearms Handbook, since it should be getting a second printing some time this Summer, and that’s had me thinking about some of this stuff lately. Incidentally, I also recently discovered it was reviewed in the IATSE journal this past year. Thanks to Eric Hart for the nice write-up. Good to see the word getting out in the technical side of the house, since a lot of it applies to backstage handling and decision-making.
Also, I’ve been trying to start to build a small prop gun armoury at the University of Wyoming, so I could offer the SAFD Theatrical Firearms workshop here – due to conflict of interest rules, I can’t rent them equipment from Fight Designer, LLC. Through placing some orders through Maxsell, I discovered a they’d had a key employee depart unexpectedly, taking some of their codes with them, but they’re doing their best to re-structure and I think improve their system as a part of this, and it seems like they now have many of the wrinkles ironed out. Maxsell has for a while now been on the cutting edge of importing new (especially front-venting) models, and I hope they can maintain activity in that area. They also recently dropped their price on 9mm PAK Blanks!A few new players have entered that market though, including Sharp Imports. Seems like a constantly shifting landscape there, and at least one of the companies I listed in the index of my book had to be removed for this latest update.
A drop in the availability of both all blank-firing Bruni and Zoraki Glocks (thanks to the previously discussed lawsuit) and the P99s by Umarex had some of the SAFD firearms instructors wondering how to demonstrate hammerless models. That got me speaking with Umarex USA, which informed me they had decided to stop importing any blank guns as a part of their operation. That saddens me, as they have some nice models (even if their semiautos are modified in strange ways for top fire) and they’re the only company securing licensing for fully trademarked replicas. They did have some of the S&W Chief’s specials left in stock though, so I bought a crate of those and sold some to my peers, since that brand is generally pretty reliable (it’s the only maker I’ve had clients ask for by name). I do still have several of those available if anyone wants – eBay pulled my listings and gave me a warning (they have very inconsistently-enforced and vaguely-defined policies against blank guns), but I can sell them for $160 + shipping each for anyone who’s interested.
There’s a rumor going around that there might be a new source soon for front-venting P99s, which would be great for filmmakers as well as instructors. I have one that I got a decade ago, and it’s been one of my prize pieces since… it doesn’t have the cut-out along the slide that their top-venting versions have, which kind of ruins the authenticity points they’d otherwise get for having trademarks. Nothing seems to be in stock yet, but here’s hoping. In the meantime, I have a new prize possession, having picked up one of the elusive Zoraki models that looks similar to a Glock 17 – it wasn’t cheap, but I’m assuming that Glock will continue to shut down importation of new ones of those, so between my stock of Brunis (including top and front venting, full size and compact Glocks) and the Zoraki, I probably have the biggest inventory of those around. From some of the earlier online images, it had looked like these Zoraki versions had a grip safety in the back (like the Springfield XD) but at least this one doesn’t.
Moving over to revolvers for a while – I did discover an interesting oddity in the University of Wyoming props collection: a revolver that has molded into the front of the cylinder chambers something that looks a bit like bullets. Most blank firing revolvers always look unloaded from the front, since the cylinders have restrictions (to prevent loading real ammo) but are open (for venting). This .22 gets around that by having individual vent holes in the side of each chamber, which (when firing) line up with a vent hole in the top of the frame.
Hadn’t seen that tried before, and I have others by this same brand in my own collection [that just use the wedge in front of the cylinder to vent spray to both sides].
Granted, this particular example could now be used to demonstrate the reason dry-firing a .22 is a bad idea; check out the damage to both the cylinder and the hammer. Haven’t test fired it yet to see if it even works.
I still think it’s a bit ridiculous that there isn’t at least one .22 blank firing semiauto on the market here, ideally one that could use hardware store nailgun blanks. If I ever get copious free time and someone to collaborate with who’s got some experience with gunsmithing, 3D printing of guns, something like that… one of these years… along with other projects, like building musket and shotgun shells that can fit over some of my blank firing revolvers (something I get asked for fairly regularly, and for which no affordable blank fire options exist). Time is always scant though, and here in Laramie there’s definitely a window of just a few months where doing work in the garage is at all appealing.