44-40 Blanks

On the subject of WRACO (I have a limited attention span) 44-40 Blanks/empty primed/and the sort… I have been able to document 7 variations of period WRACO/Western. I own 6 of the 7 I have found.


Have you found other ones? Please share them!

Tony - Is this something different?

John Moss

Tony - dimensions of the above box from my collection of five .44-40 boxes are 4-3/4" x 2-1/2" x 1-9/16" (the last measurement is the depth and includes the lid and a small portion of the box itself that extends below the lid). The box is almost as tall as a loaded round and doesn’t rattle (it is sealed, and I don’t want to open it) so I assume the cases are elongated for loading of blanks. I suspect that the movie companies and their suppliers were the primary market target of these.

John Moss

THANKS Jones and John for responding. I love finding new WRACO 44-40 boxes to document! Yes, yours is a little different than the box I have. If you click my link, you can see I have almost the same box but marked WINCHESTER not WESTERN. Although they are clearly a brother to each other.

I TOO have been told that these boxes are MOVIE boxes, but personally I doubt it. I will explain why… the movie industry needed BLANKS, not empty primed shells with NO powder to go bang and create a little smoke. That would require them to load their own blanks from these empty primed shells. (powder and paper wad) I believe that to be unlikely. I think these boxes are just empty primed shells that wraco/western had in the hardware stores for reloaders. NOW, that is just my thoughts. I believe the MOVIE industry bought actual BLANKS that would go bang with a little smoke. Is anyone able to document this for sure?

HOWEVER, in my mind they are still an important part of wraco/western history. With around 50 variations of wraco 44-40 (all different) in my collection, we will eventually be able to document all the 44-40 that they made. Who knows, eventually I may have one of all of them. Then what? 45-70? THANKS! Anyone else?

It was my belief that the movie blanks were not generally purchased loaded, but were loaded by movie prop suppliers like Stembridge Gun Rentals. I guess I need to take a closer look at my boxes. Many of these movie blank boxes are ammo company (Rem-UMC seems to predominate) boxes with overlabels pasted on. I need to look under a few of my labels to see what the original label says.

What does the seventh box you documented look like?

In those cases where the 5-in-1 blank would be appropriate (and this includes the .44-40, of course) the factory-produced full-length crimped blanks would surely have been preferred to handloads, would they not? JG

Were the 5-in-1s produced in the variety of loads (flash, smoke, loud bang, or whatever) that the movie industry used? I don’t know. I wonder if Ron Merchant can tell us when the 5-in-1 blanks were first introduced and what factory loads were available? I would they were introduced after WW2, perhaps during the cowboy craze during the 1950s or 60s.

Gentlemen - While not an expert by any means, I do have some knowledge of the requirements and procurement of blanks for the entertainment industry (I should have used the word “entertainment” instead of just “movie,” as, while the requirements and procurement practices are often the same, sometimes blanks are needed and made for things like reenactments, live displays such as “gunfights” at places like “Old Tucson,” a touristy western town outside of the real Tucson, Arizona and also an often used movie set). Statements that the movie companies needed loaded blanks are more true today than they were years ago, when the movies had large prop departments, and didn’t rely quite so much on vendors as they do now. Statements about Stembridge Gun Rentals, etc., were right on. These companies that supply movie studios on demand with the firearms props they need, including blanks, have a full ability to make blanks for almost any caliber of gun required. Doc AV could expand on this. However, they are not ammunition factories and depend on sources outside of their own facilities for empty cases (often supplied primed, but not always). Sometimes these are loaded blanks, sometimes primed empty cases and sometimes unprimed empty cases. I would persdonally think that a very small amount of the blanks fired in the production of entertainment venues involving firearms come from regular ammunition factories, like wincheser, Remington, RUAG, SFM, or whatever.

I mentioned before that the people associated with the “Dirty Harry” movies had purchased a .41 Magnum Smith and Wesson revolver from our store because no one, including us, could supply a .44 Magnum at that time, and they needed another gun. I suggested the .41 since “on screen” it would be impossible for anyone to tell it was not a .44. They did not buy it until they got the prop man to the store and he assured them that he could make blanks for it. So, there is a case of the studio making their own. Much more often, I think, they buy them from places like Stembridge, or Doc Av’s company, for example.

Regarding factory 5 in 1 blanks, which are incredibly loud, they would only be useful, I think, for outdoor scenes. Of course, I know we are speaking of .44-40 here and that means virtually always slow-firing (unless a CAS Champion is shooting one) manually-operated weapons. For other types of scenes, they load black powder blanks, smokeless powder blanks, quarter-loads, half-loads, short-duration flash blanks, long-duration flash blanks (so that “machine gun fire” will show enough flash to convince the audience that a gun is being fired, even if in reality they flash very little, allowing the cameras to capture on each frame a muzzle flash. It would be possible, although unlikely, that every muzzle flash could fall between frames of film, and you would have no effect on film of the gun being fired, except the noise, which is often dubbed in afterwards by the sound man, anyway).

Very few individual reloaders would have any use what-so-ever for loading blanks, unless he were doing it for a reenactment club, and then he has become part of the entertainment industry, regardless of how small a part.
The entertainment industry can sometimes involve the entertainment of you and your friends doing their own reenactment as a non-commercial, non-audience form of recreation, by the way.

Sometimes “shootouts” for the movies are done in places where they cannot have any noise. I recall reading about a scene filmed in the corridor of an active hospital, that involved the firing of a Thompson SMG. Not likely the hospital would chance cardiac arrest for half of their elderly patients allowing a scene with full sound effects. A model Thompson was constructed the fired only a flame, from some sort of gas-jet device, and made no noise at all. The noise was dubbed in afterwards.

I handled the firearm (singular) for a 2nd run movie filmed in San Francisco called “Cardiac Arrest,” a play on words involving the plot (perhaps why I choose that term, subconsciously, above), as a sort of one-day prop master. Their insurance required a firearms professional to do everything except fire the gun. They came to us on one day notice, so there was no choice but to use factory .38 blanks in the Chief’s Special reolver that was the only gun fired and that only in one scene in a yard for disabled buses in San Francisco. I warned that they might be too loud for the accoustics available, and the sound man confirmed that by having me fire a few rounds in the yard, which was partially under a freeway. It sounded like WWIII had started, with all the echo. They did not take sound when the gun was fired on camera, but instead, later dubbed in the sound of the shots fired. Just that one experience taught me a lot, and also set me on a path to read more and find out more about the subject of blanks in the cinema. I finally saw the movie on TV about two years after it was made - not bad for a low-budget flick! We supplied the gun that one day, by the way, because every-time a gun is seen in the film in any other scene, it is a Japanese-made model gun! That avoided the need for a firearms professional on the set for every “gun scene” under their insurance provisions.

Wow, you guys probably know more than me. I’m mainly a box collector. It sounds like John has some inside input that is very insightful. Yes, GUY, the other box is that box I emailed you about a couple of times. Cheers!

Feel free to use the picture of the seventh box if you would like to. As I vaguely recall, I received two of these boxes at the time I got mine in about 1981 or 1982, and sold or traded off one that was partially full. So there are at least two of them.

I can not say when the 5-in-1 was first introduced, but it would have been in the early 1930’s.

However, I can say that factory loaded 5-in-1 only come with “Special Blank Powder”, which, as John said, are VERY loud.

All the special purpose loads of 5-in-1 are loaded by the Prop houses. I spent a day back in the 1980’s with the chief Armourer for Ellis Merchantile. He had a special machine that he used to load blanks of what ever type were needed. While I was there he loaded about 200 .45 ACP blanks which I then fired in a Thompson out the back door. These had a rose crimp with many petals. Almost all 5-in-1 blanks today are plastic, not brass. They have a paper disk seal…

Thanks John and Ron. Great information. John’s mention of Doc AV made me realize we had discussed these some time ago.

Tony - thanks for your nice comments but the fact is, you probably have forgotten more about the .44-40 cartridge than I will ever know. I know how to load it very successfully, and to shoot it, and I have a tiny accumulation of fifty or so cartridges and the few boxes mentioned.

The fact is, we all from time to time have little bits of information from another guy’s field that he just hadn’t got to yet. If I had a few buxks for everything I have learned about auto pistol ammo from guys who don’t collect it, I could go to a lot more cartridge shows! In 45 years of collecting, I have acquired a lot of information - some of it right on, some of it probably in the category of mythology. Hopefully not too much of the latter. I am not expert on anything, however, and that is why I hound this Forum among many sources, because I learn so much from all you guys even about stuff in my own field. Thanks to all!

Many scenes from the 1970 movie “Little Big Man” were filmed at the site of Battle of The Little Bighorn, primarily on private property outside the Monument boundaries. I have several photographs taken during rehearsals. In 1971 Hank Weibert and I (and others I am sure) metal detected the areas where battle scenes were filmed and found many of the fired 5 In One blank cases. (The movie cleanup crews policed most of them). I gave most of them as souvenirs to friends and relatives and wished now that I had kept them since they are collectable in their own right.


Wow, I love this great dialogue. It really promotes the hobby, and gives me my fix for everything to do with this hobby. Thanks John, you have a good box that will always be an interest in your collection. Unless, I can find something to trade you! ha ha… Anyway, GUY, I will have to look and see if I saved the scan of that box, as I used to be a little “slower” on the computer and might not have saved it. Either way, I would like that scan so I can at least document it. I’m sure there are more than two of them around, I just have to find one to buy/trade for. That’s the trick, eh? I’ll be gone Saturday. Post again on Sunday. Thanks!

Here’s the seventh box that Tony refered to, a rather plain Winchester green label. The cases in this box are unheadstamped. I’d love to get the green label .44WCF bullet box that Tony has to go with this one.

John’s reference to the use of gas to produce a basically soundless muzzle flash reminds me that recently I saw King Vidor’s 1925 film The Big Parade. In it a Maxim MG (or a 1917 Browning DBA Maxim) used this same technology to suggest it was being fired. The movie was silent, so noise wasn’t required. JG

J Gill,

Some re-enactment groups use a butane powered device to simulate MG fire. The gadget “cycles” and produces a series of spurts of flame with a satisfying bang. It saves a lot of messing around with belts, blank cartridges, picking up the empties etc. This device is also used in films, if there is any wind the “muzzle flash” from these gas-driven devices is bent downwind which is a dead giveaway that real ammunition is not being fired.


Gravelbelly - you are right on. I have seen counless scenes where these “Butane guns” have a flash that is being blown asunder by wind. You see a lot of that in movies that involve planes, usually enemy ones (“Japanese” planes seemed to get this treatment the most), where they show a closeup of the guns in one wing or the nose, and the cockpit, with the (usually) grinning pilot in it (by today’s standards, pretty racist caricatures). I think they used wind machines on the airplane mockups and tilted the cameras to give the effect of motion and a diving, strafing airplane. It played havoc with the flame coming from the “guns”. Of course as kids during and right after WWII, we didn’t think about these things. Looked real to us. Again, by today’s standards, pretty funky special effects. Interesting stuff. I am fascinated by movie special effects, and while I understand some of the firearms effects and how they did them, some of them were real mysteries to me. Of course today, they can do all this digitally, and the effects - tracers going thru the air and right into a “target” and similar effects - are almost too realistic. I doubt our parents would have let us see Hollywood war films when we were little if they were like those shown today. I wouldn’t want my 10-year old Grandson to see a film like “Saving Private Ryan!”

Some people don’t collect movie blanks since they are not really military, but I really like them and pick up any variation I can find in any caliber that I collect.

John Moss

John Moss pretty well covered the whole field regarding Movie usage(“Entertainment”) of Blanks.

In the USA, there has been a long history of the big ammo companies doing short runs of “Blanks” for all sorts of uses.
WRA makes blanks for many Police revolver calibres( .32, .38, and .45) for use in Dog training, etc; they also make 12 ga. blanks for Field trials of dogs etc.
Remington has made “5-in-1” blanks since they were “invented” in the 1930s,and has also supplied unheadstamped , primed cases to the bigger Gun Hire Companies for special loads ( Horse Load, , 1/2 flash, 1/4 flash etc.
I have a few of Stembridge Gun Rentals (as it was then (1950s) Overlabeled Packets of these.
Remington also made a standard 45/70 blank ( older Remington “A” base type case, in two loading, Low and High Wad.

There are individual Blank makers in the US (Joe Swanson Blanks, Scottsdale, Arizona) who supply to Gun Hire Companies to order, with the GHC’s Labels.

When I last visited Stembridge in 1998 (Just before being sold off) they were handloading a batch of 38 Special in House.

I will be putting together a “Sticky” suitable for posting, with photos, of “Movie” Blanks, both my own (AVB) and those we “buy in”.

Prvi Partizan (Uzice, Serbia) has come to the party with a catalogue of a wide range of “military” Blanks (all brass), but quantities to be purchased are high…it seems a minimum of several full containers is required before they will even consider taking an order. Check out their Web page for Pix of the Blanks offered. (Modern and Obsolete Military, short and Long Neck varieties.)

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Movie Ordnance Services
Brisbane Australia