Stembridge Gun Rentals

Awhile back tjere was a thread about 5-in-1 blanks and the movie industry.
Stembridge Gun rental was mentioned. For you box collectors here are a couple of boxes I found while digging through some stuff I put away 25
years ago.

If anyone cares about them, I can have my friend Joe post some scans I will make of more Stembridge boxes - all Auto pistol calibers, probably. I have a fair number of them, along with boxes from other Movie Rental outfits. They really aren’t much different from the two posted, though.


nice boxes really !

Does anyone has any box for the movie industry with blanks for machine guns ?

I have a few fabric belts that were specifically remanufactured for the movie industry and I need to know how the cartridges and boxes would look like.

Thanks in advance,


I have only the box so I can’t show you the cartridge.

I think JFL was referring to rifle-caliber machine gun blanks, not pistol-caliber Submachine gun blanks, since he refers to fabric belts. Regardless, its a nice picture of another variant of Stembridge box.

Thanks r308 for the very nice 9mm Para box.

Yes I needed information for the rifle caliber blanks and boxes, but this box is really very interesting.

Indeed there is a real German steel belt for 9mm Para but no chance that there would be one used for the movie industry !! :)



In the IAA Journal Number 431, Page 26, there is an article on the gun and the belt to which JFL refers. It was written by Lew Curtis, and is very interesting. I had not known about either the belt-fed 9mm gun or the belt itself until Lew wrote that. The gun looks like a cross between an MG34 and an UZI SMG!

Being in the Industry, I have a large selection of Stembridge, ISS, and other Movie Supply company Blanks.
Pistol (Revolver and Auto) are usually supplied in 50 round tray boxes, and rifle cartridges in copies of, or original 20 round Factory Boxes labelled over. I have Remington 45/70, 8mm Mauser, .303 British and others in original 1950s Remington Boxes with a Stembridge Over-label, and 1950s and 70s dates.
Whilst Remington did make “5 in 1” blanks and 45/70 blanks as a factory, most of the others were custom loaded by the Suppliers, using Remington cases.

Nowadays several US Specialised Blank manufacturers (Joe Swanson of Phoenix, AZ, is one of the biggest and best known) make both under their own label or on order for such firms as ISS (International Studio Supplies) which has a large armoury as well as all the other props and equipment used in Movie production, from lights to cameras and sound equipment.

Stembridge was dissolved in 1999, and the name taken over by a private Investor…the original family owners cashed up, but Syd Stembridge still runs the company under the new owners. It is much reduced in inventory and presence in the industry.

Blanks for MG use were usually just packeted rifle blanks linked or belted by the Film Armourer as required.

We here in Australia, having less sources of supply than in the USA, either import direct from Swanson’s or one of the East Coast Suppliers (Ellis, etc), or more than likely, manufacture ourselves using either Starline or other factory brass (Pistol calibres) or Military Surplus Brass ( Rifle calibres and some Pistol calibres.)
We consider it usual to run off several thousand .38 Special or 9mm Para Blanks in a single session, or up to 100K 30/06 or 7,7 Japanese for a big War Film. We buy brass by the Ton (1000kg) from Army sources.

In this situation, where we are preparing for a film using MG belts, we pre-assemble the belts in the workshop (and also have in inventory) both steel linked and cloth belted MG ammo at all times, using the appropriate belting machines.
We have our own dedicated 100 round Rifle Cartridge Boxes (made for us several years ago by a cardboard box maker) and self-adhesive pre-printed labels/box closers, to which we stamp calibre and date details, etc. These labels can be affixed to cartons, boxes, cans and crates ( depending on the quantities packed, and whether for long term storage or immediate use.)

These boxes can also handle 25 or 30 Shotshells(12-70), or 50 or 60 Black powder short shotshells (12-40mm); the boxes hold 200 45ACP Blanks, and if trimmed with a paper Guillotine, will hold shorter cartridges such as 7,9x33 Kurz blanks. A full sized box holds 240 .223 normal blanks, or 150 full length profile 5,56mm blanks.
Four Boxes fit neatly into a US 50cal ammo tin, with some extra space for either packing or loose 20 round packets, or stripper clips etc.

We also recycle military and commercial boxes as well (Fiocchi 9mm Blank–plastic nest) RG 30-round 7,62 Nato Blank boxes. etc, etc. Some of the very short blanks (.38 revolver training blanks, about 12mm long) are instead packed in Plastic Honey or Syrup Bottles, made of quite heavy coloured Plastic, and hold up to 200 of these Shorties (used for Indoor theatre, dog training, and Actor training.)

Unless specifically required, all our blanks are Star-crimped, and then lacquer or wax sealed to prevent moisture entry and powder loss.
The Crimp ( and Bottleneck in Pistol cases) ensures proper Powder combustion and feeding in Auto firearms.

I won’t detail the Loading process(Non PC topic here).

Hope this has enlightened members as to the arkane world of Movie Blanks… we do use Military blanks as well, especially for background work, or where a particular factory load fits in with our Flash, Sound and cyclic rate requirements…we have found that Eastern Bloc Blanks (incl. PRC) are especially good (even too good) in this area of Flash and sound.
But their corrosive nature is an Armourer’s nightmare in cleaning afterwards.

regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics–Film Ordnance Services
AV Blankfire Pty.Ltd.–Blank Ammo manufacturer

Excellent and very complete information.

Thank you very much Doc ! So I understand that while using machine guns, you are using the original belt intended for that specific weapon ?

However, it would be a real nightmare for me to hear that maybe sometimes original, old and scarce belts or links are used for firing blanks…

Anyway, thanks again for the thorough answer.


Doc, what would you say your single most difficult project to date was to make / obtain blank ammo / links for?

Dear members,
With Guns which have rare or fragile Feeding belts, links, strips etc, we either get brand new ones made ( as in brass strip Maxim/Vickers belts) where say WW I originals are usually too fragile to use; We also substitute more modern metal link belts where possible (ie, PKM or SGM belts for use intead of Maxim belts; Canvas BMG belts also work in Maxims, as do stripless modern Vickers belts;
For my Type 3/92 Japanese, I picked up over 100 strips a few years ago (brass and steel) and we treat these with utmost care; Hotchkiss 24 rnd 8mm Lebel strips are still common, and of course MG34/42/MG3 metal belts are available ( and with the /34 conversion, can be used in a MG08/15 feedblock.)
I put aside about 5000 .303BMG Links when the ammo was cheap as dirt back in the early 1970s here in Aussie; and of course normal .30cal , 50 cal, 7,62 and 5,56 Link, We have several Tons of it (at scrap metal value of 10c per KG, the Army can’t usually give it away!!!

WE keep some of the original Cloth belts as “Set dressing” with Dummy rounds for setting the scenes, but the blanks are usually loaded into the newer substitutes, or common belting.
Soon we should have available completely NEW made Maxim and Vickers belts, complete with brass tabs etc, for cals. 303 and 7,9mm (There is a slight difference in “pitch” of the brass tabs and eyelets.).

I know there are some “Film Gun Hirers” who just use up original belting as if there was no tomorrow, but we , being in Australia where all accessories are difficult to get (Stupid Gun laws) shepherd our resources carefully, and look at roundabout ways of securing good supplies and replacements which work (and look right as well).

The single most difficult project so far (and still not completed) is getting Link and empty shell cases for the Russian NS/NR-23 and N37 Aircraft cannon. We have the guns (several) from MiG fighters, we need the consumables to make them work for the movies as vehicle and Boat guns.
The Guns are recoil operated, but Initial charging and delinking is done by Compressed air…allowing the whole blank firing cycle to be manipulated by a servo-controlled aircompressor. That way we can just load the blanks for Flash and sound effect, without having to worry about function (which is done by the compressor).

The other big job was rebuilding a USAS-12 Auto shotgun to work on Blanks (gas operated, needs Insert type shotshells of solid aluminium taking a 45/70 blank, and a special barrel insert to handle the pressure. The Shotshell sleeves were made on CNC by our Gunbarrel maker, the 45/70 blanks by us, and the barrel insert for the 12 ga. barrel ( to give more barrel thickness) was hand-turned to fit the 12 ga. barrel as an almost press fit, lining up a subsidiary gas port with the one in the outer barrel. a standard restrictor then finishes the Insert off. The whole lot locks into place because the rear end of the insert barrel is flared to fit the barrel forcing cone, and the restrictor at the front end forces open a “Collet” arrangement which grips the 12 ga. barrel, from the inside. The only other solution would have been to turn up a completely NEW barrel, chambered for 12 ga, but necked down to 38 or 45 calibre for the gas pressure. There are weight considerations as well.

Thanks for the interesting enquiries,
Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics Film ordnance Services.

Sorry I don’t understand here, you say the gun is recoil operated but the whole blank firing cycle can be completed by a servo controlled air compressor. Does this mean that the round can be ejected by air powered means if a round misfired, so when firing blanks the whole cycle can take place. Also, does the 20mm hole in the chamber you mentioned in the MiG thread cause any problems?

Yes Falcon, you got it right first time.

With Normal ball ammo in the NS/NR/N series of cannon, the Compressed air system is used to initially load (“Charge” the gun, in the following cycle…Cylinder opens Bolt, locks it back; Delinker advances belt and presses Cartridge out of Link into “T” slots of Bolt face.
Electric solenoid releases Bolt, which sends cartridge directly into battery ( similar to BMG mechnaism), rotates Bolt head and locks. Second solenoid releases Firing Pin when required.

When gun is fired, Recoil operation causes Bolt to cam-unlock, case extraced and ejected, and compressed air cylider delinks and presses next cartridge into Bolt “T” slots; Sequentially, if Trigger finger still presses fire button, bolt holding solenoid releases bolt, cartridge chambers and fires etc.

If a case Misfires (Defective primer), then by activation of the Compressed air Charging mechanism, cartridge is extracted and ejected, and loading cycle re-commences.

In the case of Blank firing, we utilise this repeated charging mechanism to clear a fired case, reload a loaded one, and fire…thatway the problems of having a recoiling barrel are avoided.

( Recoiling barrel guns on Blank-fire need a “gas shield” for the gases to rebound against, to give the barrel the necessary rearward “shove” to get the recoiling barrel to move backwards with sufficient energy and speed to operate the mechanism efficiently…this is easy in the older (fully shrouded) BMGs and Vickers & Maxims with Muzzle Boosters, but is difficult to do in such guns as the BMG M2HB, and cannon with “free barrels”…with these we have to divide the barrel in two, and create a “floating chamber piece” which (like William’s Patent and Browning’s Patent .22 subcalibre devices)_ can move independantly of the barrel proper, and give the necessary “kick-back” to operate the mechanism.)

As to the deactivation Hole, it was some 100mm up the bore, away from the chamber, and done through a ventilation hole in the outer support shroud… It only goes in, and not out the other side at all.Simple matter to thread the hole 20MA and fit a large Grub screw and weld it over. Since the pressure is low, given it is not a gas-operated gun, there are no functional problems…Of course, one couldn’t fire ball through it safely ( even if the shells are steel with a copper driving band…band would probably get torn to shreds by the edges of the hole.

Our main problem still is supply of 23x115 cases and link…so far the mechanism has been “hand fed” using turned brass cases using 50 cal blanks as inserts, effectively reducing the guns to “self ejecting single shots”.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services

Thanks for your explanation. Would these be any possibility of forming 23x115 cases from pulled brass cased 14.5x114 ammo? I suppose that is also fairly hard/expensive to find.

Can you post some photos of your guns and ammo ?

Falcon: yes, it is possible to make 23x115 by expanding 14,5x114, but the resulting case may be a little short, but for making Blanks with inserted “False projectiles” or other inserts, that would not be a problem…the problem is sourcing either type case, either in USA or Aust.

CSAEOD: Photos will be done later this year…we are preparing a catalogue of our Movie Guns etc, for Industry use, but I will be in SE Asia over September, so patience is the keyword. We may have some very interesting items by Christmas to show cartridge collectors, especially the technically minded such as yourself.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.