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Plug Firing Guns

Plug firing guns – what you’ve always wanted to know about them

Never heard of them?  Well apparently some of our readers hadn’t, and neither had we until quite recently. So we have asked expert John Humbles of PlugFireCapGunsUK Ltd to give us a run down on these guns, their ownership and uses.

Starting out

For me it all started many years ago as I am sure it did for many readers with a few cap guns bought with pocket money as a young boy. From there the fascination with shooting and firearms grew over the years into an enjoyable hobby and in October 2009 I formed
PlugFireCapGunsUK Ltd. to fill a hole that had developed in the market since the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) was introduced. Since the VCRA the number of suppliers of quality replica firearms decreased and with the price of deactivated firearms soaring we felt an alternative was needed.

Over the last 10 years as part of my work I travelled many times to Japan, and it was there that I was re-introduced (I remembered seeing them for sale in the UK in the early 80’s) to Plug Fire Cap Guns.

The first question many people ask is “what are Plug Fire Cap Guns?”

Plug fire cap (PFC) ‘modelguns’ were designed to comply with strict Japanese gun laws. The full metal models are made from zinc/alloy metal and more modern models are made from special heavyweight plastic resins. They are specifically designed to be totally impossible to convert into real firearms. With the VCRA now in place PFC replicas perfectly fill the gap between airsoft and de-acts, and are ideal for re-enactors, collections, film, TV and theatre productions.

So plug fire cap guns provide an alternative cost effective way of owning a safe but very realistic model of your favourite firearm with the added benefit that they do a lot more!

How do plug fire cap guns work?

Plug fire modelguns use a small cap and a clever cartridge mechanism to produce a very realistic simulation of a real firearm including noise, smoke, sparks and action cycling (blowback and cartridge ejection). They come in all the standard firearm forms, single and double action revolvers, semi-automatic and fully automatic pistols and rifles. PFC models operate and are strippable exactly as the real items, without actually firing a projectile. Each model takes the appropriate calibre cartridges adding to the realism.

It’s true that plug fire guns produce a much smaller “bang” than blank firers, but this is in general seen as a major advantage to our customers as it means they are more “usable” in the sense that they can be used at home for practice without fear of causing disturbance to neighbours. We have also had good feedback from theatre/stage production companies who in the past have found blank firers just too loud for their performances. Film companies have also commented that actors find the models less intimidating to use, and of course the inherent dangers of blank firers is avoided. The use in film nowadays of post production techniques to add bang / flash means that plug firing models with full blowback, ejecting shells provided a perfect alternative to other models such as airsoft/blank firers.

The name “modelgun” originated from the fact that the models were (and some still are) originally available as self build models, indeed PlugFireCapGunsUK recommend this as an excellent way of discovering the real way in which the models and their “real” counterparts work, as the beauty of these models is that they mimic perfectly the real internals of firearms.

Some popular models

One favourite modelgun kit - very popular in the UK with Vietnam re-enactors - is the Marushin Colt XM177E2 Commando. The fully functional metal 1:1 scale blowback self assembly model of the U.S. Army AR15 based XM177E2 containing over 150 precision parts, is the same size and operates just as the original - firing 5.56mm plug fire cartridges. This model is approved by Colt and as such it has all the correct Colt AR15 markings. The only ABS parts are the stock, hand guard and flash hider. The rest is all metal, zinc and steel. It is a semi/fully automatic firing, front venting model with a magazine capacity of 20 rounds. It comes boxed with 5 reusable cartridges (each cartridge uses two caps 1x5mm and 1x7mm), build instructions (no gluing, assembles as the real item!) and reloading tool. Extra cartridges and mags are available. Weight un-loaded is 2.3kg. Very realistic noise, smoke and shell ejection - great for re-enactors or filming.

The range and type of models available suit many applications, for instance one of the better know models in the UK is the Model Gun Corporation (MGC) MP40; this model has become a favourite with re-enactors in the UK due to its extremely realistic build. De-acts are fine, but the PFC model has all the correct moving parts and can be field stripped just as per the original.

The Marushin all metal Uzi is also virtually indistinguishable from the “real steel” having all the correct Israeli Military Industries markings. This model Uzi has full, working 3 way selective fire switch (semi, full auto and safe), it weighs 3.5kg the same as the real firearm and operates exactly as the real version using 9mm plug fire cartridges to blowback, cycle and eject spent shells.

Historical applications

We also supply western fans, as we stock pre-1870 VCR exempt models from Colts, Colt Walkers, Dragoons and Derringers to Winchester rifles.  Western fans have had very little choice of models since the introduction of the VCRA and have responded very positively to the Plug Fire option.

Many of the higher quality models are manufactured in small limited runs, and much of our business is supplying and sourcing one-offs for specialist applications. Recently we supplied a very beautiful Springfield 1903A3 to a WWII re-enactor who already owned a 1903A3 deactivated gun, but wanted something that looked just as real, but for close up static displays could also demonstrate the ammunition cycling and the real operation of the rifle, including a full strip down. The Springfield supplied was made by Craft Apple Works (CAW) in Japan which produces some of the best quality plug fire models available. The customer was delighted with his purchase and we have received many enquires since, as other re-enactors who have seen the model see the potential of plug firers.

The future

The outlook for replica guns since the introduction of the VCRA is not as bleak as some people thought it might be. Re-enactment groups and airsoft clubs have seen a huge rise in membership, and the number of people taking an interest in firearms is now growing steadily. PlugFireCapGunsUK have already supplied customers ranging from MOD personnel (for training), Theatres, Film and TV companies to re-enactment groups and airsoft skirmishers wishing to add a new dimension to their hobby.

We have responded to many requests from our customers to expand into selling traditional 8/9mm blank firing models in addition to our current range, and to begin manufacturing 9mm Plug fire cartridges to use in traditional 9mm /.38 rimmed blank firing guns such as the Pietta range, as many customers find “normal” blank cartridges just too loud.

Customer service is everything these days and as enthusiasts ourselves we are only too happy to help with customers requirements where possible. We will carry out repair work and servicing on any models, and indeed one of the nicest thing for us has been helping people get models that have been lying around broken or with missing cartridges etc. working again and back in action!

Summing up

The attraction of a plug fire modelgun is 100% realism. Blank firers are limited in the range of models, airsoft models are fine but nothing like a real firearm, and de-acts are now butchered in terms of working actions. With Plug fire guns as far as components and function go, they may not shoot projectiles but if you want to field strip and reassemble, simulate firing and want realistic safe props then look no further.

PlugFireCapGunsUK can be contacted on 01353 722541 or visit the website at www.plugfirecapgunsuk.com to find out more. Also check out the independent hobbyist website “The MP40’s Modelgun Forum” found at www.mp40modelguns.forumotion.net

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User Comments
  • Dear friends, I had been in Special Effects for several years (pyrotechnics and explosives) and I had to use the blank cartridges just because I did´nt know that this guns where in the market. After read the article I am seriously thinking in change my thoughts about guns. It is a really good article. We will do an event in Murcia (Spain) that recreates a battle in the Second World War and we will do, for the first time, Special Effects. For sure I will recommend this kind of staff to the re-en-actors. Thanks for the information. Regards Santiago Espín Cánovas.

    Comment by: Santiago Espín Cánovas     Posted on: 30 Mar 2011 at 09:51 PM

  • Hi Santiago

    Glad to be of help - I hope you like the plugfire guns.

    Comment by: pat farey     Posted on: 31 Mar 2011 at 11:38 AM

  • Plug fire guns are pretty much useless unless you want to play with them in your front room, they can never be used in any form of reenactment for many reasons, the first being you have to make your own rounds up, then collect all the cases again when you've fired them, you try doing that on a field of grass or in mud...it's just not going to happen. The next problem is that they're no where near loud enough to be anything like convincing. They are a toy and nothing more, treat them as such and you'll have something to have some fun with. But they cannot ever be considered to be a realistic weapon for reenactment and anyone who buys one will be extremely disappointed when they have to compare one to a proper blank firer. Having said that they are usually well made and quite reliable but will never be a suitible replacement or alternative for the real thing.

    Comment by: Andy G     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 12:38 AM

  • Dear Andy, I already know all the staff around this kind of guns but I am not agree about the re-en-actors use. In our next event in Murcia we will have some public as close as 3 meters ( 9 feet) and firing a blank machine gun it`s not a really good idea. The blanks bullet caps from a gun are really hot, and the noise is too loud for children. On the other hand caps from the other guns are cold and the public is always pleased with some souvenir from the event. Finally the sound could be made by special effects, we will do, as we will use sound effects to reinforce the explosions and bullet hits. When people are inside the battle they don´t realize where the sound comes from.

    Comment by: Santiago Espín Cánovas     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 08:42 PM

  • Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your stance as someone with a vestid interest in your product as you obviously need to sell them, which unfortunately makes you biased, I however, am not. I am a reenecator of many years experience and an ex-soldier who has been handling guns (Firing both blank and live rounds) for 34 years and therefore I speak from experience of both real and simulated scenarios. I think it would be remis of you not to point out that there is a marked difference in volume and performance between Cap and Blank firers. As for ejecting spent cases we allways ensure an adequate safety zone is employed and make sure that those using machine guns do so with the crowd on their left to ensure they eject safely away from them. We do not need to use sound effects as we feel that there is nothing better than the real thing.

    I therefore remain unconvinced that you offer a viable alternative and will allways feel that way. Should you ever wish to attend one of our shows and carry out a live comparrison test so as to see who's come out best you will find us both acommodating and willing to see the results of such a comparrison.

    I wish you well with your product and as I said previously have always found them to be very well made and of a high quality. Good luck and all the best.

    Comment by: Andy G     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 09:16 PM

  • Dear friend, first of all I do not sell these or any kind of guns. I am just an Special Effects technician for over 20 years. Due to my job (I am specialized in explosives and guns) I had the opportunity to test several kinds of guns. I do not know how is in real war but yes in cinema. The people that contract me want real actions real situations and safety is the first thing we think in Special Effects, we can not use real firing guns, not even the blanks without an special note from the police, so I think as a guy that do tricks for living. I use a gun that is not dangerous plus sound effects plus bullet-hit effects (squibs)plus some explosions (ground maroons ) and Viola! my re-en-actors are in the middle of a war as the same as the public. I do invite you to see our event in Murcia (Spain), for sure it will be nice. Best regards.

    Comment by: Santiago Espín Cánovas     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 10:33 PM

  • An invite to an event in Murcia in Spain? Now you're talking...that's definitely my kind of show. Please tell me more.

    And best regards to you too,

    Comment by: Andy G     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 10:43 PM

  • Dear friend in a few days I will post all the information the magazine let me, included my email ( if that its possible)Thaks for your interest.

    Comment by: Santiago Espín Cánovas     Posted on: 17 Apr 2011 at 11:48 PM

  • I do sell these and want to say that clearly smile and would just like to comment that there are many forms of Living history groups, It would be impossible for a static display to show a FULL REALISTIC strip down of a gun unless either a real or PFC model was used. Whilst blank firers do have their place, outside battles for example, there are in fact more applications which are suitable for PFC models, the difference in volume is very clearly described in the artical.
    Blank firers are not realistic, for example there is NO beretta 92 blank firer which works in the correct way, with all safety functions correctly replicated, for example, can be cocked with safety "on"
    Also guns such as the Luger p08 and enfield are virtualy impossible to find in legal blank firing form, How do you cover this during battles?
    Your points are all valid but we try to help cover ALL GROUPS interests
    There is after all a lot more to re-enacting than firing loud guns.

    Comment by: John Humbles     Posted on: 14 Aug 2011 at 10:19 PM

  • First of all,; dear Andy G. thanks for your interest in our event, If you need any informatión about the Murcia¨s event please visit the "Codex Belix" web page and you will find al the informatiopn you need. If you have any problem with the language please sendl an e-mail to them with my name clearly posted so they will resend to me so i will write the information in English (well in my poor English)to you. On the other hand, I would like to tell John Humbles, that I do have an UZI, Beretta 9mm, Walter p 99 and others all replicas that works prety goog as in camera as in real actión. The sound is equal to a real one so as we fire one of them we have to make sure everybody is advised and all of them are legal (almost in Spain). Finally just to say that of course that "there is after all a lot more to re-enacting than firing louds guns" must be SPECIAL EFFECTS. (just kidding)

    Comment by: Santiago Espín Cánovas     Posted on: 15 Aug 2011 at 09:36 PM

  • I have to say i totally agree with Andy G i have had a few PFC guns the Thompson 1928 by Hudson and a Colt XM177E2 by Marushin and i was really disappointed with them, selling them within days,they are great copies but in the "field" its a absolutely No!No! The Beretta 92f is common as muck,the old Valtro and Ekol do them! Practically every " Famous pistol" is available in 8mm,9mm PAK/.380 blank. To all re-anactors looking for a field gun go 8mm, 9mm is best. You will be very disappointed with Plug Fire Cap/ Model guns.

    Comment by: simon stannard     Posted on: 18 Nov 2011 at 07:30 PM

  • Got to comment smile
    "The Beretta 92f is common as muck,the old Valtro and Ekol do them! Practically every " Famous pistol" is available in 8mm,9mm PAK/.380 blank." yes but they are rubbish copies and as said before they do not even work like the real thing.
    Agreed though for the field us blank firers! but I dissagree that all prctically all famous pistols are available as blank firers, in fact the opposite is true, there may well be some illegal copies of other models available, but in the main its the colt 1911, beretta 92, P38, western and ppk that are about, certainly not many others! legal that is.
    Thanks also for your agreement that they are great copies! that is what they are about! after all you would look pretty daft in a film loading 9mm umarex blanks into your Colt .45 1911!!!

    Comment by: john     Posted on: 18 Nov 2011 at 08:01 PM

  • i was wondeing if any one knows where to obtain any 44.40 revolver plug cartridges. thankyou dean

    Comment by: dean barrett     Posted on: 13 Dec 2011 at 01:26 PM

  • hello,i was wondering if any body could tell me where i could sell my late dads country and western guns please,with out getting in trouble with the authority's,my dad used to take part in shoot outs at country and western clubs,some of the guns fire blanks,thank you for your help,regards mark

    Comment by: mark worrall     Posted on: 21 Feb 2012 at 02:03 PM

  • Hi Mark
    We buy:)
    email us details at:
    mail@plugfirecapgunsuk.com

    Comment by: john     Posted on: 21 Feb 2012 at 02:17 PM

  • Hi, i would love to make a few comparative remarks if i may. The first is about John from Model Plug Guns. A nicer more helpful and enthusiastic a guy you be hard pushed to find. Now heres the thing for both my son and myself, the plug gun, for us ticks all our boxes. My son is a film maker and through me has obtained a fascination for guns. I myself grew up with this interest through my dad, we both shot shotguns and firearms. For both my son and i, the comments will carry on in my next email ran out of room,

    Comment by: Dean Barrett     Posted on: 31 May 2012 at 10:22 AM

  • Continuing on. Both my son and i have a fascination for the mechanic.s functionality and practicality. I have in my cabinet 3 plug fire colt saa.s and 2 adler .22 blank firer's. Although they are beautiful case hardened steal gun's i reach for one of my pluguns more often than not. Yes the blank firers are a bit loud for inside even .22 shorts, but thats not the reason i think. It's one of functionality, to hold a beauifully operating gun that you can loud with what feels like real bullet's. Yes i could get a 9mm cylinder for my adler and load with .38 deac's but the difference is one is inert the other is live,and the fun you get from cleaning said round plus gun re loading is part to do with the mechanic's and enjoyment. You can then load said cartridge's stand up in the living room, or in some case's the bedroom if the younger kid's are watching their favorite dvd and slap away on that leather, in my case or unleash that fully auto machine gun. to be continued

    Comment by: Dean Barrett     Posted on: 31 May 2012 at 11:13 AM

  • Work the blank fire that often you would be so lucky. It's this usability and a real sense of realism that make's these model guns for me so appealing. As for my son he's an avid colt 1911 guy. I bought him an air pistol looks ok but works like an air gun with no blow back not like a colt, so not only does it feel and look wrong he cannot use it in his film making. I went on and bought him a Bruni 8mm okish, better once i had refinished it, But one too loud two cannot be field stripped and 3 film the gun been loaded like you do, 8mm blanks i don't think so i then bought him a blow back co2 .177 bb air pistol. thought it was brill in it's firing action and realism in it's look's but no ejecting shells. I saw his love for the real look and function of an item, i saw a deix 1911 cheap on gunstar and bought it it for him (He's not a spoilt brat really i bought them over a period of time. To be continued

    Comment by: Dean Barrett     Posted on: 31 May 2012 at 12:11 PM

  • and who needs a reason to buy a gun). The denix had the usual finnish which chemically redid, what a cracking item it was cycling those dummy round through it, great for close up's in conjunction with the bruni as to a layman they appear the same. That brings us in my son's case the holy grail, that would be the perfect plugfire colt sanctioned colt 1911. these are, like for me are beautiful fully functional item's that... well, tick all the boxes, as they say. In his film now he has the one type of gun the plugfire gun of all kind's. He all so tells me that the gun he reaches for of his collection is his beloved pluggun he tells me it looks and feel's right with the ability to strip clean load and generally play with. Once you realize it is a model not a firearm it's not something that make's a manly bang it's not something that kills, or punches hole's in paper, (both of witch i do), it's a model once you understand that your home and dry. Thanks for reading find regards,Dean

    Comment by: Dean Barrett     Posted on: 31 May 2012 at 12:55 PM

  • I have a mp40 all metal with a lot of the blueing worn just as if used in war. it seems to work fine? when sending inquiries to the uk site' it reads something is wrong in the way I send it but I have tried many times. thanks. probally 1973? thanks . I also have the resin model as new. where can I find cartridges and caps for them/ do you know anyone that might be interested in buying them

    Comment by: john mitchell     Posted on: 06 Sep 2013 at 09:51 PM

  • Blank Firers are xpensive and the full auto versions are way over priced. AEG's are just crap if your not an Airsoft Skirmisher (but a Purist). PFC guns are good, but again for what they are they are over priced exotica. GBB full auto Airsofts (especially C02) are coming into their own these days and for pistols - C02 Stell BB firing are the way forward. My KWC M1911A1 WW2 replica is much much better than my blank firing Bruni 96 for example (imo).

    Comment by: Sgray     Posted on: 28 Apr 2014 at 03:28 AM

  • Good afternoon,

    We are a training company and produce films on close protection and hostile environments for commercial clients. See www.edsontiger.com

    We are interested in using plug firing guns.

    Do you think we qualify to use these weapons?

    Very many thanks for any help you can give us.

    Clive Richards
    Edson Tiger Ltd
    Gulliford House
    Exeter
    EX6 8HH

    Comment by: Clive Richards     Posted on: 09 Jun 2014 at 03:47 PM

  • Dear Clive, I dont think so it will be a good idea to use this sort of guns for training pourposes. The main reasons are ,as far I know about those guns, litte noise, no gas expelled from the barrel, realistic blowback, an realistic apearance. Those properties are so good for cinema, at close shots withi actors involved, but not so for training. I I wll recomend you to use replicas. The replicas use blank cartridges, that you can find in three diferent kinds: Detonating (lot of noise almost no fire from the barrel), fire ( commonly used for self sefence, expell a great amount of fire, flash powder, from the barrel), and peper gas (this ones expell irrtating pepper gas, we not use them in movies).
    All of replicas has the blowback funtcion, and they are safe to use, just because there are no way to put a real bullet in them..
    If you you have any further question be free to ask.
    Best regards.

    Comment by: Santiago     Posted on: 11 Jun 2014 at 09:26 AM

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