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Muzzle Blast Cartridges: Identification of Malfunctions and Solutions for Successful Application

NCJ Number
Date Published
18 pages

This paper reports on a study that examined the causes of 37mm Muzzle Blast cartridge malfunctions, weapons primarily intended for uses in crowds as a tool for riot control and to overcome barricaded subjects but have a variety of applications in law enforcement and corrections.


The authors of this report describe a study that examines the causes for the repeated observation of the payload inside the 37mm Muzzle Blast cartridge dispersing incorrectly. The authors evaluated old and new 37mm Muzzle Blast cartridges under the worst possible conditions that the product may face while stored in an officer’s patrol vehicle as well as the cartridges’ functioning under adverse weather conditions. They were unable to artificially create malfunctions that were previously observed, which served as the motivation for this study, and they suggest that the inability to artificially create malfunctions may result from the short timeframe of the study; they hypothesize that the mechanism affecting the malfunction of those munitions took place over a considerable period of time. The authors do suggest that proper storage of the muzzle blast cartridges may help reduce the possibility of malfunctions, assuming that the ammunition is purchased new from the manufacturer. For the purposes of the study, many of the malfunctioning cartridges were purchased from distributors that had acquired them as trade-ins for resale. During the study, the authors were able to identify a key precursor of a major chemical agent contamination event that affected performance: they observed that when clumps of powder directly in front of the shooter, a large amount of payload remained in the barrel of the launcher, and when that occurs, they note that the breach should not be opened nor the barrel elevated to prevent accidental release of chemical agent.