Dragon's breath (ammunition)

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Dragon's breath at night

Dragon's breath is a special type of incendiary-effect round for a 12 gauge (18.5 mm) shotgun. Dragon's breath consists primarily of magnesium pellets/shards. When the round is fired, sparks and flames can shoot out to about 100 feet (30 meters), although, some sources claim it extends to 300 feet (91 meters).[1] Dragon's breath is normally chambered in 12 gauge 2 3/4" (18.5 mm × 69.9 mm) shot shell. The rounds are safe to fire out of an improved cylinder bore as well as a modified choke barrel, common on many shotguns.[2]


While its combat or tactical usage remains undocumented, the visual effect it produces is impressive and entertaining, similar to that of a short-ranged flamethrower or fireworks. Also undocumented, it has been claimed by enthusiasts that the rounds are often used as a distress signal, similar to a very short duration emergency flare gun, though some would argue a flare would be better suited for such. It may also be used as a less-than-lethal option for self-/home-defense, although the less-than-lethal aspect and safety are disputed, as the magnesium shards burn at approximately 3,000 °F (1,650 °C), which is more than enough to light a person, or house, on fire. Compared to most regular types of shotgun ammunition that is mass-produced, the pyrotechnic shell is somewhat expensive, and costs $5–$7 US per shell,[1][3] depending on caliber and load. Due to the shells being low-pressure charged rounds, it is not suited to be used in a semi-automatic shotgun as it does not produce enough recoil energy to cycle the automated action, causing the mechanism to fail to cycle.


Dragon's breath rounds are banned by law in four American states (California, Florida, Illinois and Iowa[4]), due to their inherent fire hazard. Even in areas where the round may be shipped, an extra fee for hazardous materials may be charged.[5] It is implied by weapon manufacturers that Dragon's breath rounds qualify as "incendiary weapons" in Protocol III in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which would oblige party nations to regulate their military use, if any.[6]


  1. ^ a b "AmericanSpecialtyAmmo.com". www.americanspecialtyammo.com. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Of Dragon's Breath and hammer-shells". TheFreeLibrary.com. Retrieved 2015-03-06.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-18. Retrieved 2016-01-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "NSSF Ammunition Laws by State" (PDF). Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  5. ^ "exotic shotgun ammo". Everything2.com. 2001-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  6. ^ "PROTOCOL III" (PDF). The United Nations Office at Geneva. 1980-10-10. Retrieved 2015-02-22.