Dragon's breath

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This article is about the shotgun round. For the cave in Namibia, see Dragon's Breath Cave. For the fictitious poisonous brew, see Quest for Glory. For other uses, see Dragon's breath (disambiguation).

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 actual professional 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, making it popular among gun enthusiasts. 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 fitted for such. The round has also been used for intimidation purposes. It may also be used as a less-than-lethal option for self-/home-defense, though 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 can cost anywhere between $5–7 (USD) per shell,[3][4] depending on caliber and load. There is little or no record of its use in actual combat. Due to the shells being low-pressure charged rounds, it is not suited to be used in an auto-loading shotgun or 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 three American states (California, Florida, and Illinois[5]), due to their inherent fire hazard. Even in areas where the round may be shipped, an extra fee for hazardous materials may be charged.[6] 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.[7]


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