Testing a battery's current supply capability by shorting it with an ammeter is a very bad idea in many cases, and an effective but informal method in selected cases.
Where it works:
For Alkaline and carbon zinc batteries in the AA size, short circuit current capability is usually inder 10 amps even when new. A short duration short circuit with a multimeter on its 10A or 20A range will give a good indication of the battery's state of charge. The short circuit should be for less than 1 second.
I have used this method for many years for testing only this class of batteries. It provides a rapid and effective means of assessment of battery state.
For AA NimH cells this will usually produce less than 10A but the energy available from the cells makes this a marginal act.
Where it is a very bad idea:
For most other batteries - larger Alkaline etc (C, D) or LiIon, lead, acid and other higher energy cells applying a short circuit will be liable to damage or destroy the meter and may damage the battery - possibly dangerously.
High quality meters costing typically 100's of dollars US (or equivalent) may have over current protection on their high current range. This may be via a formal fuse or perhaps will utilise electronic circuitry to prevent damage.
Most low or medium cost multimeters do not have formal protection against overcurrent on their high current range - usually rated at 10A or sometimes 20A max. significant overcurrent will usually damage or destroy the meter.
The 10A arrangements for two meters are shown below.
The first meter has no over-current protection and is typical os most meters that cost say under $US100 - and possibly rather more.
The second meter has a wire link acting as an informal fuse.
This is a higher rated and priced meter than most non-main-brand meters.
Typical 10A current shunt in low to medium cost DMM.
There is no fusing and excessive current will probably fuse the track on the pCB between the shunt and meter jack.
10A current shunt and informal fuse on a somewhat more upmarket meter.
Ends of 10A shunt ringed in green.
"Fuse" consisting of wire strands circled in red.