How can a prop gun used on a movie set be lethal?

A prop gun – a firearm filled with blanks and used in the film industry to imitate live ammunition – may seem harmless, but it can be dangerous and even deadly, as was the case on the set of the new movie Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” this week.

The shots in the movies look very convincing because the blanks used to mimic live ammunition are essentially real modified bullets.

Live ammunition consists of a cartridge that contains propellant powder, which ignites when the gun is fired and propels the bullet – the actual shell-topped projectile – out of the barrel.

But rather than using metallic projectiles, the blanks contain materials such as cotton, paper, or wax wadding attached to the front to mimic live fire – including a loud bang, muzzle flash, and a realistic recoil.

Still, even without actual metallic projectiles, blanks can be very dangerous, the BBC notes, as some filmmakers use additional gunpowder to make the superheated gas discharge even more realistic.

The wadding used to hold gunpowder in place instead of a bullet is expelled when the trigger is pulled and can cause serious damage – and even death, as was the case when actor Jon-Erik Hexum was killed in 1984.

This image shows live ammunition compared to a blank cartridge.
Stephane Yang

Hexum was having fun on the set of the CBS television show “Cover Up” during a filming delay. He loaded a blank revolver, spun the chamber, raised the gun to his temple, and pulled the trigger.

The wad of flan hit his head, fracturing his skull and sending bone fragments into his brain. He died about a week later.

Film sets usually have strict rules regarding the use of prop guns, which are provided by firearms specialists who instruct actors on their use, the BBC reported.

prop gun
Even without metal projectiles, prop guns can still pose a safety risk.
David Ryder/Getty Images

Paul Szych, a retired Albuquerque police commander who handled a prop gun in the movie “Terminator Salvation,” told KOAT that movie sets use a “strict, very controlled process because they obviously know that we are dealing with weapons capable of live firing”. ammunition.”

He added: “There is a point of contact to get this gun. It’s delivered directly to you, and there’s a question and answer period that continues when it comes to knowing, what do you have on you? What do you have in your pockets, things of that nature?

Szych said blanks are always dangerous.

“You could squeeze unburned gunpowder out of the end of the barrel, which is ignited by, you know, oxygen. You know, this is an intro to oxygen and it’s on fire for a while as he leaves that barrel so you can get close contact injuries from blanks,” he told the outlet.

When asked if a live bullet could end up in a prop gun, he replied that although unlikely, it could happen if someone loaded a gun in the dark or in a hurry.

“When loading that magazine, you would be able to see clearly, OK, look, there’s a bullet on it at the end, or there isn’t,” Szych said.

blank gun
Real bullets contain materials such as cotton, paper, or wax wadding attached to the front to mimic real shooting.

Weapons expert Bill Davis, who has worked on several film productions, told the BBC that ‘if anyone actually put a live ride in there, number one shouldn’t have been on set .

“Number two they should have visually inspected the gun first with a pencil in the barrel and a flashlight to make sure there is no obstruction in the mechanism and number three they should inspect the cartridge that is inserted into it,” he said.

Some in the industry have wondered why blanks are still used in an age when computers can add gunfire special effects.

“There’s no more reason to have blank loaded guns or anything on set. Should just be banned altogether,” actor and director Craig Zobel tweeted.

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