The most used prop in movie making is the prop gun. With 14,053 movies coming out in 2022 it is said that 60% of movies have at least one firearm featured in them. The most famous Hollywood armorer (Independent Studio Services, ISS) has over 15,000 firearms and about 6,000-7,000 of them are in circulation. Prop Guns are a huge backbone of the Hollywood film industry.
Now, what is a prop gun? A prop gun can be defined as a gun or gun replica and in this broad title of prop gun, it can be divided into non-firing guns (replicas) and firing guns (firearms). A non-firing gun can be made from plastic, rubber, resin, or metal. Some of them are solid with no moving parts, those are great for action scenes, moments where the actor might drop the gun, or have to hold it for a long period of time while filming. They can also be made with working action but are completely incapable of chambering a blank round and only look the part. For non-firing prop guns, the effects of firing would be achieved in post-production by VFX artists. Prop-firing guns are either real guns or guns specifically designed for firing blanks only. A real gun needs to use a blank-firing adapter (BFA) to chamber the blank round. It’s hidden in Hollywood by putting the flash hider back on which hides the BFA. It is hidden from sight unless you are the armorer who is up close and personal providing safe conditions for the actor. A great way of making movie magic and keeping safety a top priority. A blank-firing gun is only able to chamber blank rounds. They can be front-firing or top-firing, front firing has a protruding semi-obstructed orange tip at the end of the barrel. Top-firing has a plugged orange barrel with a vent at the top. This is where the gas from the blank firing cartridge is released. Blank firing ammo (cartridge) is only made out of a casing which could be brass or plastic loaded with gunpowder, wadding, and has a primer. It has no projectile such as a bullet or a pellet; it creates a loud bang that flashes with light and smoke. The levels of sound and smoke can be controlled by how the cartridge is loaded.
Being an armorer is a very specialized job and is incredibly important from providing safety to helping the director achieve their vision these are some of the responsibilities of an armorer (sometimes referred to as a weapons master).
- Every time a weapon is used during production, the weapons master will be there on set to prep and hand the weapon to the actor or stuntman when directed. They are the only ones to handle the prop between and after takes.
- They will read the script and curate a list of weapons needed for the production's theme and era, making sure the director safely achieves their vision.
- The armorer will lead safety meetings to ensure that everyone on set is aware of the weapon's presence, how to act around the weapons, and how to use the weapons.
- Many armorers are skilled in a specific weapon or genre. They can provide a great deal of historical accuracy that might be overlooked by the director.
There is more to be said about prop guns and making movies such as past accidents and a more in-depth look into the industry but that will be disused in a later post. Check our blank firing guns, blank ammo, and rubber guns. If you want a deeper dive check out these articles.