View Full Version : Blank gun questions

05-02-2005, 02:46 PM
I am planning on purchasing some blank guns for my movies. I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with them, where are reliable places to purchase from, the dangers, and how similar are they to the real thing in appearance and functions (such as magazine clips, barrells cocking back when fired, etc).


05-02-2005, 03:05 PM
Well they are real guns. Only theres no metal part that flys out when you pull trigger. thats the only difference. I know theres a lot of danger if you try to convert real bullets to blanks. Its how Bruce Lee's son died.

05-02-2005, 03:17 PM
Oh boy! This is one of my favorites. You never use a real gun with blanks on a movie set. Never.
It's never done. Don't do it. Don't even think about doing it.

What you would need is a prop or replica blank firing device... Not a gun. I have a ton of links saved on the subject.. Give me a couple of minutes and I'll dig them up. The biggest difference is a prop gun has a blocked barrel so nothing can go out.

The ones you can purchase use blanks and make the noise and blow smoke.
The ones you can't purchase are rental-only and will actually let out a brief "flame" kind of thing along with smoke, and they are dead quiet.. They're called non-guns and are the safest, cleanest, quietest, most reliable option on the market.

Let me find those links...


Blank-Firing Guns

05-02-2005, 03:24 PM
Also, it is customary to allow the actor time to examine the prop.. along with a complete explanation of the nature of it being made specifically for motion picture and theatre production, a demonstration that the barrell is indeed blocked, and ensuring the actor feels completely safe before proceeding with the shoot.

Actually, this is expected.

05-02-2005, 04:25 PM
That's a fascinating read. I'm not sure how the non-guns work if they're "non-pyrotechnic", but I know I'd feel better about using them because they are quiet and safe. Thanks for the tip!

05-02-2005, 07:36 PM
I'd rather purchase a blank gun is because it's much cheaper than renting a non-gun (which seems like a great alternative if I had the money). Thanks for the link on the non-guns. I never knew those existed.

I never intended to use a real gun to shoot blanks, that would be totally dangerous, but was considering a blank gun like this one:


I don't know if this is safe to use or not, especially if I fire it close to another actor. For example if I want to do execution shots, or cross arms and shoot under the other arm, or shoot close to someone's face.

Anyone had experience or know much about those types of blank guns?

05-02-2005, 07:44 PM
Uh huh. Says it's plugged, so it would be safe. Remember, They're extremely loud..
In the neighborhood we filmed in no-one seemed to notice or bother, though. Kind of scary, really.

We had a couple of them.. had to switch around because they kept jamming up. No joke.
Caveat Emptor.

05-02-2005, 09:30 PM
What I am worried about is a Brandon Lee or a Jon Erik Hexum incident. I have been reading about projectiles and the like coming from these blank guns, which have a reputation of being very dangerous and even fatal.

Is the plug new to blank guns post Brandon Lee incident? Will the plug protect my actors or camera in a point blank shot?

If I shoot blank guns without the blanks, will there be motion? For instace, am I able to empty blanks into the magazine to create the slide movement and lock back motion and eject empty shells?

05-02-2005, 09:44 PM
What I am worried about is a Brandon Lee or a Jon Erik Hexum incident. I have been reading about projectiles and the like coming from these blank guns, which have a reputation of being very dangerous and even fatal.
Not familiar with any of those stories and lack the interest to read about them. I can say
we shot off probably a dozen or so rounds with a cameraman 18inches away and no
problems arose. But, that fact that it jammed several times was unsettling for sure.
Ultimately, there was no danger in our application of a prop gun, only annoyance.

Will the plug protect my actors or camera in a point blank shot?
It's not just a "plug" There is no barrel, period. That's a more appropriate description.
To answer your question directly: That's exactly how we used ours. In fact, many of
the shots were the prop gun pointed directly at a VariCam. Nobody was injured.

If I shoot blank guns without the blanks, will there be motion? For instace, am I able to empty blanks into the magazine to create the slide movement and lock back motion and eject empty shells?

I honestly don't remember and I just watched the project and it was cut so fast
that I couldn't tell either way. Sorry.

05-03-2005, 12:24 AM
What I am worried about is a Brandon Lee or a Jon Erik Hexum incident. I have been reading about projectiles and the like coming from these blank guns, which have a reputation of being very dangerous and even fatal.

The thing to remember here, is that Hollywood commonly uses a live firing gun with blank ammo for their shots. That's why they have a weapons master that must be licensed to handle the guns. Blank firing ammo usually uses a wax plug or paper plug to keep the gun powder in the shell.

In the case of Jon Erik Hexum, is was the paper plug that was shot against the temple lobe in his head which caused the fatal blow. With Brandon Lee, they had loaded the gun with actual live ammo, and one of the bullets was flawed and allowed the lead from it to become lodged in the barrel, and then when the gun was reloaded with the blank firing ammo and fired towards Lee, the lodged lead was dislodged and fired into Lee.

These blank firing guns that are for sale to the public have no real barrel to speak of, so there's no real chance of firing something at someone. Making them the almost perfect prop weapon. Just make sure you watch out for the flying brass though... It can become quite hot! :-)

Erik Olson
05-03-2005, 05:43 AM
I can attest to the fact that real, unmodified live firing guns are used on television and features. The property master / armourer is charged with on-set safety. In 99.9% of the applications, there aren't problems working this way, but there is absolutely no room for error or distraction in effects work!

As Curtis said, the Brandon Lee incident was a dummy round lead that had come separated from its already spent casing. Dum-dums are commonly used to show actors loading and unloading rounds or when a revolver must be seen closely. The problem in the Crow case was that the same gun was not properly inspected prior to loading it with reduced-load blanks for a subsequent live fire scene.

Painted-up rubber guns are very commonly used in master shots where physical gun operation isn't as important - as in a footchase with guns drawn but not firing.

Airsoft guns are often converted to fire gas charges that will produce a muzzle flash for up-close use around talent. Naturally, you would not fire even an airsoft at an actor's head or face. We used these on Nash Bridges for an execution scene - these guns are nearly silent on the set, but very convincing on-camera.

Like anything else, bullet hits and glass breaks should only be executed by a professionally licensed pyrotechnician. Essential crew members should all wear full face shields and appropriate clothing during bullet hit sequences as shrapnel is unavoidable. Everyone else should be off the set during filming of such sequences. I've got some stories about when this rule is ignored.

Whether you're using a rubber gun or a real one, the cardinal rule is to have a secure and safe set. Like a good carpenter, measure three times and cut once.

Be certain that you have complete control of your properties and the location itself - don't allow anyone to mistake your talent with a sidearm for a suspect on the streets. Don't let your talent handle any gun on the set until you are ready to roll - and never allow them to wander while they're live.

If it can happen it will happen!


David Jimerson
05-03-2005, 06:43 AM
First rule of basic gun safety EVERY gun is a REAL and LOADED gun. If you think its a plaything, then you have no business holding it.

05-03-2005, 04:06 PM
I would suggest finding an armourer. In the couple low budget shoots that I've done it has made a world of difference. First of all, if the gun is not in the hand of the actor using it in his scene then it should be in the armourer's hands. Everytime the weapon changes hands the armourer should check the clip and chamber, and show the actor that there are no bullets in the gun. This will be the actor at ease knowing that everything they are working with is safe and it will eliminate the chance that anyone might tamper with the gun.

Story time, I was gripping on a low buget feature in Mississippi. We were off shooting in the woods, and the scene called for a bunch of extras to walk through the woods with firearms while looking for an escaped convict. The extras were locals, most of whom brought their own live fire weapons. The armourer on this pic was also the assistant director and during the hectic schedule of shooting, the armourer/AD grabbed a live fire weapon instead of a blank firing weapon by mistake. Thankfully our lead was a lousy shot or he would have killed the actor playing the convict. Moral of the story, don't take chance becuase you think you have control of the set.


05-03-2005, 04:58 PM
Actually what happened on "The Crow",( I worked on it as a stunt man, and knew Brandon) is this. They needed to see bullets in the cylinder of the gun. The guy who was in charge of the guns was not licensed, nor a prop master. He had taken real bullets (.44 mag) and pulled them apart, took out the gunpowder and wadding. He then crimped the bullets back together and loaded them in the gun. When they were doing the shot the gun was dropped. The lead from one of the dummy bullets became lodged in the barrel of the gun. When they loaded the gun with blanks (full loads) the lead came out of the barrel just like any other bullet and killed Brandon.

Erik Olson
05-04-2005, 09:40 AM

Did you do that show in Wilmington at Screen Gems?

It isn't terribly common to load full powder rounds for blanks - the flash without the accompanying lead often registers a little too strong, necessitating a half-load. We also played with the mix on the modified airsoft gas guns a bit to control excessive flash as well.

Perhaps the load-strength was just another example of the property master's inexperience that contributed to Mr. Lee's death.


05-04-2005, 11:45 AM
It is unfortunate to hear how Brandon died.

I've been doing some other searches for prop guns, and noticed that there are alternatives such as gas guns. Does anyone know if these look real, made of metal, have slide action, and are safer than blanks?

I saw something like this online and it looked pretty real, any one had experience or knowledge about these?


05-04-2005, 04:38 PM
I am not sure what studio it was then.... we shot on the back lot there and air rammed a guy through a door on fire. I beg to differ about full loads though. You have to almost always use full loads for semi automatic and automatic weapons just to get them to cycle. The most I ever shot was on a television series called "Vanishing Son" which was shot at almost the exact time as "The Crow". In fact, I think I left the crow and went up to work on that. We were in Virginia Beach and I was one of about 15 stunt guys and I shot nearly 1000 rounds one week, and those were all full loads.
As I said before, on Reno 911, we use only non guns now. They are great to work with. And if it is ejections that you want, it is way too easy to get insert shots of the casings hitting the ground or singles of them in the air. If what you are watching for is the ejection, there must not be enough interesting things going on in the scene.

05-09-2005, 12:38 PM
I am not sure what studio it was then....

It was Carolco I believe (DEG sold it to Carolco in 87). We edited a music video there just after it happened. There were all sorts of rules put in place here after the shooting and we'll never use anything but the "plugged" weapons for our stuff for obvious safety issues and the fact that the majority of the locals here were hammered with the news and are completely paranoid over weapons (actors, DPs, etc).

It was obviously national/international news but the local press really ran with it and the aftermath. I remember the studio being pretty vacant afterwards, it was horrible and a completely inexcusable and avoidable waste.

If you can't afford to get a pro onsite I would definitely suggest a plugged weapon.

05-11-2005, 10:31 PM
Thanks for everyone's tips. I have actually started to look into airsoft guns as they seem to be great safer alternatives to purchasing blanks. As long as I don't load BBs, they'll be perfect.

Now the only thing is, I'll have to learn how to make smoke, muzzle flashes, and ejecting shells with some program. Any advice on how and which program to start that would be great. I'm guessing After Effects is good for that?


05-11-2005, 10:53 PM
May I make a suggestion? To keep this thread on topic, maybe start a new thread about
making smoke and muzzle flashes and post a link to it in this thread. Just a thought.

05-25-2005, 02:21 PM
Post-production Mussle Flashes = Safety

05-25-2005, 05:01 PM
There's a film in the screengrabs section that used post production muzzle blasts. He even has webdocs showing a lot of his vfx work. Here's his vfx muzzle flash.


Zack Birlew
05-25-2005, 05:14 PM
Well, my brother and I found these really cool toy guns at KB Toy store, they fire like the Guncon guns for the Time Crisis videogames in the arcade except they look like real berettas. What we did was took them apart and ripped the sound chips out and carefully tore off the orange bud on the front of the barrel. They look like they'll be a great tool for our movies when mixed with post flashes and because they make a Guncon-like click when you fire them, it'll be easier to match sound and flash.





Amazing how far toy guns have come from when I was little...

Just have to spray paint them black and we're good to go!

01-27-2007, 05:24 AM
i am a musician and stage performer looking for information related to the use of blanks in a performance. part of the script would involve a simulated suicide. i am concerned about and was wondering what the best/safest way to simulate a close up gun to the head situation was that would look and sound as realistic as possible to the live audience. i read the past posts and i just want to make it absolutely sure that what i purchase is the safest means possible. i was thinking about purchasing a plugged gun. i know they vent pretty hot stuff and i dont think any actor wants to get burned so im wondering if theres a way a little safer when close to a person.

01-27-2007, 06:53 AM
No blanks of any type around an actor or stuntperson's head. Not vented, not anything. Not full loads, half loads, quarter loads, cap pistols, starters pistols or the like period.

01-27-2007, 04:11 PM
thats what i was afraid of. sounds like the idea just isnt safe. can anyone suggest any alternatives i can lookin into with a lifelike sound and or look. any ideas would be most appreciated.

01-27-2007, 04:19 PM
The idea is absolutely not safe. Regarding sound, you can get that in post. All kinds of gunshot sounds on line, just Google them.

01-27-2007, 05:07 PM
Check out detonation films, http://detonationfilms.com/missionstatement.htm
Also if you are going to use any type of weapon on set, it would be best if you had a prop master that is qualified with weapons or a weapons master on set. Actors should be shown the proper technique for holding the weapon, shown that the weapon is not loaded EACH Time. Non guns are nice but expensive to use. 3-5 dollars for every shot fired.

01-27-2007, 05:20 PM
Thanks for everyone's tips. I have actually started to look into airsoft guns as they seem to be great safer alternatives to purchasing blanks. As long as I don't load BBs, they'll be perfect.

Now the only thing is, I'll have to learn how to make smoke, muzzle flashes, and ejecting shells with some program. Any advice on how and which program to start that would be great. I'm guessing After Effects is good for that?
This issue is near and dear to my heart, and something I devote a ton of pages to in The DV Rebel's Guide (http://rebelsguide.com/). Airsoft guns are much safer and quieter than blank-firing repilcas. And if you learn just enough to create the flashes in post (http://prolost.blogspot.com/2006/09/book-report-2-guns-are-fun.html), the results can actually look better—since the replicas have unrealistic flashes that come out the top of their plugged barrels.

More expensive that airsoft, but with the added benefit of ejecting brass and smoke galore, are model guns that fire special caps (http://modelguns.co.uk/) loaded into little replica bullets. We've seen some posts here before from folks who have added digital flashes to these guns with excellent results.

A great trick when compositing in a muzzle flash is to blur the background slightly behind the flash. The results will look much more realistic. And bear in mind that muzzle flashes in movies are almost never on screen for longer than one frame.


Shawn Philip Nelson
01-29-2007, 12:11 AM
Hey Stu,
I bought your book recently and I am enjoying it. I definitely now want to fog a room! I see you are going to be "one of us", the Red people :-). I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with #1073

Shawn Philip Nelson
01-29-2007, 12:13 AM
Oh, and as for this thread. Blank guns rock my world. I own 5 of them and wish I could have more. People do freak out thinking they are real or mentioning the Brandon Lee incident (which was a REAL gun shooting blanks, totally different concept than a blank gun). Once I had to prove that nothing came out of the barrel of my blank gun, I just held my own palm about 3 inches from the gun and pulled the trigger :-)

01-29-2007, 12:55 AM
Thanks shawneous! I can't wait to get my hands on a Red, but in the meantime I picked up a Go-35 Pro and am enjoying a renewed love affair with my DVX100a.


02-05-2007, 08:38 AM
Prop guns are plugged because of federal law. They weigh, look and feel like the real thing. SO the orange plug is there so a cop doesn't shoot some kids by accident, and other reasons. Not to mention, as has been said numerous time on this thread, the barrel is stopped, so if you fired a real bullet (most blank firing guns are 8mm if you get a 9mm you can technically fit a 9mm round in the chamber) there is a chance you will blow up the gun, and your hand or even possibly kill yourself. Even with a blank round, i would never put the gun to close to anyone because there are still hot gases that have to be released when the powder burns.

03-26-2007, 12:26 AM
I am a little concerned about some of the information being shared on this thread. I have been a movie armourer for many years and have had to re-educate many people on the use of firearms in movies. Firstly ALL blank firing guns are dangerous. If nothing comes out of the barrel, then the gas must come out somewhere else, often this is a small hole in the top. Imagine if you fire the gun into the air, the hole in the top is now pointing at your face!! There are no wads, plastic wax or otherwise in genuine movie blanks, the end of the cartridge is crimped together and opens when fired, the exception being some shotgun blanks which have a soft sponge wad. Even so, there are still unburnt powder particles being propelled at high speed under pressure. Most firearms used in major movies are real and controlled by expert armourers even low budget movies should consider getting an expert film armourer. Most of us know when there is a genuine shortage of cash and are willing to do deals. As for suicide scenes, the best thing to use is an airsoft which has the blowback ability, that is when the trigger is pulled, the slide will move back as a real gun would. But would this be appropriate to do on a live music performance! In my experience on live stage, the audience will not see any movement on the firearm and because you will have no bang then the cue for the reaction should come from a sound effect off stage. The legal aspect of people in the audience taking offence should the firearm, real or not, be pointed at them, should also be considered.

04-09-2007, 08:50 PM
(no pun intended), by pointing out things like unburned powder, hot gases, and the potential dangers of ANY kind of wadding or "plug." As a younster of 12, I was taught by my father how to reload everything from (.38 cal, .357 magnum, 9 mm, .45 cal, big-bore long-gun rounds, 20, 12, and 410 gauge shotguns). He bought powder 10 lbs. at a time, and primers by the thousand. He made me well aware of the dangers of all. even "blanks."

While there's been mention of face shields and protection from flying bits of lead, what I haven't seen in this forum is mention of the dangers of sound and pressure on hearing. Any fast release of pressure, whether hot or cold, has the potential to damage hearing if done closely. My understanding has always been that weapons go from a locked cabinet to the weapons master's hand, to the talent, then right back to the weapons master, and right back to the locked cabinet, and no one else, not even Christ Himself, gets to touch the weapons. IMO, any process other than that means someone is being careless and putting others in danger.

Enuf lecturing...sorry...just remember to protect your hearing as well as the rest of your body.