What are prop guns? Alec Baldwin shooting reviewed
Following up on the front-page story on actor “Alec Baldwin” inadvertently shooting film cinematographer “Halyna Hutchins” for his film “Rust.” I’d want to explain what a prop gun is, how it works, and how it might be lethal or fatal…
First and foremost, it’s critical to comprehend the meaning of the term “prop gun” in this context. People often presume it refers to toy guns that discharge caps to make smoke or non-functional weaponry like those used in theatrical plays. While those are prop firearms as well, the term can also refer to real guns that are utilized as props.
The justification for using a real gun in production is simple: verisimilitude. Real firearms, according to firearms instructor Dave Brown, bring authenticity to close-up shots in particular, as he wrote for American Cinematographer magazine in 2019. A genuine gun looks weigh, and handles differently from an inert prop, as anyone who has actually held one can attest.
However, as Brown pointed out, they also necessitate the presence of experts on set to ensure that they are handled properly at all times. That’s because, regardless of what’s in it, a gun is still a gun. That gets us to the question of how a blank-loaded gun may kill someone.
The word “blank cartridge” is a condensed version of the full term. It’s worth noting that I meant cartridge rather than a bullet. A cartridge is a piece of ammunition that is inserted into a gun’s barrel and is made up of various parts: The casing (also known as a shell); the propellant substance (gunpowder) inside the shell; a firing pin on the bottom of the cartridge; and the actual projectile (bullet) itself at the cartridge’s tip. Here’s a good example from Hunter-Ed.com:
When you pull the trigger, the firing pin strikes the gunpowder, igniting it and generating a superheated gas explosion that drives the bullet out of the barrel. As a new cartridge is inserted into the pistol, the shell casing is ejected from the gun.
A blank cartridge is one that has everything but the projectile at the tip. To keep the gunpowder in, the tip is crimped or otherwise sealed with paper wadding or wax. This means that if you pull the trigger, you’ll get the bang, recoil, muzzle flash, and ejected shell, but not the lethal supersonic bullet that will destroy everything you point the gun at.
But don’t forget about muzzle flash and superheated gas. That is still being ejected from the pistol in large quantities. And whether there’s a bullet or not, anything towards the end of that barrel is in jeopardy.
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