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Actor's Guide to Prop Firearm Safety

Things every actor should know about guns
You will soon be given responsibility for a Prop pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle for use in rehearsal and performance of a theatrical production. Some Prop Guns can actually fire blanks and some are purely for show but may have working parts which can allow an actor to simulate the real action of the weapon. .
Actors try to mimic the moves that they see in the movies, but they forget that guns constantly break down while on a film set. Film studios can afford to have several duplicates and a gunsmith on stand-by - theaters cannot.

While by all means we want the actor to feel comfortable working with the prop on stage, these cautionary points are prudent to keep in mind today and until the end of the run.
  • First and foremost - Never point it at anyone at any time. It cannot more strongly stress the importance of developing sound firearms safety practice among this nation's actors. Always treat every prop gun as though it were a true and loaded gun, and if necessary to give the illusion of pointing the weapon, aim upstage of the other actor. The audience will never know the difference, and perhaps slowly we can all work together to prevent more senseless tragedies from occurring. This can only start with each and every person who sees any weapon, real or fake, to simply assume that it is loaded, white-hot, and ready to kill.
  • Second - Do not "dry-fire", which is pulling the trigger when there is no blank in the chamber. Most guns break in rehearsal from actors dry-firing (playing) backstage. No gun, prop or real, is designed to be handled in this fashion. If it is necessary to the play that the gun dry-fire, then by all means rehearse as needed. But otherwise, why risk costly damage?
  • Third - Don't take it out of the theatre. Police respond with extreme seriousness to any possible incident involving firearms, and merely displaying a replica outside of a theatre is a felony in most states. Any use outside of a theatre (including any film-work) requires prior notification and consent of the local police.
  • Fourth - The prop is not part of your costume. It is to be picked up from the stage manager just before your entrance, and returned immediately on your exit.
  • Fifth - Perform a "chamber-check" with every hand-off. The person handing over the weapon to the actor opens the gun to show that there is no bullet or blank in the chamber or magazine, or some other proof that the prop is harmless. When the actor returns the gun, the chamber check is repeated.
  • Sixth - Don't drop it. Real or replica, these are delicate props, and simply can't survive aggressive action. If the gun must be tossed or dropped, we suggest that you purchase several for the run of the show, for they will break. For the same reason, don't "twirl" the gun or force the working parts.

    What about blank-firing props?

    Eye and ear protection should be worn when firing a shotgun, rifle or handgun. When using, always fire with arm fully extended and at a safe distance from any other person. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction before, during, and after firing. NEVER point any firearm at any person or animal. Blank loads are just as deadly as a bullet.
    When a blank is fired, very hot gases quickly expand and move away from the gun, sometimes down the barrel, sometimes to the side of the gun, sometimes towards the floor or ceiling. Each blank-firing gun style might be designed differently, and some of the flash powder continues to burn as it leaves the gun, so find out where the gases go and keep that area clear. There has never existed a "safe" distance from a blank-fire discharge.

    • Always unload when finished handling
    • Never rely on a "safety" to prevent accidental discharge
    • Never leave a firearm unattended or not in your direct control
    • Establish a rigid protocol for transferring the weapon.
    • Perform a "chamber-check" when transferring a firearm.
    • Don't "struggle" with a loaded gun.
    • Never allow a loaded gun to strike any other object.
    • Insure that the blast from the firearm is clear of all objects, living things, or flammable material
    • Never carry a firearm with the hammer cocked
    • Always assume that any weapon you see is real, white-hot, loaded and deadly
    • Do not dry-fire any weapon, even pure props. It severely damages the gun.
    • Firearms must be locked away between performances.

  • READ THIS ALSO - All Firearm Props must be cleaned and lubricated after every performance. Failure to do so puts the user at great peril and leads to the destruction of the firearm prop

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