The Importance of Proper Gun Handling in Films
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The Importance of Proper Gun Handling in Films

Weapons safety in film making is just as important as it is in the home and on the shooting range. Even though the majority of weapons that are used on film sets are not live firearms, there are still safety issues that must be addressed in order to keep the actors, crew and bystanders safe.

The phrase "monkey see, monkey do" is true of many aspects of film and television. With shows such as "Jackass" and the various wrestling programs, there come fans of all ages who attempt to emulate the actions that they see. This has, on numerous occasions, resulted in injuries because those fans were unaware of the work that occurs behind the scenes to limit the risk of injury to the actors. People tend to take what they see on TV and movies and think that it is real. That can be especially dangerous when it comes to improper gun handling. If a person sees a movie or TV show where the main character is walking around with their finger always on the trigger, they may attempt the same action if they ever pick up a firearm. Because of this, a lot of poor and unsafe handling techniques end up being "taught" to the audience and can have disastrous consequences.

Low/no budget filmmakers often use airsoft guns for their prop firearms, due to their low cost and realistic appearance. Some may say, "But it's just a toy, so why does it matter how the actors handle it?". The answer to that question is that airsoft guns are, in fact, not toys. They are guns designed to propel a 6mm BB through the use of compressed springs, compressed gas or electric motors. If a loaded airsoft gun is fired at an individual, it has the potential to cause injury to them, especially if they are hit in the eye. Any gun, regardless of the type, should be treated properly to avoid injuries on the set.

Including proper gun handling techniques in your film will offer several advantages.

1. It will make the characters seem much more credible to those audience members who already have a knowledge of the proper way to do things.

There is an increasing number of viewers out there who have at least a basic knowledge of proper firearms handling, whether it be from military/police training, concealed carry classes, firearm safety courses or just lessons from a friend or family member. Those who recognize blatant inaccuracies in movies or TV shows tend to find that the suspension of disbelief has been broken. Mistakes such as the sound of a hammer being cocked when the viewer can clearly see that it is still in the uncocked position or when the firearm doesn't even have a hammer to begin with, although subtle, can stick out like a sore thumb. More blatant mistakes, such as the often joked about infinite ammo capacity of some guns or the large caliber handgun that sends bad guys flying ten feet back can turn a serious scene into a joke among those who know better. An actor who uses major unsafe practices such as scratching their heads with the barrel of the gun or pointing it at fellow protagonists can be enough to completely turn off a knowledgeable viewer.

2. It will give the actors much needed knowledge in the event that they ever handle a live firearm.

An actor who spends a lot of time on films involving guns has the potential to pick up some very bad habits. If the actor is simply given a prop gun and sent on their way, it leaves them without the proper knowledge of how to handle it correctly. Not only does this make their character seem amateurish and bring down the credibility of the film, it greatly increases the risk of the actor using the same poor handling practices if they ever pick up a real firearm or even a blank-firing one. One thing that people often forget is that a blank gun can be just as dangerous as a real one if it is used improperly. For proof of this, one needs only to look up the name Jon-Erik Hexum. Jon-Erik Hexum was an actor who played the lead character on a 80's TV show called "Cover up". While waiting for filming to resume after a delay, he decided to play Russian Roulette with a .44 Magnum blank-firing revolver. When he placed the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger, the blank round fired and the highly pressurized gasses propelled a quarter-sized piece of his skull into his brain, resulting in his death.

3. It will send the right message to those people in the audience who wouldn't otherwise know what to do if they ever came across a gun.

If an audience member sees that the professionals on the shows and movies that he watches all keep their finger off the trigger whenever they are not physically firing the gun, it is much more likely that the audience member will do the same thing if they are ever holding a firearm. If they see the characters keeping their guns pointed in a safe direction when they are moving, they are more likely to emulate them.

While it is true that it is not the responsibility of filmmakers who use guns in their films to teach the audience the proper ways of handling them, the potential benefits of using the proper techniques in their films can far outweigh the possible risks of not using them, even if the extent of those risks is simply turning off a percentage of their potential audience.

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