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[flagged] Alec Baldwin “Discharged” Prop Gun Killing Cinematographer, Injuring Director (deadline.com)
44 points by bryanrasmussen 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

An interesting theory by /u/Q_Fandango on Reddit:

Hi- I also used to be an on-set armourer’s assistant in Canada. We assembled and counted every blank and checked each firearm between shots, and never let anyone handle the firearms unless it was for the scene.

The reason you have blanks in the gun (why they are necessary) is because it just looks better than digital composite, and lower budget films can usually afford blanks more than they can the cost of post-production effects. There’s even some artistry in creating the blanks: flash powers can have different colour effects and you can control the amount of muzzle flash by how much powder you pack into the blank.

We don’t know the details of this situation yet, but a “point at lens” shot with a blank is common and likely the culprit. When we did it, we made sure that there was a sheet of lexan between the camera and sound blankets covering things. What I currently think (with absolutely no proof, mind you… pure speculation) is that it may have been a shotgun that had some blockage in the barrels and half-blanks, because it hit two people and caused enough injury to be fatal/almost fatal.

When you train actors to use these firearms, you do have to remind them that it’s still dangerous- and even a blank will kill someone at point-blank range. That’s why I always cringe when I see a gun held up to another actor’s head… someone who is unfamiliar with firearms but lost in the scene won’t have the best trigger discipline.

Additional info via https://twitter.com/winkelsdorf/status/1451439068861116421 (translated, a little condensed): In order to use blanks, the weapon has to be modified because of reduced pressure from the blanks. Otherwise the weapon would not reload (think machinegun that only can do one shot you see the reason). The modification depends on the type of weapon but includes usually some kind of valve/pressure regulator. Also the mechanical elements of the gun are adjusted to because of the lower pressure. Example: A Luger gun "regular" has ~35000 psi(2400 bar), modifed with blanks ~11500 psi (800 bar).

If a regular bullet would be inserted, the weapon would most likely explode, so Baldwin would have been injured. Small pieces or dirt inside the weapon would normally not have the size and impact for such deadly injuries. That leaves a high probabilty that the valve or parts of it have been ejected at high speed - too early to speculate why. The vector in which such parts exit the weapon can be different to the direction of the barrel, so again much uncertainty at this point.

What you can say is this: Its unusual for the close participants in such filiming scenes to wear protective gear (head, body) - its cumbersome and pricy. And its the same problem everywhere, so it could have happened in asia,australia,europe,... the same way.

That is only true for automatic firearms, and only partially true for them.

Usually the modifications are reducing the strength of the springs, or enlarging the gas port. There's really no reason to ad "valves" or anything in the barrel its self.

Given the time period of the movie, an automatic firearm is unlikely anyway, so I'd be inclined to think that this is not the case.

Thanks for the insight/context. Given the source proficient, credible and was in my native language (german), I believed it was accurate.

"the weapon has to be modified because of reduced pressure"

This makes sense for weapons on a movie set but our army weapons were loaded with both blanks and bullets on a regular basis thus were unmodified.

I'm going back a long way now but I still recall being instructed that blanks were dangerous because they used the same or similar charge as did the live ammunition (as I've mentioned elsewhere, they pack a real punch). I wonder if the reason why our blanks were so dangerous was that they were designed to provide sufficient back pressure at the expense of safety (from experience, armies aren't overly enamored with mollycoddling soldiers - even less so decades ago when I was being instructed).

I, however, do recall being instructed that cleaning weapons after using blanks was even more important than with live ammunition, as after a firing there was no subsequent bullet to help remove charge residue. A typical example of dangerous practice would be using blanks all morning and then in the afternoon going to the range for target practice without judicious use of one's pull-through (residue buildup potentially leading to one's breach or barrel peeling open).

It's also just occurred to me that there may be different practices across different countries and at different times in history (my experience a long time ago may have been different than practice nowadays). For example, for pragmatic reasons, a blank might have an even greater charge than live ammunition to overcome the loss of back pressure there being no bullet. Alternatively, the cartridge's wadding is made deliberately tough or large to provided sufficient back pressure for automatic weapons). As I can attest from injuries, the wadding in the blanks that I was issued with was substantial.

Does anyone have reliable facts about this?

That's interesting. When we used automatic rifles in the mandatory service, we used blanks and live ammo interchangeably. But I think the nozzle in front of the barrel may have allowed to do that. Googling, it is supposed to trap gasses and this may allow for reload.

There will (usually) be something called a Blank Firing Adapter used, which is really nothing more than a small plug which blocks the barrel enough for the gasses from the blank to build up, and provide enough pressure to properly cycle the firearm.

These work well because they don't really require modification of the rifle itself, and are usually painted bright red to aid in identification. Unfortunately that makes them kinda useless for filming purposes.

Yeah, you are correct, this is what we used, and during filming that wouldn't look good yeah. I remembered these more like a safety precaution - although sometimes some managed to fire off one of those. Probably we were talked about that how they help reloading for blanks, but I didn't remember.

Then there were also machine guns we fired blanks with, I don't remember if we fired live ammo also from machine guns or whether they also had nozzles. Actually, never mind, I think we did also do target practice with machine guns.

"...a blank will kill someone at point-blank range"

As I mentioned in my post, the Army taught that. Even so, there's a common perception - misconception - that as they are only blanks then they cannot be too dangerous. That's how I injured myself.

It seems to me that as part of the instruction, the instructor should fire a blank at point blank range into some suitable object to demonstrate the point.

That never happened when I was being instructed.

yeah when I first read it I was like how does it happen that he shoots two people who he is not in a scene with accidentally, but then I read the whole point at lens thing and of course, you see that in the movies all the time. so, hopefully there aren't a lot of idiotic people like me thinking the same thing.

Another scenario I've seen advanced is rapid fire towards the camera with gun.

A much safer way to get a "down the barrel" shot of a discharging weapon is to fire it at a mirror.

Angles of weapon and camera give the appearance of looking down the barrel. Actual discharge is in a safe direction, and the mirror itself may be backed by energy-aborbing material (sandbags, gel, etc.) The resulting imagery is of course quite striking.

I've looked for but cannot find any examples readily. I was thinking that either Hal Edgerton or some ultra-slow-motion footage used this method.

Smarter Every Day did one of these with a bow and arrow:


Excellent example, yes, thanks.

Isn't this how Brandon Lee died?


pretty sure, sad that this still happens for meaningless entertainment

Two accidents separated by 28 years looks like a good safety record to me, considering how many fake shots are fired in the movie industry yearly.

On a tangent, what's non meaningless entertainment? Fiction with a message tends to be utter crap because the authors are too fanatic to hide the message in a story worth following. Or would you rather watch self improvement videos teling you how to be more efficient all day?

There’s also this one “ Actor Jon-Erik Hexum was killed on October 18, 1984”

I used to watch the actor on the Tv show “Voyagers!”


This video describes the show. “A society of time travelers…”


I remember the army teaching me about the dangers of blanks, in fact we were lectured about it frequently. We were taught never to fire blanks at people at close range, especially so their faces.

Right, I never did that, but yours truly had to experiment anyway so at an inconspicuous moment I fired at point blank range into a large tree and I was showered with bark fragments which cut me quite badly. In hindsight, if the bark had hit my eyes I might have been blinded.

The wading that stops the charge from leaking out is actually quite substantial and it's this rather than the hot gasses that do the damage.

A cleaning rod into a pine tree at Ft. Huachucha. At least I had a Private's sense to stand back 20 feet. It sunk into the tree a good 4 inches.

Yeah, 'tis amazing most of us survive. Thinking back and leaving the military aside, I never cease to be amazed that I've survived so long (nowadays I shiver a bit just thinking about it). Nearly bitten by a snake, trapped in a waterfall at cliff's top, blowing rocks up in mines and more. These incidents weren't out of gung ho bravado. I reckon I'm a reasonably timid person and they somehow snuck up on me unexpectedly.

BTW, I had a bullet whizz past me on a 50-yd mini range after it ricocheted, it left a lead trail on the concrete several inches from where I was lying. I'm still completely mystified how this could have happened. How could one of us have been so off-target when instructors were standing behind us and carefully watching what we did?

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