What is a prop gun? How do prop guns work and how did a prop gun cause a death on Alec Baldwin's movie set?
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A tragic accident on the set of Rust at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico has seen one person lose their life and another wounded.
The Santa Fe County sheriff’s office said that two people were shot when a prop gun misfired.
The accident caused the death of cinematographer Halayna Hutchins, and injured the film director, Joel Souza.
Halayna Hutchins who was originally from Ukraine was named a 'rising star,' in 2019 by the American Cinematographer Magazine.
The fateful shot was fired by the film's co-producer Alec Baldwin.
The International Cinematographers Guild’s president, John Lindley, and executive director Rebecca Rhine said in a joint statement,
“The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event.”
What is a prop gun?
A prop gun is a gun used in the entertainment industry to mimic a real gun during film and TV scenes.
Some prop guns are toys or replicas, but sometimes real guns are used for a more realistic look and feel during close-up shots.
They are filled with blanks which still contain gunpowder but do not fire a bullet, this does not mean they do not pose a threat.
If a real gun is used, a gun safety handler is required to be on set to supervise.
Do prop guns contain bullets?
Prop guns do not contain bullets and instead use blank cartridges.
Blank cartridges are made up of casing, gunpowder and a firing pin.
The bullet is replaced with paper or a plastic plug called a wad.
When you fire a blank, the gunpowder ignites and fires the casing and wad out of the gun, this is what causes the loud bang and flash that mimic a real gunshot.
How can a prop gun kill someone?
Even though prop guns do not contain a bullet, they do contain gunpowder, the ignition of this alone and the firing of the wad can cause injury to anyone standing nearby.
Prop guns can case harm if there is a projectile or shrapnel lodged in the chamber, this has been known to injure and kill actors in the past.
Police are still investigating the incident on the set of Rust and details are still unclear around what happened and what type of prop gun Alec Baldwin was using.
Has this happened before?
This is not the first time that a prop gun has caused injury or death on a film or TV set.
In 1984 Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head as a joke with a prop gun whilst filming for the television show 'Cover Up'.
In 1993 actor Brandon Lee, the son of late martial-arts star Bruce Lee died on the film set of The Crow after being accidently shot in the abdomen with a prop gun during a scene.
In response to this latest tragedy, Brandon Lee's sister Shannon tweeted: "Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on 'Rust'. No-one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."
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