How can prop guns be deadly? What to know after fatal shooting on Alec Baldwin movie set

Mike Stunson, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Entertainment News

The Alec Baldwin-involved fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico movie set has reignited talk of prop gun safety, while the film world mourns the death of the 42-year-old cinematographer.

Hutchins, who was killed Thursday when Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the set of “Rust,” is not the first person to die from a stand-in firearm. Others, including the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, were also killed in prop gun accidents.

No charges have been filed following the shooting on the “Rust” set. Joel Souza, the film’s director, was also injured in the incident.

What are prop guns?

The term prop gun refers to guns used for entertainment purposes. Some are fake guns that only produce smoke, while others are real guns used as props, The Wrap reported. The gun Baldwin was handling contained blanks, according to NBC News.

When real guns are used as props, they are usually loaded with blank cartridges instead of bullets, The Independent reported. In blanks, metal bullets are replaced with wadded up paper or cotton, which are typically not harmful when shot, Gizmodo said in a 2013 article.


A blank contains the same parts as a bullet, but without the projectile at the tip.

“Theoretically, when you pull the trigger, you’ll get the bang, recoil, muzzle flash and an ejected shell, without the deadly supersonic bullet ending whatever you pointed the gun at,” The Wrap reported.

Firing blanks is not without some danger, however. The explosion of gunpowder and hot gas from a prop gun “can seriously injure someone” if a person is too close to the shooter, Dave Brown said in a 2019 article in the American Cinematographer.

To create the illusion of a real gun being fired, prop gun blanks often have more gunpowder than that of regular bullets, according to Gizmodo.


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