A mistake when working with weapons can’t be undone, so how you choose to enter a set on a day when weapons are going to be used is one of the most important choices you will ever make. You may be excited, scared or even apathetic to the fact that weapons will be used, but the second you step on set, whether using the weapon or just getting near it, you must respect it. Here are some firearm basics.
On the day, there will be a safety meeting. If you don’t understand everything being said, ask questions. If you have a concern, speak up. If anything changes while rehearsing, there should be another safety meeting to discuss the changes with everyone. These meetings are your right, so don’t let yourself be swept along by the production’s need to “move on.”
Don’t ever play with or point a weapon at anyone. Whether shooting or rehearsing, treat every weapon as if it is real and can kill. You will not be asked to point a firearm at anyone unless it is absolutely necessary for the shot. This is not just a safety concern—you never know how someone is going to react to having a weapon pointed at them. That’s why there are discussions and rehearsals, so that everyone is comfortable with the firearm.
Inspect your weapon. The prop master or weapons handler will talk you through the details and show you inside the chamber and the barrel to demonstrate that it’s empty.
Know your blocking and how to use the weapon. Be familiar with the weapon prior to showing up on set. If training with the firearm is not possible, read about it and study how it works. When you get to the set, find the property master, weapons handler and/or stunt coordinator and ask to go through the action until you feel comfortable with it. Although it feels odd to point the gun to the side of an actor, on camera it will look like you are aiming right at them. You should first rehearse the physical action combined with the acting on your own, without the weapon. Know exactly where in the lines you are going to move the weapon. That way, it becomes trained in your body, so when emotions start flowing for the camera, your body knows what to do.
Accept the weapon as your responsibility. It becomes so the moment it is handed to you and remains such until you hand it back. Make sure the safety is on and your finger is off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. If the firearm jams, immediately report the malfunction to the weapons handler. The weapon is still hot, so keep it aimed down and away from people. A full or half-load blank relates to the amount of powder/charge that is used. A full-load blank has the same charge as a live round, minus the projectile. If something is in that barrel, it can become a projectile and, regardless of the load, be deadly. This is why you check the firearm. Lastly, you should protect your eyes and your ears, if possible.
When it comes to weapons, make the choice to be a responsible performer, so that everyone goes home happy and safe at the end of the shoot.