Most Common Mistakes Filmakers Make with On-Set Weapons

Do you remember Die Hard? It’s only the best Christmas movie of all time AND it is also the reason the Beretta 92S is such a popular hand gun, even today. Movies impact society and ultimately, whatever weapon the hero uses in a blockbuster hit, will be reflected by an uptick of sales for said weapon in popular culture. The cool thing about this particular movie and gun is that Hollywood actually chose a weapon for the scene that could legitimately be a weapon of choice in real life for the same scenario. It’s realistic in the fact that while Bruce Willis is flying through the air in the office shoot-up scene, having a gun that has wide ejections ports with less of a tendency to jam would most definitely be a preferable characteristic. That and it was choice side arm for most law enforcement starting in 1985. Kudos to the film’s producer for making sure they had well enlightened weapon system consultants; you chose well.

With that said, what ARE the most common mistakes that filmmakers make with weapon usage on set?

  1. Not having reliable Subject Matter Experts (SME’s)

The weapons you use in a film based on present day events in military battle and versus that which would have been used by, let’s say, the Russians in the height of the Cold War, are going to be totally different. Not only is the weaponry different, but the maneuvers utilizing the weapon system will be different as well as tactics. So how do you make sure your film is authentic? By employing Subject Matter Experts that help ensure your script and the maneuvers with the weapons are realistic. When a Subject Matter Expert reads a script, they are not just looking at the actors using the weapons and what types of weapon systems will be needed based on the situation, they are also looking at what the scene in how they are looking to utilize the weapon system. There is nothing worse than having a weapon that wasn’t developed or used in a given time or place becoming a weapon of choice in a blockbuster. People with experience will call it out in an instant.

  1. Not using a licensed Armory

The best Subject Matter Experts will already have a relationship with a properly licensed armory. Having SME’s that already have relationships with your armorer makes the process of working together easier as they know the weapons as well as having hands on experience with all the weapon systems your Armory provides. The Armory you choose must have all of the proper permits for weapon operations on-set. Experience is important, not only for knowing their product, but also having a background with providing products for on-screen.  An armorer should not only be knowledgeable about the weapons they will be providing and the time-period they will portraying, but also some basic knowledge of the film industry to ensure certain problems don’t arise. Want to find out what movies have used what weapon, check out the movie firearms database.

  1. Expecting Actors to be Trained on a Weapon in One Take

Learning how to handle a weapon isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies…. (PUN INTENDED) Though when it does, it means there is a proud SME & Armorer somewhere in the background. Giving your film production ample time to incorporate the necessary training to get the scene right is very important. Having a SME on staff to ensure actors are prepared will make the process easier and will save money in the productions budget in the long run. Need a good example of weapons accurately portrayed on set where weapons consulting was top-notch? If you haven’t seen Lone Survivor, stop reading this and add it to the top of your Netflix and Chill list. It is a true story of a SEAL team where the actors, including Marky-Mark who portrayed one of the main characters, actually had to attend boot camp where they went through SEAL training prior to production. AND! The training paid off because they handled their era-accurate firearms like pros. They appeared comfortable handing the weapons and utilized their semi-auto firing just like the men who actually protect our country.

All in all, making sure a film set has a subject matter expert a licensed armorer and time allotted for the accurate training of actors will set your production up for success. We look forward to sharing our present consulting project with you after production has completed. It includes quite a few weapon systems across multiple government agencies, which makes the project intricate, but very fun. Until then, feel free to reach out with any questions or guidance you might need on your production; we are always happy to help.