John Fox - Motion Picture Armourer and Weapons Specialist for the Film and Television Industry

Sammo Hung


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  The role of the Motion Picture Armourer explained here.

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Answer to Question 5.
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5. Are Blank Cartridges Dangerous?

A. Blank cartridges are very common in the film industry with today's realistic shootouts and gun play. Unfortunately many people think that blanks are like toy caps and are safe to use and that no harm can come to them.

This is a very widespread misconception and in fact the blanks that are used in today's film industry are very powerful and can cause severe injury or death when fired at close range to vital organs, soft body tissue, the head or the heart. Sound levels are also high and so ear protection is always advised. Eye protection is another issue and this should be discussed with the on set safety officer having regard to the possible path of particles that may exit the firearm when it is fired.

Many modern action sequences require the firearms to be fired at very close range to other actors and crew members with potential for injury.
Firearms Training and Rehearsals are most important if injury is to be avoided.

It is the responsibility of the Armourer to ensure the safety of the cast and crew when it comes to blank firing sequences.
The firearms being used will be in perfect firing condition and the camera angles chosen for the scene should be with regard to the safety of the cast and crew or a lexan protective screen should be provided by the grip department to ensure safety of the camera crew if it is considered to be required after consultation.
The 'on set' code of practice will be in place so that all cast and crew know the status of the 'take'; "Firearms are safe", or "Firearms Firing - Protect your Ears".

Firearms will not be loaded during rehearsals and the control of a loaded firearm will not be given to an actor until the camera is "rolling" and the scene has been "slated". The firearm will be removed from the actor when the camera has "cut".
The firearm will then be emptied and declared "safe".

With special stunt sequences, stunt actors may be given loaded firearms prior to "rolling", providing that the stunt actors have passed a Film Industry Firearms Safety Course.

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