The disastrous news of gibbs Alec Baldwin killing one person and also injuring an additional on the set of a western movie has actually spread roughly the world. Details room still scarce at this point, but the occurrence seems to have connected the misfiring that a prop gun with blanks.

You are watching: What does it mean when you shoot blanks

It’s no the very first time prop weapons have killed people on set — and also it’s vital to be conscious that guns shooting blanks can additionally be dangerous.

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Image credits: Alejo Reinoso.

Firing blanks

A pistol that has actually no ammunition (as in, neither bullets no one blanks) isn’t yes, really dangerous. However guns utilizing blanks do have a projectile — it’s just that rather of a bullet, they use wads that paper, plastic, felt, or cotton. This is to do shooting the gun more realistic and also produce a flame.


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When shooting at a distance, these wads don’t carry out anything and also are harmless.

The thing about a cartridge is the it’s developed from a very dense material. This thick material (typically a hefty metal) enables it to paris straight and also maintain momentum, as momentum depends on mass and speed. Replace a normal bullet v a wad of file and you end up v something lot lighter that easily loses momentum. That’s why blanks space harmless indigenous a distance.

But as soon as shot native close range, things deserve to be really different.


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In 1984, the actor Jon-Erik Hexums do a bad joke. He put a total loaded v blanks come his head, and also joking about delays to filming, play Russian roulette and pulled the trigger. That was sufficient to death him, since the gun was so close.

Blanks should never it is in shot in ~ a few meters due to the fact that they can cause real damages — also fatal. To make matters also worse, blanks sometimes contain much more gunpowder than real bullets, to do a more impressive ‘bang’. In 1988, Bruce Willis lost two-thirds the his hearing while filming Die Hardafter shoot a gun loaded v extra-loud blanks.

TV writer David Slack, known amongst others for his job-related on Law & Order and also Transformers: Prime required to Twitter to suggest out that firearms shooting blanks room still guns. There are several various types, all with their advantages and potential risks, but they space all dangerous.


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But due to the fact that this prop gun had actually a plugged barrel, that means all the blast — 1/2 the gunpowder compelled to propel a bullet beyond the rate of sound — comes out the next of the gun.It go out a feet in the paper and lit that on fire.Prop weapons are guns. Full stop.

— David Slack (
slack2thefuture) October 22, 2021

Some the the most infamous crashes with blanks on movie to adjust involve who screwing up and also actually leaving real bullets in rather of blanks. The first such taped incident dates from 1915, when throughout filming a step of The Captive, among the extras inadvertently left a live ring in his rifle and also shot an additional extra in the head, instantly killing them.

More recently, in 1993, American actor and martial artistBrandon Leewas by chance shot and killed when filming The Crow after a total intended to fire blanks included a actual bullet.

It’s no yet clear just what taken place on the set with Alec Baldwin and if the events affiliated real bullets or simply blanks.

Movies can be dangerous, and guns specifically so

There’s a surprisingly lengthy list of serious injuries the took ar on movie sets. From gunshots to stunt mishaps and something you have the right to imagine, movie sets it seems to be ~ to it is in risky business. Every year, there appears to it is in at least one movie-associated fatality, whereas indigenous 1980 come 1990, there were no fewer 보다 37 fatal accidents during stunts.

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Ultimately, exhausted, overworked movie technicians act 12-14 hour shifts space trusted to ensure the security of anyone on collection — and also mistakes have the right to happen. Cutting board Jr, a member of IATSE (International Alliance the Theatrical phase Employees) mentioned this risk on Twitter.


Has never been a solitary moment that ns didn’t to trust my fellow
IATSE members in the special FX department v my life. Castle would set up building-size explosions right alongside us. Ns trust them with my life. And also yet ANYONE i trust deserve to make a wrong while functioning 12-14+ hours pic.twitter.com/TOWLo3L2LR

— cutting board Jr.