Tag Archives: guns

Friday Fun Time

Chicago PD prop master Jim Zemansky talks props in this video, particularly the use of replica guns and blank-firing weapons. If you pay attention, you will see one crew member using what looks like a paintball gun off-camera during gun battle scenes; it appears he is shooting it to simulate bullets hitting around the actors. I found that interesting.

I’ve been following this build of a life-size ED-209 from Robocop for the past couple months, and it is finally finished. Here are all the parts in Make Magazine’s series which followed Shawn Thorsson as he built this massive robotic replica. Also check out Tested’s short video which looks at the final piece when it debuted at Maker Faire.

Princeton Magazine talks with TD Chris Nelson and prop master Michele Sammarco of McCarter Theatre about a recent production designed by Eugene Lee. There are some great little tidbits in this piece, such as Michele’s quote that “actors don’t like squishy chairs”.

Not all screws are the same. Popular Woodworking Magazine tests several types of screws on the market to show how they act when driven into hardwood. Personally, I know drywall screws should only be used for drywall, but I still use them. I’m usually working with cheap materials anyway; if I am doing fine furniture out of hardwood, I don’t use screws at all (brad nails all the way).

Common firearm actions

Illustrated Firearm Actions

Let’s face it; guns are frequently found on stage, whether in straight plays, musicals, operas and even dance. The use of certain guns can instantly convey a lot of information about period, geography and even character.

If you are a gun novice, it can be helpful to learn some basic terminology and categories. Even if you cannot find the absolute perfect gun, you can at least be in the right ballpark and not have something wildly anachronistic or unrealistic on stage.

For the first bit of terminology, I’ve put together an illustration showing the most common actions of both long guns (rifles, shotguns and muskets) and handguns (or pistols). When a firearm is capable of holding more than one round of ammunition, it needs an action to clear the spent cartridge and load a new one in place. The following is by no means an exhaustive list of all actions, but you may never need to know any others unless you start delving into the more esoteric and unique firearms used throughout history.

Common firearm actions
Common firearm actions

Bolt action – To eject the cartridge and load another round, a small handle is manually lifted, pushed forward, pulled back and dropped down. Bolt actions are most commonly found on the M1903 Springfield, which was the standard infantry rifle for the US from 1903 through World War I, and is still used by drill teams and color guards today.

Pump action – This action is typically associated with shotguns; the handigrip is pumped back and forth to eject a cartridge and load another one. On rifles, it is sometimes called a “slide action”.

Lever action – Most famously used in Winchester rifles, which were used by Western settlers in the US in the late 19th century (ie, “The Wild West”). Lever action rifles remain popular for modern-day sportsmen and hunters.

Break-action – The weapon “breaks”, or hinges to expose the breech. When this happens, the spent cartridges are ejected, and new ammunition can be manually inserted. This action is universal in double-barrel shotguns, and can be found in various rifles and pistols as well.

Revolver – Most commonly found in handguns, though the rare revolver rifle can be found scattered throughout history. A revolving chamber holds several cartridges; when one bullet is fired, the chamber rotates to line the next cartridge up with the barrel.

Semi-automatic – A semi-automatic refers to any pistol or rifle which automatically ejects the spent cartridge and loads the next round of ammunition when the gun is fired (not to be confused with an automatic firearm, which continues firing as long as the trigger is pressed). Most modern firearms for military and law-enforcement are semi-automatic.

Pistols, 1500-1856

Pistols, 1500-1856

Here is a small collection of typical or notable pistols spanning from the sixteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century.

Pistols, 1500-1856
Pistols, 1500-1856
  1. Barrel for number 4.
  2. Wheel-lock pistol of the sixteenth century. This was the sort of pistol used by the German cavalry, and also by the Ritter, or knights.
  3. Wheel-lock pistol with double barrel, beginning of the seventeenth century.
  4. Wheel-lock pistol, firing seven shots.
  5. Double wheel-lock, end of the sixteenth century. Arsenal of Zurich.
  6. Wheel-lock and mortar pistol, called in German Katzenkopf, of the seventeenth century.
  7. Wheel-lock and mortar pistol of the seventeenth century. It is entirely of iron.
  8. Flint-lock pistol, end of the seventeenth century.
  9. Pistol with flint-lock, of the beginning of the eighteenth century.
  10. Colt’s revolver, invented by Samuel Colt, of the United States, in 1835.
  11. Mat revolver, invented a short time back by M. Le Mat.

The illustrations and descriptions have been taken from An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Auguste Demmin, and translated by Charles Christopher Black. Published in 1894 by George Bell.

Friday Links

The big story making the rounds in the past few weeks is of the prop maker who built a prosthetic arm for a little boy. Ivan Owen, a Seattle prop maker, began collaborating with Richard Van As, a South African woodworker who needed a prosthetic after losing some fingers. After perfecting their design, they built a hand for Liam, a boy born without fingers on his right hand. I linked to a story back in December about how Owen and Van As first began collaborating on a prosthetic hand. This new story shows how far they’ve come in just a few short months (and it has video of the hand in action).

Some cosplayers dressed like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave a surprise performance to movie goers exiting a showing of Iron Man 3. The costume is basically dark suits and lots of guns, so patrons who weren’t in on the act called the police. Always keep in mind how others may perceive your props when carrying them out in public.

On the flip side of that, an amateur British theatre group found some old grenades to use as props in a show, only to discover they were still live. This story is from three years ago, but it was too interesting not to share.

Make Magazine’s “Workshop Wednesday” continues to provide great information. This week is Ten Tips for Screws and Screwdrivers. The tips are great, except for the ones about which screw head styles are the best (they prefer Torx over Philips). I’ve found screw head styles are almost like religion to some people, and it is practically impossible to make them convert to a different favorite.

Speaking of screws, do you know the difference between pilot holes and clearance holes? Popular Woodworking does.

Are Blank-Firing Guns Dangerous?

Are blank-firing guns dangerous? YES. Anyone who provides blank-firing weapons for stage and screen should know where their dangers lie, and make sure they are never used in a hazardous manner. But as a demonstration of what they can actually do, the video below should make it clear. Keep it in mind when it comes time to use your weapons, or show it to a director who tries to convince you that you are being overly cautious.