Tag Archives: weapons

Shooting at the OK Corral

This past weekend saw another accident with guns used during a performance, this time at a Wild West reenactment during Tombstone’s Helldorado Days.

According to Tucson News Now, “One of the Vigilantes arrived late and did not have his gun properly inspected. He then accidentally shot another member of the Vigilantes.” The show was stopped immediately, and it turns out the shooter’s gun had been loaded with six live rounds, and five of them were fired.


We could talk about all the things that “should have” happened. They should do a gun check before every show. They should have an armorer in charge of all the ammunition. They should cheat their aim away from other actors. They should, they should, they should.

But it sounds like they do that. The Tombstone Vigilantes have been performing reenactments since 1946. They do several shows a month. Collectively, they have probably fired off more blank ammunition than most of us have even seen. And they have done it without an accident for 69 years.

So what happened? I don’t know. We may never know. But the important thing to take away from all this is that weapons safety protocols are important no matter how experienced you are, or how many times you have done a show. No matter how much training you have, or how qualified you become, you can never skip over proper safety procedures.

Learning about proper weapon safety isn’t like a vaccine, where once you learn it, you are protected from future accidents. It only works if you follow it each and every time weapons are used on stage. There is no new procedure or protocol we can invent that will imbue us with perfect safety; we already know all the proper procedures, we just need to follow them.

I recently ran across the following passage from an 1874 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine. We’ve had safe weapons procedures for a long, long time; it goes to show that accidents only happen when they are neglected:

“A careful property-man keeps his ramrod attached by a cord to the wall, so that he may not by mistake leave it in a gun-barrel after loading the weapon. Accidents have arisen from a neglect of this precaution, and also from the improper or careless loading of weapons, as was the case a short time since in Washington, where a young man was shot and killed on the stage of a variety theatre by a too-heavy wadding, which entered his head from the gun of a horrified comrade. Paper wads are very dangerous; among the other accidents possible through them is that of their setting fire to the scenery; hence in well-regulated theatres a special wadding is used, made of hair, and which will not communicate fire to surrounding objects.”

Special Saturday Prop Links

Happy Saturday, everyone. Unforeseen emergencies kept me from posting this yesterday, but have no fear, your props reading list is here:

If you somehow missed this article, Maria Bustillos had a great piece in Bloomberg Business called “How High Def is Changing Your Brain – and Driving the Prop Master Crazy.” It delves into how the increased resolution and clarity of film makes amazing props look like cheap plastic knock-offs. It has a fair bit of prop-making history in it, and some wonderful anecdotes as well (the bit about attaching the leaves from small carrots onto the bodies of larger carrots for a perfect carrot was something every prop master could recognize).

Rosco Spectrum has more on the 160 candlestick holders which Jay Duckworth constructed for Hamilton (now on Broadway!). Using his drill press as a lathe, and some FoamCoat, he made short work of this project. Jay, you know you have an actual lathe in your shop, right?

User Ratchet built a Recharger Rifle from Fallout: New Vegas and posted pictures over at the Replica Prop Forum. The process photos do a wonderful job showing how a few simple materials layered up on top of each other can quickly become a complex and interesting prop. The fantastic paint job helps a lot as well.

Finally, I saw this Giant PVC Centipede over at Instructables. It’s the stuff of nightmares, but it’s also interesting some basic hardware store supplies can transform into a fully articulated monstrosity.

Assassin’s Creed Tomahawk

I recently finished up a little personal project that I’ve been chipping away at since February in my vast spare time. It’s a replica of the tomahawk from the video game Assassin’s Creed. I filmed myself building it along the way, and shoved it all into a single five-minute video.

While you can find tons of images of the tomahawk online, a lot of credit goes to MoonLit Props who developed a full-scale pattern. You can see me using it in the video to trace out the pieces.

The blade is made out of MDF and gets its unique shape from the symbol in the game. It took a lot of rasping, filing and sanding to get the bevels right, followed by endless priming and sanding to make it smooth. I finished it off with some Krylon Stainless Steel spray paint, which has a fantastic faux steel look once you rub it down with some steel wool. It also has a wash of black acrylic for shading and some silver Rub’n Buff for highlights.

The handle is simply a piece of poplar cut and routed to shape. The thin strips of wrapping are actual leather, but the handle itself is suede, since I was sticking with materials I already had laying around the shop.

For the emblem carved in the side, I wanted to try out a technique that’s been rattling around in my head; mixing metallic powders with epoxy resin to mimic metal. It did not work at all as I had hoped. I’m glad I learned that on a small part of a personal project rather than relying on it for a show.

Assassin's Creed Tomahawk
Assassin’s Creed Tomahawk

All in all, I am happy with how it turned out, and now I have another fun prop to trot out at Maker Faires.

May Day Links

Happy first day of May, everyone! I’m going into tech today, so the links will be short but sweet:

Jay Duckworth made 160 candlesticks for Hamilton, the most popular show in the world right now. Read his article in Stage Directions to find out how he did it. Hint: he used his drill press like a lathe. Okay, that’s a bit more than a hint.

Creative Media Skills interviews Gavin Jones, a prop maker on Game of Thrones.  Find out how he got started and what a typical day is like for him.

Barry Gibbs shows us some of the new weapons used by the Avengers in the new Avengers: Age of Ultron. Gibbs is the prop master on the film, not the last surviving member of the Bee Gees.

Behold! The quickest tutorial on Wonderflex! Demented Cosplay has a video briefly going over the properties of Wonderflex, a plastic sheet that becomes pliable with very little heat, and hardens into place at room temperature.