Revolver Wrangling

Had a new one come up for me during a couple night shoots this week; An actor was using a real Smith & Wesson .38, firing a few half-load blanks in a fun noir-ish scene that called for him to be threatening one person, then shoot another and come back to threatening the first. I staged it with him starting just offline, shooting off frame (where there were no people), then coming back online after the shot (knowing there were no more live rounds in it after that). Misfire on the first take – somehow the cylinder had advanced two spaces, skipping the chamber with the round and landing on an empty one. I’d heard some clicking sounds earlier though, and the actor had been fidgeting with it some, so I figured he’d done something to advance it a bit while I went out of the room to watch in video village. Tried again, same thing. This was being shot on 35mm, so at this point none of us are happy about it, and the actor insists he’d done nothing extra. Did a test-fire, and it worked fine. Tried anticipating his same consistent error, and putting the blank in two spaces ahead instead of the one it’s supposed to advance (firing double-action). Another misfire, and this time I noticed the cylinder wasn’t locked. Fishy, but we’re all worried about film, so I load all chambers and just tell him not to bring it back on line towards the other actor. I also told him not to pull the trigger while moving the gun, but I’m not sure that stuck (keep in mind this is 3am).

 

Another misfire.

 

Somehow, the action of him changing targets while firing double-action was adding enough rotational force to spin the chamber erratically in that fraction of a second that it wasn’t in chamber lock. Ended up doing a smaller insert of just the revolver firing, single-action and already on the (off-screen) target, which worked fine. Odd though – mechanical action of the revolver (not mine) seemed just fine otherwise, and it locked up fine both uncocked and cocked. Something about that sideways motion the actor was giving it, or a little flick he was doing or something. Anyone ever run into that before?

 

Because this was an indoor, closed set with limited space, only a few firearms, and no great armoury staging area, I ended up just wearing the props both nights so I could be there whenever they needed them, and take them whenever the actors were done. Worked well, although it meant I couldn’t run out to my car without making other arrangements. Might need to explore a better multi-gun version of this for future shoots, maybe based on a Molle chest rig or something.

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The shoot also included a brief scuffle that I hope will make some good demo reel footage next Fall, and a few nice gun handling touches; the plot point about a single round in the revolver being shown rather than expositioned to death, a quick chamber-check of a semiauto later, etc.

Also amazed me how trusting some actors are; hand them a real revolver loaded with dummy rounds, and they’ll just point it at their head without asking to be shown the rounds or anything. Honestly folks, you don’t need to trust your gun wrangler that much: I won’t take it personal at all, and it’s better to risk some other wrangler’s exasperated eye-roll than risk getting shot on set. As much as some politics has tried to lump God & Guns together, firearms safety isn’t something you should take on faith. There are plenty of Darwin Awards involving guns already.

 

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