Motion Picture Firearms
Firearms safety for film
& theatre productions


“An amateur practices until they get it right.
A professional practices until they can’t get it wrong.”

A Firearms Safety Coordinator is on set to provide three essential services: ensure the safety of cast and crew when firearms are being handled; comply with regulations on filming with firearms, and contribute to the look of the production through the story and the authenticity of the characters.

In simple terms, firearms experts are there to deal with the safety issues so that the cast and the crew can concentrate on their jobs and not be concerned about their safety with the firearms. This maximizes the talents of the cast and crew and saves both time and money for the production. The presence of firearms should not put people on edge. When handled properly by professionals who know what they are doing, firearms are as safe as any other prop on set.

Safety
Safety with firearms is more than showing up and handing out a bunch of guns. This is why we rarely use the term “armorer” when referring to firearms safety experts who is there to do far more than just supply the firearms. An experienced
Firearms Safety Coordinator works within the Props Department to train cast and crew as required for each scene, evaluate all the hazards that exist in the handling of those firearms and control the risks through safe distances, personal protective equipment and proper training. They not only know the dangerous ranges of all the blanks and how to achieve a good muzzle flash effect, they can also make instant decisions when plans change quickly.

It is not just when firing blanks that an experienced expert makes a valuable contribution to a production. They are also there to train cast, inspire confidence and collaborate directly with producers, directors, cinematographers and prop masters to tell a good story. They work quickly and professionally, have great attention to detail, a professional approach to safety and a good understanding on how to get along with people.

Modern safety professionals also stay up to date on regulations and safety guidelines and continually research and test how best to achieve the desired look in any production. They also know there are a lot of myths involving firearms safety on film sets.

Legality
In Canada, firearms may only be handled by persons with a valid Firearms Licence or must be under the direct supervision of a person with a licence. In addition, replica firearms can be considered prohibited weapons and must also be handled and supervised by qualified individuals. No matter how large or small the budget, there are safety issues and legal restrictions on the handling and supervision of firearms, discharge of blanks or supervision of replica firearms.

Authenticity
Attention to detail means getting even the little things right. The way an actor holds a firearm; the look; the weight; the handling that matches the character … all of these are details that make a film. It is far more than just keeping people safe. Actors want to look like they know what they are doing with a gun in their hand. They want their characters to make sense. They want to tell a good story.

Casually hand an actor a toy gun, and you lose that authenticity. Even small slips such as police officers with their equipment on in the wrong spot or holding the gun wrong can read as fake and take an audience out of the story.

A Confident Approach to Safety
Firearms are props. They are not special effects and should never be handled by persons with multiple duties to perform. Experience with firearms is not the only requirement to properly handle them on set or train cast and crew. Almost anyone with some degree of training and experience can make a firearm
safe, but it takes a special skill to be able to work directly with cast in a way that inspires trust and makes them also feel safe.

This is what Dave Brown brings to a production. A low-key approach and meticulous attention to detail makes Dave especially popular with cast. If the actors know the answers to their questions, concerns, safety or authenticity issues are always just steps away, they are free to concentrate on their acting and their character.

Dave is one of the most experienced firearms safety specialists in the film and theatre industry. He has lectured across the country on firearms safety and authenticity, been interviewed numerous times, spoken in front of audiences across North America and even appeared on an episode of the Discovery Channel to talk about firearms safety in film.

Some people are experts because they read books, took courses or studied under others. Some, such as Dave Brown, are experts because they wrote the books, taught the courses and are always seeking ways to pass on their knowledge to a future generation.

There is a reason why actor Keanu Reeves refers to Dave as the “Obi-Wan of firearms training.”

Within the industry, the relationship between the distance between actors and the hazardous range of blanks, is now known as “Brown’s Law.”

Browns Law graphic


Read his interview on LA Talk Radio’s program “Film Courage.”

Not just a film safety professional, Dave is also one of the most respected firearms instructors in Canada. His research into a better way of teaching firearms safety directly resulted in what is now known as the
PROVE safety checking procedure, which is an important element in firearms safety training programs across the country.

Filming with Firearms in Manitoba
Manitoba is more than just a film-friendly location! Because of the trust earned with 25 years of experience in the industry and a long history of competence and professionalism, the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba do not require the presence of police tactical officers or paid-duty police on set when there are blanks to be fired like there are in many other jurisdictions.

Firearms in Manitoba are handled by what are termed designated Firearms Safety Coordinators, working within the Props Department. Manitoba provincial safety guidelines for filming with firearms (available here) are simple, practical and cost-effective.

Winnipeg, CANADA