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What is a Dummy Round-How Did Alec Baldwin Shoot His Director?

The shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a movie set by actor/director Alec Baldwin prompts legitimate questions. For example, what kinds of guns and ammunition do actors use in movies? Are they real or prop guns? Do actors use live rounds, dummy rounds, or blanks?alec baldwin shooting

I'm not an actor. So I don't have first-hand knowledge of industry standards on the use of firearms on movie sets. As someone involved in instruction and daily usage of firearms, I thought it was worth researching a bit into the practice.

Dummy Guns and Blanks:

There is a presumption by many that the guns used in movies are harmless replicas.

Some directors choose to use dummy guns that can not accept or fire any projectile in their films. Clearly, this isn't always the case. Instead, as in Alec Baldwin's case on the Rust setdirectors use actual firearms in their films.

Of course, actors should not shoot cartridges with projectiles at each other, even when using real guns. Instead, an entire profession exists for armors that modify real guns to work on movie sets safely.

These modifications allow the gun to operate with the reduced pressure produced in cartridges that do not fire a projectile, typically called a “blank.” While blanks are safer than standard cartridges, they still can cause death or serious bodily injury.

Blank cartridge

Two types of blank cartridges.

Blanks are not Dummy Rounds:

Firing a real gun produces a muzzle flash. This flash of burning gas and powder comes out the end of the barrel. Modified firearms used on movie sets have muzzle flash to be as realistic as possible. A complicated science of barrel restriction and other modifications, paired with the proper pressure blank, produces a real muzzle flash and a gun that cycles like firing genuine cartridges.

As mentioned above, this does not come without risk.

The pressure of expelled combustion gasses produced by a blank can injure and even kill depending on the person's proximity to the muzzle. For example, in 1984, while on set, actor Jon-Erik Hexum loaded a revolver with a blank and put the gun to his temple. Hexum pulled the trigger, apparently thinking he would not be injured. Instead, the pressure fractured his skull, and he died in the hospital.

Another potential risk is that substances like bits of the brass casing, wadding material, or anything left inside the barrel act like a bullet when firing the blank.

Actor Brandon Lee's death while filming The Crow is an example of the pressure of a blank propelling an object at fatal speeds. According to reports, the crew used dummy rounds in one of the guns.

-Dummy rounds are entirely inert and do not contain a power charge or primer. We use dummy rounds in dry fire practice and various other teaching applications.-

In the case of Brandon Lee, part of the dummy round remained in the gun. The object that remained in the gun, became a lethal projectile when they used a blank round in the gun later in the day.

dummy round

Anatomy of a dummy round.

Safety is Paramount:

Be it on a movie set or a range, safe gun handling is necessary. Any gun owner who has not spent time learning the proper rules of gun safety puts themselves and those around them at serious risk.

For example, according to court documents, Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer assigned control of all firearms on set, placed a handgun on a cart. Dave Halls, an assistant director, took the gun from the cart and handed it to Baldwin.

Apparently, Halls indicated it was safe to use. Believing it was safe, Baldwin pulled the trigger while pointing the muzzle at Hutchins and another crewmember named Souza. It turns out the gun had a live, standard cartridge loaded inside.

How many sets of hands did the gun pass through before Baldwin pulled the trigger? At each level, people failed to follow firearm safety rule #1:

Know the condition of your firearm and always treat it as a potentially dangerous tool.

Knowing the condition of the gun means personally determining if the gun is loaded or not. We never take anyone else's statement that the gun is loaded or unloaded without confirming the condition ourselves. Those who routinely handle firearms understand this.

gun safety course

Not surprisingly, those who dislike guns rarely receive safety training. As a result, they are the people who are most unsafe when they handle guns.

No one will confuse Alec Baldwin with anyone who is pro-gun. But, you don't have to be a gun owner to recognize the importance of being safe with a firearm. Anyone who handles a firearm has the INDIVIDUAL responsibility of taking basic safety precautions.

I implore anyone who handles firearms or has the potential to handle a gun because of their profession or because their family member owns one, obtain firearm safety training. We offer a FREE online safety course that explains the safety rules and best practices for gun owners.

A Practical Takeaway:

At this moment, we don't know all the facts about the incident involving Baldwin, Hutchins, and Souza. What we do know is that:

  • Gutierrez, the armorer in charge of ensuring the firearms used, was safe, failed
  • Hall, the assistant director, failed to check the condition of the gun properly
  • Baldwin, the director/actor, failed to identify the gun's condition or keep it pointed in a safe direction

In tragedies like this, we often find procedural breakdowns and abdication of individual responsibilities. I assume this case will be no different, and investigations will find multiple failure points as associated factors in the avoidable outcome.

Something disturbing that caught my attention is that it seems as though there was nobody on set that possessed any emergency trauma training. It would seem that directors would have trained personnel and appropriate trauma gear standing by, especially if actors are using firearms.

It's easy to point this out concerning the film set, but what about when you go to the range or inside your home?

I am astounded by the number of gun owners who do not possess appropriate trauma gear or the ability to use it.

trauma kit

If you suffered a gunshot wound on the range, do you have the appropriate gear to address the injury? Are you relying on a first aid kit situated somewhere on the grounds? Not only may that gear be too far away to be helpful, but the equipment in the kit may also be missing the appropriate gear, or it may be unserviceable.

What about a trauma kit in your home? You carry your everyday carry (EDC) gun and probably handle it every day. What if you unintentionally injure yourself or another family member? Wouldn't you want to have the correct gear and training to address the issue until professional medical personal arrive?

Trauma Gear vs. First Aid Kit:

When I talk about you having the appropriate gear, I don't mean a first aid kit with bandaids and anti-bacterial ointment. Instead, I refer to a trauma kit with chest seals, hemostatic gauze, and a tourniquet, to name a few. These devices are appropriate for treating gunshot wounds and other injuries.

You should ALWAYS have a trauma kit on you when you're on the range, no exceptions. Similarly, if you have a firearm in the house, you should have a trauma kit with the appropriate gear to treat a gunshot wound.

Our sister company, Mountain Man Medical, provides trauma kits for various applications, from an individual first aid kit (IFAK) you carry on your ankle to a trauma kit for applications where treating several casualties at once is possible.

Gear is great, but knowledge of how to use the equipment is equally important. That is why we also have a comprehensive Emergency Trauma Response course available. Don't put off proper firearm and trauma response training for you or your loved ones.

trauma gear training

 

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21 Responses to What is a Dummy Round-How Did Alec Baldwin Shoot His Director?

  1. Dave November 9, 2021 at 9:01 am #

    Have said from day one that no matter what came before him Baldwin was the last person to have the weapon. It was up to him to verify the safety and condition of it no one else. No matter what came before him it doesn’t matter.

    With a weapon the buck stops at the last person in possession. They try very hard to blame another person but none of that is valid. He was the LAST person to have possession.

    • Cindy Griggs November 9, 2021 at 10:51 pm #

      Absolutely agree!!! The person with the gun has sole responsibility for safe handling!!

    • NTBennett November 10, 2021 at 8:15 pm #

      This is very well done. Unfortunately CC Inc is not MSM and will reach a ltd audience, but it’s still good info for so many regular shooters who don’t know what dummy and blank rounds are or the important differences between them.
      It’s also obvious that neither is mistakeable for a live round unless they are 1) already loaded in the gun, and 2) only inspected from the rear of the cylinder. I also appreciate the visuals that clearly indicate how much blanks differ from live rounds.
      I’m a concealed carry instructor thinking of passing this link around to students, since the incident has been a topic of conversation in recent classes. (We are 20 miles fron the movie set.)
      This commentary made me cheer:
      “Not surprisingly, those who dislike guns rarely receive safety training. As a result, they are the people who are most unsafe when they handle guns.
      No one will confuse Alec Baldwin with anyone who is pro-gun. But, you don’t have to be a gun owner to recognize the importance of being safe with a firearm. Anyone who handles a firearm has the INDIVIDUAL responsibility of taking basic safety precautions.”

      • William Costello November 10, 2021 at 9:33 pm #

        The gun is in your hands you are the one responsible for it no one else when you pull that trigger what ever happens is on you

    • Bill November 11, 2021 at 10:54 am #

      I read that the Cinematographer that he killed was going to do do a Documentary on Hollywood Pedophilia issues. If that is the truth then this was NO accident.
      Instead of Baldwin slamming the NRA all the time, he should have taken their Safety Course !!!!!

  2. Ruger45LColt November 10, 2021 at 6:41 pm #

    EVEN IF YOU WATCHED someone check the firearm before handing it to you, YOU CHECK IT YOURSELF AGAIN!! Why was he pointing it at someone who wasn’t in the movie and pulling the trigger?!?!? Everyone who touched that gun is guilty of a minimum of criminal negligence. Families of deceased and wounded need to sue producers, directors, armory, and assistants until their grandchildren go broke.

  3. Bruce Wright November 10, 2021 at 6:52 pm #

    Agree, Dave and Cindy. Couple of basic rules not followed in this case – check your gun and don’t point it at anyone (not to mention don’t pull the trigger).

  4. Leslie D. Martin November 10, 2021 at 7:15 pm #

    “Anyone who handles a firearm has the INDIVIDUAL responsibility of taking basic safety precautions.”

    This should read, “EVERYONE who handles a firearm has the INDIVIDUAL responsibility of taking basic safety precautions, WITHOUT REGARD TO WHAT ANYONE WHO PREVIOUSLY HANDLED THE WEAPON MAY SAY ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE WEAPON OR THEIR CLAIMS THAT THE WEAPON IS ‘SAFE’ OR ‘COLD’”.

  5. Bill November 10, 2021 at 7:29 pm #

    Absolutely no reason to use a real gun on the set.
    one cannot tell the difference by sight the dummy gun.

  6. Steve Bossler November 10, 2021 at 7:53 pm #

    What most people don’t know is that the union outfit responsible for those guns on the set quit their job that very morning. They were upset about the way guns were being discharged on the set. Also…..they hadn’t been paid for a month. And….their contract required room accommodations close by. Instead….their hotel was 50 miles away…..making long work days even longer. So….they quit. They were replaced by local, cheaper less experienced help….therefore….the gun problem. The movie was low budget….shot in New Mexico….cheap help….tax breaks….more work for locals to provide food and services. It was all about the money. Do a deep investigation about that….and how much money Baldwin made off the investors in the movie.

  7. Tim Denton November 10, 2021 at 8:12 pm #

    It doesn’t matter who you are, the person left holding the firearm has the responsibility of checking for rounds, live or not.
    It is basic gun safety to assume that every firearm is loaded. All trained gun owners know this.
    Every time I touch any firearm, I check for rounds in the chamber and magazine. Even when cleaning my guns, I make sure that all ammo is in another room so there is no accidental discharge.
    Alec Baldwin is the sole person responsible for this tragedy. No excuses!

  8. Horace Noland November 10, 2021 at 8:27 pm #

    I absolutely agree. I should be tried for manslughter and shear stupidity.

  9. Horace Noland November 10, 2021 at 8:27 pm #

    He not I

  10. Lois November 10, 2021 at 8:30 pm #

    I’ve had idiots tease me for checking a gun and verifying if it was loaded and if so, with what. Fortunately, I have enough self-confidence to ignore stupid comments like that and do what I know to be the right thing. I have a dear friend who refuses to wear a seat belt and I don’t lecture even though I was told not to worry about wearing a belt recently since we weren’t going far. Like a misused gun or a misused car, either can be deadly in the wrong hands. Never let peer pressure prevent you from doing the right thing, at least for yourself. I don’t know Baldwin but I would guess that 1) he has no lengthy training with guns so that he respects them and 2) he is arrogant enough to not think gun training is necessary. Sorry if I am judging inappropriately but I’m just guessing. Never guess about a weapon.

  11. Ray November 11, 2021 at 7:40 am #

    All of these people should be convicted of Negligent Homicide! None of them has the brains to be trusted with a potato gun!

  12. Stephen Sullivan November 11, 2021 at 7:52 am #

    Rule # 1 Treat a gun as if it’s Loaded !!! Even if you are told it’s not. it’s your responsibility to check weapon.

  13. Al Cannon November 11, 2021 at 9:53 am #

    The point of who’s responsible has been clearly made, with respect to firearms safety, by others who have commented. However, tethered remains the question of Who placed the live round in the handgun, and Why. The acrimonious nature of the employees on the set dictates to me the the Possibility that someone intentionally placed a live round in the firearm must be asked and answered.

  14. sg1junkie November 11, 2021 at 2:14 pm #

    Was the camera rolling when the shooting happened? I understood that Baldwin was supposed to be shooting at the camera for the first person effect.
    That would explain why he was pointing it at the camera.
    There are a lot of theories, information and incorrect information flying around about the incident.
    But when all is said, yes, Alec Baldwin is responsible for firing the lethal shot. Is he excused from full liability on account it is understood he has no safety training. Did he have a reasonable expectation he was handed a ‘safe’ weapon. That reasoning alone is absurd to gun owners. You or I would be marched off to jail if we tried that defense. But, as power, money and famous identity are involved justice will suffer.
    With reports of unintended shots being fired earlier, disgruntled employees and political agendas threatened, the outcome will be muddied and unclear.
    I’m not a fan of Baldwin and try not to judge people but I would think that not even Baldwin would intentionally shoot someone with a live round. If the live round was put in the gun on purpose by someone then they are at fault too but it does come down to the person who pulls the trigger as the last chance to ensure safety. With a multitude of possible errors before Baldwin was handed the gun, he could have stopped the chain of errors all by himself.
    At the least, strict laws about teaching gun safety to everyone on the set should be made mandatory.

  15. Marvin Zeichner November 11, 2021 at 3:00 pm #

    The gun used was a single action revolver which means that the hammer has to be pulled back to cock it. Everybody wants to blame the gun, as usual!

  16. Arthur Rondeau November 17, 2021 at 5:59 pm #

    It is an unfortunate accident and I feel bad for all who were involved. I have been around firearms for since I can ever remember. My father taught me that no matter what it is (toy/real) weapon, “It’s always loaded and never point it at anything or anybody unless you intend to use it”. On such occasions, it is always the last person who handles the firearm responsibility to check it out and must always treat it as loaded.

  17. Alan November 26, 2021 at 4:17 pm #

    I really couldn’t care less about about so called procedure. In my view, the last person handling the firearm, Baldwin in this case, should have checked the gun, in this case a revolver. He obviously didn’t.

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