Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Props - Airsoft Guns in the Movies

One of the hallmarks of a big-budget Hollywood action film, aside from the requisite star power, are the guns which the stars wield onscreen. Two cases in point: it would be difficult to argue that the mini-gun carried by Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Terminator 2’ is any less iconic than the character’s black leather jacket or tinted sunglasses. The same can be said for the twin Heckler & Koch 9mm handguns which graced the leg holster’s of Angelina Jolie’s character of ‘Lara Croft’ in the Tomb Raider films. Croft’s side-arms are as much a part of that character as are her iconic braid and skimpy clothing, and nearly as memorable.

Such film props need to do a bit more than to simply look believable at rest, however, to sell the cinematic gags required of action directors. I doubt that these flicks would be nearly as memorable without the revolutions of Arnold’s multi-barreled, electric gatling gun or Jolie diving side-wise through space as the bolts on her H&K’s kicking. Bottom line, for today’s savvy audiences, the guns they see on the silver screen need to operate as if they were the real thing. Slides still need to travail and cylinders still need to spin. That means, rubberized prop-guns won’t cut it.

Historically, industry prop-masters working to lend authenticity to these productions have needed to walk a balancing act due to such, juggling safety with the intended realism the sub-genre demands, and unfortunately, and sometimes soberly, with varying and occasionally tragic results.

With realism such an obvious contributing factor, actual firearms are often employed in film productions (albeit outfitted with non-firing conversion kits or blank-loaded), and yet they remain still as potentially lethal as their unmodified brethren. Sadly, there are far too many historic examples of firearm prop malfunction or misuse resulting in physical harm (among others, the promising American actor Brandon Lee was accidentally shot and killed in North Carolina at the age of twenty-eight while on the set of the feature film The Crow, the result a combination of ‘use of an actual firearm as prop’ and operational ignorance of such).

In an effort to prevent such tragedies from transpiring, as well as to ‘sell the gag,’ educated prop houses have now begun to turn to the airsoft industry in an effort to supply film productions with safe, realistic props. Airsoft guns after all closely mimic the appearance of their real-world counterparts (which is why military and law-enforcement world-wide are adopting airsoft as their close quarter combat weapon training platform), yet they don’t possess the ability to fire anything more than 6mm plastic airsoft BBs, at speeds well under a lethal limit. This unto itself, as well as airsoft guns’ inherent ability to mimic the actual mechanical movements of actual firearms, combined with airsoft’s cost-effective nature, makes airsoft the ideal choice for realistic film props.

The producers of this past summer’s Warner Bros. summer flick The Losers can attest to this, as can the producers of HBO’s True Blood series and the brass behind Sony Pictures’ recently-wrapped Hostel 3, a trio of production companies who have in the last year employed the use of airsoft products secured via Southern California’s airsoft retailer Airsoft Megastore. Independent filmmakers too have utilized airsoft guns for their various productions, and given the competitively-priced nature of airsoft products, the attention to display airsoft manufacturers display in the manufacture of these products, and the relative safety of airsoft guns, it’s no wonder.

About the Author: Mike Zhang is the President and COO of Airsoft Megastore, an airsoft retailer offering electric and gas powered airsoft guns. Please visit Airsoft Megastore to shop for airsoft AEGs, full metal airsoft rifles or the right airsoft gas gun for players of any experience level.

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