When my team and I were making my first short film BROKEN we really wanted to have functional and professional-looking guns for the project. Obviously, we weren’t going to use real guns and getting our hands on working prop guns was too cost prohibited. We also wanted to make sure that everyone on-set was safe and that was our main priority.
We knew we could create some bad ass muzzle flashes in visual effects but I wanted to have some realistic looking guns on-set, that had blowback, to enhance the VFX and ultimately make the gun fights to look real.
After doing a ton of research we discovered Airsoft Guns or “Air Guns”(our prop guns). These are basically jacked up BB guns. They range in price from $12-$50 for good looking plastic replica pistols (excellent for wide shots) $20-$95 for metal replica pistols with realistic blowback (great for close-ups).
These Airsoft guns added so much realism to the film. The combination of practical blowback with high-end visual effects was a great combo.
When using Airsoft guns or any firearm prop on set you MUST assign someone to be responsible for all the weaponry. These guns might not be real but they can hurt people. By law if you use professional prop guns you need an armorer on-set at all times. Everyone on a film crew must act professionally even if you are using Airsoft weapons on a low-budget independen film.
The late actor Brandon Lee was infamously killed on-set of The Crow by a misfiring prop gun. (Brandon Lee Death)
More recent there was a terrible incident on a professional film set in New Mexico where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza with a misfiring prop gun. Prop guns, even Airsoft BB guns are no joke and NEED to be respected as if they were real.
Also please check your local state and city laws in regards to owning or using Airsoft guns. Always be careful, responsible and above all safe. Getting some cool shots in a indie film is not worth getting people hurt or worse.
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Where to Find the Guns?
We even asked the local reseller if he had any broken Airsoft guns in the back. He gave most of them to us for FREE and charged $5-$10 for $100 pistols. They didn’t work but they look great on camera.
Click on any of the links below to get some examples of Airsoft weapons.
Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols Metal Pistols (with Blow Back):
- Desert Eagle Full Auto Airsoft Pistol (Best Air Gun Option)
- Crosman P15B CO2 Semi-Auto Blow Back BB Replica Pistol
- No6 Desert Eagle 50AE silver model Replica Gun
- Blackwater 1911 CO2 Airsoft Replica Pistol, 6mm
- Crosman PRO77 Kit Air Gun Replica Pistol
- Colt 100th Anniversary 1911 Co2 Full Metal Air Gun Replica Pistol, 6mm
Airsoft Green Gas (Fuel for Blow Back)
Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols (Non-Blow Back):
Good for background and nonfiring shots
- Crosman Stinger P311 Air Gun Replica Pistol (Black) (Best Option)
- Firepower .45 Metal Slide Air Gun Replica Pistol, 6mm
- Umarex 2276008 Combat Zone Enforce Air Gun Replica Pistol
- Soft Air Taurus PT24/7 Spring Powered Air Gun Replica Pistol, Black
Airsoft Prop Gun – Shotguns:
- TM M870 GBB Shotgun (Best Option)
- UTG Everblast CQB Special Ops Airsoft Replica Shotgun
- UTG Multi-Shot Combat Tactical Airsoft Replica Shotgun – Full Stock Version
- Airsoft M500 Tactical Full Stock Pump Action Spring Replica Shotgun
Airsoft Prop Gun – Rifles:
- BBTac BT-6808 AK47 “Beta” CQB Fully Automatic Polymer Body Airsoft Electric Gun
- KP5 CM023 Airsoft Electric Replica Gun Full Size LOADED
- G36C (AEG write professional 10 years of age or older) (Best Option)
- Double Eagle M82 fully automatic Electric Replica Rifle
Airsoft Prop Gun – Grenade Launcher:
Airsoft Prop Gun – Sniper Rifle:
BONUS: Realistic Prop Knives & Prop Weapons
- Seasons Deluxe Aged Machete
- Seasons Realistic Knife
- Seasons Ninja Sword
- Seasons Pipe Wrench Zombie Weapon
If I may quote one of my favorite Christmas films:
“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” – A Christmas Story
It may be funny but it’s true. Have fun and be very careful. Good luck and happy filming.
A lot of the things that we used in BROKEN were done on a shoestring. One of the bigger things that we ended up having to use as far as props were concerned were the weapons and the guns that we decided to go with were airsoft weapons, airsoft weapons gave us the ability to have blowback as well as a realistic feel and look to them, the nine millimeter weapons that we used for a lot of the main characters and the 45, those things had an amazing amount of blowback, which looked very realistic. The shotgun was completely composited and, and, and plastic and metal weapon and the realism that that imparted on to, to the shoot was, you know, insert me it was irreplaceable, because we would never have been able to acquire weapons of either having a real professional there with real guns or some kind of a weapons Wrangler, that would have been able to give us the resources.
Plus from an insurance standpoint, there is no way that we could have afforded to have weapons that were blank firing or squibs going off or anything of that effect. That was just not something that we could have done logistically or financially. The weapons, the guns themselves that have blowback are powered by something called green gas. And what you basically do is the clip that’s normally filled with bullets or any kind of a projectile comes out of the bottom of the gun, you take it, you flip it upside down, and then you force the can nozzle into the top of the weapon. By doing that, you force the compressed green gas into the chamber, which is very, very cold. And it’s pretty, it’s pretty toxic as well.
So you don’t want to inhale it or anything like that. Once you put it back into the weapon, and you caulk it like you would a regular weapon, you have blowback, and it kind of also shot a bit of the cold air because the room was so hot, it’s shot a bit of that cold green gas would come up off the top and gave a great look as well for the the transitions that the vs VFX guys needed for, for the weapons to integrate the visual effects with the practical shooting of the weapon itself. You would think that the the level of these weapons would be expensive, they actually weren’t relatively, we found for a lot of the static shots that we use that we didn’t have to use actual working weapons, we bought weapons for as little as two or $3. apiece, the larger weapons and the weapons that actually had blowback were a little bit more costly, but they weren’t any more expensive than 20 to $30.
We were very fortunate to be able to locate them at the airsoft depot here in South Florida. And we recommend that you either go online or visit one of these locations if you’re going to use these weapons because they’re both safe. And as long as you don’t put a projectile in them. You have nothing to worry about. And just get somebody to be responsible for them and you know, make them completely responsible not anybody else. touch those guns and make sure they get anything else in there because you don’t want a liability problem on your hands.