Comfortable and Furious

Dead-Eye Alec: Or, Put that gun down!

On October 21st 2021 actor/producer Alec Baldwin was pointing a Single Actor Army Colt revolver at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The weapon discharged, mortally wounding Ms. Hutchins and wounding the director, Joel Sousa. Those are the indisputable facts.  Baldwin claimed he did not pull the trigger.  I did not believe him for one second.

In 1986 I was hired by Sam Peckinpah’s former wardrobe supervisor (The Wild Bunch) and later creative collaborator Gordon Dawson, to work as property master and what is now called armorer on a Western pilot titled Independence, to be shot around Santa Fe New Mexico. 

My experience as a prop-master was a single feature a few years before.  A low budget Western shot in Southern Oregon titled Sacred Ground (I was also the only person on the crew who knew how to put up a teepee).  Gordon hired me despite my lack of prop experience because I understood continuity, having begun in the editing room, I knew the history of the West and it’s firearms,Western films (I praised The Wild Bunch as my all-time-favorite movie of all time. In Hollywood you learn how to brown-nose at a tender age), and most importantly, I understood firearms safety. 

Rule #1: never point a gun at a person unless you intend to shoot them. (Baldwin violated Rule #1)
Rule #2  All guns are considered loaded at all times. (Baldwin, an actor experienced with firearms, did not check all six cylinders himself.Violation of Rule #2).

Even a blank can do damage .  A blank, in this case would be a 5- in-1 blackpowder blank , contains a wadding that holds in the black powder in the cartridge. Upon detonation the expanding gases propel the wad down the barrel making it a projectile that can penetrate clothing and skin.  It happened to a cameraman I knew.

If a firearm is out of the armourer’s sight  for any length of time, it should be checked to make sure it is still empty.  The AD handed the revolver to Baldwin, telling him it was “cold”, ie, not loaded.  An AD has no business handing the guns. His job is running the set.   

The SAA Colt revolver will only discharge a cartridge in the chamber directly under the firing pin if the hammer is thumbed all the way back until it locks.  A squeeze of the trigger then drops the hammer and the firing pin impacts the percussion cap on the cartridge causing the weapon to discharge.

If you release the hammer before it locks, the chamber holding the cartridge rotates back and the firing pin hits an empty chamber.

The question I’ve heard no one asks is why Baldwin was aiming the weapon directly at the cinematographer? If they were checking the line of the shot, they could have cheated it over, making it look like a direct shot without the pistol being pointed at a person. It is done all the time, or was back in my day.

As one of the producers Baldwin was responsible for hiring on the cheap,  a nonunion, unprofessional crew; especially an armourer who lacked the goddamn sense to lock up the guns that were her responsibility.  





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