Guns of the Silver Screen: V20N10

By Kyle Shea

Rubber Prop Guns

Action movies can be intensely physical for many actors. The need to excite the movie-going public sometimes calls for creative and over the top stunts that people will remember and enjoy. Whether it is jumping over a car or running from an explosion, the characters of the movie must be seen as accomplishing a nearly impossible feat. Many actors and actresses are not physically capable enough to do these things, so stunt doubles are sometimes called in to take their place. When there are violent death scenes, rubber, mechanical, and other props are used instead of the actors themselves (For good reason).

The same can be said of firearms. There are instances where a gun needs to be dropped or thrown or even destroyed in a movie or television show. Instead of using very expensive guns in these cases, “rubber” guns take their place. From a distance, most moviegoers can’t tell the differences between the real guns and their movie prop doubles. They are usually much lighter than the guns that they stand in for. While made of rubber or plastic, they frequently can have metal frames and sometimes there are a few metal parts on the outside.

Most rubber prop guns are designed after real guns, but there are rubber guns that are modeled after guns made for specific movies. Theatrical gun rental companies do this not only because guns get dropped, but sometimes directors and movie makers do destructive things to them. One particular story Syd Stembridge told me about was about a director who wanted a gun to fall apart in a certain manner during the filming, so, without telling the rental company, he had a real gun cut in two with a chop saw and temporarily stuck back together. When a psychic character pointed at it during the filming, the front half fell off on cue.

Movie prop guns are generally made of rubber with other products mixed in. Others are made of thick foam that is carved into a gun, with a metal frame inside. Others are made of plastic material, making them more like airsoft guns, but not capable of firing anything, whether it’s bullets or BBs.

“In the late 1990s, my parents took my sister and I to Stembridge Gun Rentals in Glendale near Los Angeles.We spent the summer working in the inventory of parts and guns, sorting out the different parts. When we had our breaks, I would spend mine with the rubber guns they had there.”

They were on top of a large vault, lined up on a large rack. They had everything, from AKs of all types, to AR-15s and Shotguns, to Mini-guns and even some DShK. I remember having so much fun up there, checking out the countless guns and trying to figure out which gun had been in which movie.

The gun in the photo is a rubber AKM that was used in the action/adventure movie “Sahara.” The prop itself looks like a real gun from a distance, but a closer look reveals it to be a fake. There is nothing metal on the outside and it is well painted, though some of it is coming off. The cocking handle has a crack on the top and a few places where small bits of it were chipped away. Despite that, it is in surprisingly good shape, compared to most used rubber guns from movie sets.
Based on a book by Clive Cussler, “Sahara” came out in 2005 and was a bomb at the box office, a shame really because it is a very good movie. It stars Mathew Mcconaughey and Penelope Cruz, who do very good jobs with their characters, as do most of the other actors. It has a lot of humor and plenty of action, making it a movie worth buying.

We bought this prop in a trade for one of our old Star Wars props, from the Prop Store (See sidebar). They register every prop that goes through and keep good records on these.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N10 (December 2016)
and was posted online on October 21, 2016


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