How come movie pistols don't kick?!?!


August 20, 2003, 04:36 PM
There's been a lot of posts about movie related gun stuff here lately. What's the real answer about non recoiling pistols in the movies? Do they use really light loads or what? You can see the shells ejecting but the shooter's hands don't move. I try my best to hold my Vertec steady and get ready for the follow up shot and usually end up shooting too low because I'm anticipating the recoil too much.

So how do they do it?

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Andrew Wyatt
August 20, 2003, 04:38 PM

August 20, 2003, 04:39 PM
I haven't fired blanks before, but I'm guessing they only load them hot enough for them to cycle, not to launch a 147 grain projectile at 1100 feet per second, so recoil would be negligible. I'm guessing probably comparable to a Simunitions gun, which is the closest thing to a blank I've shot (and been shot with :o )

As I'm not endowed with as much upper body strength as most of the folks here I find I have to really lean into the pistol and work it hard to keep recoil minimal. My arm is locked out to the point it's almost like a rifle stock.

August 20, 2003, 04:41 PM
Blanks are not loaded hot at all. On top of that, since there's no bullet being pushed down the barrel, there's really no force going forward (other than the powder being expelled.) No force forward means no force backward. Simple Newton, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

August 20, 2003, 04:43 PM
Actually, some "operating" firearms that you'll see in movies aren't really guns - they look like 'em, but they've been modified to run on gas - It ignites, you get the fireball-type of effect, and it operates the action.

August 20, 2003, 05:09 PM
What bogie said. Some guns are meant to detonate 'squibs' only. These have no recoil whatsoever, some don't even cycle the action, and aren't even triggered by the actor.

After Brandon Lee's death, many actors feel 'sketchy' around blank-firing guns.

August 20, 2003, 05:19 PM
My arm is locked out to the point it's almost like a rifle stock.
That's interesting, Skunk. I usually have both elbows bent a little bit. Do you lock out your right arm and bend your left elbow accordingly? I'll give that method a try. Also, what do you do with your left thumb? If mine's not way over and forward my trigger finger will rub against it.

Nando Aqui
August 20, 2003, 05:40 PM
And neither do rifles, machine guns, etc.

Many (most?) fire blanks. They have an adaptor that restricts the gases from escaping so the action can operate. Some adaptors allow a portion of the gases to escape. For example,



Mike Irwin
August 20, 2003, 07:59 PM

For the same reason that humans can travel to other solar systems and Tom Cruise thinks he can act.


Standing Wolf
August 20, 2003, 11:31 PM
Probably for the same reason so many guns shoot 127 rounds before they need to be reloaded.

August 20, 2003, 11:46 PM
Yeah, I think most of the continuity guys on these action movies should be shot (for real) ?? ...I mean, they should at least get the action somewhere near believable, cos most action movies over the past couple of years are more like comedies...??!

BTW, I have a replica/blank firing gun at home, and there is no recoil at all. Some of the pressure from the blast of the ignited shell is used to cycle the weapon ready for the next shot.

4v50 Gary
August 21, 2003, 12:29 AM
Because Hollywood types are "manly" and we mortals are "whimps" who haven't conquered physics like they have.;)

August 21, 2003, 08:23 AM
Because they've mastered GunKata? :uhoh:


Sean Smith
August 21, 2003, 09:27 AM
Gas guns and blanks.

Also, Clint Eastwood would simulate the recoil on the .44 Magnum in his Dirty Harry movies... something 99% of action movies don't bother trying to do.

Fly Navy
August 21, 2003, 09:33 AM
Some very good movies do it too. Watch the guys firing M1 Garands in Saving Private Ryan. Far too steady for their rate of fire in some scenes.

August 21, 2003, 09:36 AM
Sometimes they fake the recoil , he pulls the trigger then there is a hesitation, then he pulls back the gun for the "recoil" . The funniest I've seen is a Robert Taylor african safari movie , he's shooting a 600 nitro express. NO recoil !!!

Silent Bob
August 21, 2003, 09:39 AM
Movie pistols don't kick because sissy-boy actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck wouldn't be able to handle the recoil anyway, regardless of caliber!

August 21, 2003, 09:50 AM
Many modern blank pistols don't fire anything at all (including hot gasses) out the barrel. Just give the bang (which is later dubbed over anyway), cycle the slide and throw a casing. Safer for close-range shooting scenes.
Ahhh the wonders of CGI

AZ Jeff
August 21, 2003, 12:28 PM
Interesting sidebar to this thread:

Years ago, I remember reading in one the gun magazines how Tim LaFrance, the gunsmith in California, was contracted to modify the firearms used in the TV show "Miami Vice", so they would function with blanks.

The autoloading pistols were modified by Tim soas to no longer be locked breach, but instead, straight blowback, working with blanks. This entailed not only removing the locking function between barrel and slide, but lightening the slide itself (internally), and using different recoil springs.

It was interesting how the mods were performed, yet allowed the pistols to look "real" at least on the screen. Anyone familar with these arms, though, would spot the mods immediately if he picked one of them up.

I suspect a blowback operated S&W 645, running blanks with a 5 lb recoil spring, does not have much "kick" at all..........:D

August 21, 2003, 12:53 PM
Newton's Third Law of physics. If there is no projectile, there is no recoil. Heavy bullets kick harder, no bullet doesn't kick at all.

This is incorrect as you still have the mass of the propellant exiting the barrel which is very small compared to the bullet mass, but not zero. Blank firing guns have little recoil, not no recoil. Without recoil the slide would not cycle on an automatic.

Truth be told, lots of hollywood guns don't even fire blanks these days. Airsoft pistols etc are cheap and so is post-production. The slide doesn't cycle and they put in the muzzle flash and brass in post-production. If you pay attention in Road to Perdition, Hanks 1911 is one of these (not the hammer position after he fires a shot).

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