Am sure there are some gun nut persons that can add more/say more about this but ...
There isn't as much odd about this as implied. Seems like typical media hyperbole, with typical police response.
It isn't unusual for functioning fire arms to be used a lot of sets for varying reasons.
- Blank firing models often don't function as required. They usually have side based blowback (looks silly), or can't carry the same loads as a real
weapons (they fall apart with bigger/real loads and are dangerous to use)
- Real weapons can be set up to let go of really big muzzle flashes
- Real weapons are sometimes easier to acquire in a country of filming rather than importing firearms which are not licensed in that country (blank
firing or not)
- Loaded weapons are useful to let actors get an idea of recoil if weapons are to be used in a publicish area and full loads can't be used. Especially
extras can ruin an entire shot by firing a 9mm pistol like a pirate's cannon. Then some poor person has to delete them in post.
- If weapons are live models (regardless of loaded or not) saftey examples are often given with test firings etc ... Brad Pitt has used functional
weapons before. Often sets with functional weapons people are wearing ear plugs so it is important for actors to know the difference between a live
loaded firearm and a blank firing load.
- Sometimes live models are used or squib/firing devices used for hits on debris/cover
Whilst most people are encouraged to avoid it, various dumb things happen on film sets all the time. Persons don't lock up large amounts of weapons
properly. Persons may have items in their collection that are not properly licensed. The licensed holder of the weaponry may for some reason not be
around which is illegal in many places. Leaving weapons loaded and unattended can be illegal. Police will also become involved if a member of the
public reports it ie the film crew haven't shown due diligence in warning the public or have alarmed the public un-neccessarily.
In any of these situations the police will say 'disaster averted' rather than ... waste of a tactical response unit's time. Woops!
Brad Pitt and supervisors would likely have checked all weapon loads etc before distributing belt fed machine guns and AK's. Also in the majority of
shots the actor is always firing at an empty and cleared space even if the gun is empty. In shots where firearms are pointed directly at actors the
weapons aren't loaded unless neccessary, and am pretty sure Brad Pitt would check his breach and load before pointing a gun at himself or anyone else.
The situation with Brandon Lee was also very much different: en.wikipedia.org...
Since the movie's second unit was running behind schedule, they decided to make dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be
functional but contain no propellant or primers) from real cartridges by pulling out the bullets, dumping out the propellant and reinserting the
bullets. However, the team neglected to remove the primers, which, if fired, could still produce just enough force to push the bullet out of the
cartridge and into the barrel (a squib load). At some point prior to the fatal scene, the live primer in one of the improperly constructed dummy
rounds was discharged by an unknown person while in the pistol, leaving the bullet stuck in the barrel.
Similarish things have happened on many sets without it ever reaching the press.
edit on 10-10-2011 by Pinke because: Last sentence!