Halloween Around The Corner: How To Deal With Fake Guns

Halloween. That time of the year you get to see just how disgusting that coworker can look in an undead nurse’s outfit. It’s also an excuse for adults to get together and dress as whatever their id secretly desires.

Jokes aside, Halloween is a great fun time held by both children and adults. For children, it’s an excuse to get free candy. But plenty of inspiration for decent costumes comes with a need for prop weaponry or guns.

In this article, we’ll try to outline our best suggestions when it comes to ensuring you dress appropriately.

A real gun is not a prop. It is a tool you use to defend your life. Do not use a real gun as a prop… Especially if alcohol or other mind-altering substances will be consumed.

If you do not plan on drinking or consuming anything that will impair your judgement, feel free to keep your handgun concealed. In fact, it may even be a good thing that you’re a concealed carrier. But do not use that gun as a prop device in your costume.

Realistic Rules For Fake Gun Props

The best rules we can come up with for fake guns are reduced to two basic components:

  • It must not be mechanically able to load a round.
  • Nothing should be able to exit the barrel.

If the fake gun has functioning mechanics (i.e. you can rack the slide to the rear or it has an open barrel) it should have the following:

  • A bright, visible barrel plug
  • A bright neon plastic marker in the chamber to indicate that nothing is loaded into it.

If you’re stuck working security at a shin-dig, you should always inspect every fake gun as it comes in through the door to ensure that it could never be confused for a real one. If it could be because of either mechanics or design, make sure it is permanently decommissioned prior to being used as a prop at an event.


Additionally, we recommend that all prop melee weapons and firearms be anchored to their respective holsters by either a zip-tie or other device which will be permanently broken if tampered with.

This is the best way you can safely know that the props being used as costume pieces will not pose an undue risk to other people at the event.

While we were researching this article, we found it helpful (and strangely educational) to go through cosplay and anime convention rules and regulations concerning fake weapon props. As you may or may not know, grown adults dress up as their favorite fictional cartoon characters and attend conventions. Those costumes often include fake props. As many conventions have strict no gun policies, they have to check incoming attendees for actual firearms and melee weapons. This requires them to come up with regulations dictating where the cut-off exists.

How Some Anime Conventions Dictate ‘Real’ Versus ‘Fake’ Weapon Props

Everything can be a potential weapon in the right (or wrong) circumstances. The best rule is to simply not be an idiot but we’ve found that’s extremely hard to legislate.

At anime and cosplay events, organizations are responsible for checking and clearing all props entered into the event. This is a process called ‘peace bonding’. It requires certifying that the prop is indeed not usable as a conventional firearm or melee weapon.

We’ve directly referenced one Anime Expo’s rules and regulations to give an idea of what they would generally allow in through the door. While that’s just one private organization, we’ve struck through lines that are not relevant to give an idea of conventions commonly adopted by events that typically have fake weapons filtering in through the door.

via Anime Expo rules and regulations concerning fake guns and weapons

Peace Bonding Rules

If a prop weapon is, or was, at any time capable of firing anything, it must be rendered permanently inoperable in order to qualify for Peace Bonding. You can do this by, for example, permanently plugging the barrel with glue, caulk, or any non-removable substance. You must be able to prove that the gun is permanently decommissioned upon inspection. Bring tools if necessary.

In addition, to be Peace Bonded, your weapon must meet the following criteria:

  • Your prop weapon can’t be more than 7 feet (2.13 meters) long or weigh more than 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).
  • Prop explosives cannot be made out of metal.

CONCEALED NATION EDITORIAL NOTE: Actual explosives don’t need a metal case to be dangerous.

  • All swords or bladed martial arts weapons must be blunt-edged and cannot have any sort of cutting or sharpened edge (no live steel). Metal swords must have a sheath and must remain in the sheath for the duration of the Event. Whenever possible, for the purposes of keeping metal swords in sheaths, we recommend anchoring the sword to the sheath. We also reserve the right to anchor bladed weapons shut.

CONCEALED NATION EDITORIAL NOTE: Anchoring bladed weapons in their sheath is not a bad idea to demonstrate that they cannot be readily used as a cutting implement.

  • All prop bows must be unstrung or have a low-tensile thread.
  • All prop arrows must have non-metal, blunted tips.

CONCEALED NATION EDITORIAL NOTE: Blunted arrows are potentially as dangerous as bladed ones. In fact, when hunting small game like rabbits or squirrels, a blunted-tip arrow can be extremely effective.

  • Metal chains must be less than 12 inches long and no more than one inch thick.
    Non-metal chains must be under a reasonable length so as not to pose a safety or fire hazard.

If your prop weapon looks realistic, then federal law requires that it either be translucent enough to see inside, or be at least half covered with solid white or bright red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, or purple. 15 CFR § 1150.3.

As we can see, cos-players and anime conventions are just a limited source of wisdom when it comes to checking weapons or guns for a dangerous capacity.

Federal regulations also have very limited reach when it comes to marking props.

Accordingly, 15 CFR § 1150.3 states explicitly:

It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm unless such firearm contains, or has affixed to it, a marking approved by the Secretary of Commerce, as provided in subsection (b).

Looking at pictures of fake guns, we’re pretty sure you’d have to use a magnifying glass to check for those signs.

So, in conclusion:

  • Make sure all prop firearms and melee weapons are marked as such.
  • Anchor all weapons to respective holsters with a tamper-free device such as a zip-tie.
  • Make sure all non-firing firearms have barrel plugs and chamber empty indicators.

Have a happy Halloween and be safe out there!

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