Safety first! The 5 dos and don’ts of cosplay weaponry

Raiden from Metal Gear Rising Photographer: Brian Lim

Raiden from Metal Gear Rising
Photographer: Brian Lim

Weaponry is a reality of cosplay accessorizing, as many cosplay simply do not feel complete without guns, swords, bows, or any other variety of instrument of death. Although the vast majority of these props are harmless toys, there are still several things a cosplayer with a prop weapon at a convention must keep in mind for the safety of themselves and others.

#1. Nothing should be real

This should go without saying, but you should never be bringing a real weapon into a convention environment. Most conventions have weapons policies that explicitly forbid any real weapons from entering the property, so even if carrying a real weapon is legal where you live it likely won’t be permitted at the con. Conventions are crowded spaces and the risk of an accident with a real weapon is just far too high. There should be no sharp edges, no hard points, and no ability to fire anything from the prop weapon you bring, which means paintball and airsoft guns should also be avoided. You don’t want to wind up with a lifetime ban for bringing your brass knuckles to the show floor. Speaking of which…

#2. Research your convention’s weapons policy and follow it

Imagine the disappointment of spending the time and money to forge an exact replica of Cloud’s buster sword only to discover upon arrival at your local convention that their weapons policy forbids any prop made with real metal. Although real metal props look amazing in photography, the reality of most cons is that they are not allowed. Conventions usually make their weapons policy available on their website in the months leading up to the event and cosplayers should use this to their advantage. The weapons policy also is not something to fool around with; while waiting in the weapon registration line may seem like a hassle, failing to do so could lose you your badge.

It is also important to bear in mind the appropriateness of your cosplay weapons at the locations you will be visiting on the way to and from the convention space. Earlier this year, a cosplayer in my hometown was tackled to the ground by police officers when he walked past a press conference of a politician while carrying his prop weaponry. Police had no way of knowing that the guns strapped to his legs were cheap dollar store toys and had to take action in the interest of public safety. While the cosplayer was eventually released without any criminal charges, it definitely sent a ripple of awareness through the local cosplay community.

#3. It’s cosplay, so fake it!

Many cosplayers, myself included, do have some real world experience with the weapons commonly found in costuming and cringe at the unsafe errors we see. Many of these can be avoided with a little research and common sense. With guns, this is often a matter of trigger discipline; trigger discipline is all about keeping your finger off of the trigger until the moment you are about to fire, usually by resting your index finger against the side of the gun. When I am in a convention space, I never put my finger on the trigger of my prop guns, even though they are cheap plastic toys painted to look real. This is mostly a result of training with real guns, but also an element of realism in my cosplay which does not negatively impact the quality of my costume.

Trigger discipline can be seen in this picture of my Jill Valentine cosplay taken by SL Images.

Trigger discipline can be seen in this picture of my Jill Valentine cosplay taken by SL Images.

Faking it is even more important with prop bows and arrows, which have been increasing in popularity in the last several years. Even a dull arrow with a weak bow can hurt if it is accidentally fired into someone’s eye; for this reason, the arrow should never be resting against a taught string in cosplay photography. If you don’t nook the arrow it won’t fire if you slip.

Image credit to TiMarsh Digital Imaging.

Image credit to TiMarsh Digital Imaging.

#4. Never pretend to shoot/stab/hit/spank/harm anyone unless it’s staged with consent

This is another one that should be very obvious and yet results in injuries, ejections, and bans year after year. While the excited energy of the convention space and all the fun you’re having makes it tempting to goof off, it’s simply not okay to goof off with your weapons. Many weapons policies refer to this behavior as “brandishing” and it vaguely describes any kind of uncontrolled, unsafe, or non-consenting  movement or action with a prop weapon. So while it’s perfectly fine to pretend to stab someone in your photoshoot if you have asked and received consent, it is not safe to sneak up behind someone and slap them on the back with your sword. Similarly, it is not okay to wildly swing your mace above your head in a crowded space. Security does not like it and neither will you when you have to explain to your cosplay group that their masquerade entry is now ruined because you’ve been ejected from the convention for the year.

#5. Never forget that as a cosplayer you represent cosplay as a whole

Unfortunately, the irresponsible actions of an individual can have an effect on a large group as a whole. While you may think that the restrictions in a convention’s weapons policy are ridiculous, never forget that they are inspired by past events. All it took was someone with a real metal sword accidentally striking another attendee and causing an injury for all metal props to be banned at conventions across the continent. Your behavior can absolutely be the straw that breaks the camels back, so be aware of how your actions may influence others. Be in control of yourself and your props at all times, and consider leaving your weapons at home if you’re really looking to let loose.

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