This could mostly be summed up by Wheaton’s Law; don’t be a dick. Prop safety is easy with a little forethought. Whether you’re working with guns, blades or anything else, a little thought goes a long way.
Think about safety all the way through the design process. A heavy prop is going to be tricky to carry around all day and could be a bit dangerous in crowds. Try and keep things as lightweight as you can. Can your prop be built so it dismantles? For Gambit, David uses a 6ft tall staff, which could be very tricky to transport and is hard to deal with when you stop for a break. To keep things easier, it was designed in three sections which screw together, so it can be separated for transportation and break times. Don’t design anything with sharp edges or that fires anything.
Check the rules of the convention you’re going to. They all have them and security will be checking. Nobody wants a prop they spent hours crafting taken away because they neglected to check the rules. Most conventions have rules about suitable materials. Check first to avoid disappointment.
Yes, I know you want a super accurate prop but be careful. Too realistic can get you into trouble. One of the most common issues for this is replica guns. In the UK, there are regulations about how accurate they can be. Most prop guns have bright orange tips – if yours doesn’t, you can comply with the rules by wrapping a little electrical tape around, which can then be removed for photos.
Travelling with a prop is sometimes needed. Again, be sensible. Any prop weapons should be completely hidden. Props that dismantle are really useful. Swords, guns, bows…it all needs to be completely packed away any time you aren’t within the convention. There’s been several incidents over the last few months where cosplayers have caused panic or been arrested for waving realistic weapons around in public. It’s not just weapons that can be a problem either. Think about scale. Will you be able to get this prop safely on and off the train, or in and out of the car? Speaking from experience, a 6ft tall Loki sceptre that you can’t dismantle can be an issue on the London Underground…
Do not be that idiot waving their prop gun or sword around. Be sensible and be careful. If you’re working with guns, it should never be pointed at anyone, unless it is for photo purposes and is with their consent. Your finger should never be on the trigger. Rest your index finger along the side of the gun instead. I often tuck my finger behind the trigger for photos – it looks good for photos, but I keep my fingers away from the actual trigger. If you’re not posing, guns should be holstered. If you’re working with a bow and arrow, the arrow should never be resting against a taut string, even for photos. A blunt arrow in the eye still hurts. Don’t nook the arrow and avoid accidents if your finger slips.
Be considerate and be sensible. Most prop safety is just simple common sense. If in doubt, remember Wheaton’s Law and don’t be a dick.