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Shootout reenactments are popular in the Black Hills, but can be very dangerous

Actor Alec Baldwin has been in the spotlight recently for shooting a prop gun that should have been filled with blanks...He ended up killing a cinematographer and injured the director of the movie they were filming. So how does the Black Hills stay safe while performing reenactment shootouts around hundreds of tourists?
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Shootout reenactments are a common and entertaining way to teach people about Black Hill’s history, but it can get dangerous.

While actor Alec Baldwin’s case is still under investigation, there have been incidences in the Black Hills.

In 2011, three observers were wounded in Hill City when a re-enactor shot real bullets instead of blanks.

“Generally when there’s an accident, there’s more than just one failure, the prop master didn’t check it, the actor didn’t check it, so forth and so on, and then it ended up with somebody getting hurt,” said Andy Mosher, executive director at Deadwood Alive.

Deadwood Alive has been entertaining and educating visitors about the history of Deadwood through Main Street shootouts and performances of the Trial of Jack McCall. Throughout their 20 years of operation, they’ve created extensive safety protocols.

The group uses black powder replicas for their guns, meaning they do not shoot bullets or blanks.

“Ours actually have to be loaded each time, you actually have to pour in the black powder, and then in the front of it instead of a lead ball we actually pack it down with cream of wheat cereal,” said Mosher.

When the gun is fired the mixture turns to dust, ensuring nothing is actually shot out to cause any problems.

The three guns are only used for reenactments where they are loaded properly by their armorer, under the supervision of their safety officer. The gun is given to the actor right before the show then returned to the armorer immediately after for another inspection before locking the guns up.

“So they’re inspected 9 times a day during the summer months when we’re busy doing shows and locked up all the time in between,” said Mosher.

Another safety step they take is never actually aiming at a person in case something is shot, that way it wouldn’t hit anyone because visitors aren’t allowed on the road during their performances.

This year 130,000 people came to watch Deadwood Alive’s shows.

“That’s an awful lot of people around and an awful lot of people that really probably don’t know anything about firearms or about firearm safety, so it’s our responsibility to make sure that they don’t get into a situation where they could get injured,” said Mosher.

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