Skip to main content

Armorer in Film Set Shooting Wanted to ‘Show the World’ That ‘Guns are Awesome’ but Said Recently That ‘Loading Blanks Is, Like, The Scariest Thing’

The set of the movie "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch appears in an Oct. 22, 2021 photo. A fatal shooting occurred on the set the day before at the hands of Alec Baldwin. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

The set of the movie “Rust” at Bonanza Creek Ranch appears in an Oct. 22, 2021 photo. A fatal shooting occurred on the set the day before at the hands of Alec Baldwin. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

The armorer who court documents say prepared the gun used by actor Alec Baldwin in a deadly film set shooting in New Mexico recently told a podcaster she questioned her skills during a recent previous assignment on another picture.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is reportedly 24, spoke to the podcast “Voices of the West” just a few weeks prior to the shooting that claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, and film director Joel Souza, 48.  Reports say Baldwin set the gun off while rehearsing a scene that required him to unholster a weapon; Hutchins and Souza were reportedly checking camera angles by looking at a monitor when they were struck during the process.  Baldwin reportedly expressed shock that he’d been given a gun that apparently contained at least one live round.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has been silent as to the precise type of projectile fired.

Gutierrez spoke to the podcast from Livingston, Mont., on Sept. 11.  The fatal shooting in Santa Fe, N.M., occurred on Thursday, Oct. 21.

“I just finished up working on ‘The Old Way’ with Nicolas Cage, his very first Western,” Gutierrez-Reed said. “It was also my first time being head armorer as well.”

“How was that?” a podcaster asked.

“You know, I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready. But, doing it, it went really smoothly.”

She said was “hoping” that working as an armorer on the Cage movie would be a “badass way to start off a really long and cool career.”

Gutierrez is the daughter of famous Hollywood armorer and stunt man Thell Reed.  She said she considered acting and modeling but wished to undertake more substantive work.  She said she generally used only the last name of her mother (Gutierrez) — and that is how her name appears on a New Mexico search warrant.

The conversation turned toward various production assistant gigs and working with Cage.  She said he was “standoffish a little bit” but became “whacky” and “fun” toward the end of the production.

Gutierrez said she had to counsel the director of the Cage film to upgrade the lead character’s weapons given the shifting time frames depicted in the movie.

“There’s no way that he would have kept that same gun over 20 years,” she said while noting that gun technology advanced significantly during the period in which the film was set.

She said the Cage film didn’t contain much gunfire but did require her to work with both pistols and rifles.  She said she preferred working with lever action rifles in cinema for their visual appeal but preferred to shoot Colt Peacemakers personally.

“I’m getting pretty good at quick draw,” she said while indicating she was trying to impress her father.  “I’m getting pretty fast.”

Conversation later turned toward how Gutierrez would instruct an actor who came to draw a weapon from her armory.

She said some actors know nothing about gun belts or how to operate the hammer of a revolver.  She said many need to be taught how to quickly draw a weapon and how to do “the whole trigger thing.”

She said she generally instructs actors how to “hold it straight” and to “make it look like they’re aiming at something.”

She said she also had to teach actors to create a recoil action for cinematic purpose.

“You have to teach them about the recoil, because these blanks don’t really have the regular pushback that regular bullets do,” Gutierrez said.  “So I, in order to make it look more realistic, tell the actors to make a little bit of recoil with their wrist.”

Conversation then turned to the specific guns the podcasters and their guest personally owned.

“For now, all I really know is the Wild West Peacemaker stuff,” Gutierrez said when asked about working with other types of weapons such as bows and arrows.

Gutierrez later said she learned a lot from her father as an apprentice but was also self-taught through observation — though she admitted she was “still leaning.”

“I think loading blanks is, like, the scariest thing to me because I was like, ‘oh, I don’t know anything about it,’ but, you know, he taught me that, and eventually by the time I was, like, trying to figure out how to make a specific blank go when you want it to rather than it hitting, like, the empty cylinders and everything — I figured that out on my own.”

“Explain that process,” a podcaster asked.

“Uh, so, normally, if you, like, you know, you open the loading gate, you put the bullet in, you have to put it right around, so right before — you have to bring that bullet — that blank all the way around to right before the cylinder, so then that way, the next time someone pulls back the hammer and shoots it, it will go off, yeah, and you have to look at the front of it and determine which one’s the blank if it’s dummied up, you know, that’s how I tell, at least.”

The podcaster asked if the rest of the cylinder is generally filled with “dummy wads.”

Gutierrez said that usually it was.

Dummy wads look like real bullets but are completely inert.  They do not fire or produce a noise because they do not contain explosives or propellants.  Blanks contain gunpowder and therefore produce a muzzle flash and a sound, but they do not contain projectiles.

“I try to dummy it up as much as I can,” she said.

“To make it look real,” the podcasters said while completing her thought.

“Some people don’t want you to dummy it for some reason — just out of their own, I don’t know, how they want to feel comfortable, I guess,” Gutierrez said in a manner some might perceive as dismissive toward safety concerns.  Dummy wads generally look very much like real bullets.

“It changes the weight of the gun, for one thing,” the podcasters noted.

“You can see the sides a little bit,” Gutierrez said while referencing the cinematic authenticity that a dummy wad would add to a gun.

The podcasters and Gutierrez agreed it was “standard” these days to treat everyone on set as if they had never handled a gun before.  They also agreed that was the safest way to handle things.

Gutierrez said that actors needed to “worry about acting” and not about loading weapons.  She said that she was the one who loaded weapons.

The podcasters said that in their experience, actors who claimed to be proficient about guns were usually the “least safe.”

“You’re the only female armorer in the industry,” Gutierrez’s uncle, who was involved in the podcast, said of Gutierrez’s career path while complimenting her intelligence.

Citing Gutierrez’s LinkedIn page, The Daily Mail said Gutierrez previously worked as a videographer and as a documentary filmmaker.  The tabloid said she posted on Instagram about the Baldwin film “Rust” back in May, “suggesting she had been attached to the production for some time.”  That information is relevant considering many staffers on “Rust” recently walked off the set citing commute times, pay, and safety issues — including involving guns.

“I don’t do anything unless I’m the best at it,” Gutierrez said near the end of the podcast.  “I think I have a pretty good support system and really good mentors.”

She said she hoped to grow to the point where she was an “untouchable person that has all the knowledge of everything.”

“I do like working with the little girls and everything on set, and I like teaching them about guns,” Gutierrez said. “I think the best part of my job is showing people who are normally kind of freaked out by guns, like, how safe they can be, and how they’re not really problematic unless put in the wrong hands.”

“A lot of it for me is just being able to show the world, like, you know, guns are awesome,” she said she hoped to show the world while concluding the conversation.

Those comments were all from Sept. 11.  Gutierrez could not be reached by the Santa Fe New Mexican when asked to comment about the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust” less than six weeks later.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.