Brent Radford - Key Onset Armourer

Publié le December 6, 2023


My official job title is Key Onset Armourer, although it can vary in Montreal. Sometimes, I'm referred to as the Weapons Wrangler or the Overseeing Weapons Person. Depending on the scale of the project, we may either fall under the Props team or operate as our own department.

My job function can be broken down into two main aspects: handling and controlling the use of firearms and dangerous weapons on sets and ensuring the safety and security of the camera and crew when blanks are involved in filming. Since we are distinctly licensed to manipulate firearms and prohibited weapons, such as switchblades and sword canes, it is our responsibility to ensure safety and make sure that we adhere to the legal compliance when they are taken out of the vault. These items cannot be given to a props person and must be managed by a licensed individual who is qualified to oversee their use and return them to the secure storage. I’ve been told many times that our presence on sets provides reassurance to the crew, and that’s a huge compliment.

Our days at work can be quite lengthy. We start by retrieving the necessary items for the film from the vault, loading them, ensuring that we have proper storage procedures and notifying the government authorities that the weapons have been taken from our storage facility to a set. All transportation also needs to be done in a registered vehicle that is tracked by the government and that the police are aware about. At the end of the day, other crew members can wrap up, lock their trucks, and walk away. However, the day isn’t over for us. We must load all the weapons back into our vehicle, drive back to the secure storage, unlock everything, and carefully put the items away, which can be inside of a vault that’s in another one. As a result, our workdays are considerably longer compared to those of our fellow technicians. When we film outside of Montreal, we must stay overnight at a hotel since we cannot leave the weapons unattended. Someone needs to watch them at all times. Ensuring the safety of everyone is after all our top priority.



Coming from a theater background, I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of creating something. I like working closely with directors as they rely on us for advice about weapons and guidance to ensure that actors and extras appear convincing when handling a gun. In my field, you’re always learning and watching. You must know the difference between what goes on in the real world and what is portrayed in films. A director may request something because it might look cool on camera, but our practical training may suggest otherwise. Our responsibility is to inform them and provide them with alternative, safer options. Nevertheless, we will do everything within our capabilities to bring their creative vision to life. Also, as the audience have become more and more gun savvy, it is important for us to keep up with the latest developments.

Another thing that I really like is the sense of community on film sets. Collaborating with different teams is fulfilling and it’s a fun environment to be in. It’s also rewarding to be involved in a project. Although you don’t get to see me in the movie, I have contributed to the final cut.

«I like the sense of community on film sets. Collaborating with different teams is fulfilling and it’s a fun environment to be in. »
Brent Radford


I have two projects that come to mind. Years ago, I got to work on the film The Score, which features Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Edward Norton, and many others. It was a pleasure to be in the presence of such acclaimed actors. Additionally, collaborating with the director Frank Oz was an absolute honor. As a child, I loved the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and here I am working with him. He also allowed and respected our input. I find that the bigger the Director, the more open and collaborative they are about these types of discussions.

Another project I really like is the TV series Blood & Treasure. Being an 80s kid, I grew up watching action films. Working on this show was a nostalgic journey for me, as some flashback scenes drew inspiration from movies from that decade. We found ourselves shooting scenes reminiscent of battles against Nazis, like what you'd see in an Indiana Jones film. What made this experience even more enjoyable was how open both the director and the showrunner were to our creative ideas. Everyone involved felt appreciated by the cast and the crew. It was incredibly fun and rejuvenated my passion for the entertainment industry.



I've had the opportunity to work alongside Marlon Brando in two films. The first one was a black comedy titled Free Money. On my first day on set, I had to hand him a gun for a scene and give him the required safety instructions as he needed to fire right at the camera after reciting a few short lines. While I’m explaining to him what to do safety-wise, he listened very carefully, nodded in acknowledgment, and never once questioned me. The scene was supposed to be shot on eleven minutes of film and was intended to last approximately three minutes according to the script. However, Marlon decided to improvise and the five lines he had to deliver became long paragraphs.

Meanwhile, I’m just standing there waiting and asking myself ‘’When is he done? When is he going to shoot the gun? Why isn’t he following the script?’’. I also noticed the camera operators exchanging perplexed glances as they were running out of film, all while Marlon continued with his unscripted monologue. Eventually, he did fire the gun, but by that point, the camera had exhausted its film supply. We reloaded the camera and the gun in order to reshoot the scene. The same thing happenned again for about eight takes with a different impromptu speech each time. Interestingly, no one ever said anything during that time. While Marlon's performance was undeniably captivating, all those takes proved to be somewhat tedious for the entire crew. Finally, the director ended up using one of the long ones for the final version.

Years later when I worked on The Score, Marlon specially asked for me and wanted me to come by his trailer to say hello. All in all, he was a wonderful, talented guy and I really enjoyed working with him.


The future of our profession seems dark… The computer-generated imagery (CGI) has sort of taken over. Filmmakers are finding it more and more challenging to justify the use of firearms and blank ammunition on sets and are replacing it with special effects. They would rather put it in the post-production budget than the production budget for the sake of tax credits. In my opinion, it rarely looks good on screen and often ends up being more expensive. Actors are also not happy with that decision, because it doesn’t look and feel the same. Handling a real gun and firing blanks helps them stay in character and makes it more believable and realistic to the audience. Substituting a firearm with a toy and blanks with CGI alters the entire dynamic of a scene. You can’t replicate that authenticity with visual effects.

What happened on Rust with Alec Baldwin also led to a paradigm shift in how people perceive weapons on sets. I’m deeply saddened that our department’s reputation has been tarnished by that unfortunate incident, which only occurred because of negligent, irresponsible people. Someone died and that should have never happened. The repercussions of that tragedy have affected those of us who are competent and have gone above and beyond to prioritize safety for years. Everything can be done safely if you execute it properly.



Quebec’s greatest strength is its artistic value. I’m amazed by the strive of the technicians here. They’re in the industry for the accomplishment and not for the money. Their passion is indisputable, particularly in French productions. Despite the tighter budgets, the crew is still deeply committed to the project and believes in the director's vision – they’re all pulling in the same direction. Coming from Ontario and having worked in both Los Angeles and Toronto, I found that those metropolitan cities weren’t really for me. I returned to the colder climate because there's this "joie de vivre" in Montreal that is unparalleled elsewhere.

The cultural scene in Quebec is incredibly vibrant and diverse and it’s essentially what drew me back here. We just have so much to offer!