Richard Collins owns more than 1,000 machine guns and 4,000 other firearms.
He stores his massive collection in two safes. Each is 1,000 square feet – the doors weigh 5,000 pounds.
Collins is president of Movie Armaments Group. Founded 40 years ago, MAG supplies guns, tactical gear, uniforms, military equipment and lashings of expertise to the film industry. All of his armorers are veterans of elite police and/or military units.
Some of the films he’s worked on include: “Suicide Squad,” “Total Recall,” “Robocop,” and “xXx,” with Vin Diesel.
Collins’ team does much more than supply guns.
“If a stunt guy knocks a gun out of someone’s hand, we made the gun out of latex. It has the consistency of a soft rubber sponge, not hard rubber,” he said Tuesday. “We build soft-rubber fire extinguishers, pipes if someone is going to be hit with a pipe. We have five fulltime artists and 3D printers. We make molds and build stuff too.”
His business is booming, especially after Netflix and Amazon began producing their own movies.
“We’re based in Toronto, which they call ‘Hollywood North.’ We have major studios here, and the Canadian dollar is cheaper – 25% cheaper than Hollywood. You’ll get a bigger bang for your buck,” he said. “Hollywood directors and producers come up here and are shocked at how much depth of film-production talent is here. We can do everything Hollywood can do, except for less money.”
Few people know more about gun safety protocols on a movie set than Collins, who’s been in the film industry for more than 40 years. An experienced armorer himself, Collins was troubled by the news stories he read about the recent shooting death on the set of Alec Baldwin’s low-budget film, “Rust,” which left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza wounded.
“The information I’m getting is third-hand, mostly stories I’ve read in the press,” he said. “They don’t seem to understand what they’re reporting and they’re screwing it up. You have to be wary about whether what they’re saying actually happened.”
Collins reached out to the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project to set the record straight.
“Everything that was done there is against protocols,” Collins said. “There is no law that governs what armorers do on set, but there are safety protocols set by the film union.”
Anyone working with firearms on set is required to read the safety rules, Collins explained, and the producers and directors have to be aware of the rules.
“The number one rule is no live ammunition can come to the set – period,” he said. “The second rule is that firearms used for live fire are never brought to the set. We have firearms dedicated to blank fire.”
Ultimately, the armorer is responsible for safety when firearms are used, which on the “Rust” set was the responsibility of 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez Reed.
“In this case the armorer was a young girl and she didn’t know how to put her foot down,” Collins said. “No one should touch guns but the armorer.”