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Chasing the Elusive Shot :: Guns.com

Daylight will often conceal muzzle blasts, but a gun with a high rate of fire, like this select-fire M16, will eject a lot of brass making for very cool photos. A little bit of flash was used to fill in the gun and shooter. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

Photographers attempt to capture magic moments. For portraits, it’s the subject’s eyes. For sports, it may be the winning goal. Nature – the perfect sunset. For guns, it’s got to be the moment a gun erupts into fire with a huge muzzle blast, spitting smoking hot shell casings from the chamber. When a photographer can capture this moment in all it’s glory, it’s extremely rewarding. It’s the money shot.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

Dusk, or night, is the best time to capture truly spectacular muzzle blasts, as seen erupting from this select-fire SCAR-L. It still requires, however, a lot of luck. No flash was used for this photo, hence it’s quite dark. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

SKILL, PATIENCE AND A LOT OF LUCK

As a photographer, I’ve been chasing this elusive moment for years. It’s an addictive pursuit. I’m still trying to one-up my last best image.

Fortunately, as a photographer and filmmaker for Guns.com, I’ve had the pleasure of attending many machine gun shoots and gun shows. During these sessions, I always dedicate an hour or two to trying to capture muzzle blasts and empty shells.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A gun with a high rate of fire, such as this select-fire Kriss Vector, makes for capturing a lot of empty shells. I also used a touch of flash to fill in the gun and shooter. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

SHOT PLACEMENT

I typically place myself safely to the right side of the gun where the shell casings fly. Yes, I’ve had one or two hot casings go down my shirt causing me to do a little dance, but it’s the best place to be. I wait for the shooter to ‘dump’ a full mag. This greatly increases the chances of success. As soon as the bullets start flying, I start snapping photos.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

You have to be ready to fire the shutter at the right time to get a lot of empty shell casings in mid-air. Again, a gun with a high rate of fire gun, such as this select-fire Glock, makes it easier. I did a whip-zoom and used a slightly slower shutter speed to give some motion to this photo. No flash was used. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

ANALOG DAYS

Back in the old days before digital, I spent quite a few rolls of film trying to capture the elusive moment. You clicked, clicked, clicked as fast as you could and then hoped. When you got your film developed, you held your breath as you flipped through the photos hoping for that one magical image. More often than not, there was nothing. But every now and then, bang! There it was. The money shot. A huge muzzle burst of fire with flecks of burning gun powder streaking like shooting stars into the night. The shooter lit up by his or her thunder. Bliss.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A beautiful muzzle flash with some nice colors makes it worth the work. A little flash was used on this photo. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

These days, with digital photography, the challenge has become cheaper, but not much easier. Luck is still involved, but you can shoot a lot more and of course, you can review photos right away. Some higher-end cameras will allow you to shoot at a high frame rate, greatly increasing your chances of success.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A MAC-10, suppressed or not, is your friend for capturing empty shell casings. There’s bound to be a lot of brass in the air. A little flash fill was used for this photo. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

ADD A LITTLE FLASH

Recently, I started using a touch of on-camera flash to fill in the details of the gun and shooter but not affect the muzzle flash. You also don’t want too much flash because it has to recharge after every photo and this will slow down how many photos you can take. Add just enough to bring out some details. The results can be very impressive.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A select-fire Kalash with a little fill-in flash. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

So, the next time you’re out shooting with friends, try to capture the magic moment with your camera. It can be a lot of fun and rewarding. If you get a good photo, you can always print it big and put it on your wall.

We here at Guns.com would love to see it as well. Feel free to share it with us. In the meantime, get out there and do some shooting, have fun and be safe.

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

Select-fire AK spitting lead and brass. No flash. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

Not a gun you get to photograph every day– an StG 44. A little flash in the bright desert sun. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A true monster of a machine gun that I lovingly call, “the angry gun“. The one and only HK-51. A little flash to see the gun and shooter. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

Another super rare gun, these days anyway– a Browning M1918 BAR firing the big .30-06 round. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A big M2 Browning ‘Ma Deuce’ thundering in the desert. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A photo I’m proud of. The moment a big .50 cal round leaves a mighty Desert Eagle 50 AE. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A belt-fed M16 laying lead. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A full-auto chopped-down RPD machine gun. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

Another Kalash doing what it does best. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A Heckler & Koch G41 lighting up the night. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

This mounted M2 Browning had a ridiculously high rate of fire. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A smoking hot M249 SAW light machine gun. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

A lot of hot guns firing at the IraqVet8888 Range Day 2014. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

This range is hot! An opening volley of machine gun fire at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

muzzle blast empty shell casings action photography

One of the car targets downrange at the Green Mountain Boys Machine Gun Shoot in Eden, Vermont. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

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