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Cosplay Weaponry Gets Checked at Comic-Con

Richard Rushfield
Features Editor
July 25, 2014

Even the light sabers need to be scrutinized.

For the hordes of fans who descend on downtown San Diego each year during Comic-Con, putting together a costume complete with sword, machete, laser cannon, brass knuckles, or bullwhip is all part of the event’s fun — but for Carlos Chacon the former San Diego Police Sargeant who heads the Con’s Weapons Check Desk, toy swords are a serious business.

"We need to check everything that resembles a weapon that comes into the hall," he explains as his team gives an Ewok’s plastic-tipped spear a once-over.

"Not everything that looks plastic is plastic," Chacon says matter-of-factly. "Not everything that looks ceramic is ceramic. The things they are doing with these toy weapons these days are very advanced."

Sorting out what toy weapons can do harm and what toy-looking weapons are not in fact toys at all is the job of Chacon’s team throughout the convention each year. Any conventioneer entering the building wielding anything that looks even vaguely weapon-like is directed to their discreet desk just across from the Center’s Starbucks. There, the costume accessory is scrutinized for its ill-doing potential.

"There are so many variables," Chacon explains. Is the tip really soft plastic, or does it just look plastic? If the blade of a pirate’s sword is just a little bit sharp, the team will see whether they can tie it into its sheath. Airsoft rifles will have their triggers secured and ammunition confiscated.

Toy guns and weapons are inspected to make sure they are really just toys, which sometimes, these days Chacon says, they are not. He recalls last year one attendee showed up with a real hand grenade, disarmed and covered in ceramic. It was street-legal, but too real for the inspection team, which wouldn’t allow it inside the hall. Just this morning, a warrior of some sort showed up carrying an entirely real seven-inch battle axe.

Approved weapons are tagged with a little gold bracelet fastened in a conspicuous place to indicate to other security on the premises it has been cleared. The tag is known as a “peace tie” in the cosplay world.

Having labored over their costumes, the conventioneers are not thrilled to be told their critical accessory is banned from the big event, but safety comes first, insists Chacon. “It’s not worth risking the safety of all the people here for a costume,” he says.  Even cosplay has its limits.

Photo credit: Richard Rushfield/Yahoo Movies