The Basics of Long Gun Safety
Most hunting is done with some form of a long gun- rifle or shotgun. Here we will explore some of the most basic things to remember when hunting.
- Always (repeat Always) Keep the Muzzle Pointed in a Safe Direction
Few accidents with firearms could occur were this rule always adhered to. There are a few ways to get hurt with rifles or shotguns without the muzzle pointed in an unsafe direction, but the adherence to this rule would long Guns eliminate 99% of all firearm related injuries and fatalities.
Carelessness is usually the culprit in why this rule is broken. No matter how tired you are, you must control the direction of the muzzle of your firearm. At times, during a long day of hunting, it is quite easy to become careless. All hunters must avoid carelessness as if it is sure to cost them their life! If you are hunting with someone and they are being careless, you must be willing to speak up. If the person you are hunting with is not trustworthy, they are not a hunting partner with which you can continue to hunt.
A form of carelessness is becoming distracted. A hunter hears a sound, or sees something, and turns with their rifle or shotgun without regard to the direction of the muzzle. Hunters need to train their mind to think first, “Where will my firearm point when I turn?”
- When You Pick Up a Weapon, Check to See If It Is Loaded
When you pick pick up, or are handed a firearm, your first responsibility is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keeping that in mind, you should always check to see if the firearm is loaded. You might think that you don’t need to do so because you are sure it is not loaded. Many serious firearm accidents occurred with “unloaded” firearms. Be obsessive in this area. You cannot check too often.
- Keep Finger Off Trigger and Out of Trigger Guard Until Ready to Fire
Your finger should not come into contact with the trigger until you are preparing to fire. When hunting, there should be no inclination to walk with your finger in the guard so that you might be a little faster should a rabbit, deer, or other game animal jump up. That is simply not acceptable practice!
- Keep Firearm Properly Maintained
Never operate a firearm that is unsound mechanically or structurally. A cracked stock, faulty safety, or any other problem could and probably will be a safety hazard. If you are not 100% able to address the problem, take it to a gunsmith and have it looked at or worked on.
- Use Safety Properly
The safety on your long gun should be utilized properly, but never relied upon. When hunting, the safety position should be checked often. It is very easy to bump your firearm off of safety, or for brush you are walking through to do so. Though the safety is on, always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Know What is Behind Your Target
No matter what firearm you are shooting, the projectile (or projectiles in the case of a shotgun) will travel a great distance. In the case of rifles this distance is measured in miles. Once you pull the trigger, you are responsible for the projectile that leaves that firearm. Never shoot over the top of a hill or at water. These are tremendously irresponsible actions.
- Never Transport a Loaded Weapon
Even if you plan to just jump in your truck and Go a very short distance, take the time to unload your firearm. In many states, it is against the law to have a loaded weapon in a vehicle. Even if this is not the case where you are hunting, it is still far safer to take the extra seconds to load and reload your weapon.
- Use Proper Ammunition
Be certain you are using ammunition designed to be used in the firearm you are using. If in doubt, ask someone such as a gunsmith to be certain. Store ammunition for different firearms separately so there is no possibility of putting the wrong cartridge into your firearm.
- Never Hunt or Handle Any Firearm After or While Drinking Alcohol
Some would moderate this to advise not handling firearms while intoxicated. However, the tremendous responsibility assumed when carrying a firearm is too great to allow anything to dull your senses. Alcohol has been shown to relax inhibitions. A person who has consumed any amount of alcohol and is still under its influence to any degree should not be handling a firearm.