Every gun owner needs to have a basic understanding of gun safety rules and etiquette. Even if you’re hunting alone in the woods, there are plenty of mishaps that could lead to injury or death if you’re not careful.
Here are my (read: everyone’s) basic gun safety rules and etiquette for hunting and pretty much every other situation in which you might be carrying a firearm.
1. Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
You should always be aware of where you’re pointing your firearm. This is the principle rule of safe gun use. It’s common sense. You only point your gun at things you want to shoot.
The safest direction is dictated by the situation, but the safest direction is almost never at another person, unless you’re acting in self defense. In a hunting situation, the safest direction will be toward the ground until you raise it to aim at your target game.
2. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
Next, you’re always going to want to assume every gun is loaded. Even if it’s not, you wouldn’t want to be wrong.
You may have unloaded it mere seconds ago, but we all get distracted, don’t we? Whether it was by your child interrupting what you were doing, a strange noise upstairs you had to check on, or something else you forgot you needed to do, forgetting where you were for even a moment may leave you wondering whether you actually took that ammo out or not.
Whenever you pick up a firearm, the first thing you should do is check to see if it’s loaded. Assume it is, give it a second look, and then treat it as if it is, even if it isn’t.
3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
In keeping with aiming your firearm in a safe direction, always keep your finger away from the trigger, too. Until you’re sure you’re aimed at something you want to shoot, rest your trigger finger on the frame, outside of the trigger guard.
Avoiding the trigger itself ensures that you won’t injure yourself or anyone else accidentally.
4. Keep your gun unloaded until it’s ready to use.
This rule is a bit trickier. It doesn’t always apply. Your experience will dictate how you employ this advice. In situations when you want to conceal carry or you need to use a firearm for home defense, it’s likely always loaded so it’s always ready to use.
However, for hunting specifically, keeping your shotguns, rifles, or handguns unloaded until you’re ready to hit the field is the safest option.
5. Be sure of your target and your line of fire.
When you are ready to fire, make sure you know exactly what you’re aiming at and what lies beyond it. Ideally, the ammo you’re using will provide the right type of penetration and expansion such that it will not go beyond your target.
However, you need to know exactly what’s in its path before you shoot.
Also always wear the appropriate protective gear for what you’re doing, clean your firearms when you’re done, and store them in a safe location. Most of these things should be common sense, but it’s a great tutorial for beginners and it’s always a good review for even those of us who have been hunting for a while.