The sport of shooting has a good safety record, for all that guns are involved, and the community should constantly be working to keep it that way. There are certain rules that need to be followed which keep you and your fellow guns safe when out in the field.
Keep Your Gun Unloaded and Broken
If someone hands you a gun or you are picking up your own, always check to see if it is loaded; open it and make sure the chambers are empty and barrels are clear. Do this even if you know the gun is empty as it is a good idea to get into the habit. You should always treat guns as if they were loaded, as the only safe gun is an unloaded gun.
Even between shots you should keep the gun broken and unloaded. If you are not using it, your gun has no need to be loaded! Only load the gun when on the standing, keeping the muzzles down and in the direction of the firing zone. When moving around the shooting ground, it is especially important to keep the gun broken and unloaded, as on uneven terrain you could trip and accidentally fire the gun. The only exception is when it is safe in its gunslip.
Be Aware of Fellow Shooters
You should always be aware of the people around you when you are shooting, especially when there are new people on the shoot who may not be accustomed to the layout and safe places to stand. When walking to the stand, have a quick look around to make sure no person or dog will be in a dangerous place.
A common mistake made by inexperienced guns is turning when the gun is loaded. One shot may have been fired, and they turn around to ask a question, with the muzzle of their gun pointed at the legs of their fellow guns, still loaded. Don’t ever turn around on the stand with your gun still loaded; break it first.
Use a Gunslip
No matter the size of the shoot you are on, there will be walking about between stands. On difficult terrain, it can be cumbersome to carry a weighty shotgun when broken. The solution is a quality gunslip. Make sure your gun is unloaded before putting in your gunslip, and people will know they are safe. Should the fastening on your gunslip fail, make sure the barrel is down and stock up when carrying it. When removing your gun from the slip, check before that it is unloaded, avoiding the trigger.
Never Point a Gun in an Unsafe Direction
Even if you are 100% certain the gun is unloaded, never point your gun at someone or in an unsafe direction which could cause injury to yourself or others. You are sure to give someone a panic if you do, and no one will be finding the ‘joke’ funny. Just keep in mind the rule, ‘if it’s not pointing at anyone, it won’t kill anyone!’
Shooting safely is the principal aspect of a good shoot. First off, you should make sure never to shoot until it is safe to do so. Leave the safety catch on until the moment before you fire, and keep your fingers away from the trigger. Keep in mind the possibility of a ricochet, particularly when shooting around water, vegetation and buildings. Avoid shooting near or in the direction of overhead obstructions such as power lines.
Make sure you are steady on your feet before shooting. Get into position firmly before even raising the gun, and don’t have a dog attached to you, who could put you off balance when reacting to the sound of the gun. You should also never shoot blind, particularly into dense vegetation where you do not have a clear view; you should not shoot unless you have a clear view and are confident of your target.
Behave When in the Field
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation insists on safe and sensible behaviour by shooters when they are out in the field. Beginners to the sport along with those who have been part of the community should follow their points so everyone will feel safe in the field. Let the landowner or tenant know in advance that you intend to go shooting on their land to ask if it is convenient, and assure them that you will respect their property. This includes any crops, buildings, fences and walls. Open and close gates, or should you climb them, do it at the hinged end.
Keep your dog under control and avoid disturbing livestock and other animals on the land you are not there to hunt. Do not leave litter, and collect what others may have left too; treating the land you are on respectfully could mean you are invited back again to shoot.
We hope you follow these golden rules when out shooting this season. And when you are not out with your fellow guns, why not take a look at some of our personalised shooting gifts, gunslips and quality shooting clothing to get yourself and other shooters!