Weapon Safety

The most vital part of hunting safety has to do with proper weapon handling. Whether you are using a rifle or a crossbow, an accident with your hunting weapon can be a lethal mistake. There are several factors to consider before, during and after you use a weapon.

Rifle Safety During Storage and Transport

A weapon accident can occur before you even pack up your equipment for the hunt. Be careful with your firearms when they”re in storage and when you”re transporting them to your hunting area. Here are a few simple hunting safety tips you should follow:

  • A firearm”s chamber and magazine should be empty during transportation.
  • Always check to see if a firearm is loaded before handling it.
  • Always keep the action of a firearm open during transportation.
  • Don”t pick up a firearm if you don”t know how to tell if it”s loaded or not.
  • Don”t use a firearm or bow if you haven”t read the instructions.
  • During travel from one site to another, store arms in separate cases.
  • Store bows or firearms in a cool, dry place.
  • Take bolts out and break down shotguns during transport.
  • Unload firearms or unstring bows when you are not using them.

Basic Rules of Weapon Safety

Although hunting is a sport and recreational activity, you should take it very seriously at all times. Remember these basics when you”re out of doors and on the hunt:

  • Always keep the rifle safety on until you”re ready to fire.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Carry arrows in a protected cover.
  • Carry a field cleaning kit.
  • Carry your weapon with two hands, if possible.
  • Control your emotions when you”re holding a weapon.
  • Don”t climb or jump over anything with a loaded firearm or bow and arrow.
  • Don”t point a bow or firearm at anything you don”t plan to shoot.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger until you”re ready to shoot.
  • Never drink or do drugs before handling a weapon.
  • Never look into the barrel of a gun.
  • Never rest the muzzle of a rifle on your foot.
  • Wear hearing and eye protection.

Once You See Your Target

Once you”ve safely transported yourself, your partners and your weapons, it”s time to set your sights on a target. Be sure to identify what the game is before you shoot, and use binoculars to be sure of the target. Remember these hunting safety tips before shooting:

  • Don”t shoot at animals that are on hills or ridges.
  • Don”t shoot at flat surfaces, as a bullet could ricochet.
  • Know how far bullets, arrows or pellets can travel.
  • Make sure you have a safe backstop.

Shooting Positions

There are three shooting positions most commonly used by those who know archery and rifle safety. Before choosing to use a firearm or bow and arrow for sport, it”s important to know how to position yourself when you finally take that shot. Different circumstances call for different positions and angles. In any of the following positions, the arm supporting the forearm of the rifle or bow shouldn”t be curved:

  • The Prone Position: The prone position is the most common and preferred position for hunting. If you have time to strategize a longer-range shot, this position is recommended.

    To get in prone position, you should lay down facing the target at roughly a 45? angle with your feet spread apart. You should place your left elbow under the rifle”s forearm, and your right arm should be in a comfortable position to ensure the best grip of your weapon.

  • The Sitting Position: The sitting position is another way to shoot, especially in grassy or rocky terrain. The shooter should sit at a 45o angle from the line of site with feet apart and knees turned inward. Lean forward with the left elbow under the forearm of the rifle and the right arm supported by the knee.
  • The Offhand Position: The offhand position is sometimes used during a running shot or when the shooter discovers game nearby and doesn”t want to make unnecessary noise. Your body should face the line of sight at a 90o angle with feet spaced equally. Weight should also be spread evenly on both feet.

It”s All About Common Sense

Of course, the biggest thing to remember to ensure weapon safety is using your common sense. There may be endless circumstances that could occur unexpectedly while you are hunting, as well as additional rules concerning archery and the loading of your rifle at specific shooting ranges. Be aware of the different regulations and use your head if a situation seems dangerous.


Internet Armory. (2006). Hunting: Shooting Positions. Retrieved November 6, 2006, from the Internet Armory Web site: http://www.internetarmory.com/tech_tips.htm#aim.

Game Calls. (1999-2006). Ten Commandments of Shooting Safety. Retrieved November 6, 2006, from the Game Calls Web site: http://www.gamecalls.net/huntingtips/safetytips.html.