Firearms Safety

Carrying your firearm safely


If you fall or stumble when carrying a firearm, your first and most important responsibility is to make sure the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction, and that you do not touch the trigger.

  • It is vitally important that the barrel is kept free from any obstruction at all times. If you fall and the muzzle touches the ground, after unloading – always stop and check for signs of blockage. Always carry your firearm in such a way that you can control the direction of the muzzle should you stumble.
  • To prevent water getting into the barrel in heavy rain or snow, keep the muzzle pointed down. (Make sure it doesn’t touch the ground.) A small square of insulation or masking tape over the muzzle can keep snow and mud out of the barrel. Never insert a plug of cloth or other material into the barrel.
  • When hunting in heavy scrub, watch for twigs getting into the barrel. If you have a firearm action with an exposed hammer, be especially careful that the hammer is not cocked accidentally by brushing through scrub.
  • Pay attention when walking along riverbeds or dry creek-beds. They are often slippery or icy.
  • Always ensure your firearm is unloaded.
  • If your firearm misfires you must check the barrel, from the breech end, in case a bullet is stuck in it.

Crossing/climbing fences

If there is a gate – use it! Never climb a fence while carrying a firearm. Carrying loaded firearms through fences and over obstacles can result in injury and death.

Crossing/climbing fences must be done carefully.

  • If there are two or more people, one should climb over the fence without a firearm. Then, pass the unloaded firearms across with the actions open, and pointed in a safe direction.
  • If you are on your own, unload the firearm and place it, muzzle first, through the fence. Lay the firearm on the ground, and then climb over the fence.
  • Take special care when crossing electric fences. Have your firearm unloaded and the action open before you get near an electric fence. An electric shock can cause your muscles to contract and your hands to clench.

When hunting

Half-open bolt or action in a state of semi-readiness (Shotguns and rifles except self loading)

The state of ‘semi-readiness’ can be taken up prior to taking a shot. Hold the firearm in both hands, with a cartridge pushed partly forward into the chamber.

Do not close the action completely unless you know you have correctly identified your target and you have time to make a safe shot. If you do close the action but then do not take a shot, go back to the ‘semi-ready’ state with a half – open action.

A ‘break open’ shotgun can be carried in the hinged open position with cartridges in the chambers. This is semi-ready with a shotgun. The firearm is safe while open and can beclosed and fired quickly and easily.

The semi-ready condition with half- open bolt is not always practical. Unless the bolt is held with the thumb, it may slide backwards and eject the round completely. In this case, the bolt is best left closed on an empty chamber. When you have reached the shooting area and you are ready to take a shot, only then should a round be fully loaded into the chamber and the bolt fully closed.

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