Constant muzzle awareness is key to staying safe – at home, at the range and in the field.
In order to ensure you are always pointing your firearm in a safe direction, you must know which way the muzzle is pointing and what’s in that direction. Sounds easy and obvious enough, but here are a couple of tips to help ensure you do it correctly.
When you get to the range or the hunting fields and it’s time to get your firearm out of its case:
When it finally comes time to hit the range or go hunting, you’re naturally going to be excited and have a lot on your mind. Make sure basic safety is always at the forefront of your thoughts.
- Maintain “Situational Awareness“. Take a minute to scan the area, determine it is safe and appropriate to take your weapon out of its case. If it is, then move to the next step.
- Put the gun case on a stable platform, like a range bench or the tailgate of your pickup, as two examples.
- Unlock the case and undo the latches or unzip the case as appropriate.
- Open the case just enough to determine which way the muzzle is pointing.
- Make a safety assessment. Is the weapon pointed in a safe direction?
- If the firearm is not pointed in a safe direction, close the case, and rotate or turn the case (with the weapon still inside) until the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction.
- Only once you are sure the weapon is pointed in a safe direction should you remove your firearm from its case.
- Once your firearm is out of its case, follow all relevant range or hunting safety regulations. (i.e. pointed downrange, action locked open, safety flag inserted in chamber, etc. etc.)
Never to touch the firearm or pull it out of its case if it is not pointed in a safe direction.
Talking to those around you, and just looking around with a firearm in you hands:
For most of us it just comes naturally to look at the person we are talking to. This often means turning our body to face that person or group of people, squaring-off with them. You may not have ever thought about this, and it might come so naturally you might not even realize you do it. It’s just an everyday common courtesy and normal part of social etiquette. Most of the time it’s not a problem at all, and not even something you have to think about. However, put a gun in your hands, and that “natural” act can become a major problem and safety concern if without realizing it, you just unintentionally pointed your firearm in an unsafe direction. Here are a couple of tips to help ensure your normal social behavior doesn’t make you a risk at the range or in the field.
- Stay focused on what you are doing.
- Know who and what are around you at all times.
- Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction – preferably down range, at the ground (but not your own, or anyone else’s feet!) or least preferably, towards the sky.
- Stay focused on what you are doing.
- When handling firearms, get in the habit of just turning your head to talk to those around you, or turning your body except for that arm that’s holding the firearm. Keep that in a safe direction.
- Stay focused on what you are doing…
Some additional thoughts on hunting safety when in the field:
Realize it or not, hunting is more dangerous than shooting at the range. When at the range, the shooting areas, target areas and safety zones are all generally very well defined. “Downrange” tends to be very obvious. The entire range is usually designed with safety in mind, setup with all shooting lanes having parallel, or back-to-back lines of fire. The target backstops are usually very obvious, well setup and built for pupose. While it is still up to you to make a safety determination, and you should still never shoot if you have any questions, concerns or doubts, you tend to trust that the range has done their best to ensure to help ensure safe target areas and appropriate shooting backstop. Therefore, realize it or not, you are more confident about the “Know your target and beyond” safety rules at the range. Additionally, since everyone at the range is generally shooting from the same area, you get a chance to observe your range partners and make judgements on their safety habits before you decide to start shooing. Lastly, most ranges have very well trained staff on site to not only help you ensure your shooting experience is a positive one, but help ensure everyone stays safe.
Hunting is a different situation. There is no range officer looking over your shoulder, ready to remind you if you are a little less than perfectly disciplined with your safe handling technique. While there are well defined “Safety Zones”, not all shooters will be shooting from the same area, or even in a common “downrange” direction. You don’t have designated target areas. There aren’t necessarily purpose built backstops ready to stop bullets from traveling too far or from going in an unsafe direction. You won’t always get a chance to observe the safe handling techniques of your fellow hunters the same way you can observe other shooters while at the range. You are still governed by very clear rules and regulations, but it is up to you and your fellow hunters to be disciplined and stay safe. Always maintain “Situational Awareness” as what and who is around you can constantly change in the field. Know and follow all “Firearms Safety – Rules to Live By“. Maintain Constant Muzzle Awareness. Know, practice and implement the safe hunter carry positions.