It may seem obvious, but shooting safely is the most important thing.
It may seem obvious, but shooting safely is the most important thing. It should be your first consideration, always. Whenever you have a gun in your hands, you must be constantly aware of safety. Develop your 'muzzle awareness' - always knowing where the muzzles of your gun are pointed.
Here are some very basic rules:
When handing a gun to someone else, or picking one up, always check it is unloaded.Never point the gun at anyone else, even if it is unloaded or broken. Unless you are actually about to fire, keep the barrels either pointing down at the ground or straight up (shotguns only - it is not safe to point a rifle at the sky), and keep your finger away from the trigger.Treat the gun with respect at all times. It is not a toy, but potentially very dangerous in the wrong hands.
Carrying a shotgun in a slip:
Generally when carrying your gun or it is not in use, it should be in a slip.Carry it with the barrels facing down and the stock up.If you are removing or replacing the gun in its slip, it should be broken (opened), until safely in the slip, or about to be used. Check the barrels are clear each time you remove or replace the gun. Do not touch the trigger.
Carrying the gun out of a slip:
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If you are not actually shooting but have the gun out of its slip, it should be carried unloaded and broken, carried over the crook of your arm.
Passing a shotgun or crossing an obstacle:
If you need to pass a gun to another person, make sure it is unloaded and broken, and pass it to them stock first.If you need to cross an obstacle on your own, close the gun (it should already be unloaded) and lean it against something solid, with the barrels pointing straight up and not at you, where you can reach it from the other side.If you are with someone else, hand them the gun, cross the obstacle, and have them pass you your and their guns so they can then cross.
Never shoot unless you are sure it is safe to do so. You need to consider what you can't see, so you should generally only shoot if you can see blue sky or solid ground directly behind your target. Also be aware of ricochets and where your swing may lead. It may start pointing somewhere safe, but as you follow the target it could lead you into a dangerous area.Never load the gun unless you are expecting to shoot.Never put down a loaded gun, or leave it alone.Don't release the safety catch or touch the triggers until you are ready to fire.Don't fire at a target unless you are sure of what it is.Be aware of overhead power and telephone wires.
Be seen to be safe - nothing spoils a day's shooting quicker than being out with a shooter who doesn't follow the safety rules. It is much better to be too careful than not careful enough. Above all, use common sense at all times. It is not worth taking any risks.
This is a very old poem, but it is still useful today:
A Fathers Advice
If a sportsman true you'd beListen carefully to me. . .
Never, never let your gunPointed be at anyone.That it may unloaded beMatters not the least to me.
When a hedge or fence you crossThough of time it cause a lossFrom your gun the cartridge takeFor the greater safety's sake.
If twixt you and neighbouring gunBird shall fly or beast may runLet this maxim ere be thine"Follow not across the line."
Stops and beaters oft unseenLurk behind some leafy screen.Calm and steady always be"Never shoot where you can't see."You may kill or you may missBut at all times think this:"All the pheasants ever bredWon't repay for one man dead."
Mark Beaufoy - 1902