Firearms Safety – A Refresher
By Marisa Futral, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
It has been my experience that on shooting ranges, in hunter education classes and even at hunting preserves, someone always gets a little complacent with their gun’s muzzle control. When asked about it, the person usually says not to worry, “The safety was on.” That always makes me cringe, for as you should know, a safety is not foolproof.
Remember that the safety is a mechanical device that can and will fail. Even though the safety may be on, pointing the muzzle at someone else breaks the first rule of firearm safety – TREAT EVERY FIREARM AS THOUGH IT WERE LOADED! Just because the safety is on, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore safety rule number one or that the gun will never fire. Sometimes the safety does fail. No matter what task you are attempting to accomplish, you MUST be aware of where you are pointing the muzzle of the gun.
It is a good idea for everyone to review the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety from time to time. They are:
1. Treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm. If you become careless with unloaded guns, you will soon become careless with loaded guns.
2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
3. Identify your target and what is behind it before you shoot. Never shoot at movement and make sure you know what is behind your target before you shoot.
4. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you only have ammunition of the proper size for the firearm you are carrying.
5. Unload firearms when not in use. Leave the action open. Firearms should be carried unloaded and in a case to and from your shooting or hunting area.
6. Never point a firearm at anything you do not wish to destroy.
7. Never climb a fence, tree, or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm. Always unload the firearm before you cross and never pull a firearm towards you by the muzzle. Never lean a firearm against a tree, fence, wall or automobile.
8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water. Bullets can ricochet at odd angles.
9. Store firearms and ammunition separately beyond the reach of children and inexperienced adults.
10. Never mix gunpowder with alcohol or drugs. No one should drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs while hunting and never go hunting with anyone who does.
Following these simple rules will ensure a much more enjoyable hunt or shooting activity for everyone. Stay safe and have a great hunting season!