Mike Morton explains the meaning of the terms “made ready”, “made safe”, “cocked” and “loaded”.
An airgun is loaded if it contains a pellet in the breech – or has one or more pellets in the magazine, in the case of a multi-shot – and the magazine has been inserted into the gun. Any airgun that has a detachable magazine is therefore said to be unloaded if the magazine has not been inserted into the gun. The term can be confusing with multi-shots because you first load pellets into the magazine, then load the magazine into the gun.
It’s the presence of a pellet or pellets that determine whether or not a gun is loaded. A multi-shot that’s had an empty magazine inserted has not been loaded. Some people like to store their magazines in their guns this way to ensure they don’t get misplaced or left at home by mistake when they go shooting, and indeed some guns come new in the box with the magazine inserted. If you use this method yourself, you must be 100% certain that the magazine does not contain any pellets. I’ve received guns I’ve bought second-hand – and in one case brand new – where at least one pellet had been left in the magazine and the mag had been inserted into the rifle.
An airgun is cocked when the mechanism that delivers high-pressure air has been activated, before being released by the trigger. That means pulling down the barrel, underlever or sidelever on a springer or gas-ram, or cycling the bolt or sidelever on a PCP. An airgun that has been cocked and loaded and has a pellet in the breech has been made ready to fire.
In contrast, an airgun has been made safe when it’s not cocked and no pellets are present. It’s now in its most inert – and safest – state. However in the case of a PCP, it still contains a cylinder full of high-pressure compressed air.