Safety first: How to handle a gun

It may seem like stating the obvious, but the importance of safe gun handling can never be overstated. Mark Camoccio recaps the real-world basics you should never overlook…

It might seem like common sense, but when you first start out it pays to be extra cautious


Simply the most important rule of all. There are no circumstances under which it is acceptable to point a gun at anyone. I attend national HFT competitions around the country, and it is no exaggeration to say that I must have three or four gun barrels pointed at me at each event, normally as shooters (often experienced ones) are getting up from the ground. Not good!

2. Break The Barrel

One of the advantages of the traditional break-barrel spring-powered airgun is that the barrel can be broken open at the breech (not cocked) when the shooting has stopped. This simple action instantly makes it clear to everyone around that this particular gun is safe. Get used to doing this action as a matter of course.

Breaking the barrel (not cocking) of a break-barrel rifle instantly shows it’s safe

3. Have A Secure Firing Line

Never make it possible for anyone to accidentally walk into or across the firing line. If you are lucky enough to be able to shoot at home, lock the doors, put signs up, and rope off an area if necessary. It is never overkill. The idea is to make it impossible for an accident to happen, not wonder how it happened afterwards!

4. Remove The Magazine

Remove the magazine from a multi-shot airgun when you’re not at the firing line. This prevents the risk of the gun being loaded when you don’t need it to be. If you attend an HFT competition, this is actually a requirement laid down in the rules, but it has to make sense at local club level too, or at home. Leaving a gun lying around with several shots ready to fire really is a disaster waiting to happen… and it’s so easily avoided.

5. Unclip The Lever Of An Underlever

Like a break-barrel, an underlever airgun can be shown to be safe by the lever hanging, unclipped at the muzzle. Again, don’t cock the action: just unclip the lever, and it will hang down a few inches, signifying that the action isn’t primed.

Like a break-barrel, an underlever airgun can be shown to be safe by the lever hanging

6. Leave The Bolt Or Side-lever open

With pre-charged pneumatics, leave the bolt or side-lever open where possible, as this shows the gun cannot fire and is safe. Use a small brightly coloured range safe indicator if possible: these are just brightly coloured pieces of plastic that sit in the breech, again showing the gun is safe.

7. Store Guns & Ammo Safely

Store all guns and ammunition safely away from children. Again, a disaster can only happen if you allow it! Lock everything away so they just can’t access what they clearly shouldn’t.

8. NEVER forget point 1!

We seem fairly casual about airguns, probably because of their comparative lack of noise. If you waved a shotgun around to the same extent as is often the case at our national airgun competitions, you would be escorted from the premises. Think at all times! There is no excuse.

This article originally appeared in the issue 99 of Airgun Shooter magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store:

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Posted in Features, Gear, How to, Hunting, Target Shooting

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