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How to carry a rifle correctly, comfortably and safely

Chris Dalton offers some useful advice

how to carry a rifle

Length, terrain and comfort can all influence which way the barrel is pointed

How do you carry a rifle? What is the correct way? Should you carry the barrel up or pointing down?

Both are perfectly safe. If you take any of the deer management qualifications, either method is acceptable. Interestingly, carrying the rifle barrel-down is favoured by many of my guests from Europe, but in the UK almost all carry barrels up. It’s a personal thing, and probably comes down to what is most comfortable.

I think that the frequent use of moderators has made a difference in this choice — a moderator adds length, and so for some vertically challenged folk, the extra length of a moderator and a longer-barrelled rifle would mean carrying the rifle this way is simply not an option. I just find that barrel-up is more comfortable, particularly with the type of rifle sling I use, which secures it down the centre of my back and leaves both hands free. The other factor is that my stalking is often over uneven ground and restock sites, so if I stumble barrel-down then it has the potential for the muzzle to end up plugged. But, as I say, it’s simply a matter of personal preference. It’s up to you how you carry a rifle.  (Read more on rifle safety here.)

carry a rifle

Using a rifle sling

A multi-point rifle sling allows the woodland stalker to be hands-free. With the rifle strapped up tight against your chest with the barrel pointed towards the sky, you are free to push branches away from your face and find your pockets. It lets you use both hands to aid the monkey-like crawling over tree stumps and low branches that is characteristic to woodland movement. Then, as soon as your quarry is in sight, a single clip or quick release is all that is required to quietly swing your rifle barrel down, bring the butt up to your shoulder and take a shot.

Comment from George Wallace

We are all different but whatever you find best must allow you to bring the rifle into action swiftly and with the minimum of movement.

My own method is to carry a rifle upside down with the sling on top of my shoulder. The muzzle faces forward and scope is underneath the rifle and also under my arm to protect it from the weather etc.

To bring it into action, raising the rifle very slightly with the right hand allows the sling to slip off the shoulder, left hand goes to the fore-end and right hand to the small of the butt and I’m in business with very little movement to alert the quarry.

There are lots of other ways of carrying a rifle and every ‘expert’ seems to have his own method – which some of them then say is the only proper way.

However, as long as you can carry your rifle comfortably so that it doesn’t get damaged or go off and shoot someone but can be brought swiftly into action with minimum movement, then what suits you is the right way to do it. (You might like to read this advice on how to zero your rifle.)

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.