Keeping safe when you’re out in the field
Shooting has an excellent safety record and we are all responsible for keeping it that way. Play your part and read through the safety tips below as a reminder - whether you're a novice shooter or a Gun with years of experience.
Check and check again
The safest way to treat a gun is to always assume it is loaded. Never point a gun at anyone – even if you are 100% sure it is empty.
Make a habit of opening and checking a shotgun to make sure the chambers are empty – particularly when you’re handed one. This should become instinctive. Look into the barrels to ensure a cartridge isn’t stuck halfway down. Muzzles should be clear and free from mud.
When you’re in the field (or on a shooting ground) your gun should always be broken and unloaded. Wait until you get to the stand to load the gun – and ensure the muzzles are pointed ahead.
The only time an unloaded gun shouldn’t be broken is when it is safely in its slip. Carry your gun in its slip whenever possible. When you’re walking between stands your gun should always be unloaded and broken or in its slip. Make this rule second nature.
To be doubly safe, always break the gun when you’re taking it out of its slip, with the muzzles pointing towards the ground. Check the chambers are empty and reverse the whole process when you’re putting the gun away.
Semi-autos and pump action shotguns should always be open at the breech when out of a gun slip and not in use. Hold them with the muzzles pointing either straight up or down at the ground.
You must always be alert to the whereabouts and movements of fellow shooters. Somebody could decide to cut a corner right into your line of fire – so be aware.
Be weather aware
Take a note of the weather forecast the day before you go shooting and plan accordingly.
If you’re driving to the shoot, make sure your car is suitable for the roads and any fields and tracks you may be traversing. If you have the wrong tyres fitted to your car it will either bog down in the mud and get stuck or slip on wet grass – which is both embarassing and dangerous. All-terrain tyres are a good option for Guns during the season, as they are equally suitable for driving on the road and off-road in the field. Even a 4 x 4 will fail on performance if the tyres aren’t up to scratch. Mud-terrain tyres should be a consideration for vehicles that are mainly used off-road – many people working in fieldsports fit these as no other options perform as well on the terrain.
The right kit
Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Layers are best – you need to stay warm and dry without overheating. Shoes or boots should have a suitable grip to hold on wet and slippery ground.
Shooters should always wear ear defenders to protect their hearing.
Other safety tips
- Cattle can be a problem for shooters and can be very curious. Rural types advise never to let cows get up hill of you, because if they come running down to see what you are, they might not be able to stop.
- If you encounter violent ‘antis’ or poachers, the advice from all the shooting organisations is to get yourself to a place of safety and call the police – don’t try to tackle them yourself.
- Always carry a fully-charged mobile phone. The etiquette is not to use it in the field – but to keep for emergencies and the GPS function. It’s also a good plan to carry a couple of small torches.
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