The Most Important Gun Safety Advice You'll Ever Read


Gun Safety Inside and Outside

Safety Inside Vehicles

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1 | Safety Inside Vehicles

A loaded firearm in a vehicle is basically just an accident waiting to happen. In many states it is illegal. Most conservation officers and game wardens have a story about a hunter having an accidental discharge in a vehicle while they were present. If the gun was pointed in a safe direction, it may have resulted in a hole in the floor of the truck and everyone can laugh about it later.

If the gun wasn’t pointed in a safe direction, nobody is laughing.

As simple as it seems, the best defense for this is to simply unload before the gun is placed in the vehicle. Unloading outside the vehicle means stepping away from the vehicle and your hunting companions, keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction and going through the unloading process.

After you have unloaded, check the weapon to make sure it is empty, and then check it again.

The unloading before placing the gun in the vehicle part is important. Working the action while the gun is on the back seat can lead to all sorts of mishaps. A loaded firearm lying on the seat is subject to having hunting coats, backpacks, or other gear tossed on it and we have all heard a story about a hunting dog jumping into the truck, snagging the trigger and causing a discharge.

A firearm going off in your vehicle may be the loudest sound you will ever hear.

(Larry Case photo)


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Safety Outside Vehicles

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2 | Safety Outside Vehicles

I came to the conclusion that a loaded firearm leaning against a truck was more dangerous than one placed inside. Anywhere you place your rifle or shotgun against the vehicle it is subject to slide off, or get knocked over and sometimes this may cause the weapon to fire when it hits the ground. (Especially if the safety was off.)

Safety with your firearm means constantly knowing the status of your weapon.

Is the safety on? Is the action open or closed? Is there a round in the chamber? You should never have to guess about this. If you don’t know check it, in a safe manner. The Hunter Education Manual tells you “a safety is a mechanical device that can sometimes fail.” This is true but we should still use the safety. One of the most common blunders I saw in the field was a young or inexperienced hunter following his buddy, Dad, or other relative on a trail with a gun pointed at their back, safety off and finger on the trigger. Not good. 

(Larry Case photo)

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Blind Safety

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3 | Blind Safety, Part 1

Tent-like ground blinds seldom have a good place to lean a firearm. My advice is to have an empty chamber until game is spotted. 

Simply entering the blind may be the most dangerous. If your hunting buddy gets in the blind before you, where is your firearm pointed when you enter? Is there anything wrong with holding your gun with the barrel pointed out the door as you step in?

Better yet unload everything before entering the blind. 

(Larry Case photo)


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Blind Safety, Part 2

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4 | Blind Safety, Part 2

Hunting from ground blinds or shooting houses calls for handling firearms in a confined space.

If the few seconds it takes to chamber a round of ammo keeps you from taking a deer or turkey, so what?

(Larry Case photo)

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Three Safety Basics

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5 | Three Safety Basics

These are not all of the safety rules you need to follow, but (in a nutshell) what I saw in my time in the field showed me most hunting-related accidents could be avoided if we all followed the three cardinal rules of hunter safety.

1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded, every time.

2. Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction, and never let the muzzle point at something you don’t wish to shoot.

3. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

It is really that simple.

(Larry Case photo)

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The hunter had a strange look on his face. He seemed to be looking at something and staring into space at the same time. I wanted to ask him about it but couldn’t. He had a bullet wound in his lower back and had been dead for over 24 hours. My partner and I stood over him while the search party stayed well back. I remember it got very quiet and all I could hear were a few insects buzzing in the early fall woods.

When I went to work as a Conservation Officer with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR) I had no idea I would see so much death in the line of duty. I saw vehicle and boating accidents, drownings, suicides, and murders, but mostly firearms-related accidents associated with hunting. I retired as a District Captain after 36 years with some pretty strong opinions on what hunters can do to protect themselves with firearms in a vehicle, outside a vehicle and in a blind.

[Editor's note: Please click through this evergreen photo gallery, first published on Aug. 29, 2017.]