Firearm usage can be categorised into three main groups:
- Game/Vermin shooting
- Target Shooting
With the exception of warfare, the shooting of our fellow human beings is not an objective and must be avoided at all costs, hence our whole ethos must be to strive for 100% safety when handling firearms and ammunition.
When looking at historical incidents resulting in injury or death, a very disturbing, but common, statement from the person discharging the firearm is...'I did not realise it was loaded' so this leads us the fundamental principle for safety when handling firearms and ammunition... Always handle a weapon with the assumption it 'could be loaded', never point it at a 'Non Target' and 'never be frivolous'.
Unless a person has received and fully understood a full safety briefing and has become 'familiar' with the weapon, they must not handle or be allowed to use that firearm and/or ammunition.
Ensure you know how to safely use the weapon and all it's features.
All weapons must be stored and transported in an 'unloaded state', and if possible, with the firing mechanism removed, or the weapon dismantled in an acceptable manner to demonstrate it is 'un-fireable', and if possible with a 'safe flag' inserted into the chamber.
Always ensure weapons are unloaded before storing, handling and transporting. When handed a weapon always check that it is unloaded, regardless of what you have been assured.
All weapons on a 'range' or 'organised shoot' should normally be kept unloaded, and only loaded when the shooter is on the firing point, with the weapon pointing at the target, and the Range Conducting Officer or person in charge of a 'shoot' has given permission to commence firing.
Always take care when loading a weapon ensuring it is pointing in a safe direction, occasionally they will 'Slam Fire' on closing the bolt/action without warning.
All weapons must be unloaded when each shooting detail has finished, a 'safe flag' inserted into the breach (to demonstrate to that the weapon is unloaded and safe), or the gun be 'opened' or partially dismantled, thus preventing it from being fired accidentally.
Only load a weapon when instructed, just prior to shooting with the barrel pointing downrange in a 'safe direction' and unload and make safe immediately on finishing that detail.
When moving about a range or organised shoot, always carry weapons in such a manner that they NEVER point at another person, even when in a 'safe condition', This would normally be in an upright position.
NEVER point a weapon at anybody or anything that you do not intend to shoot, even in jest with a safe flag in position.
Never point a weapon at anybody or 'thing' that you do intend on shooting. Never be frivolous with weapons.
Always stop shooting if a 'Cease Fire, 'Stop Shooting' or 'Stop' command is heard, and make the weapon safe by unloading and inserting a 'safety flag', and await further instructions from the RCO or person in charge.
Shooting must immediately cease if anyone or a 'non-target animal' is seen in the 'danger area' i.e. in the general direction of the 'target'.
When shooting game or vermin, you must always establish that the shot will go safely into the ground in an area visible to the shooter who can see it is safe. Never shoot into hedges, over the brow of a hill or into dense woodland.
Always stop shooting, unload and make safe if any commands to 'STOP' are given by anyone, or if you see it has become unsafe to continue firing.
If after releasing the trigger the weapon fails to fire, keep the weapon pointing at the target, DO NOT OPEN it or attempt to unload it, call for the RCO and inform them of your 'Misfire'. The RCO will instruct you on the correct action.
Sometimes, ammunition is 'slow' to ignite after firing, due to failures in the chemicals used, so an unknown delay could occur with the firing of the 'bullet'.
When a miss-fire occurs the RCO will follow established procedures to make the ammunition safe, always follow these instructions.
When the weapon fails to fire, keep it pointing at the target, do not open/unload and call the RCO/organiser.
Ammunition is fired by the action of a 'firing pin' striking the cartridge case, therefore we must ensure when handling this ammunition we do not accidentally subject it to such pressure by dropping, banging, knocking etc. Likewise excessive heat could initiate a detonation.
Always treat live ammunition with care, as it has the potential to 'detonate' if handled incorrectly.
Safety Catches fitted to weapons are rarely 100% safe, many only stop the trigger movement, but will allowed a loaded weapon to fire if dropped, banged or jolted. The act of switching a safety catch off, can allow the weapon to fire instantaneously and without warning.
The only truly safe weapon is an 'unloaded' one.