I have been lucky in my life to get the opportunity to practice and train with several branches of the United States military and law enforcement, without being officially part of either.
One of the main concerns of any practitioner, especially when relating to firearms, is the method of safety applied.
This carries over into any time a firearm is used, especially in the context of hunting, where safety reigns supreme, and at the top of everyone’s thinking. As hunting is an extremely common pastime in the Northwest, so should be the importance of safety precautions taken while enjoying one’s self in the outdoors.
Firearms are incredible tools but can also be quite dangerous if used incorrectly. There are many safety processes that should be taken, and practiced as ritual, to eliminate the possibility of harm. If these are all met, then firearms can be enjoyed safely.
Whether you are a “wood-and-bolt” traditionalist, or a “military style precision machining” kind of gun-person the first practice anyone should explore when dealing with any firearm is the basic concept of not pointing that gun in the direction of anything you don’t want to shoot.
In fact, all of these safety precautions that I will list will work on any gun ever made, no matter its function or mechanics.
“Not pointing a gun in a bad direction” is something that should always be practiced, so that that muscle memory becomes engrained onto the fiber of every person touching that gun. In jargon it is called “flagging.”
This refers to pointing, even for a second, a firearm at a person or their extremities.
This may seem like a commonsense idea, that everyone’s mother taught them growing up, it still fails to fall onto some peoples’ thoughts when touching a firearm.
The second, and most important thing to remember when dealing with any firearm is that it is a tool, and nothing more. It will do ONLY what its master commands, and so the most powerful safety feature on any gun is “trigger control.”
This is the ability of a person to keep their finger off of the trigger and out of the trigger well, or trigger guard. Many military and law enforcement constantly practice this, so that it becomes automatic.
I have even known some to take an extra step of adding the safety switch into this automated process; most commonly with the AR-15, M16 or M4 platform.
In combat terms this may not be the most effective, or intelligent practice, but in civilian terms anything helps.
It is not every second the average person needs to be on guard to react to oncoming fire especially when hunting. There can be arguments on both sides of this, however I am talking here strictly on safety, not on the best ways to be “battle ready” when dealing with a self defense situation. That is a whole other class.
These two practices alone, when properly engrained, prevent the vast majority of accidental shootings. This last practice assists with the rest.
In most cases, when a firearm is not being used, it should be safely stored, or the chamber emptied (i.e. no bullets in the gun.)
It is a common practice for firearm salesman, and military/law enforcement practitioners to check the action of a handed off gun to be clear. In fact, this is often done by both and all parties, every time that weapon is handed off.
This ensures the gun to be “safe.”
That means if one person hands it to another, the other person checks it, and then the new person who now holds it checks it then hands it off to another person who also checks it. Every person who holds the gun checks it after they receive it and before they hand it off.
Any time I was allowed out on a ride along or training exercise a detailed safety briefing would always be held, something I still carry on to this day whenever I go shooting with anyone else, regardless of how experienced they, or I, may be.
When I was instructing about firearms for college, ROTC, and scouting these three concepts were the backbone of safely practices using a firearm that we taught.
It only takes one instance of misuse to create an eternity of problems.