From the Heartland

This is my soap box, on these pages I publish my opinions on firearms and any other subject I feel like writing about.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Firearms safety this hunting season

Archery Season has been open for over a month now and I am not participating this year. Chalk it up to being lazy or just not interested this season but I have not practiced at all this year.

That being said Waterfowl season is open and the firearms deer seasons are just around the corner. Yes, these are activities that I am already or will participate in.

Firearms Safety Primer

With that in mind it never hurts us to review or be reminded of our obligations as safe ethical hunters. One of the things that I have always imparted to my children is;

"Yea, when you get tired of the old man repeatedly telling you how to do this or do that you cop the "I know Dad I know attitude". I understand. When it comes to firearm safety however please don't ever get tired of hearing about it or cop an attitude. There is not one of us that could not benefit from an occasional reminder concerning safe firearms handling. When someone reminds you about something concerning firearms safety take it to heart and tell them thank you no matter how many times you have heard it."

If nothing else this has been one axiom that they have indulged the old Gunscribe in. In fact over the years they have prodded me with a reminder or two as well and yes I said thank you.

This may sound like "Old Hat" to many of us that handle firearms almost every day. Not all of us are that into firearms that we buy, sell, trade or compete with any regularity though. A large portion of us that own firearms keep them tucked away and only bring them out for the season.

I know any number of people that after cleaning their hunting guns they put them away for the year and don't take them out until it is time to "bust a few rounds of blue rock" or sight the "ole deer rifle" in a few days before the season opens.

Not that these people are any less safe, they just aren't in "the habit of safe firearms handling" that the rest of us believe ourselves to be.

Firearms accidents or incidents

We hear or read about firearm safety incidents or accidents but how many of us realize exactly what that means, besides the fact that someone or something got shot that wasn't suppose to?

Consider the people you hunt with; Dad, Mom, Grampa, Uncle Charlie, Aunt Betsy, Cousin Joe, your best friends. When we talk about that accident or incident those are the folks we are talking about getting hurt.

It is the people we love either as family or as friends. A firearms accident or incident is a truly a life shattering event for all of those involved. That is why we need to judiciously adhere to a few simple saftey rules.

Any of you prepared to explain to Mom why Dad won't be coming home ...ever again?

It ain't hard folks and it ain't rocket science. That new power drill, circular saw or belt sander came with a set of common sense operating instructions for the sake of safety. Firearms are no different than any other tool, they have their common sense rules too.

Muzzle Control

Always keep the muzzle of any firearm pointed in a safe direction. Then if there is a discharge no one or thing of value will be harmed.

What is a safe direction?

That will depend and where you are in relation to everything around you. It could be up, down, left, right, toward your front or behind you. That is why Hunter Education programs teach a variety of methods for carrying a firearm. It is essential that safe hunters are aware of them and know which ones to use at varying times in the field.

The bottom line is never point a firearm at anything that you do not wish to see damaged or destroyed.

The target and what is beyond

When taking a shot on game be acutely aware of your target and what is beyond it. Are you using a 30-06 that has a range of nearly 5 miles or a bird shot loaded shotgun that has a range of 100 yards or so? If you miss or the projectile passes completely through the intended target where will it end up?

Keeping ones finger off of the trigger

This may be second nature to a lot of us, but I see countless people every year that pick up a firearm and their finger automatically goes in the trigger guard.

This is a very bad habit that those so afflicted need to cure themselves of. The sooner the better.

Placing your finger on or near the trigger of a firearm that you have not personally checked the unloaded/loaded condition of or are not prepared to fire is a very dangerous practice. The rule of thumb here is not to put a finger on the trigger until you are prepared to take a shot with that firearm.

Know how it operates

All businesses that I know of have special training requirements for the equipment they use to manufacture their products. Most sporting equipment comes with a common sense set of rules or cautions for using that item. Safe handling of firearms is no different.

Understand this;

When you pick up a firearm you pick up all of the responsibility that goes along with it.

There are many different types of operating systems for firearms, break action, bolt pump, .. the list goes on. Do not accept a firearm from someone or pick one up if you are not familiar with its operation. Have someone with knowledge of that firearm show you how it works before you accept the responsibility of possessing it, even if that possession is only to examine it.

The old "I didn't know it was loaded" won't cut it.

Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, even if it isn't. In other words just because you THINK it is unloaded it is not okay to be pointing it at other people or things you do not want to see destroyed.

There are of course a few other rules I could mention, but being familiar with the firearm, maintaining muzzle control and being sure of your target and what is beyond it top the list.

Let each one of us take the time necessary to ensure we are familiar with the firearms we will be hunting with, watch where we are pointing the muzzle AT ALL TIMES and pass up any shots in which we are not sure where the projectile or shot will end up.

Here's wishing a safe, enjoyable and productive season for anyone that goes afield to hunt this year.

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