Top 10 rules of hunting-firearm safety

  • Published
  • By Eric T. Hoehn, Safety Office
  • 88th Air Base Wing

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- This fall, many of us will take to the field in pursuit of various game species in and beyond the local area.

Regardless of location, it’s critical that the utmost caution is exercised at all times when handling a firearm. Hunting injuries and wounds are often a result of carelessness, ignorance, or disregard of safety rules and laws.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife provides the following guidance, which applies to general firearm-handling safety as well:

1. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.

Every time a gun is handled, check to make sure it’s empty of shells or cartridges. Always assume the gun has the ability to load itself.

2. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

No one should ever see the muzzle end of your gun. An experienced hunter is always aware of the safe direction to point the gun’s muzzle and would not hunt with anyone who doesn’t do likewise.

3. Be sure of your target and beyond.

A safe hunter would never take aim at a sound, movement or flash of color. A safe shot is taken at a positively identified target against a clear, safe background.

4. Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot.

Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.

5. Unload guns when not in use.

Have the action open to ensure a gun is not loaded. Guns should be carried in cases to the shooting area.

6. Store guns and ammunition separately.

Store in a place where the guns are out of reach from children or careless adults.

7. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.

Only carry ammunition for the gun you’re carrying and the game you are hunting.

8. Never climb a fence or tree, cross a log or stream, or jump a ditch with a loaded gun.

9. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.

When target practicing, be sure your backstop is adequate.

10. Never consume alcoholic beverages or drugs when handling a firearm.

Alcohol or drugs should not be used before or during the hunt, or when cleaning a gun. Always be fully alert and in control.

These safety rules have continually protected hunters and their companions year after year. They need to stay foremost in the mind of every hunter. Ignoring these rules may lead to a hunting incident that will be forever regretted.

More information concerning hunter safety classes and a host of outdoor-related topics is available at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website: