The safety aspect of shooting is very important to me. 1. Because I don’t want to be hurt or killed 2. Because I don’t want to hurt or kill any living thing and 3. Because I don’t want to hurt the sport of shooting.
The first two are pretty self explanatory and I hope you all share those views. The third is something all responsible sport shooters must consider. Everything we do creates a reaction. That could be positive or negative. With stories in the media focusing mainly on the shocking and negative we must think very carefully about shooting safely and urging others to do the same. This article aims to teach the novice some basic range safety. Please also check regulations with your range and range officer as procedures may differ depending on environment and competition shoot.
Most non shooters imagine that there is only one dangerous thing that can happen with a gun – you point it at someone and it goes bang and kills them. In fact there are multiple risks involved including risks to the shooter. Luckily for us these risks are all reduced significantly with a little knowledge of them. To diminish risk you must first understand that it exists. A bit of Zen for you!
Let’s begin by looking at what happens when you pull the trigger on a loaded firearm.
The trigger releases a pin which flies forward and hits the primer (the circular disc on the bottom of your ammunition, or the rim of a RimFire round). This causes a reaction similar to a match head being struck. The material in the primer ignites and thus ignites the powder within the brass case. The ignition of the propellant produces gas and heat. The round should be sealed firmly in place by the rifles bolt/action therefore the gasses can only exit in one direction. The bullet is pushed down the barrel by the gases as it is the path of least resistance. The bullet and gases/heat exit the barrel at high speed and hopefully end up striking the target you are aiming at.
Once that sequence of events has started it will take milliseconds for the bullet to leave the barrel. It will appear instantaneous. Anything in front of the bullets path (possibly several miles of path dependant on trajectory) will end up with a hole through it..
This picture (thanks to Hornady ammo) shows the round in the rifle as the firing pin strikes. The gases generated propel the bullet forward down the barrel at great speed.
A firearm should only ever be loaded if you are pointing it at something you want to shoot or would be happy to shoot in case of a negligent discharge. You should never load your gun for fun at home or to “practice” if you are not pointing it down range. I’m aware that in some countries firearms are kept loaded for self defence. I am not covering self defence in this article, this is range safety only. It will also apply to hunters and recreational shooters on legal, private land. Once the gun is loaded it must ALWAYS be kept pointing at the target/butts. Not up in the air. Ranges are designed to have areas behind the butts which allow for errant bullets to fall harmlessly to the ground. However many rifles can send bullets a very long way if pointing at the right angle. Don’t risk putting a bullet over or out of the ranges danger areas. It may land in a populated area. Someone may die. Negative media would be generated even if nobody was hurt. In some disciplines you may need to move with a loaded firearm (practical shooting). In these instances the barrel/muzzle must always be pointing toward the target/butts. Practical disciplines require safety guidance of their own concerning movement and muzzle direction. Again you should check with the range officer if you are unsure on protocol. That’s what he is there for. You should treat all guns as if they could be loaded in regards to where you point them. Do not imagine pointing a gun at a car door or a wall means those behind are “safe”. A standard .308 will penetrate both obstacles and still retain enough power to kill when it exits them…
A firearm should always be treated as if it were loaded. To make safe keep it pointing towards the target and release the magazine first. Then slide the bolt to the rear and check the breech is empty. Action the bolt and then open it again. Recheck the breech to ensure nothing has been chambered. In some disciplines you will be asked to “ease springs” at this point. This generally means pulling the trigger on an empty chamber and selecting safety “on”. Check with the range officer as safety drills are different in disciplines/countries/clubs.
Sometimes firearms go bang in the wrong way. There are a ;