Firearms have long been part of country life, whether they’re used for shooting sports, recreational hunting or varmint control. Learning to skillfully use them can be rewarding and fun. However, they also pose risks and challenges, and maintaining safe handling practices are essential to having them on any farm. Here are tips on gun safety.
Guns should always be stored in a locked safe with either a dial or digital code. Gun safes are essentially steel vaults that are designed to hold several firearms. Only household adults should know the codes for the safe. Safes provide a way to protect family members, guests and thieves from obtaining access to firearms.
“Trigger locks are not enough,” explains shooting instructor Bob Self, of Indianapolis, Indiana. “With a cordless drill, anyone—particularly thieves—can disarm a lock. They are not the best way to protect the gun from others.”
Open & Out
Self travels across the country teaching young people and adults how to properly handle firearms. “We have a saying: ‘open and out,’ which means guns should always be open and the shells out until it is time to shoot,” he says. “Don’t carry a loaded gun in the car or truck or anywhere on the farm. Only load it when you are ready to fire.” A shooter should never put their finger on the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
Self also advises that the shooter consider the space beyond the intended target. Someone may aim at a varmint or deer or a clay pigeon, but if they miss, where will the ammunition travel? Depending on the gun, bullets can travel up to and even over a mile, while shotgun pellets travel about 300 yards. That can still mean hitting something unintended, such as a person, farm animal, pet, vehicle or barn. Knowing the surroundings is an important part of gun safety. Finally, Self warns that a gun should never be pointed at anything the shooter is not prepared to kill.
Times of Transition
Gun injuries often happen in times of transition; getting into or out of a vehicle, leaving a deer blind and walking home. When the hunting or shooting sports are over, Self has everyone empty their firearms before making a move back to vehicles. No one should carry a loaded weapon. Instead, ammunition should be removed and carried separately.
“It’s not worth the risk to carry a loaded gun with the idea that you may miss a last chance at a bird or deer on your way back to your vehicle,” Self says. Empty firearms should be safely stowed for the drive home.
Education, Education, Education
Self encourages everyone to take a lesson in gun safety at a local gun club. A qualified instructor will help adults and young people learn more about their firearm, how to handle it and how to shoot better. Just like learning to play golf, find a professional instructor who can help you know more about your gun. Lessons provide excellent review for experienced shooters while helping young people develop lifelong gun safety practices. Lessons can also be a catalyst for family conversations about guns and safety on the farm.—Deb Brandt
This story first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.