deer hunting and firearm safety



The importance of firearm safety: How to handle firearms responsibly

Whether you’re a seasoned gun enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of firearms, understanding the significance of safe and responsible handling is absolutely essential. Ignoring these principles could lead to disaster, potentially leading to accidents, injuries, or even loss of life. To keep yourself and others safe, adhere to fundamental firearm safety protocols and manage your firearm responsibly. By embracing these best practices, you’ll not only prioritise safety but also demonstrate your commitment to responsible and diligent gun ownership.

1.    Always assume that a firearm is loaded

When it comes to handling firearms safely, the basic rule is to treat every gun like it’s loaded. This means you should always point the muzzle in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger. Don’t just take someone’s word for it when they say the gun is empty, always double-check for yourself by opening the action and looking in the chamber and magazine.

When transferring a firearm to, or accepting a firearm from another person, take extra care. Confirm that the gun is pointed in a safe direction with the action open and no ammunition is present. If you are uncertain about how to open the gun or make it safe, do not touch it. Instead, ask the owner to demonstrate that the gun is unloaded. Always verify that a gun is open and empty before handing it over or taking it from someone else.

2.    Always store your firearms securely

It is essential and required by law, to store your firearms and ammunition in a safe and secure place, separate from each other and in accordance with legislation. Storing them in an approved safe, out of sight, not only keeps them from falling into the wrong hands but also helps prevent theft. Remember to lock away your unloaded firearm and ammunition as soon as you return from shooting or after completing scheduled maintenance. The Firearms Act 1996 outlines storage requirements, which include using a steel container that is manufactured specifically for the storage of firearms, and that is difficult to penetrate. If the container weighs less than 150 kg when empty, it must be securely fixed to the floor or wall frame. Premises storing more than 15 firearms must be fitted with an intruder alarm system. Ammunition should be stored in a separate locked container, not within the firearm. Look at the Firearm Safety website for more details.

While firearms are not to be left outside of a safe while not in use, every member of the family, particularly children, must be educated on firearms, their purpose, and how crucial it is to treat them with caution and respect. Teach children not to touch a firearm without an adult present and to seek an adult’s assistance if they find one. This ensures everyone understands that firearms are not toys and must be handled responsibly.

3.    Always transport your firearms securely and unloaded

Before purchasing your first firearm, it’s essential to know how to transport it and where to store it securely. Keep in mind that carrying or using a loaded firearm in a vehicle is illegal. In Victoria, it must be transported in a case, preferably lockable and out of sight to others while in transit. To protect your firearm and keep it in good condition, consider investing in a padded cover or hard case, making it less noticeable and less likely to alarm others. A hard case with a soft lining offers far better protection while travelling. Ensure you have a valid and lawful reason for having firearms in your vehicle, such as travelling to or from a hunting trip or shooting range. Keeping your firearms secure at all times is crucial for community safety and crime reduction. Failing to do so could result in the loss of your firearms licence. There is more information about transporting your firearms securely on the Firearm Safety website.

4.    Always wear appropriate eye and ear protection

Wearing appropriate eye and ear protection is a critical aspect of safe shooting practices. Shooting glasses are designed to protect your eyes from any stray shots or debris that could cause serious damage to your eyesight, while hearing protectors are designed to reduce the loud noise of gunfire to a safe level, preventing potential damage to your hearing.

Exposure to loud noise can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, so it is crucial to use hearing protectors to minimise this risk. It is also important to ensure that the protective gear you choose fits properly and is comfortable to wear for extended periods. By investing in high-quality protective gear, you can not only prevent potential injuries but also enhance your shooting experience by focusing on your target without distractions.

5.    Ensure that you are familiar with your firearm

Owning a firearm comes with a significant responsibility that demands dedication to safe and effective handling. It is crucial to master not only the basic skills such as loading and unloading, precise aiming, and the use of safety features but also to develop a comprehensive understanding of proper firearm care. Regular inspections, meticulous maintenance, and a commitment to ongoing education are all vital components of responsible gun ownership.

Regular servicing of your firearm after each trip to the field or range should also not be overlooked, if you are unsure of how to do it, or do not have the equipment or chemicals we can service and clean your firearms for you.

6.    Always obey all laws and regulations related to firearms

Gun ownership in Australia is legal, but it’s a bit more complicated than just getting a licence. To own a gun in Australia, you need a firearms licence, proving you have a genuine reason, such as pest control, target practice, hunting, or collecting firearms. “Self-defence” is not considered a valid reason in Australia. You must also meet certain age requirements, have proper storage, and complete a safety training course. Gun ownership is heavily regulated in Australia, with various categories of weapon licences and strict requirements. Carrying a gun in public is generally not allowed, and certain criminal offences can disqualify you from owning a gun.

7.    Always be mindful of your surroundings when shooting

It is essential to positively identify your target beyond all doubt before firing. Factors such as movement, colour, sound, and shape alone are not enough for proper identification. When emotions run high during a hunt, perceptions can be misleading, and other hunters or objects may be mistaken for game animals. To avoid accidents, ask yourself if the target could be a person and keep your finger away from the trigger until you are certain it’s safe to fire. Wearing bright-coloured clothing, like blaze orange, can make you more visible to others, but it’s still the shooter’s responsibility to identify the target correctly. Using binoculars to scan the area can help prevent “tunnel vision” when using telescopic sights. Remember, the responsibility lies with the shooter to positively identify the target, regardless of other hunters’ precautions.

To sum up

As a firearm owner, it’s crucial to prioritise safety and responsibility, while being cognizant of both legal regulations and the environment around you. Ensuring that safety remains your top concern requires sensible handling of your firearm, becoming familiar with its features, adhering to all rules, wearing protective gear, staying alert to your surroundings, and diligently maintaining your weapon’s condition. Embrace these practices to create a secure and enjoyable experience for yourself and others.