Basic firearms safety applies no matter where you are, and is often accomplished by certain basic and universal rituals or drills.
- Checking the chamber. Whenever passing a firearm to another person or getting into a vehicle, the normal etiquette or protocol is to check the chamber to make sure it is empty—likewise when receiving a firearm from another person.
- Negotiating an obstacle. Whether crossing a fence, boulder, log, or stream, or entering a stand or blind, it is almost unavoidable that the firearm’s muzzle can be temporarily out of control and a 100% safe direction cannot be guaranteed. There are two ways to handle the situation.
- The buddy system. Two buddies (or you and your PH) take turns holding the firearms and negotiating the obstacle.
- Unload the firearm! The standard procedure for crossing a fence is to unload the firearm and lay it down at the base of the fence with the muzzle pointing in a safe direction. Cross the fence, and retrieve the firearm. While this is the “school solution” for all obstacles, many will be negotiated simply and quickly by slinging the rifle. The point is that the muzzle is temporarily out of control, especially in the case of a slip or fall, so the chamber should first be unloaded.
- Getting into a vehicle. Customs and laws vary. In some areas, it is specifically illegal to have an uncased firearm in a vehicle. Required or not, it is always a good idea to put a firearm in a soft case while in a vehicle—not only to reduce wear and tear, but also to reduce the chance of a scope changing zero. However, whether a case is used or not, when a firearm is in a vehicle (including a boat or aircraft) or in a saddle scabbard on a horse or ATV, the muzzle is temporarily out of control, so the chamber must be clear. The drill for getting into a vehicle or any similar situation is thus simple: Clear the chamber and check it!