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10 Commandments of Firearms Safety

Basic firearm safety starts with the 10 Commandments of Firearms Safety. Now these 10 are stated differently by various organizations, and they’re often presented in different order. But the meaning is consistent and virtually universal, and it applies everywhere, including in Africa. If these rules are followed, a firearms-related accident is almost impossible.

  1. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
  2. Control the direction of your firearm's muzzle.
  3. Be sure of your target and what's beyond your target.
  4. Be sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that the proper size ammunition is used. Now in Africa, there’s something special you might want to think about. Termites and other insects can very quickly build nests in your barrel, and it can cause an obstruction. So in Africa, you want to check your muzzle at least daily to make sure it's clear.
  5. Always unload your firearms when not in use.
  6. Never point your firearm at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
  7. Never climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch or a log with a loaded firearm.
  8. Never shoot a bullet at a hard, flat surface, including water.
  9. Store firearms and ammunition separately.
  10. Avoid alcoholic beverages and drugs before and during any shooting activity.

These 10 commandments rely upon basic common sense. Implied throughout is reliance on control of the direction of your muzzle and lack of reliance on firearms mechanical safety. These rules don’t change in Africa. Most professional hunters will attest that the most dangerous thing out there is an excited visitor with a firearm.

4 Basic Safety Rules: ACTT

The International Hunter Education Association, or IHEA, reduces the ten commandments to four basic safety rules, remembered by the acronym ACTT, A-C-T-T, as in, act responsibly around firearms.

It stands for:

  • Assume every firearm to be loaded. Consider any firearm you haven’t just unloaded to be loaded, and treat it accordingly.
  • Control the muzzle. Point firearms in a safe direction. Now you have to decide what the safest muzzle direction is, and keep your firearm pointed in that direction. Never point a firearm at yourself or others, under any circumstances.
  • Trigger finger: Keep your trigger finger off the trigger until ready to fire. The natural instinct, when picking up a firearm, is to put your finger in the trigger guard. Just don’t do it. This could cause an accidental discharge if the firearm’s loaded.
  • Target: Be sure of your target and beyond. Never point your firearm at something you don’t intend to shoot. And make sure you positively identify what you’re shooting at, and also what lies in front of it and beyond it. Don’t use telescopic sights as a substitute for binoculars when identifying persons, animals, or objects.

I don’t really care if you memorize the ten commandments or reduce it to the four, the ACTT acronym. That’s not important. What’s important is that you pay attention to your firearm at all times when you’re in the field.

I believe in gun control, and gun control to me means muzzle control. What’s really important is you control the direction of the muzzle. Make sure that your firearm is unloaded, unless it's supposed to be loaded at that particular moment. And really pay attention to your target and what’s beyond your target, what’s in front of your target. If you follow those simple rules and use common sense, you’re going to be a safe hunter.


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