Official Montana Hunting Safety Course Link to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Hello, hunter! Montana's online hunting course has moved. Click here to go to the latest version of the Today's Hunter in Montana course—the official hunting safety course of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Montana certification.

Safety Mechanisms

A safety is a device that blocks the action to prevent the firearm from shooting until the safety is released or pushed to the “off” position. The safety is intended to prevent the firearm from being fired accidentally. However, safeties should never be relied on totally to protect against accidental shooting. Safeties are mechanical devices and subject to mechanical failure from wear and other factors, and can fail when least expected. Also, safeties can be bumped from the safe position unknowingly as your firearm is being handled or as it catches on clothing or tree branches.

All safeties are located around the receiver of the firearm and are usually easy to spot. Common types of safeties are:

Cross-Bolt Safety

Cross bolt trigger safety

  • Common on pump and semi-automatic firearms
  • A simple, push-button action that blocks the trigger or hammer
  • Usually located at the trigger guard or ahead of the hammer

Pivot Safety

Pivot safety

  • Common on handguns and bolt-action rifles
  • A pivoting lever or tab that blocks the trigger or firing pin
  • Located on the frame (blocks trigger) or on the bolt or slide (blocks firing pin)

Slide or Tang Safety

Slide safety

  • Common on some rifles and break-action shotguns
  • A sliding bar or button that blocks the firing action
  • Located on the tang (a metal strip behind the receiver) of break-action firearms or on the side of the receiver on some rifles

Half-Cock or Hammer Safety

Cross bolt hammer safety

  • Common on firearms with exposed hammers
  • Positions the trigger at half-cock, away from the firing pin
  • Engaged by placing the trigger at half-cock; some firearms automatically rebound to the half-cock position after the trigger is released
  • While not a true safety, it sometimes is described as a mechanical safety device by firearm manufacturers
Safety tip

You should never replace safe firearm handling by trusting the safety on a firearm. A safety is a mechanical device that could fail. Don’t release the safety until just before you shoot.

Knowing where the safety is and how it works is not always as simple as it might seem. There are many types of safeties. Sometimes persons alter or modify their guns to disable the safety. This is very dangerous, especially if the gun gets into the hands of an inexperienced shooter. Be sure you know how the safety works on your own gun or any others you handle. Never alter or modify your firearm yourself. Have an experienced gunsmith look at your gun if the safety does not work or if anything else is wrong with it.

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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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