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.

Loading and Unloading a Firearm

Before learning the procedures described here for loading and unloading firearms review these guidelines:

  • Have someone familiar with the firearm give you guidance. Don’t do this on your own!
  • Whenever possible, do not use live ammunition. Use deactivated or “dummy” ammunition to learn how to use your firearm.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard.
  • Practice! The more comfortable you are with the operation of your firearm the more safely you will handle it.


Follow the steps below to safely load a firearm. Do not load a firearm until you are able to safely and legally discharge it. It’s best to have an experienced person show you how to do it.

  1. Make sure there is no ammunition in the firearm or any obstructions in the barrel.
  2. Point the firearm in the safest available direction. Know the location of other persons around you.
  3. Determine if the firearm can be loaded with the safety on. If it can, apply the safety.
  4. Make sure to use the correct cartridge(s) or shell(s) for the firearm by matching the data stamp on the firearm with the data stamp on the ammunition.
  5. Load the firearm. How you do this is determined by the type of firearm you are using. As a general rule:
    • Single-shot firearms: place the ammunition directly in the chamber, and then close the action.
    • Lever or pump-action firearms with a tubular magazine: make sure the action is closed, load the magazine, and then cycle the action to bring a round from the magazine to the chamber.
    • Firearms with a removable box magazine: load the magazine first and then insert it into the firearm. Close the action to load the chamber.
    • Firearms with a nonremovable box magazine: load directly into the magazine and then close the action to load the chamber.
  6. If you were not able to do so before, put the safety on now.

The firearm is now loaded and ready to use. It requires continuous care and attention until it is unloaded.

Montana Fish, Wildlife,
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White-tailed deer tracks
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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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