General Hunting Tips

4 Essential Rules of Firearm Safety

4 rules

As hunting season approaches, it’s a good time to brush up on your fundamentals—and if you’re teaching a new hunter, this is extra important!

Every hunter should know four simple rules to keep themselves and their hunting partners safe. Remember, these are RULES, not recommendations.

rule 1

1–Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

Whenever you handle a firearm—even if you’re pretty sure it’s unloaded!—open the action immediately and visually check the chamber, receiver, and magazine to be certain there is no ammunition inside. Never assume that a firearm is unloaded. A firearm should only be loaded when you are in the field or on the target range or shooting area.

rule 2

2–Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. 

Don’t point your gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, particularly other hunters. A “safe direction” means no one is in or remotely near the line of fire; don’t forget about the possibility of a ricochet or that bullets may take an unexpected path. If you make it a habit to always know where your muzzle is pointing, you’ll have taken a critical safety step in preventing injuries.

rule 3

3–Be sure of your target and aware of what is beyond it

Remember: a .22 bullet can travel more than 1¼ miles, and .270 ammunition can move as far as 3½ miles. Before every shot, you should know exactly where the bullet will strike and feel confident that you won’t injure anyone or anything beyond your target. Also remember that in some cases, your target won’t completely stop the bullet. In the case of a pass-through, the bullet may carry enough energy to travel well beyond your target, so be absolutely sure there’s nothing beyond your target, especially other animals.

rule 4

4–Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

A responsible hunter won’t touch the trigger on a firearm until he or she actually intends to shoot. Don’t trust your “safety” to protect you! Safeties are a mechanical device that can and will fail or slip from time to time. Keep the safety on until you are ready to fire, and only then put your finger on the trigger.

These four rules are sometimes remembered with the acronym T.A.B. + K.
“Everyone who handles a firearm needs to know the four rules of firearm safety, and particularly the first—always treat a firearm as if it is loaded. If you do this, you greatly prevent any chance of an accident or incident occurring,” said Mark Cousins, hunter education instructor and police firearms instructor for 20 years.

If you remember these four simple rules, you’ll be set up to have a great season.
Want to go over more hunting basics or get certified for your state? Find the right course for you at

Which rule do you consider most important?

4 Rules Graphic