Shotgun Safety Tips for Every Shooter

Benelli M4 shotgun photo: Benelli M4 Super 90 / M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun ( JSCS ) shotgun gun1723.jpg

Whether you own a shotgun as part of your employment, for a hobby such as hunting wildlife, for home self-defense or for other reasons, shotgun safety should be a required focus not just for you, but for anyone who may come in contact with your shotgun. You may have fewer concerns if you store your shotgun in a location where only those who are skilled gun handlers may encounter it. But if you need to store your shotgun in an area where family members, friends or young people may come across it, safety training is even more important. Consider these important shotgun safety tips for your own safety and also for the safety of others.

Only Point Where You Plan to Shoot

This is perhaps the most common mistake new shotgun handlers make – and thus the first rule of shotgun safety. Even if the shotgun is not loaded and even if no one is around, it is still critical to get into the habit of keeping the barrel pointed safely to the ground unless you are ready to fire. Also keep in mind that young people and others will observe your shotgun habits, so always be sure you are modeling the safe behavior you want them to adopt.

Do Not Load Unless You Plan to Shoot

The second rule of shotgun safety is to keep the shotgun empty of ammunition unless you are ready to shoot at a target. Whether you are carrying your shotgun, passing it to another person, handling an animal (such as a hunting dog or a target you have shot), navigating an obstacle or traveling, you should never keep ammunition in your shotgun until it is time to shoot. As well, always keep the safety on until you are ready to shoot.

Buy the Right Cartridges and Accessories

While it may be tempting to buy generic accessories or cartridges if you find a discount or special deal, for safety’s sake you should only use cartridges and accessories that are branded for your particular model of shotgun. For instance, if you own a Benelli M4 shotgun, be sure you only buy Benelli M4 accessories. This way you can always know that the accessories and ammunition you are using has been designed specifically to work perfectly with your specific shotgun.

Always Be Aware of the Unexpected

One area where even experienced shotgun handlers can get tripped up is when shooting in a new location. Be aware that unknown environments, including weather, litter, bodies of water, trees, power lines, other shooters, wildlife, temperature and more can change how your shotgun responds and your own reaction times. Understand that you may not always be able to detect all obstacles especially from long distances or in the presence of fog or rain. Prepare in advance for the possibility of a ricochet near water or vegetation, including tree branches. If you are shooting while handling a hunting dog, be aware that your dog’s sudden movement may alter your trajectory in dangerous ways.

About the Author: Harold Lawson learned to shoot at his grandpa’s knee. His whole family enjoys hunting season, often traveling in groups to new places to hunt deer, ducks and other wildlife. His favorite shotgun is a Benelli and he uses GG&G tactical accessories to improve shotgun safety.

7 thoughts on “Shotgun Safety Tips for Every Shooter

  • December 2, 2014 at 2:51 am

    e keep ours loaded also- but we dont have young children nor allow anyone where the guns are kept. We have a handgun and a rifle both ready to go. As Henry stated ours is chambered on empty.

  • February 12, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Thanks for the awesome tips!

  • September 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I hope your grandpa got a knee replacement 🙂

  • September 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I agree 100 % that training realy is the most importaint thing and our situations are different from person to person. There is no one size fits all plan, I just wanted to throw a different. Option on the table, something about saying never I guess

  • September 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

    There is a fine line between safety and having it ready. I don't have an ideal suggestion for everybody on this. I don't keep anything loaded but practice so I can be ready, armed, and loaded in seconds… even in the dark. I think everyone should evaluate their own unique situations.

  • September 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

    leave your magazine tube full and keep a full side saddle it you keep a shotgun for personal/home defense just keep an empty chamber so you have to rack the slide or work the action before the fist shot. You will be ready to go if you need the gun but it cuts back on the chances of a negligent discharge.


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