Safe firearm handling principles and practices

Your firearm trainiRange.jpgng practices should mirror those taught in your state-sponsored hunter education programs. While your program likely goes well beyond what is taught in a standard hunter education class, it is important that the training practices be similar.

Often, hunter education programs do not include live firing of firearms, or even handling of firearms. Nonetheless, they generally have procedures to follow if a class elects to include these components.

Numerous, excellent resources covering firearms training are available for classroom use from online hunter education courses.

At a minimum, we recommend that the following topics be covered:    

  • Firearm actions
  • Firearm handling rules
  • Matching firearm to ammunition
  • Carries and crossings
  • Zones of fire
  • Know target and beyond

Additional topics should be added based on the local conditions, hunting strategies employed and your decision on whether a full hunter education course is incorporated into your program.

In-class Firearm Policies

Many hunter education programs have an in-class policy of prohibiting fully functional firearms in the classroom. When this policy is in place, the hunter education classes use special firearms that have been modified so they cannot fire.

This policy may or may not be employed in your program. If not, even greater care on the control of both firearms and ammunition needs to be in place. This is especially true if instructors bring or use their own firearms in the program.

We recommend that participants not be allowed to handle firearms unless an instructor is present to guide them. In addition, we recommend safety locks (either trigger locks or action locks) be employed whenever any firearm is not being used for a specific situation where the action needs to be functional. Firearms should be properly stored at all times if they are going to be kept in the classroom overnight, or when an instructor is not present in the classroom. 

As an added safety measure, only inert, not functioning ammunition should be allowed in the classroom.

Because most participants will have minimal or no experience with firearms, these safety precautions should be explicitly explained to them during the first classroom session where firearms are present. Remember, many participants may have strong apprehensions about firearms that rigorous adherence to firearm handling rules will help overcome.  

Participant demonstration of firearm handling skills

Unlike many hunter education classes, your participants will be handling and shooting firearms. We recommend that each participant demonstrate firearm handling skills, using inert ammunition, with an instructor to guide them during a classroom session before going to the range. We also recommend that participants be able to use and demonstrate firearm handling skills for all firearm action types.

Firearm handling skills should be demonstrated using one of the training resources listed prior to having them actually handle any firearm, as well as having an instructor demonstrate the technique for them.