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Shooting Safety
Shooting Safety

​​​​​​​​Following a few simple, common-sense rules will help ensure a safe, enjoyable shooting sports outing. Many shooting sports (skeet, trapshooting, sporting clays, rifle, handgun) have safety rules in common; these follow directly below. Sport-specific safety rules are in the next sections. 

In-common Safety Rules:

  1. Always keep the shotgun (rifle, handgun) pointed in a safe direction.

  2. Never assume that a gun is unloaded. Always check the chamber(s) and magazine(s) for live cartridges when picking up any gun.

  3. Always carry shotguns (rifles) with the actions open, unloaded, and pointing in a safe direction. Carry handguns holstered.

  4. Load only when on the shooting station (on the post for trapshooters) and leave the station (post) with the action open.

  5. Eye and ear protection must be worn at all times while on the range.

  6. If there is a delay while shooting that requires trap/range personnel to be in the trap house/field, immediately unload your gun and exit the station or post until personnel are off the field/range.

  7. Keep fingers outside of the trigger guard until ready to call for the target (or ready to shoot).

  8. If a misfire occurs, keep the muzzles pointed downrange for 30 seconds before opening the action.

  9. Carry one gauge (caliber) of ammunition at a time. Loading incorrect ammunition (e.g., a 20ga shell in a 12ga shotgun, or a 40 caliber cartridge in a .45) can result in a serious explosion or jam.

Adapted from and used by permission of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Additional Sport-specific Safety Rules

Skeet Shooting:

  • Never load more than 2 shells at a time. Load just 1 shell if shooting your last singles target on a station.

  • Never walk in front of the low house window! Targets may be released unexpectedly and may hit you.

Shotgun safety instruction. Photo © CPW/T. Crisman.Trapshooting:

  • Never load more than 1 shell at a time in singles shooting or 2 for doubles.

  • Change posts with the gun unloaded (pointed in a safe direction) and action open.

  • When moving from post 5 to post 1, walk behind the shooting line.

  • Never shoot mixed handicap squads more than 2 feet apart. (For example, if shooting handicap on the 23 yard line, other shooters should be no farther than the 25 yard line.)

Sporting Clays:

  • Never load more than 2 shells at a time.

Rifle and Handgun:

  • Never walk in front of the firing line until a cease fire has been called, and then only after the line has been made safe.