Firearm and Shotgun Safety

The vast majority of firearm and shotgun certificate holders display a high level of safety awareness in respect of their weapon usage and storage, however, it cannot be stressed enough highly enough how important it is to always be aware that you are in possession of a lethal weapon. It only takes a lapse in concentration to allow a tragedy to occur. It may be a fact of life that accidents can happen but in many cases, these could have been preventable. For the responsible shooter, always act responsibly, both in the use and transport of your weapons, but also the security aspects by which to keep your weapons.

You should NEVER;

  • Point a weapon, loaded or unloaded, in an unsafe direction or at anybody.
  • Pass a loaded weapon to someone else.
  • Load a firearm or shotgun until you are ready to fire it.
  • Fire your weapon until you have positively identified your quarry.
  • Fire your weapon until you are absolutely positive it is safe to do so.
  • Put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Put a loaded weapon down or leave it unattended.
  • Lean a weapon against or on anything, including any vehicle.
  • Attempt to fire unless you are in a comfortable and well balanced position.
  • Fire a firearm or shotgun whilst having a dog on lead under your control.
  • Attempt to climb over an obstacle or traverse a stream with a loaded weapon.
  • Use a weapon that is in an unsafe condition, poor repair or out of proof.
  • Use the wrong type/calibre of ammunition in respect to your weapon and quarry.
  • Use a weapon whilst under the influence of alcohol.


When not in use, always keep your weapons safe and secure, preferably locked away in your gun cabinet. Section 1 ammunition must be stored separately to your weapons. It is preferable to store your shotgun cartridges, locked and secure, in a separate cabinet or compartment.

  • Never put a loaded weapon away in your cabinet.
  • Always prove that a weapon is unloaded as soon as you handle it.
  • Always prove that the weapon is unloaded, before handing it to someone else.
  • Never load your weapons indoors.
  • Never allow unauthorised persons access to your weapons.
  • Never allow unsupervised or unsuitable persons, especially children, access to your weapons.
  • Never leave a weapon, even unloaded, unattended.
  • Never stand a firearm or shotgun in such a position that it can fall or be knocked over.


When transporting a weapon(s) in a vehicle, the following steps are considered appropriate regarding your duty of care to ensure the safe custody of the weapon(s):

  • Always keep your firearm or shotgun in its case or cover whilst transporting it and hidden, preferably in the locked boot or other secure load carrying area of the vehicle.
  • Never transport a loaded weapon.
  • Vehicles used frequently for transporting a weapon(s) should ideally have an immobiliser and/or alarm fitted together with provision for securing the shotgun to the structure of the vehicle for example, security cases, cage, cable or clamp.
  • If the vehicle is left unattended for any reason, the weapon should be broken and where available, the vital operating parts of the weapon(s), should be removed and carried on your person and the remainder of the weapon concealed, preferably in the locked luggage compartment.
  • Remember, when taking a weapon(s) to a venue which involves an overnight stay or longer, ensure the accommodation provides secure storage facilities. Leaving your weapon(s), in the care of a hotel or guest house patron, even in their safe, may expose them to being in unlawful possession of a firearm or shotgun. Separating and retaining possession of integral part may prevent it being used or using portable security devices such as security cords.
  • Ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm and this too be concealed from view.


By acting on these points you will reassure shooters and non-shooters alike that you are to be trusted with a weapon:

  • It is your responsibility to ensure that you have appropriate authority to shoot on the land and that where necessary the land is deemed suitable by the Chief Officer of Police for that area.
  • Advise the owner and/or tenant in good time if you want to go shooting and check that it is convenient. • Confirm with the owner and/or tenant what quarry you may shoot in. 
  • Always respect the owner’s property, crops, livestock and fences and follow the Country Code. Open gates rather than climb them and close them after you. If you have to climb a closed gate, do it at the hinge end. 
  • Never break fences, walls, rails, or hedges. Never walk through standing corn or allow your dog to do so. Keep your dog under control if you use one. Avoid any disturbance to livestock.
  • Do not fire at quarry unless you are sure it is within range. If you are not sure, don’t shoot! 
  • Know your own limitations and those of your gun and shoot responsibly. If you are not reasonably sure of a humane kill, don’t shoot! Shooting at quarry is not a competition. 
  • Remember that all shooters will be judged by your actions and ensure that your conduct is always above reproach. Always try, whenever possible, to encourage the same attitude in your shooting companions and in any other shooter with whom you come into contact.