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Shooting safety

by B.B. Pelletier

The series on teaching people to shoot drew a comment about safety yesterday. It seems a reader has a friend who uses his riflescope as a spotting scope at a firing range. The problem is, he sits BEHIND the shooters when he does it! In Germany, hunters are taught to use binoculars to scan for game. You NEVER scan through your riflescope, for fear of pointing a loaded gun at another hunter. In the two years I hunted tin Germany, only one accident occurred – a visiting French hunter killed another hunter when he shot into bushes after seeing them rustle.

Airgun shows are lax
At EVERY airgun show I have ever attended, there is always a lot of dry firing going on. Once, a man picked a Daisy No. 25 pump up from my table and cocked it without asking. I asked him what he intended to do, since it is impossible to decock this model BB gun. I was prepared to take the gun to a safe place outside the show hall and discharge it when he smiled and said, “No problem.” He then put the muzzle on his shoe and shot himself in the toe! Was the gun loaded? Of course! Did he bother to check? No.

He then chastised me for having a loaded gun on my table, but I didn’t let him get away with it. I had a “Please ask before handling guns” sign on my table that he didn’t respect. He was right, though. The gun shouldn’t have been loaded at a show. But what is the first assumption everyone is supposed to make about all guns? Treat every gun as if it is loaded. The fact that I had done something wrong did not make his mistake right. In fact, it compounded it.

Lack of gun knowledge
At the heart of the gun safety problem today is a general lack of knowledge about guns. How many of you have seen supposedly gun-savvy people rack the slide on a semiautomatic pistol, then eject the magazine and drop the hammer – just the REVERSE of how it should be done! I once saw a First Sergeant in the Army take a pump shotgun from a guard and do something similar by using the pump to eject the shells. Well, he ejected four of them. He put a hole in the celling of the arms room with number five!

More training is needed
Why are some people careless around firearms? I believe the problem stems from a lack of training. People are no longer trained by the military, nor are many of them being trained by the NRA. That is where primary gun safety education is supposed to take place. The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 in reaction to the lack of marksmanship and general firearms knowledge among the Northern conscripts during the Civil War. The primary goal of the organization was to “…promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” Since then they have taken on numerous other duties, including training people to shoot. The first thing they teach all new shooters is gun safety.

NRA’s thrust has long been firearms, but they have also recognized the part airguns play in shooter education. Until recently, they thought of airguns for young shooters only, but there is a growing awareness in the organization that adults shoot airguns, too. The current NRA President, Sandra S. Froman, owns an air pistol that she shoots frequently.

More training is needed
Throughout our history, there have been times when average citizens could not be expected to know anything about guns. We are in a prolonged period like that right now, and the situation is being aggravated by the presence of combative sports like paintball and airsoft. People with little or no gun knowledge are engaging in contests where they shoot at other people. We need gun training now like never before!

I have no solutions for this problem, other than to suggest that we all do our part by training new shooters and by standing strong where gun safety is concerned.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

16 thoughts on “Shooting safety”

  1. The point you made at the start is one of the reasons my father is reluctant to take me and my brother hunting, the amount of people from the city go hunting and shoot at anything that moves. People nowadays don’t appreciate gun safety, the first thing i did when i got my first airgun was a little sit down with dad and he explained all the safety precautions, and trips to the range always end up with my brother and i learning something new about saftey.

  2. Back to a followup question from yesterday about sights, this one involving a scope. I’m working with a Tasco golden antler 3-9×32.. Since I’ll want to sight at 20yrds(correct?) with the RWS 34, what zoom level should the scope be set for?

    I think I know the answer to my other question, if I sight at 3x, then zoom to 6x, is it still accurate at a same given distance (20-35yrds)?

  3. kudos to the dads who hunt, or know a hunter, and take steps with their kids to teach firearm safety at an early age … if more did that, the DS’s in the military would have an easier time on the ranges with the new recruits … I’ll bet that arms room guard damn near lost bowel control when his 1SG goofed on shotgun round #5 … man, to have been a fly on the wall in the commander’s office when THAT was briefed … wonder if Top leaned on that guard to fudge his witness story a bit to save Top’s behind and career …

  4. Top was usually an outspoken man, but I managed to be a fly in the oderly room when the commander had his dicussion with him. They were quiet, as I’m sure they knew they had an audience, but it lasted a long time.

    Top was much quieter for several weeks following the ceiling renovation. Incidently, the arms room happened to be in the basement under the company commander’s office! It didn’t go through the floor, however.


  5. Hi,

    I know the problem with gun safety is real. Just the other day we (me, my father, and younger brother) were at a shooting range here in town. I was busy shooting a rifle, and my dad was watching with a spotting scope. Meanwhile, my brother got out of his firing spot to talk to my dad, what did he do wrong? He still had the 9mm handgun in his hand, with a fully loaded clip, pointed sideways at everybody else shooting! Fortunately he didn’t shoot but, needless to say, he was done for the day. I think one of the biggest problems is that some people dont realize the power of a gun. They don’t understand that a gun, airgun or firearm, can quite easily kill somebody. This is probably a more of a problem with kids than adults but none the less it is a problem. How to show kids the power of these guns, I have no idea. Shoot them in the foot maybe. (kidding, please don’t shoot your kid in the foot) Even when I take my brother and his friends hunting with airguns, one or more of them usually tries to make a “I’m going to shoot you” joke. It’s not funny to preted your going to shoot somebody, and I try to explain that somebody could get seriously hurt with this goofing around, but it usually goes right over their heads. Thats my 2 cents anyway.


  6. Lama,

    You said it all and very well.

    I remember running pistol ranges in the Army. I was so afraid one of the shooters would turn with a pistol that I had one safety NCO to every four shooters. If I had had more sergeants, there would have been more on the line.


  7. “like airsoft.”

    Uh huh, I bet you’ve never even been to a serious game where atleast 4 people always get chewed out for sweeping X persons head with X gun or holding X gun with their finger on the trigger.

    IMO The problem isn’t “airsoft and paintball” its the video game and movie industries teaching people that its ok to do some of the things you see today.

  8. I dont think video games or movies are a problem. Personally I love video games, but I also practice gun safety. You do have to know that there is a difference from real life and games. It should be common sense that you can’t go around New York with a rpg shooting everything that moves. Columbine wasn’t caused by Grand Theft Auto, those kids knew exactly what they were doing. I think it is like B.B. stated, what people really need is good training. If video games are a problem for a specific person, then they need a reality check because it should be common knowledge that none of that is real. Is airsoft a problem, maybe, but again, people should (or at least need to) know that there is a difference between that plastic bb going 300 fps and that lead pellet going 1000 fps. Same with paintball. Again, what people really need is good training, knowledge of what they are doing, and to start learning all this at an early age. Also, consistency, if your teaching your kids all of this, don’t tell them once and hope that they will remember all of it. Remind them of the rules often, quiz them every time they pick up a gun if thats what it takes. Just make sure safety is second nature for them, and practice it so it stays second nature. One more thing, I have seen a few range masters teaching people gun safety. They will tell the students a couple of rules one day, and turn around the next day and break the rules themselves. My point is, don’t be a “do what I say not what I do” person. If you tell someone a rule, make sure that you follow it, be a good example. We don’t need to have our gun laws tightened even more due to carelessness.


  9. yea some of my friends might think im a little crazy because im all into guns and i shoot my airgun all the time but when they come over their surprised how safe i am i dont let them get away with doing stupid stuff in my backayrd, that dont fly with me

    yea i made the first post but i just now made an account

  10. I agree with mr lama. If video games were the problem, they would be better regulated, and more than the guns. I also fail to see the big difference between paintball and playing cowboys and indians like my dad did, other than the ammo used is gelatin capsules insted of rubber bands and the average age of participants. I think our biggest problem is our ego does not allow us to admit we don’t know something about a thing associated with heroes of our country, tv, and books. That limits our ability to ask how to do things right, and take a course on safety and procedure. I have never had anything go wrong other than running out of pellets on a spring piston, and that is only due to swallowing my pride and taking a course many see as unneccisary. Also, my friends hassle me if I make a mistake, so I have incentive to do it right the first time:)

    Mr. Watch

  11. I’m with Watch, the only difference between the paintball/airsoft games and the old cops and robbers is the ammo used. And your also right on the pride thing, get over it and take a course so you know all the rules well. To the guy who talks about people getting in trouble at these supervised games with older participants, I don’t think thats what B.B. is talking about, I think he means the games where a 10 year old gets a bunch of his friends together and they shoot at each other in the backyard. Not organized games with referees and people watching to make sure you obey safety, just a bunch of kids shooting each other. Same with paintball. Like I said earlier, these kids just need to understand the difference between a low velocity round ball and a high velocity lead bullet/pellet.


  12. Well guys, I didn’t mean to upset anyone, but this is a good discussion.

    I did not mean to imply that paintball and airsoft were CAUSING the safety problems. What they do is expose those who seem predisposed to have them, and I guess that’s more of the macho thing.

    In the few tournaments I’ve watched, each side always has one or sometimes two players who disregard safety to win at any cost. If it were hockey, you’d get a fight. But with tactical games, you have a person being unsafe with a gun (or marker). The sport isn’t causing the problem – it’s spotlighting the people who are predisposed to have it.


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