View Full Version : Shotgun Safety

February 23, 2001, 11:20 AM
Ok... I think this issue needs to be discussed here. We have a lot of newbie clays shooters here and they shoud be given a briefing on proper etiquette on the Skeet, Trap and SC ranges.

Some of this may sem odd to you if you are a rifle or pistol shooter.

Safetys - Safetys on shotguns are not used on the clays range. Many guns have no mechanical safety and many have the safety locked on the OFF position. The only safe gun is one that is unloaded and has the action OPEN so that other shooters can SEE the unloaded chamber.

Proper carry of Shotguns.- This is a real sore point , and will get you expelled from a range if you do not pay attention.

Do NOT carry an O/U or SxS over your shoulder with the barrels to the rear. If you need an example or picture look at Ted Nugent on the cover of his book or Charlton Heston in the NRA's propaganda. Both are carrying their guns improperly! If you must carry the gun on your shoulder, hold the barrels in your hand and place the butt to the rear.

Of course the proper way to carry a break action is in the crook of your arm with the action open.

Swinging a O/U around with the barrels to the rear is dangerous. You can easily injure another shooter or range personnel ala the three stooges. I see this happen all the time. You may also damage someone elses gun. Put another ding in my K 80 and you will be in trouble, trust me on this one.

Pump and Gas guns (autos) should be carried in the crook of your arm. The chamber should always be visible to other shooters and if you must carry on your shoulder the proper way is to hold the barrel and place the butt on your shoulder with the chamber visible to all. Looks dumb but experienced shooters will recognize you as a knowledgable shooter and not yell at you.

Actions should always be open and the guns unloaded. Magazine guns are not to be kept loaded. Only load the gun when you are on or in a firing point and it is your turn to shoot. You may of course close the actions if you decide to place the gun in a rack or if you carry from station to station in a case. Be careful when retrieving the gun, open the action immediatrely when you pick the gun up or remove it from it's case. Of course do not point the gun at anyone, but we know that already:)

When someone else is shooting, please keep the noise down. Playing grabass while someone is trying to shoot is impolite. Loud talking and jokes may distract the shooter. Don't bring the kids with you and let them run around annoying other shooters.

Do not retrieve empty hulls while someone is in a shooting stand. Do this after everyone is finished shooting if it is allowed by the range. Trying to concentrate on a tough Sporting Clays target while some clown is rooting around in the bushes for 28 ga hulls is annoying and can be dangerous.

If you are shooting sporting clays and the shooting stand is constructed so that your swing is limited, do not try to defeat the limiting. It is there for a reason, most likely because it would endanger other shooters. Always shoot in the stand provided, unless you have permission from the management to do otherwise. sporting clays courses are often set up with overlaping shotfall areas. Swinging outside of the designated arc of fire may endanger others.

If the range limits you to shot no larger than 7 1/2, do not use anything larger. larger shot carries farther and may exceed the shotfall area. # 6 shot may carry far enough to hit someone. I have personal experience with this, if you ever get to meet me I will show you the chipped shooting glasses to prove it!

Don't be a slob. Use the trash barrels for empty shell boxes and other refuse. Hulls should be placed in the trash container or hull bucket if you can do so (IE shooters with O/U and SxS) Gas gunners and pumps on doubles are excused from this as they can't help it. On a sporting clays stand remove your expended hulls from within the stand after shooting.

Do not shoot at the range signs, or the traphouse. Or at the birds flying by. Know where the path is on sporting clays courses and stay on it.

If you are one of those fat ol white guy shooters with a customized golf cart, remember that shooters walking with guns have the right of way, and keep the friggin' cart off of the skeet field. Do not block paths or gateways, and don't let your kid run the cart around. Drive slowly and watch the dust and mud. Better yet, walk and get the exercise.

Do not pick up another shooters gun without asking permission first, even if it is a crappy mossberg. If the gun rack is full, find another one or hold the gun. Please allow the next shooter to retrieve his gun. don't stand around the rack blocking access while you discuss the latest dow jones index with the plastic surgeon in the next squad. If you bring specators instruct them to wear eye and ear protection and to stay out of the way and to shaddup!

Don't coach unless asked to . During tournaments this is verbotten.

Don't yell at the trap bunnies, they ar probably overworked and underpaid. Slow down between shots, on manual traps give the trapper time to recock and re set.

If you don't know the target sequence ask before you shoot. 'Don't get caught with your gun in the wrong position and expect to get the targets over.

That's all for now , I'll add to this as other points come to mind.

Geoff Ross

February 23, 2001, 11:41 AM
Never load more than 2 shells in your auto or pump when it is your turn to shoot!

Oleg Volk
February 23, 2001, 11:54 AM
Thanks for the hints...amazing how many rules I violated, mostly dealing with keeping a seven-shot tube topped off (shoot two, add two). What are the rules on keeping bayonets attached on fine trap guns like Winchester 12 or 97?

February 23, 2001, 02:43 PM
Thanks, Geoff. You touched on one that I was about to try the next time at trap. I had intended to leave my mag loaded with five, for the string of fire at each station. One thing which I also did was to close my action before the shooter in front of me was done firing. This was distracting for him, and he DID let me know.:)

Charles Johnson
February 23, 2001, 02:53 PM
Thanks for the pointers! I've followed most of the rules by common sense. When carrying/holding my shotgun, I've either pointed it downrange or straight up. But that gets a little uncomfortable after a while. I have been very careful to always keep the action open. Also, my little three year old was watching us last week - we were <b>VERY</b> attentive to where she was and we wouldn't let her run around.

As for no more than two shells at a time: When I started, I kinda thought this would be customary. But the other guys (not experienced shooters either) were loading up all the way, so I went along. What about when shooting informally at the range? Does this apply all the time or just during competition? Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to clarify. The rules have been around much longer than me, so I have no place arguing with them.

Oleg Volk
February 23, 2001, 02:57 PM
The reason why I kept loaded up is that, for me, trap is just a way to get familiar with my pump 20ga. I view it as a fighting gun, primarily, and so want to learn the habits of keeping it full.

February 23, 2001, 05:38 PM
The two shot rule is common sense. Load only what you will shoot in the stand and make sure the gun is completely unloaded when you leave.

There are some three shot tournaments where it is obvious you may load three shots in your auto or Pump. Trapshooters should only load one shell at a time. When moving from stand to stand the gun should be empty. Some courses have a two shot rule that requires you to take two shots even if you break both targets with one shot (this is possible in Sporting Clays but happens in Skeet also, in Skeet the shot must be taken over, not so in Sporting). The reason for this is that an excited shooter may sweep squadmates with a loaded gun while he is celebrating. If you are shooting ATA trap only load one shell and be sure the gun is empty before you move to the next station.

I know of no clays course that will allow you to walk about with a loaded magazine. On the rifle range the rules may be different and you can probably load up the mag.

Bayonets are only permissible when rabbit targets are presented:D (NOT)

Hey Oleg, no ball bearings allowed either:)

Geoff Ross

Dave McC
February 24, 2001, 07:45 AM
Great thread, Geoff, thanks.

Oleg, shooting trap by the rules and practicing full mag exercises elsewhere is my suggestion. I'm sure you can find a "Practical" course somewhere nearby.

One thing I see on the range that raises the hair on the back of my neck is the custom of resting the muzzles on a shoe. Some folks even have little leather pads to set the muzzles on. My training and common sense tell me one does not point ANY firearm at ANY portion of one's anatomy, nor that of any other person.

I doubt very many people blow their toes off on a trap range, but I hate to see habits like these get started.....

Oleg Volk
February 24, 2001, 11:41 AM
And definitely do not load up with sabot slugs and wave off objections by saying "Hey, I am good, I won't miss 'em" :)

Dave McC
February 24, 2001, 12:38 PM
After going to thr range since this AM posting, I wish I had printed out this thread and could give it to a couple of folks.

After my first round, I was standing around the gun rack(Not in the way,Geoff) and watched a trio of newbies approaching. One carried a brand new Browning single over his shoulder, pointed right at his buddy walking behind him. The guy in front stopped while the buddy was distracted, and guy #2 walked into the muzzle. Got binked on the forehead.

This trio was long on dreads and earrings,and short on experience. To their credit, they told the trapmaster they were brand new and got some fast safety and shooting instruction.

Yo #1 left his hulls on the ground after the first round. He shot another and I mentioned to him afterwards that it was customary to pick up one's empties. He got to work immediately and I gave him a hand and ended up with 75 once fired AA hulls to add to my stash.

Two other guys in that squad were veterans, and shot well. Before the Yos left the line, they learned some pointers on stance and handling. Ever notice how helpful folks can be on a range? God Bless them all...

February 24, 2001, 03:46 PM
Very good safety tips. Dave mentioned the habit some shooters have of resting a gun on their toes. I did that in my early years BUT only with a breaking gun. I've seen guys do it with pumps and semis and it gives me the creeps. I've broken the habit because it made my shoes dirty and those little pads always looked a little funny flapping around on your shoes.

Loading a full mag on a clays course is a sure way to get reprimanded where I shoot. The best practice for working a pump action is IDPA or a pin shoot.

February 24, 2001, 06:00 PM
...even if it is a crappy mossberg....
I resent that remark :) My Mossy is pretty entertaining and does enjoy a good workout at the trap range, even if it isn't a Perazzi.
Also, since I don't make enough money to shoot a good double, I'm curious about this stigma against the "shoulder arms" method of carrying a shotgun? Every time I've been to a range I've found it more disturbing to have shooters walking around with broken doubles over their shoulders with their muzzles (broken action or not) pointing FORWARD and slightly down at my oncoming legs and lower torso. Personally,I'd much rather have their muzzles facing the sky. I usually carry a strange version of the "carbine carry" in which I place my fingers through the ejection port with the muzzle facing the sky.
As for the loud joking at the trap and clays range, that's part of the fun for me!! If I liked silence I'd play competitive tennis. Though I'm not usually talking, I enjoy the ribbing fellow shooters give on another. It's supposed to be FUN! Then again, my range doesn't have many sober type A personality "plastic surgeon" either :D
Everything else I agree heartily with!

February 24, 2001, 06:56 PM
Holding the gun by the barrels when it is on your shoulder is the safest way to carry. This way you controll the muzzle and can be sure it is pointed in a proper direction. Any other method and the muzzle may become a weapon, the end of the barrel can be sharp!

If the gun is broken you can easily see that the chamber is empty. A gun that is open cannot fire. Although I suppose anything is possible. It is hard not to sweep someone with the muzzle on the Trap/Skeet field . An open gun is a safe gun. A local range has the slogan "Open or Out!" all over the range.

Shoulder arms is OK for the troops, who are marching in formation and paying attention to what they are doing. I did see a troop walk into one of those three bladed flash suppressors on an M16 in basic. Gave him a nasty cut and a counselling session from the Sarge.

If your carry method is OK with your buddies, then by all means do it. Do you really stick your fingers into the ejection port :confused:

Geoff Ross

PS I don't mind the joking and kibitzing either, but some people just get out of hand. In Sporting Clays squads often build up at certain stands and the din can be very distracting.


February 25, 2001, 07:01 AM
When people are shooting its only common courtesy to keep the noise down. It's often hard for the puller to hear a shooter call for a target when there is a lot of noise in the background.

If you are on a trap line you should stay quiet during the round. You might be there just enjoying the day but the guy shooting beside doesn't want to hear your groaning about your last miss or bitching about target height, the weather, the puller. etc. Talkers on the line aren't welcome during competitions.

Another point is to be decent to the people working at the place. I've seen a lot of real a**holes chew out the scorers if they got a slow or fast pull. If you get a bad pull, don't shoot and recall. Remember under the ATA rules if you shot it, you bought it. It's your fault not the puller's. Our club often has shooters score rounds and it's not as easy as you might think.

Ear and eye protection always.


Dave McC
February 25, 2001, 08:45 AM
Depending on whom I'm shooting with, there may be raillery and mirth during the relay. But everyone must be OK with it.
During money shoots, or official matches, it's best to be silent.

As for carrying shotguns, on the range I oft use a pocket on the lower right side of my shooting vest. Sticking the butt into it when using a pump means the ejection port is easily seen, and the bbl points straight up.Works like that holster Bean has in their spring hunting catalog, only $40 cheaper.

When moving,as in from station #5 to #1 in trap, I point the bbl(s) straight up and keep the action open. This is a little awkward with a double, but safe.