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NZ Hunter Education: Module 5:
Rule 1: Treat Every Firearm As Loaded

Using firearms and hunting can be really great fun and bring a lot of enjoyment.

The following 7 RULES are designed to help you, the firearms owner and user, to have safe experiences while owning and using a firearm. Because firearms are used in so many widely differing circumstances, these 7 rules are only a framework out of which each hunter and shooter must make responsible choices in the situations they find themselves in.

Some witty person has said that to assume something makes an ass out of u and me. Unfortunately with firearms, assumptions can sometimes be fatal.

If you treat every firearm as loaded, that means you will be:

  • Thinking safety right from the start. People can be distracted and careless, they can be tired and make mistakes, they can be fooled and they can unintentionally lie.  You have made a commitment to act differently.

  • Taking responsibility for your safety and the safety of others, by putting proper boundaries in place, regardless of what other people think or do.

Here’s a story that illustrates how faulty assumptions can have serious consequences: 

Many years ago when I was commercially hunting, I stopped over at a friend’s place in Dunedin. I’d sold him a Mauser action rifle that I’d tuned up some time before. We were sitting in the lounge when I asked him how the rifle was and if he could grab it for me. He handed it to me with the bolt shut, so I asked him if it was unloaded. ‘Yes’ he said, ‘A friend used it with me hunting a couple of weeks ago and I asked him if it was unloaded when we got home. He told me it was.’

I took him at his word and asked him if he liked what I’d done to the trigger, at which point I said I’d try it out. Now, with a Mauser action all that is needed to cock the action is to lift up the bolt handle and put it down, which I did.  I then aimed the ’empty’ rifle at a spot on the wall and pulled the trigger! You can guess what happened. There was a huge bang, one very irate wife, two white ghosts sitting in the lounge and a hole in the wall. Not a good look.

That rifle had passed through the hands of three hunters and not one of us had bothered to do the first of the 7 basic rules: ‘TREAT every firearm as if it were loaded!’

Not one of us had even bothered to check!”

So, make sure you are the one who asks and inspects the firearm. 

Never, never, never assume anything when it comes to safety and firearms!