This is probably the easiest topic to write about because there are no grey areas. Every air rifle club or organised shoot will have a set of safety regulations, and they will pretty much all be the same.
Although we may sometimes see our hobby as a safe activity (especially compared to jumping out of planes for example), the bottom line is that air rifles can injure if misused.
Therefore safety always comes first and rightly so. If there is a serious breach of the rules, then you could find yourself excluded from the day’s shooting, and even banned from a club. Fortunately it turns out that most air gunners are actually very understanding of new shooters and you are much more likely to get a gentle reminder or some sound advice.
Below I’ve linked the official UKAHFT rules which have all the competition safety procedures at the top. However this does assume some air gunning experience and misses out some basics.
Therefore I have also added a link to the UK Gov safety sheet. This is much more detailed.
I urge you to go to the links for more detailed information, but I have put a summary below for a quick read.
- ALWAYS assume that the gun is loaded. I think this is the most important and often the most overlooked. Even if it is your own gun, and you have only just got it out of your car, assume it is loaded.
- NEVER point an airgun (or any gun really) at somebody. This is the other big one. You may not think it is loaded (see above) but why risk it?! If you need to pick up the gun and point it, make sure it is away from all people.
- One blast for stop, two blasts to proceed. At all clubs and competitions there will be a whistle. If it is blown once then all firing is to stop and guns should be un-shouldered and pointed in a safe place. If your gun is loaded, fire the pellet into the floor but over the firing line (8 or 10 feet). This first whistle means somebody is about to cross the firing line so will be ‘on the range’. They probably don’t want to get shot. Two whistles means you can carry on as you were.
- Guns should only be cocked and loaded when you are at the firing line. This could be the peg in HFT, or the bench at your local club.
- Guns should be pointed down when not at the firing line. Safely stored in a bag or hard case is also OK
- No shooting at live animals. This includes all pest species before anyone asks! At many clubs this is an instant ban. If an accident does happen, inform a marshal or someone that looks important at the club and they will take care of it. There is no punishment for genuine accidents.
- Break barrel and under/side lever springers. The majority of these guns will require the pellet to be loaded before the action can be closed. Therefore please hold onto the barrel or lever with one hand, whilst you load a pellet with the other. Guns can go off accidentally and if your finger is in the mechanism it will be removed. Don’t believe me? Ask around your local club and I bet there will be someone who can show you a stubby finger as proof.
- Springers part 2. It is possible to ‘break the barrel’ or unclip the lever from its rested position without cocking it. This isn’t really a requirement but it assures people around you that your gun isn’t cocked.
There will probably be some things I have overlooked so please comment if you notice anything obvious and I will add it in.
The way I have written the list may make it sound like a very strict hobby. But I think you could make much longer lists about everyday things like driving a car. In reality these rules become second nature
HFT Specific Safety
This is a quick run down of HFT specific rules according to UKAHFT. Please see the link above for the official site before attending an event. It’s easy to read and won’t take too long.
- Sub 12 ft-lb guns only (I will do a future post about air gun law and power)
- Shooters must be over 9. Anyone 16 or under must be accompanied by an adult
- All shooters must attend the safety briefing at the start of each event
- Multi-shot guns must have the magazine removed between lanes
- Never rest the muzzle on your foot
- Please do as the marshals ask you. They are there to ensure everyone is safe and enjoying themselves
So that’s a good place to start for safety. But remember, there will always be people willing to help or answer any questions. Don’t be shy. Do be safe.