I’ve had a love affair with airguns since I was ten, when my first BB gun – a Christmas present – marked the beginning of many hours of shooting fun with my Dad. But before my Dad let me load or shoot my BB gun, he taught me the first rule of all shooting safety, a rule that would instantly prevent all shooting accidents if all shooters would strictly observe it: never, ever, point your gun at anything that you don’t want to see a hole in.

Now I can imagine what you’re thinking: “That’s it? That’s the Big Secret that will prevent all shooting accidents?” Yup, that’s it, and it works for a very simple reason: a BB or pellet can only go where the muzzle is pointed. It can’t go anywhere else. So, if you make it a practice to never point your airgun at your friend or your pet, it is physically impossible for you to ever “accidentally” shoot your friend or pet. The same thing is true of the neighbor’s window or the family car. If you don’t point your airgun at them, you can never shoot them. Well, you get the point: never, ever, point your gun at anything that you don’t want to see a hole in.

Unfortunately, history is littered with people who pointed an airgun or a firearm at another person and pulled the trigger “just to be funny.” They then wind up explaining to the grieving family that they “thought the gun was unloaded.” Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And that brings us to another useful rule for shooters: treat all airguns as if they are loaded. Yes, but what if you are absolutely, completely, totally positively certain that the gun in unloaded? Still treat any airgun – even if you know it is unloaded – as if it were loaded.

Here are a couple of real-life bad examples. There was an incident on the set of a TV show some years ago. An actor was fooling around with a prop gun that was to be used in a shooting sequence. He checked several times to make sure it was unloaded. He went away for a couple of minutes, and when he came back, he was clowning around, pointed the gun at his head, and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, a prop man had seen the gun while the actor was away and loaded it with blanks in preparation for the next scene. The power of the wad shot by the blank was sufficient to fatally injure the actor.

Not long ago, a teenager cocked his pellet rifle, pointed it at his friend’s head, and pulled the trigger. He wanted to “poof” his friend’s hair as a joke, and he thought the gun was empty. It wasn’t, and his friend was seriously injured. Neither of these tragic incidents would have happened if the shooters had simply observed Rule One.

Here are a few additional time-proven practices that will help you shoot your airgun safely:

  • Be sure of your target. Make sure that what you’re aiming at is what you intend to shoot. A friend nearly shot his dog when he saw something waving in the tall grass and mistook it for a game animal.
  • Look beyond your target. What happens if you miss? Where will your pellet or BB go? Be sure of the answer.
  • Make sure you, and anyone near you, wears shooting glasses. Under the right conditions, both pellets and BBs can ricochet.
  • Keep your gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until your sights are on the target.

Airgun shooting safety really is simple: if you will always observe Rule One — never, ever, point your gun at anything that you don’t want to see a hole in – you’ll never have cause for regret.

elliott-jockJock Elliott’s writings have appeared in Precision Shooting, Airgun Illustrated, Addictive Airgunning, GunGames, U.S. Airgun and The Backwoodsman magazines. He is also a regular contributor to SHOT Business and SHOT Daily.

He lives with his family in upstate New York and competes in air rifle field target competitions when he can. When he isn’t writing about airguns or playing a mean banjo, he helps high technology and health care organizations communicate with their critical audiences.