How to avoid shooting yourself in the foot by shooting yourself in the foot – physically and metaphorically

These game shooting tips are about far more than safe gun handling, though that’s vital at all times. They’re intended to give you an insight into how to behave at what’s essentially a social event to get the most out of it. Safety Storage Centre has tapped into expert knowledge of the Countryside Alliance and top gunsmith Purdey for this brief beginner’s guide to shooting.

The story of a man having to learn to walk all over again after shooting himself in the foot is the perfect illustration of what happens when firearms aren’t handled correctly.

It could have been a lot worse; he might have shot or even killed the friend who was with him on the crow-shooting expedition – but it could have been a lot better if he’d followed all the safety rules and shot no-one at all.

The destructive power of every kind of gun is why there are strict rules about their handling, use, and storage – because if something can go wrong, it will.

Now’s a good time to highlight the right way to handle and use firearms, because the arrival of August brings with it the first of the opening days for game shooting seasons, and with them, perhaps novice shooters joining the million-strong UK shooting fraternity and trying the sport for the first time.

Game Shooting

Game shooting tips

Novices will no doubt be well advised by more experienced people, but it’s worth pointing out that there are numerous codes of good shooting practice, brought together in the Code of Good Shooting Practice guide published by the Countryside Alliance. They’re immensely detailed, covering every imaginable aspect of the sport, but at their heart are basic safety rules detailing how to behave with a gun in your hand. They’re made simple so they’re easily understood.

• Never carry a loaded gun
• Always treat a gun as if it’s loaded (even though you know it isn’t)
• Never point a gun at anyone
• Never carry a gun with your finger on the trigger
• Never have a loaded gun in your car
• In the case of shotguns, they should be ‘broken’ to show they’re empty and incapable of being fired
• Always use the safety catch
• Load the gun only when you’re going to fire it
• Never shoot unless you have a clear view of the target – and you’re sure there’s nothing behind it
• If you’re not sure, don’t shoot
• When shooting game be sure of a humane kill – it’s not a competition
• When your gun is not in use store it away in an approved gun cabinet

Game shooting etiquette

Top gunsmith Purdey says the essence of field etiquette is very simple, and is about being safe and sporting, adding:

“You will find that most of the unwritten rules are merely a logical means of shooting safely, and with pleasure for all.”

The Purdey web site shooting etiquette section also advises that anyone invited to a day’s driven game shooting shouldn’t turn up without ever having fired a gun, but should have lessons first. The right clothes are important too. It might seem obvious to mention it, but you need to be warm and dry, and have unrestricted movement. There are also good tips about making sure you know where you’re going – urging that you don’t rely on satnavs (shoot locations might be down tracks they can’t see) or mobile phones (you’re in the country; there’s every likelihood of poor reception). The shoot is unlikely to wait for a latecomer!

Much more information about shooting is available on the Countryside Alliance web site.