Idaho Hunter Safety Course


Unloading a Firearm

Handing a firearm

When walking through the woods or in the field looking for big game, keep your firearm's chamber clear of ammunition. You may have ammunition in the magazine, but for an added level of safety you should not chamber a round until you have identified a legal and ethical target, and have set up for a safe shot.

However, a firearm is not considered "unloaded" until there is no ammunition present in the chamber OR magazine, and the action is open.  You should ALWAYS unload your firearm in any of the following situations: 

  • When you approach others (other hunters, people hiking, horse back riders, off-road vehicles, landowners, etc)
  • When you approach a building, parked car or any public road;
  • Before you set the firearm down for any reason;
  • Before you cross a fence or any terrain where you might slip or trip (ice, mud, uneven rocky ground, etc);
  • Before you enter or exit a treestand;
  • Before you retrieve or carry a game animal out of the woods;
  • Before you return to camp, to your group, or vehicle; and
  • Before you hand your firearm to another person.

Always remember to treat every firearm as if it were loaded. When handing a firearm to another person, always ensure that the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction. Keep the action open, and make sure it is visible to the other person. You should not let go of until he or she acknowledges that they are in full control of the firearm. For example, wait until the person says "thank you" or "I've got it".