Sign up
for hunter safety. Required if you were born on or after January 1, 1973.
Buy
your hunting license.
Apply
for a permit and check permit status online.
Know
the regulations.
Contact Information
For more information contact:
Law enforcement safety programs

Four Basic Rules of Firearm Safety

Link to Video

 [VIDEO Length 0:33]

As you join thousands of hunters heading into the woods, fields and marshes during the fall hunting seasons, Wisconsin DNR safety experts remind you to review and think about firearm safety each and every time you head out.

Essential to any responsible hunting trip is an ironclad adherence to the four basic rules of firearm safety that can be easily remembered using the TAB-K formula.

T = Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Never assume a firearm is unloaded and never treat it that way, even if you watch as it is unloaded. Make it a habit to treat guns like they are loaded all the time.

A = Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. About one third of all hunting incidents are self inflicted injuries. That means the muzzle was pointed at some part of the hunter’s body. A safe direction is a direction where the bullet will travel and harm no one in the event of an unwanted discharge. There are no accidental discharges with firearms, only unwanted discharges.

B = Be certain of your target and what’s beyond it. Positive target identification is a must. To shoot at something you only think is a legal target is gambling. In the case of human injury, that means gambling with human life. You must be absolutely certain and correct in judgment before deciding to shoot. Otherwise, it’s reckless behavior. In addition to identifying the target, a hunter must know that a safe backstop for their bullet is present in every shooting situation. We don’t always hit our target, and, in some cases, the bullet passes through the target. A safe backstop guarantees that no one will get hurt.

K = Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. If a hunter stumbles with a firearm in one hand and nothing in the other, whatever that person does with their free hand will automatically happen with the hand holding the gun. If a finger is inside the trigger guard, that hand is likely going to close around the pistol grip of the gun and on the trigger causing an unwanted discharge.

Planning your fall hunting trip also means having your gear in proper working order. Firearms should be cleaned and closely inspected for any signs of mechanical wear that could result in a problem in the field.

Firearms aren’t the only items that need to be checked well in advance of a hunting trip. Clothing and other equipment should also be inspected for signs of wear and tear. Anything that might cause you to compromise safety should be repaired, discarded or replaced. Blaze orange clothing that has faded over time, a jacket that doesn’t fit right or a scope that isn’t adjusted correctly can compromise your safety and the safety of others.

Have a safe and enjoyable hunt!

Additional Information

For more information on the 4 basic rules of firearm safety, you may read these articles.

  • T(Treat every firearm as if it is loaded) [PDF]
  • A(Always point the muzzle in a safe direction) [PDF]
  • B(Be certain of your target and what's beyond) [PDF]
  • K(Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot) [PDF]
  • More Videos

    Last revised: Thursday March 08 2012