Airguns 101– the Basics: Safety

Monday, December 9, 2013

To the readers of this blog: this marks the beginning of a new series that focuses on the basic stuff that every new shooter wants to know about or should know about. The site administrator at tells me that they will find a way to make this stuff readily available at the top of the blog so it will be readily available for new shooters and old hands who want a refresher. Now, to this week’s posting!

This is the most important thing you will read in this blog – read it carefully!

Make no mistake about it: you can, indeed, shoot your eye out with an airgun. You can also maim and kill people and animals and destroy property. So get this straight, once and for all: Airguns are not toys. Airguns are real air rifles and air pistols and can bring tragedy to your door if not handled with respect. Fortunately, virtually all airgun accidents can be prevented if you follow the Number One Rule of airgun safety.

And here it is: the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety is never, ever point your airgun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. It’s really that easy. If you always observe Rule One – and always keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction – you should never have cause for regret. After all, with the exception of a ricochet, an airgun can only shoot where it is pointed.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

Here are some other key things you need to know about handling an airgun (or any gun for that matter) safely:

  • Always treat any airgun as though it is loaded and with the same respect you would a firearm. Never point any airgun in an unsafe direction. Even if you are totally, completely, absolutely, positively certain that the airgun is unloaded, still never point it in an unsafe direction.
  • Read and follow all instructions in the owner’s manual and know how your airgun works before using it.
  • Keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction until you are ready to shoot.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard while loading the airgun.
  • Wear shooting glasses to protect your eyes and make sure others with you are wearing eye protection. (If your reading or prescription glasses are not safety glasses, wear shooting glasses over your regular glasses.)
  • Use only the correct BBs or pellets specified for your airgun. Never reuse ammunition.
  • Do not shoot at hard surfaces or the surface of water. BBs and pellets can bounce or ricochet.
  • Use a pellet trap or other backstop. Place it in a location that will be safe if the pellet or BB goes through. Do not use a hard backstop with BBs.
  • Look beyond your target. What happens if you miss? Where will your pellet or BB go? Be sure of the answer.
  • Check your backstop for wear before and after each use. Replace your backstop if the surface is worn or damaged or if a ricochet occurs.
  • Maintain control of the airgun when it is not being used, including at the beginning and end of each shooting session. Don’t load it and leave it unattended. Store your airgun, unloaded, where it cannot be used by curious youngsters or unauthorized persons. Store the ammunition separately.

A Word about Parental Control

Special Note to Parents: if you have any doubt at all that your children will observe the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety, you need to supervise your children while they are shooting. You know your children and their level of responsibility and maturity. If you are not positive that they will always handle the airgun safely, supervise them, no matter how old they are.

Supervision means being close enough to control or redirect the airgun if it is pointed in an unsafe direction. It only takes a moment for a child to turn while squeezing the trigger. Be close enough to prevent that from happening – no more than an arm’s length away.

Now, that may seem like a lot of stuff to remember, but it really boils down to this: keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; know where your shot is going, even if you miss; protect your eyes; and supervise the kids.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


  1. Sean says:

    Consider water a hard surface. Just as if you were skipping a rock across the pond a bullet can do the same thing.
    The safety is a mechanical stop. Being mechanical it WILL fail. So even though the safety is in place always treat the gun as if it is loaded and point in a safe direction.

    Having gone from non-hunter to hunter recently I would suggest that everyone take a hunter safety course. It’s a lot of time, but typically it’s free and well worth the information you’ll gain about gun safety.

  2. Bob Todrick says:

    Great post, especially at this time of year when lots of airguns will be under the Christmas tree.
    I’d add one thing…consequences!
    I started both my boys out when they turned 6 with the venerable Red Ryder.
    All of the safety rules were explained. As well I added a consequence. Break one major rule (for example sweeping the gun around the room so it pointed at someone) and that gun went in the safe for one week.
    This only happened a couple of times…when one or the other brother had to sit by the sidelines for a week while everyone else got to shoot it didn’t take long for the rules to be memorized.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for the kind words and for teaching your boys gun safety!

Leave a Reply

15 − four =