Learning a new sport is often quite nerve wracking. I remember when I first shot action pistol. I went online to research the rules and to watch videos of people competing. I did the same with shotgun sports. I wanted to have some background before I went to the club. Understanding the game, its rules and the scoring are all very important. However, what I’ve sometimes found lacking in some competitors is knowing shotgun sports etiquette.
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I offer the following suggestions as a way to help others see you as a competent and safe competitor, regardless of your skills. It’s frustrating to shoot alongside someone who lacks basic firearm safety skills and shotgun sports etiquette. You don’t want to be that person who nobody wants on their squad.
Four Firearm Safety Rules
As with any shooting sport, the four firearm safety rules are a great place to start.
1. Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot.
4. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
1. When moving from one position to another with your shotgun, always keep it unloaded, with the action open. Carry an over/under and side-by-side with the muzzle in front of you. Point your semi-auto muzzle to the sky or ground. Do not point your muzzle behind you.
2. Load your shotgun at the proper time. In sporting clays, that means loading two shells when you are in the shooting stand (or cage). For trap and skeet, load your shell (or close the gun) only when it’s your turn. Basically make sure you’re ready when it’s your turn, but don’t “jump the gun” and load it early.
3. Pick up your hulls (unless your club says differently). Remember, your mother doesn’t work there. It’s up to you to police the area when you move between stations or at the end of a round.
4. When not shooting, talk in a low voice, so as not to disturb other shooters or set off an automatic thrower. I sometimes struggle with this concept, since I want to cheer people on. Get a feel for the group you’re with and follow their lead.
5. Do not argue with the referee/scorekeeper. Often, these are volunteers just helping for the day.
6. When competing in sport clays, shooters should wait until the last person has finished shooting before moving on to the next station.
7. Always ask permission before touching another person’s firearm. That’s just common courtesy.
8. When not using your shotgun, set it in one of the stands usually located near each sporting clay’s station. Keep the action open on your semi-auto shotgun.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, just shotgun sports etiquette that are sure to get you off to a great start with this sport. Enjoy, have fun and stay safe!
Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, entered the firearms industry in 2011 when Cerino Training Group was established. She immediately began competing in both 3-Gun and NRA Action Pistol, becoming a sponsored shooter. Michelle is currently a columnist and Managing Editor of Women’s Outdoor News, as well as Pro-Staff for CZ-USA Field Sports. She also manages social media for CZ-USA Field Sports, Vera Koo and GTM Original. Michelle encourages others to step out of the comforts of home and explore. View all posts by Michelle Cerino
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