Safely Carrying Firearms

Safely Carrying Firearms While Hunting

To carry a gun safely while hunting, three basic rules apply:

  1. Keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction and the barrel under control.
  2. Keep the safety in the “on” position while carrying a firearm. Only change the position of the safety to fire when you are ready to shoot.
  3. Always keep your finger outside the trigger guard.

Check the status of your firearm often, especially as you travel or get ready to cross an obstacle. Check to see if your safety is still on and keep the chamber empty. If your magazine is loaded, when you’re ready to fire, it is easy to chamber a round for the shot. Don’t be shy to ask others about the safety status of their firearm.


Sling Carry

shoulder carry gun sling close-up of shoulder strap 

A sling carry uses a rifle sling placed over your shoulder to support the rifle. Keep your hand on the sling while walking to keep the rifle from slipping. The sling carry is good for long walks in open cover. If brush becomes dense, the barrel tip can get caught in shoulder-high branches and twigs so you may need to switch to a different carrying method. It is a good carry when walking with others.


 Trail Carry

antoerh trail carry position trail carry

The trail carry uses one arm to carry the firearm, leaving the other free for balance.


Cradle Carry

another cradel carry position Cradle carry
The cradle carry rests the gun across your forearm and elbow. The hand easily secures the firearm by grasping the stock. It is a comfortable carry that reduces arm fatigue.


Elbow or Side Carry

Elbow carry open action on elbow carry elbow carry

The elbow or “side” carry is a very comfortable carry for break-action firearms. The pivot of the open action rests easily in the crook of your elbow and down over your forearm.  In this manner the barrel naturally points down. Others can easily see that your action is safe and open.


Shoulder Carry

shoulder carry

The shoulder carry balances the rifle on your shoulder, controlling the firearm by a hand on the grip. Always keep your finger off the trigger and on the outside of the trigger guard. This is a good carry when walking beside or behind others. It is not a good carry if others are behind you.

Range shoulder carry

When at a shooting range the correct shoulder carry for a break action shotgun would be with the action open, unloaded, barrel pointing down and forward, controlled by both hands.


Two - Handed or Ready Carry

two-handed or ready carry ready carry close-up

In the two-handed or “ready” carry, the gun is held by both hands in front of the body with the barrel up. The trigger finger is always outside of the trigger guard. It provides the best control of the muzzle, particularly in thick brush or weeds, or when you need to be ready to take aim.

Safe Carries in a Group

Safely carrying firearms while hunting with others can be a challenge. Strict muzzle control is the key factor to keep in mind. Remember that you may have to adjust or change your carry for the terrain and pace of your group.

Walking side by side

safe carries in a group

The hunters at the sides must keep their muzzles pointed to the side or to the front. The hunter in the middle must keep his muzzle to back and up, or to the front.

Walking in single file

single file group

The hunter in front keeps his muzzle to the side or up. The hunter in the middle keeps the muzzle to the side with cradle carry. The hunter in the rear keeps his muzzle back or to the side.