Firearms Safety

Safety is our collective responsibility. It is up to every participant to ensure the future for firearms users in New Zealand. We do this by following the arms code and keeping yourself and everyone else safe while using firearms. A key part of being a safe hunter is fully understanding and mitigating the risks around firearms.

Apply for your Firearms Licence with the NZ Firearms Licence Authority here

What Are the Risks?

Whether it is on the range, or out in the bush, people need to be extremely aware of themselves and their surroundings at all times. People using firearms for all types of New Zealand hunting have to encounter various forms of terrain, situations and other people while carrying a deadly weapon. Whether you are new to the game or a experienced with firearms, a small lapse in concentration can be fatal. 
What often goes wrong?  

Other than firearms mechanically failing, preventable incidents involving firearms are most likely the result of someone breaking one of the Seven Basic Firearms Safety Rules. These rules were generated as a means for hunters to keep themselves and others safe while handling firearms and should always be followed.

Did You Know?

45% of hunting-related fatalities involve a firearm.
A Hunter's Tale, 2017

7 Basic Firearm Safety Rules

1. Treat every firearm as loaded
  •  Check every firearm yourself
  •  Pass or accept only an open or unloaded firearm


2. Always point firearms in a safe direction
  •  Loaded or unloaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction

3. Chamber a cartridge only when ready to fire

Chamber a live cartridge into a firearm only when appropriate, such as:

  • when you expect to encounter game animals
  • when you are about to discharge the firearm, for example, on a shooting range.

4. Identify your target beyond all doubt
  • Movement, colour, sound and shape can all deceive you
  • Assume colour, shape, sound, and shape to be human until proven otherwise
  • Wear clothing which contrasts to your environment

Learn more from our poster.


5. Check your firing zone
  •  THINK:  What may happen if you miss your target? 
  •  What might you hit between you and the target or beyond?
  • Do not fire when you know others are in your firing zone.


6. Store and transport firearms and ammunition safely

When travelling with a firearm, you need to:

  • fully unload the chamber, breech and magazine
  • make it inoperable by removing the bolt/other vital part, or by fitting a trigger/cable lock, and/or store it in a locked case
  • conceal it from view in the vehicle
  • store and secure ammunition separately.

As of 2023 there are new storage rules, learn more here.

7. Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms
  •  Good judgement is the key to safe use of firearms

What to do next