Guns Safety in Africa
In the thread about Anthony Howland's tragic accident a couple of post were made concerning gun safety and carry techniques while in Africa.
Certain aspects of gun/hunting safety are common and relevant no matter where you hunt. However in Africa, or at least in my experience, the demands are different.
In my North American experience I usually hunt alone or with one person. In Africa at a minimum you will have a PH, tracker, and a game scout. Throw in an appy, cameraman, and your wife your hunting party could overthrow a small country.
Another difference is I have never been charged by a whitetail deer or bear for that matter. Elephants in Africa seems to hate me and are hell bent on killing me. Buffalo do not like me much either.
The posts that will follow will of course be of differing opinions, however if one of us could learn something and prevent an accident it is worth the differing opinions.
My first trip to Tanzania was for buffalo. I asked my PH if he wanted me to chamber a round. His response was unless I planned to beat the buffalo to death with the stock his suggestion was to load the rifle. I have carried my double "Africa" style while loaded. It is a K-Gun and three PHs had no problem with this method. Bolt guns are loaded when leaving the truck and carried on a sling. Muzzle control is of the utmost importance and safeties are always used.
How do you carry in a DG area? In a PG only area?
I can only tell you what I am familiar with in the US and during two trips to Namibia in non-DG areas. I'm of the school of thought that you really can't kill anything if the gun isn't loaded. When I am on foot, there is always a round in the chamber with the safety on. I do not assume the safety is worth anything. Muzzle control and situational awareness are of the utmost importance. Approaching a fence, vehicle, stream crossing, or camp always involves removing the round from the chamber - not just halfway opening the bolt.
For most situations, this approach seems to be fine. I did not like it when following the PH in single-file leopard crawls. Operating the action is not a good option due to the noise, but keeping the muzzle pointed safely while crawling through thorns and weeds with a loaded rifle is no easy task. I am comfortable with gun safety around some folks. Others make me very nervous indeed.
I would have a very hard time letting another individual carry my rifle. I might make an exception during a self-imposed death march tracking elephant or buff with a heavy big bore. In a situation where DG is known to be nearby I can't even imagine not having one up the pipe.
On PG hunt while in the truck, or on the back of the side by side I carried it under loaded. Once out of the vehicle round in chamber safety on.
I had given thought to such a thread and held back, kudos to you Mike for starting it. Like BryceM, I have no DG hunting experience and so my thoughts on this may reflect my inexperience.
Before I get to that however, it would seem that recent AD that resulted in young Mr. Howland being injured was indeed an accident. If one has to be moving while pursuing a wounded animal naturally the gun will need to have a round chambered in the event that the animal reveals itself and a quick shot is needed. It's really not much different than flushing quail in that respect. The safety of course should be on and be able to prevent discharge due to normal falls, so perhaps this where the culprit of that event lies.
Now having said that, I have never been able to get over watching any of the African hunting shows where a PH is walking in front of a client who clearly has the muzzle of his rifle (double, bolt or whatever) pointed at the PH. In my mind it violates the first and foremost rule of gun safety which is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. If/when I ever get to that Buff hunt I keep dreaming of and the PH expects me to carry it that way, I really don't know what I'm going to do. It will be so unnatural for me to do that.
Most of the time I see the "African" carry on the shows it doesn't seem like there's much going on, the hunters are just on the track and danger doesn't seem imminent. And there it is, the muzzle crossing to and fro across the PH's back. Would it not make sense for the client to be walking side by side with the PH at this time? If he were then the African carry isn't an unsafe situation.
Now if we're in a tight situation where the cover is thick, walking single file and there is a raised level of concern that a close shot to save one's life may be necessary, would it not make sense now to be carrying the gun with two hands and ready to make a shot but still maintaing proper muzzle control? This would be akin again to hunting quail where you need to be ready to draw down on the birds quickly but you can still do this without pointing the gun at your buddies.
Again I'll say, gun safety starts with muzzle control. Everything else after that is secondary in my opinion and are only backup measures to muzzle control.
Really good discussion topic Mike. In four trips to Africa, two for DG, I have always carried the rifle in the rack with a full mag and empty chamber. Upon leaving the truck, I chamber a round, put the weapon on safe, and stay focused on keeping it pointed in a safe direction. I believe it is important to have it with an empty chamber on the vehicle because someone other than me may handle it.
I like slings. Inevitably, we seem to end up in Indian file following trackers or the PH. I refuse to do the over the shoulder thing with the end with the hole in it pointing In even the general direction of the skirmishers in front of me.
The one question I had was in the Caprivi when on the first morning we were about to board a skiff for a five mile run through the marsh to the island we intended to hunt. I emerged from the tent with my rifle in a gun slip. My young PH took one look at me and said "Joe, if it isn't too much bother, could you ride with your rifle at ready and a round chambered? The hippo can be grumpy and our motto is to never go down with a full magazine." Profound advice.
Dead tired or not, I am carrying my on rifle - particularly where something can stomp, stick, or munch one of our party.
As Red Leg says
I carried the rifle in the rack with a full mag and empty chamber.
Upon leaving the truck, I chamber a round, .....and stay focused on keeping it pointed in a safe direction.
You never know where PH, trackers, game scouts, wives, etc. are going to be. You always have to be checking and rechecking. Walking with multiple bodies in the bush requires incredible attentiveness to maintain safety.
Most of the time in PG areas it was loaded on my shoulder sling, right where I like it.
Crawling through bush with people ahead of me meant I fell back to ensure that my muzzle was always safe.
In DG areas, locked and loaded and everyone keeping them pointed in safe directions. Ready to go.
I always knew when we entered a DG area; The PH immediately loaded his rifle on exit from the Bakkie!
I carry a loaded - broken/open O/U shotgun on my shoulder,ready to go while bird hunting.
Closing it when game is close.
I can not even imagine carrying a bolt rifle or double loaded/closed in this way with anyone in front of me. (African carry)
Tried it with no one around and it feels completely out of control to me.
In the vehicle it's chamber empty, mag full-Let the PH know it is chamber empty (by actually looking and feeling ) and announcing before you get in the vehicle. Off the truck-round chambered, safety on-MUZZLE CONTROL IS PARAMOUNT TO EVERYTHING ELSE-IT HAS TO BE SECOND NATURE, PERIOD! AT ALL TIMES! My last PH (Jamy Traut) really liked that I told him it was "chamber empty" before I got in the vehicle.
It certainly didn't feel natural at first, but I carried mine loaded, over the shoulder, holding the muzzle, for 2 weeks. Actually, by the time the safari was over, I had become quite comfortable with this method of carry. Had little choice regarding how to carry it. I thought the custom swivels from Trader Keith - "machined in Germany and used by the world's finest gunmakers" seemed appropriate since I was using their sling. All the German machining means nothing when the swivel is held together with a simple screw that backs out and falls into the thick grass 1-1/2 hours into Day 1.
Spent the remainder of the safari with the gun over the shoulder and trying hard not to center it on Martin's back. As stated in previous posts, muzzle control is what matters, and at least by holding the muzzle, you can maintain reasonable control. When we were in thick jesse, I usually carried it at waist level with the muzzle pointed downward and just above the ground. I decided not to look back too often because I really didn't want to know if the appy's muzzle was crossing my back.
Obviously there have been some tragic incidents, and this post stems from a very recent one, but I would be curious to know just how many unintended firearm discharges have occurred over the decades in Africa. My sense is that the need for a loaded firearm in DG country (or the likelihood of serious injury if one hunts with the chamber empty) outweighs the likelihood of an unintended firearm discharge.
All good points.
Cliffy, I also anounce when I am loading and unloading my rifle and actually ask to load it at the start of the safari (until I am trusted and told to just load it each time we leave the vehicle).
In the vehicle, same as mentioned full magazine but nothing in the chamber. When walking the gun is loaded. The gun gets unloaded in any scrambly/difficult spots.
I have not used the African carry, I use a sling or 2 handed carry or the one arm cradle at times, always with the barrel pointing in a safe direction. Still every once in awhile I look left the tracker (or someone else) steps right and when I look back the muzzle is pointed at someones leg, thats where the safely comes in and is precisely the reason the fingers stay FAR from the trigger until I intend to use it. When crawling the barrel is pointed forwrd but well to the side of anyone in front of me.
As safe as I try to be I know that one day some unforseen circumstances could come together and it could happen to me so I wont pass judgement on the recent situation, after all I wasnt there.
After writing the initial post I really started to think about my gun handling practices on safari.
Please be patient with this part of the post as it is relevant to my point. When learning to shoot my double I would video some of my practice sessions at the range. This would give me a good idea of what I was doing correctly and the things I needed to improve. While I was prepared my first hunt with the double I was not as proficient as I wanted to be. After returning from the hunt I worked on shooting, running, reloading, etc to introduce some stress in the situation. My next hunt went better. My third hunt with the double went extremely well.
As I was thinking about my trips I looked at pictures from my trips and the video from my hunt with Mokore to observe how I handled my rifles. To my horror on the video I am standing with the rifle on my foot and my hand over the top of the barrels. Video does not lie. It appears muzzle control was good. While I carry the double on my shoulder quite often, when in thick brush I carried it one handed and low.
Hunting is and should be exciting. There are plenty of times we are running, crawling, climbing etc. The end of a follow up, especially for DG is stressful and exhilarating. These are the times it is easy to make a mistake. I heard a client in Zim shot a hole in his foot recently while waiting on a buffalo's final death throes. Not being there I can still envision the excitement of killing a buffalo and not focusing on gun safety. As when I practiced with my double, adding stress, excitement, or something different can give us a momentary lapse of doing the proper thing.
Announcing your rifle is safe at the truck is a good idea. Probably doing the same after a difficult follow up is a good idea also.
For some reason these recent accidents of Mr. Owain and Anthony have hit home with me even though I knew neither man.
For me hunting is the noblest of all sports and I hope to safely enjoy it the remainder of my days on earth.
I have never gone as far as video taping practice sessions. Interesting idea though.
Illustrating vocally or physically that your rifle is unloaded can never be a bad thing in company. It is a required action for our firearms testing process. It is a habit for me now.
The suggestion about practicing shooting from sticks from varied positions is something that is typically new to NA hunters. Add being able to acquire a target and shoot under three seconds was another suggestion that adds stress.
A competition of sorts was designed to add some stress to our practice.
We, as a group, set up a fast walking course which required shooting at several targets using sticks. [standing, kneeling, sitting]
Time, plus accuracy and safety were all components.
All the while with people standing in close proximity so muzzle control was necessary at all times.
Loading only at the station or just before. Announcing when you were clear at the end.
It did help reinforce how different the situation would be to our typical big game hunting days.
I think the best, has already been said...If we practice proper gun handling in our home countries, why would it differ when in Africa(outside of the additional people, which should make us more cautious)? I know that when tracking Whitetail, my son's gun/muzzle is never pointed at my back and likewise if he is doing the tracking, I know mine is never pointed at him. Port Arms my fellow hunters, I am sure it has saved many a lives, YES even in thick understory, if it's that damn thick let the guy in front of you get where he needs to be then you go through. It's just safe gun handling. Accidents obviously happen, and there is no calling back a bullet or arrow, if you fall who knows where your muzzle will be? however we can all learn from what has happened within our ranks to reinforce what we already know we should be practicing.
Definately a good post, much of what you posted are thoughts that have been going through my mind since reading about these recent unfortunate incidents.
All posts here are on the money, might as well add my opinion in too.
My personal feelings - When travelling, full mag, empty chamber and definately announce it.
When off the vehicle, full mag, one in the chamber and safety on and again, let everyone know it!
I am not keen on people behind me with a rifle that I dont know is loaded or not, on safety or not.
Doesnt matter whether its PG or DG, once I am off the vehicle I load one in the chamber.
There are a bundle of different ways to hold and cradle a rifle, most circumstances just need a bit of common sense to be safe.
Most importantly though - dont point the muzzle where you dont want a bullet to go!
My old man drilled this into me from the first day i picked up a pellet gun, let alone the safety lectures when a high powered rifle was involved!
Perhaps the only positive aspect of an accidental discharge is the renewing or reviewing of safety consciousness in others. I've learned so much from this thread and had already made changes on rifle carry/muzzle discipline before my second Africa trip.
On my first trip, the PH said for me to I carry the rifle with the magazine full, chamber empty, until the rifle is in the sticks. If the target animal moved when I was on the sticks, I lifted the bolt and maneuvered after it for a short distance only. When the rifle was back on the sticks, then the bolt was seated. If the move was a long one, the chamber was emptied.
On my second trip I carried a rifle sling with me. A rifle on a sling is what I'm used to and that is the safest way to carry one in the field but, then again, I wasn't hunting dangerous game.
One more aspect, I made sure the PH saw me checking the rifle on leaving the vehicle and returning to the vehicle (and periodically during long hikes) and after blown stalks. And my muzzle control when walking was always first in my mind. I wanted the tracker and the PH to know they were safe with me.
You know, I could live with myself if I blew my own head off, I couldn't live with myself if I hurt someone else.
:p you know what, I'll bet you $5 you couldn't :hmmmer::heh::heh::heh:
Originally Posted by Upton O. Good
Just kidding I know what you mean...
I agree with everyone above. I think it important to have the gun pointed in a same direction ALL THE TIME. And if that means people are spread out so be it. I would not want anyone's barrel on me.
I think everyone needs to enforce safeties be left on the gun until it's time to shoot. SAME WITH KEEPING YOUR FINGERS OFF THE TRIGGER UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO FIRE. It seems simple. But excitement and thoughtlessness can be life changing.
'African Carry'....One needs to see how this first came about! Picture if you will the likes of Courtney Selous hunting with a 4 Bore muzzle loader. The rifle is enormously heavy...he is a slight man. He has a Gun Bearer. The Gun bearer is trained to walk a pace in front of Selous holding the rifle by the barrel. The Elephant is sighted and approached. At the correct moment, Selous closes the step, takes hold of the butt stock, leaving the forestock resting on the Gun bearers shoulder who's now standing dead still. He shoots. That's why it was called the African Carry...the 'african' carried it ready for use by his employer.
With all due respect for people who have the bad habit of carrying their own rifles like this...but it's really not clever! You have a loaded rifle generally pointed at someone else or in their direction unless you're at the front of the file.. At best you'll sweep the muzzle over other people in the party a number of times a day. The trigger is prone to being pulled by branches as you sweep past them. You cannot get the rifle round or over to face a charging whatever with any sort of decorum or speed. Check out the charge speeds in this site and try to get a shot off realistically from a 30M charge line. It wears the bluing off the barrel as you sweat. Learner PH's (in Zim) get failed at their proficiency exams for carrying rifle this way.
In fact I cannot think of one advantage to carrying your rifle this way yourself.
In my own case, when my rifle wasn't being carried on a sling in one way or another, it was carried over my shoulder 'soldier style' with my hand on the pistol grip ready to be brought to bear quickly. In thick Jesse type bush or during follow ups or during a stalk it was carried 'at the ready' in both hands with the sling taken off and around my waist like a belt.
As far as 'Leopard crawling' goes, I didn't like the idea of being on all fours ever. It meant the gun being continually messed around, possibly scooping up sand or twigs into the muzzle and very sore knees! In Africa it also gives you a profile of a predator.
My preferred way was to 'bum scoot'. Sit on yr butt, rifle across yr lap or slung upside down around yr neck on yr front. scoot along on yr butt. You are then always looking at yr quarry, you can stop with very little movement when they look up or toward you. You are already sitting down so you can rest. you look like a baboon...inoffensive and no threat. you can lie back and rest or lower your profile to snake your way along. You can shoot better sitting down using yr knees for support. It always worked wonders for me!
Everyone to his own as long as it's safe!
Definately not the ideal carry in my opinion!!!
Originally Posted by Ole Bally
It is however habit for many people I'm sure!
I don't have near as much hunting experience as you, but everything you have wrote....I agree with 100 percent! It makes common sense.
Originally Posted by Ole Bally
This is another good point of safety. I negate this with a peice of electrical tape over the barrel and another wrapped over it to secure it in place. Accuracy is not affected since the tape is long gone, blown away by air escaping the bore ahead of the bullet, before the bullet gets anywhere near it. Blown up barels do not appeal to me at all.
Originally Posted by Ole Bally