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Shooting at Taupo NZDA range.

Security tips for gun owners

If you own a firearm, you’re considered a fit and proper person by your local Arms Officer. You’ve also got safety measures in place, such as a safe bolted into the ground and/or a wall. But there are some simple steps you can take to increase your security at no extra cost.

Thieves have their eyes on you

A big concern around firearm safety is ensuring that children or stupid adults can’t access your bang sticks. Not only do you keep these under lock and key, but your bolts, mags and ammo are all locked up separately.

So that’s that problem solved.

Which means when we’re talking security, we’re talking about keeping your firearms out of the hands of those who would do evil with them (and no, we’re not talking about your partner selling them so you can get rid of the second mortgage you took out to buy them in the first place).

Maybe it’s my South African upbringing, or maybe I’m just super-cautious with my guns, but I feel the eyes of potential thieves on me all the time. No, I’m not being paranoid, but at any given time I’m aware that someone nearby could be keeping an eye out for someone to target for a robbery.

Online security

Thieves are not all opportunistic, desperate nogoodniks. Some of them are savvy operators who will find you online. So, what can you do to avoid the gaze of these degenerates?

Don’t give identifying details online

We all like to hop onto forums, Facebook groups or Instagram accounts that discuss the particular types of firearms or shooting that we do. If it’s a Facebook group, make sure you only join ones that are private, so people can’t see what your posting unless they’re members too. On social media or in forums, make sure you don’t leave personally identifying information, such as an address, a licence plate in a photo, your workplace, etc.

Sure, you’ll meet some people you trust online – chat to them privately if you want to set up a hunt or something and need to meet at someone’s house.

Also, if you’re going to post pictures of hunts, ‘like’ Facebook or Instagram pages to do with guns, etc, make sure your settings are set to ‘private’ or ‘friends only’.

Don’t give your home address to Trademe traders

If you bought or sold a gun or related items on Trademe, don’t invite people around to your house to pick it up or drop it off. If you can, get things posted to your work, or collect from the courier depot. I also prefer these options, because then I know my stuff won’t be sitting in the driveway all day.

Physical security

Again, we’re still not talking about anything you have to spend money on – just practical ways you can keep eyes off your gear and feel safer in the knowledge that you’re not making your home a target.

Sight lines

I’ve recently moved house and when I was installing my safes, the first thing I noticed was that I could see straight out the garage window and across the road from where my safes and reloading bench would be. That means anyone on the street could see in. You might have same consideration when you open your garage door – what’s visible to the street?

These are not the kind of sight lines we're talking about. But here's a picture of a gun to keep you interested.
These are not the kind of sight lines we’re talking about. But here’s a picture of a gun to keep you interested.

While most people wouldn’t see this, someone scouting the property would certainly be paying more attention to detail. So, as a stop gap, I hung a sheet over the garage windows, until I can arrange to get the windows tinted. And there’s another point, cover up your gear when service people come around.

That’s not passing judgement on anyone in a trade that involves home installs, but seriously, it’s a person you don’t know that you are inviting into your home. You don’t know them from a bar of soap. I don’t even get house movers, I pack my own stuff.

If I had a flash TV and expensive booze, I wouldn’t really care, but these are firearms, and they require extra attention.

Number plates

Did you know anyone can trace your number plate to where you live? It costs them $15 and a few clicks of their mouse.

Now, the NZTA won’t hand your details over to any old Joe Bloggs, but if that person was determined enough to get your address, I’m sure they could create a fraudulent and convincing reason for the NZTA to release it.

If you’d like to opt out of having your info available without NZTA’s specific approval of the information request, you can follow this link.

This may mean it takes a couple days extra next time you apply for vehicle insurance, but at least you don’t have to worry about someone staking out your gun club and walking away with your licence plate number, and essentially the location of your home.

When you pack up after a day at the range, make sure you're conscious of what anyone else might see.
When you pack up after a day at the range, make sure you’re conscious of what anyone else might see.

Keep it under wraps

It’s in the law – we all know we need to cover our firearms up when we travel. But just think about it a little bit more. Also, remember you can’t park up somewhere with firearms in your car. The only exception I know of is stopping at a petrol station.

When you’re transporting firearms or leaving the gun store, be aware of your surroundings and don’t give criminals the opportunity to spot a potential prize.

When you do get your new rifle or whatever safely home, make sure you take note of the serial number and take a photo of the gun so that in the event of an insurance claim for fire, or a police investigation for theft, you can supply useful information that may result in getting your firearm (or its value) back.

Now, I hope this hasn’t made you feel unsafe or get the impression that you have to be a paranoid recluse to keep firearms. However, a little extra thought and care will mean you, your family and your community are safer.

Plus, I’d be bloody gutted if someone emptied out my safe!

Why do some shooters wear yellow glasses?

Those new to shooting sports will easily become overwhelmed with all of the associated bits and pieces you need to buy before you can really get into your chosen discipline. While you can always get cracking with a gun, some ammo and basic maintenance gear, there’s always something else that you probably “need”.

One of those things that I never really understood was yellow safety glasses. Well, I understood the theory, but I didn’t really think they would make that much of a difference…

So what does the colour do?

Well, yellow isn’t the only colour available. In fact, there are many glasses that come with interchangeable lenses and packs of these in various colours/tints.

The various shades are for shooting in different lighting conditions. You can get some that are similar to sunglasses, – these are great for extreme brightness, such as sunny days in winter, over frosted or snowy ground. You also get those with purpley-blue tints, which are great for picking up orange against a green background. In other words – perfect for trap shooters who have tall trees or hills as their backdrop.

The Champion glasses I was gifted were perfect for the low-light/foggy conditions I was shooting in.
The Champion glasses I was gifted were perfect for the low-light/foggy conditions I was shooting in.

Yellow and orange glasses are great for increasing contrast. These are brilliant for a few reasons. For older shooters with weaker eyes, these really help the targets “pop” into the foreground.

It’s not just for those that have eye conditions or who have been shooting longer than you’ve been walking. They’re also great for shooters who engage fast-moving targets, such as Olympic clays, or who themselves move fairly rapidly, such as IPSC pistol shooters.

Do they really work?

As I mentioned before, I never really bought into the higher contrast for better shooting theory. I thought it was just something else to spend money on. However, having recently been bought a pair for my birthday, I am thoroughly convinced.

Since I’ve picked up pistol shooting, I’ve been using clear safety glasses to protect my eyes. Of course safety glasses of some description are mandatory on pistol ranges. So, having gone through the first few weeks of my tyro course with clear glasses from the work bench, I thought I was doing fine.

When I tried out the yellow glasses, it was a particularly rainy/overcast/cloudy day. It was varying between overly bright and overly shady, with everything looking like a different shade of grey.

Not only did the Champion brand shooting glasses I was wearing make it easy to pick up the black bullseye from 50 yards out (on a Service Pistol shoot), but they didn’t fog up or need cleaning with the changing weather and fast-paced match. I was seriously impressed.


Shotgun shooters are generally wearing glasses for their beneficial effects on their vision, while pistol shooters and 3-gunners are wearing them for those benefits, but also to protect their eyesight, as they have barrels and ejection ports much closer to their faces, and expend hundreds of rounds of ammo at some considerable pace.

Proper shooting glasses wrap around your eyes a lot better than sunglasses or reading glasses.
Proper shooting glasses wrap around your eyes a lot better than sunglasses or reading glasses.

I’ve personally witnessed a potentially blinding incident first hand, when a reloaded 9mm round blew up in the gun, forcing burning powder up towards the shooters face through the open ejection port. The round had weakened in the webbing, so after the head of the case separated, the gas had nowhere to go but up.

Fortunately, the shooter was wearing safety glasses and after a bit of time to recover from the fairly intense experience, she was fine.

In fact, I would even recommend bolt action rifle shooters wear glasses in some instances. I always wear a pair when I test brand new loads, fire a rifle I haven’t fired before, or after modifying anything near the bolt. I’ve heard of ruptured primers sending hot gases backwards along firing pins and straight into a shooters face. Anything can happen. In an ideal world, all shooters would wear their “eyes and ears” at all times.

What about sunglasses/reading glasses/safety glasses?

While the above are better than nothing, they are less than ideal. I would (and have) used these over nothing.

Sunglasses and normal eye glasses provide good protection from the front, but generally don’t wrap around to the sides of the face or protect from the bottom. Sunglasses can also make it harder to see the target in many situations.

Shooting glasses and safety glasses wrap around better. Cheap safety glasses will scratch easily and will also fog up when you’re running through a course. And if you’re going to spend the money buying fog-proof safety glasses, you may as well try out some yellow glasses or a set with a few options.

Modified M38 bolt.

Why I will never use my safety

If you’ve gone through the effort of getting your firearms licence, you’ll have come across seven neat rules that should dictate the way you handle guns for the rest of your life. These are the foundation of the arms code and are as follows:

Rule 1: Treat every firearm as loaded
Rule 2: Always point firearms in a safe direction
Rule 3: Load a firearm only when ready to fire
Rule 4: Identify your target beyond all doubt
Rule 5: Check your firing zone
Rule 6: Store firearms and ammunition safely
Rule 7: Avoid alcohol and drugs when handling firearms

You’ll notice, not one of these is “apply the mechanical safety on your firearm”. Why is this? Mechanical objects fail due to wear and tear, extreme conditions and pure bad luck. If you’ve read the instruction manual that comes with your new rifle or shotgun (highly recommended activity), you’ll notice that while new and improved safeties are always created for weapons and mentioned in these manuals, they usually discourage you from relying solely on these little switches.

How does a safety work?

There are two ways that most safeties work. The first is that they block the trigger from being pulled back, or even disconnect the trigger mechanism. The other is that they block the striker or hammer from moving forward and contacting the firing pin. There are many, many other types of safeties, and they can be in different places on your firearm, but they all have one thing in common – they are small bits of material upon which a large responsibility hangs.

That is why you never rely solely on a safety. Now – this my preference – I prefer not to use the safety at all. Some ranges will require your safety to be applied, and that’s fine. But, I personally don’t want to build up a reliance on a little switch.

What do I do instead?

When on the range and not using the rifle, I have it pointed in a safe direction with the action open, magazine out (or empty) and a breech flag in the chamber. This indicates to everyone that firearm is unloaded and safe.

When carrying a firearm to or on the range, same applies. Magazine out or empty (if fixed), and safety flag in or thumb in the chamber – muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

When firing on the range – well, you’re firing. What good is a safety when you want it to go bang?

When carrying a rifle in the field… This is where it gets a bit tricky. I leave my ammunition in my pocket, as well as my bolt if it’s a bolt action, until I’m near where I want to be shooting. When I am in the area in which I want to shoot, I fit the bolt (or close the action on a semi), and load the ammunition.

At this point, I do not chamber a round. I close the bolt on an empty chamber by pushing the top round down with my thumb or inserting the magazine on a closed bolt. When you’re ready to line up your shot, rack the bolt and get ready to squeeze the trigger.

If your quarry eludes you – drop the magazine out and remove the chambered round. Double check to see there’s nothing in there and close the bolt on an empty chamber before inserting your magazine again. Or, push the top round down on your bolt action.

This is just my personal procedure – you may have different feelings on the matter, or experience to the contrary. Leave a comment below with your tips on firearm safety.

Check out the arms code here.