Whether you shoot clays or game, if you have a gun, the chances are at some point you’ll be travelling somewhere with it in the car or even on public transport. You may be away at a competition or staying with friends for some game or clay shooting. But do you know how best to keep your gun safe when there is no gun cabinet to put it in?
If you study the wording on your certificate (have you ever read that bit on the front page?!) for when the gun is in use or for any reason not in your cabinet, it says “reasonable precautions must be taken for the safe custody of the shotgun”. This is largely common sense but to help you, I have looked at the common situations you may find yourself in when you are away from home with your gun and suggest how best to keep it safe. Remember also, if you’re travelling with your gun, you must have your Shotgun Certificate with you!
For the shooting fraternity, it’s normal to travel around the country with your gun in the car. The absolute rule is not to have your gun on view whether you’re in the car or not, and not to leave your cartridges or shooting kit in view either. Anything that sends the message “there’s a gun in this car” should be kept out of sight or covered up; otherwise, you may as well have the private number plate GUN! I’ve seen this too and think it’s totally bonkers unless you want your car broken into and your guns stolen.
If you can, avoid leaving your gun in the car for long periods of time. If you can’t, then remove either the forend or better still the trigger unit (if it drops out) so the gun can’t function, and keep them with you or hide them somewhere completely different away from the car. The other precaution you can take is to secure the gun to the inside of the car; this is easier if the gun is in a hard case then you can use a bicycle lock or similar, to secure the case with the gun in it to the car, preferably inside the boot.
It goes without saying that the vehicle should be locked and an alarm activated. Also, park in a well-lit area if possible where there is CCTV which will act as a deterrent.
There’s a horror story I’ve heard a number of times and have no idea if it is true, but it goes along the lines of someone filling up their Range Rover at a petrol station after a day’s shooting, and leaving their keys in the ignition whilst they go to pay. Someone else then jumps in the vehicle and drives off with it and the guns… and probably the dogs as well! They may not even have wanted your guns or dogs, but either way, it is a shining example of not taking “reasonable precautions”!
The caveat here is if this happens to you, you may not lose just your guns and car but also your licence, having demonstrated that you are able to keep them safe.
If you are on the train, you may prefer to carry your gun in your suitcase where it cannot be seen or identified. Whether your gun is in a slip, a hard case or is broken down and in your suitcase, do not it out of your sight if at all possible so you can ensure that no one picks it up and leaves the train with it.
If you’re travelling by bus and your gun is placed in the storage area under the bus, you might want to ensure that the doors are shut properly! A friend of mine was travelling by coach with some other shooters between a shooting venue and their hotel, with all the guns being carried below deck on the bus. The driver mysteriously stopped halfway along the journey and got out of the bus and then got back on and drove off and never said anything. They later arrived at the hotel to find there were two guns missing, one of which belonged to my friend!
It turns out the door to the baggage store area had come open and the guns had been dumped someway down the road before the bus driver realised the door was open. The guns had subsequently been picked up by a random driver. Maybe the bus driver didn’t realise what he was carrying and the implications of the situation. Fortunately, my friend and her colleague were reunited with their guns, thanks to the fact she had her details on the gun case and the phenomenal powers of social media, but only after having got the police involved!
IN THE HOTEL
If you’re staying in a hotel or at a friend’s house and they don’t have a gun cabinet then store your gun out of sight, in a locked cupboard if possible, and secure it to something solid (pipework for instance) with a bicycle lock; again remove the forend or trigger unit for additional safety. If you’re going out for dinner, just pop the trigger unit or the forend into your handbag and off you go!
You don’t need to tell the hotel you have a firearm with you; often it is better not to! You’re doing nothing illegal by having a gun in your room, just be discrete about it. Hard gun cases are better as they can be locked; they also look less like a gun than a gun in a slip so attract less attention; I just tell everyone it’s a musical instrument! This is not to say you shouldn’t use a gun slip if you don’t have a hard case. Alternatively, you could break your gun down and put it in your suitcase, so no one knows it’s there. If the barrels won’t fit, you could leave them secured in the boot of the car and keep the stock and action in your bag in the hotel or some other similar arrangement.
The hotel should not look after the gun for you unless you are happy they have a secure gun cabinet and the keys are only held by a gun licence holder.
Happy Shooting everyone!