Whats safest, muzzle up or down ?


Well-Known Member
I have always been taught that it is safest to carry a rifle muzzle down, behind / my right shoulder with the muzzle pointing just slightly in front me towards the ground. It have been doing this for years and always felt it was fine.

However the other weekend i went on a booked weekend of stalking with some friends. It was the first time id been to this place, whereas the chaps i was with had visited on many occasions. So in the interests of safety, once we got out to the woods , being unsure of my previous experience the stalker who was accompanying me decided to give me a talk about how was safest to hold the rifle whilst walking, asking me to hold it on the front of my body on the left side with the muzzle facing to the sky.

Not wanting to argue with someone who is undoubtedly far more experienced than I, and wanting to learn as much as possible i immediately adopted this new way of carrying the rifle. I found it uncomfortable but put this down to it being new to me. However as the weekend progressed i noticed more and more than occasionally times came when he (being about 1.5 foot taller than me) ended up with the muzzle momentarily pointing at him. Additionally the whole time id been extremely uncomfortable knowing that if the rifle went off id be sending a 150grain bullet up into the sky with no idea where it might come down, possibly on the head of some poor pedestrian in the next village.

After the second stalk the nagging in my head got to me and i must admit when he wasnt looking i decided id had enough and reverted to carrying the rifle muzzle down. He obviously noticed this after a while as at the end of the stalk we discussed the merits of muzzle up and down, his argument was that muzzle down can lead to dirt getting into the barrel or mod and causing a high risk if the gun is discharged, my perspective was that at least if the gun went off it would go into the dirt not the back of his head or three miles into the sky ..........

So i would love to hear your opinions, it seems the world is divided. However, one is surely better, so chaps ............muzzles up .... or muzzles down?????:idea:
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for me what ever you think as long as it stays up or down seen plenty carrying muzzle up only to bend down or modded slip down pointing at people. I always carry muzzle up and the arm that the rifle is on always holds the base of the stock or sling. it does not move or slip and if going under low branches remove the rifle from my shoulder. I dont like the idea of muzzle down in case i fall and stick the barrel in mud ,thats the end of the stalk. I would not tell others how to carry as long as its safe, atb wayne
Down for me...

Entirely agree with you. Anything untowards happens, it's hitting ground zero a foot straight down, rather than 4.2k away where it's still lethal ordnance.

Tape or condom over the end of the mod/barrel and job done for keeping sh*t out
If stalking alone or leading a stalk, I always have muzzle facing forward held in my right hand, that way you have complete muzzle awareness. If you are stalking with someone else and not leading, muzzle facing up.
I have taken lots of Level 2 stalks where the person I am witnessing has muzzle up, and it always ends up pointing at me! NOT a good display of safe rifle handling! Plus its alot quicker getting the rifle off your shoulder and in position if muzzle down, as its already facing in the right direction!!
Rifle upside down with sling on my shoulder, muzzle/barrel horizontal with my hand in contact of forend and barrel all times. I know where the muzzle is the whole time I'm out and it very comfortable.
Always been a downer with tape over muzzle or can
but as i got a z aim to try out it will be up on an empty chamber, some like it up! some down i say safety first what ever you decide to do :tiphat:
I always like to carry muzzle up, on full sling, muzzle / can taped,... I always remember hearing, "There are less aircraft around than there are feet"... & the recent Boar drives I have had the pleasure of, EVERYONE was carrying muzzle up & forward tilt.:tiphat:
Muzzle down gets my vote, particularly if there is a moderator and/or bipod attached the weight of which pulls the muzzle away from the vertical. Even without a moderator or bipod when crossing obstacles or kneeling it is far too easy for anyone with you to end up looking down the barrel.

Muzzle down, you have to be even more aware of where it is pointed to ensure you don't plug it in the ground (is extra muzzle awareness ever a bad thing!) and if you get an unexpected discharge the round is going to hit something solid within a few feet rather than a mile or two away.
Muzzle down for most of my rifles. Far easier to get into the sticks than if carried muzzle up and behind the shoulder. Some have an efficient method but most give in to my way of thinking after some practice on the range!
Muzzle down as Richard Prior many years ago advised us to do. You certainly get the rifle onto the sticks very quickly from that position.
I am a down man myself - just so much safer. If you are worried about dirt in the barrel a bit of tape does the job.
muzzle up and use gunslinger. the rifle is never pointing at anyone whether they are walking in front or behind me
Paul O' - Z Aim works either direction; up or down equally so you have the choice still.

With all these threads there's opinions both ways. For me, the only thing that rarely comes across is 'it depends'! I'd add to the mix that muzzle awareness and obsession with keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction - which includes being vigilant for changes is far more crucial than dogma of a particular direction.

Often I ve stood beside a nice sand bank to have a client - and in all respects 'good people' - start to point a rifle heavenwards to load. On pointing out the sand bank, many a time has the client referenced a previous stalker insisting XYZ up/ down etc all the time.

EDIT -Apologies to FB270 - he had mentioned it!:tiphat:
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The BDS Training Manual for Deer Stalkers states that "Ideally a rifle should be carried slung and muzzle upwards"......