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I think a good rule would be anytime you don't have both hands free to hold the firearm or you're not actually holding the firearm it should be unloaded. If you're out hunting and the terrain is so bad that you need to be grabbing things to keep from falling over you need to unload the firearm also. (Unloaded in the field can be defined as nothing in the chamber.) In a vehicle of course is covered by state law.
 

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There is no short blanket statement that covers when a round should be in the chamber or not .
It all depends on how and where you are using the gun . Different hunting and shooting scenarios call for different safe gun use rules . I refuse to hunt with anyone who wants to walk behind me with a round in the chamber . I have seen safety catches pushed off accidently by moving through thick brush . Some poorly adjusted or installed triggers and safeties can drop the sear onto the safety catch if the trigger was just accidentally touched , then when the safety is moved to the off position the gun fires . Test your gun someoone might get a surprise .
 

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Most any time I read a thread similar to this one and with hunters talking of hunting with lever rifles, I'm surprised at the number of them who claim to hunt with traditional lever designs like the Marlin 336 & 1895 and hunt with the hammer full down on a loaded chamber. While I understand that my BLRs would be safe with hammer down on a loaded chamber, I still use a half-cock position on all my lever guns with exposed hammers.
I was hounded by some family and friends back in the late 80s when I was hunting with my M94 in the half cock position. They insisted that I should carry it with hammer down, "its safer that way" (because the hammer isn't resting on the firing pin, it rests just above the pin). I told them no it isn't, and I can prove it. They laughed and said "OK, prove it". On half cock I hit the hammer with my hand, nothing happened, I lowered the hammer and did the same (in a safe direction into the wet ground) and BOOM goes the 30-30. They were somewhat flabbergasted by this, when they asked how/ why I said, just because the hammer cant fall (pulling the trigger with hammer down) with it in the down position, doesn't mean it wont fire if the hammer is hit hard enough from a branch, clothing, a hand... etc.) The half cock position keeps that from happening.
 

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I did not hit the biggest deer I have ever seen, in Colorado, because I did not have one in the chamber. I pulled hammer back, aimed carefully, pulled the trigger and the buck nonchalantly ambled back into the woods when he heard the "click".
I did not intend to have an empty chamber, I just forgot to lever one in after loading the magazine tube. It was an easy shot of about 75 yards.
Had a similar thing happen to me while hunting whitetail in Upstate NY with my NEF 12ga.
I'm walking to my spot in the early afternoon and I spook up a nice buck bedded down in the hay field. As he is bounding away I see that he is worth shooting and I pull my 12ga up to my shoulder, as its coming up I thumb down the hammer and next thing I know there is an unfired 12ga sabot shell flying past my head brass first right over my shoulder... I hit the thumb break open button by mistake... :rolleyes: , all I could do way laugh my butt off.
Lucky for me he stopped to look back, he was about 100 yards away. I had already filled the empty chamber with a new slug from my pocket as he was opening the distance from me, as I was watching him and I determined that he was "holding tight" to see what I would do, I snapped the action closed as I pulled up, grabbed the hammer this time and pulled it down, and sent a slug through his lungs. He started to take a leap away but just fell over once his front legs left the ground.
 

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I've read through most of these, here is what I do.

I hunt with one in the chamber, safety on, hammer either half cocked or all the way down (the NEF/H&Rs have the transfer bar safety (like on the Ruger Super Redhawks) so you can carry with the hammer fully down without the hammer touching the firing pin). When crossing a fence I place my rifle/shotgun on the ground muzzle pointed away from where I'm crossing, other barriers, I unload and sling it. Climbing a tree stand, empty chamber then either sling it or tie it to a rope and pull it up once I'm in position. If, on the very off chance I'm going hunting with someone else, if they demand that I carry with an empty chamber, I don't hunt with them. I do not deem them very safe if they are uncomfortable with their safeties and their hunting practices so much so that they feel the need to impose their fears on me. If I go on a guided hunt (I hope to get to Africa someday) and they require me to carry with an empty chamber, that's a different story, as I am asking to go on "their" hunt with their rules.
 
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