Accidental firearm fatalities during hunting

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1987 Jun;8(2):112-9. doi: 10.1097/00000433-198708020-00005.


Swedish legislation concerning firearms is highly restrictive. It is illegal to possess weapons (except airguns) without a license. From 1970 through 1982, there were 79 accidental firearm fatalities in Sweden. This number, corresponding to 0.074/100,000/year, is very low in comparison with similar statistics worldwide. Of these fatalities, 47 were associated with hunting and were studied carefully. Despite an increase in both the popularity of hunting and in licensing of weapons, on change in the number of accidents per year could be confirmed. Twenty-nine accidents occurred during small game hunting, of which 24 involved shotguns, and 18 occurred during moose hunting. The mean age overall was 46 years. All victims and shooters were men. Most accidents occurred before noon and during the autumn. During moose hunting, the victim most commonly was either mistaken for game or was standing beyond game. During small game hunting, the most common reason for death was improper handling of the weapon. Firing of defective weapons caused at least 10 fatal accidents. Alcohol inebriation was uncommon. It is unlikely that more restrictive firearm legislation would further decrease the number of fatal accidents. Instead, we believe that accidental firearm fatalities during hunting can be prevented by safer and more careful handling of weapons, including unloading weapons before transporting them; by replacing older weapons with more modern and safer ones; and by not allowing children to handle weapons. No shots should be fired until it is clarified that the target really is a game animal, and when hunting with rifles, the fields of fire should be clarified beforehand. Shooters at stand must be instructed not to leave their stands until explicitly told to do so.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention
  • Accidents*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Sweden