The Boy Scouts of America adheres to its longstanding policy of teaching its youth and adult members the safe, responsible, and intelligent handling, care, and use of firearms, air rifles, BB guns, and archery equipment in planned, carefully managed, and supervised programs.
Except for law enforcement officers required to carry firearms within their jurisdiction, firearms shall not be brought on camping, hiking, backpacking, or other Scouting activities except those specifically planned for target shooting under the supervision of a currently certified BSA national shooting sports director or National Rifle Association firearms instructor.
All shooting sports activities held during a council resident camp will follow the current NCAP standards. All shooting sports activities held outside of a council’s resident camp will follow the program as outlined in the BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 430-938, or other shooting sports guides. The BSA manual can be downloaded at www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/Shooting-Sports/.
The BSA National Shooting Sports Manual includes all of the information you will need pertaining to appropriate guns used at each level of Scouting, the required range supervision, and training that Scouts need to safely participate in the shooting sports program.
References: National Camp Standards, No. 430-056,
and BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 430-938
Cannons and Large-Bore Artillery
Units are not authorized, under any circumstances, to use a cannon or any other large-bore artillery device. See www.scouting.org/health-and-safety/alerts/cannons/ for further information.
Knife and Tomahawk Throwing
These are age-appropriate activities for Scouts and Venturers following the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety.
Reference: BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 430-938
Caving is a specialized activity requiring advanced planning and technical skills. Scouting units participating in caving must follow the guidelines set forth in Cave Safely Cave Softly (www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/COPE/).
Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts are encouraged to visit commercially operated caves and lava tubes. For commercial operations, leaders should follow the guidelines set by the operators and reference Cave Safely Cave Softly for more information. Non-commercial “easy caves” with no access control, such as those in parks where people of all abilities are allowed uncontrolled access, may also be suitable for Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts.
Boy Scout–age youth are generally mature enough to enter “easy wild caves,” which means easily accessible, non-technical/non-vertical caves. A “wild cave” is anything that is not commercially operated with a professional tour guide.
Older Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, and Venturers should be ready to explore more technical wild caves.
Canyoneering is a specialized activity requiring advanced planning and technical skills. Scouting units participating in canyoneering must follow the guidelines set forth in Canyoneering Safely (www.scouting.org/outdoorprograms/COPE/).
The American Canyoneering Association has developed a rating system for canyons that can be found at www.canyoneeringusa.com/utah/introduction/understanding-canyon-ratings/.
Cub Scouts may hike ACA-rated Class 1 canyons with age-appropriate bouldering over obstacles or other steep faces without going more than a few feet off the ground with trained adult spotters. Cub Scouts may not participate in canyoneering activities in ACA Class 2 or higher canyons.
Webelos Scouts may hike in ACA-rated Class 1 and Class 2 canyons with ageappropriate bouldering over obstacles or other steep faces without going more than a few feet off the ground with trained spotters. Webelos Scouts may not participate in canyoneering activities in ACA Class 3 or higher canyons.
Boy Scouts may participate in canyoneering activities in ACA-rated Class 1 and Class 2 canyons with age-appropriate bouldering obstacles and trained spotters. They may also participate in canyoneering activities in ACA-rated Class 3 technical canyons. All bouldering moves should have appropriate spotters. Boy Scouts may not participate in canyoneering activities in ACA-rated Class C canyons.
Older Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, and Venturers may participate in canyoneering activities in ACA-rated Class 1 and Class 2 canyons with age-appropriate bouldering obstacles with trained spotters. They may also participate in canyoneering activities in ACA Class 3 and Class C canyons. All bouldering moves should have appropriate spotters.
Participation in canyoneering activities in ACA-rated Class 4 canyons is not allowed for any BSA units.
The requirements applicable to climbing and rappelling listed in National Camp Standards, No. 430-056, apply to district and council activities.
- Climbing activities in which the participant’s feet are more than 6 feet off the ground must be top-rope belayed.
- All rappelling activities must be properly belayed (see NCAP standard PS-206).
Climb On Safely (see www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/COPE/) applies to climbing activities operated by a unit.
- BSA units conducting their own climbing activities must follow the requirements set forth in Climb On Safely.
- Leaders who supervise unit climbing activities must have current Climb On Safely training (available at my.scouting.org).
Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts can do the following:
- Participate in bouldering (climbing on boulders or bouldering walls) no higher than the climber’s shoulder height with adults (or camp staff with adult supervision) who are trained to provide spotting for bouldering activities.
- In addition, Webelos Scouts can:
- Rappel with a trained adult belayer and backup. In addition, Boy Scouts can: Belay with supervision and a backup.
In addition, older Boy Scouts (age 13 and older), and Venturers may participate in lead climbing, and snow and ice climbing, subject to the following:
- All participants must be at least 13 years old.
- Qualified instructors must have training from a nationally recognized organization that trains climbing instructors in the appropriate special activity. Note: BSA National Camping School does not train climbing directors and instructors in lead climbing, or snow and ice climbing.
- Lead climbing without a top-rope belay is prohibited as part of a council or district activity.
- Units may conduct activities involving lead climbing with adult supervision and qualified instructors.
References: Climb On Safely, No. 430-099, and
Belay On, No. 430-500
Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) activities are defined as low or high challenge course activities, including but not limited to those listed in Chapter 20: Low-Course Activities or Chapter 21: High-Course Activities in Belay On, No. 430-500 (www.scouting.org/outdoor-programs/cope/). They are to be used only in conjunction with council or district activities that meet the current NCAP standards.
Units may participate in age-appropriate initiative games. These are group challenge activities that do not involve constructed facilities, such as Blind Square, Couples Tag, Hoops Around the Circle, and Traffic Jam. See Chapter 3: Warm-Ups and Initiative Games in Belay On. Units shall not construct low- or high-course elements, including zip lines.
Individual participation is based on the judgment of the COPE director or Level II instructor for facilities operated by districts and councils, and jointly by the facility operator/owner and unit leader for commercial facilities. Cub Scout units may not participate in COPE, zip line, canopy tour, or aerial adventure park activities unless those activities are specifically designed for Cub Scout-age youth participation, such as climbing facilities or obstacle courses. Refer to the age-appropriate guidelines chart in the Guide to Safe Scouting.
Zip Lines, Canopy Tours, and Aerial Adventure Parks
Commercial adventure facilities are becoming more popular as activity destinations for BSA units. There also has been an increase in incidents, some of them serious. For this reason, special care should be taken before participating in these activities.
Members of Boy Scout troops, Sea Scout ships, and Venturing crews may conduct unit outings involving zip line, canopy tour, and aerial adventure park activities when such facilities are operated according to Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) operating standards. Unit leaders shall verify current compliance to these standards with facility operators/owners prior to scheduling the activity. Councils with COPE or climbing programs have access to the ACCT standards, and the local council COPE and climbing committee can assist unit leaders in evaluating such facilities. Councils that do not have COPE or climbing programs should contact their COPE and climbing area advocate for this information.
Unit leaders shall verify that the operators of commercial facilities will comply with the following BSA NCAP standards from PS-206.C:
- Measures are in place to provide for the safety of everyone at the program site, including observers. Everyone must be belayed or anchored when within 8 feet of an edge where a fall of more than 6 feet could occur.
- A consistent process is used by all COPE and climbing staff to ensure that clothing, head protection, environment, connections, and knots are double-checked in any belayed events for staff members and participants.
Use of COPE Activities and Initiative Games in Training and Other Events
Use of low or high COPE activities in council or district training or other programs shall comply with NCAP standards.
Many training programs, such as Wood Badge, NYLT, and unit leader training, have adopted initiative games in their curriculum to strengthen group experiences. This can be a valuable addition to the training curriculum or activity when handled properly. Course and activity directors should make certain that the following important concerns are addressed:
- Proper supervision. Participants should be properly supervised during an activity to make sure they are following safety procedures throughout the activity. Activity areas/facilities should be monitored or disabled when not in use so that participants do not utilize them on their own without proper supervision.
- Discipline. Leaders should determine that participants have sufficient maturity and self-control to participate in the activities that are planned.
- Trained instructors. All activity instructors/leaders must be properly trained to operate whatever initiative games they use in a safe and effective manner. The council COPE and climbing committee is an excellent resource to assist with obtaining proper training to operate the activities safely and effectively.
Slacklining is an adventure program growing in popularity. As with any activity involving height and motion, there is risk involved. Before units, districts, or councils decide to promote or host slacklining activities and other adventure sports, they must follow the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety.
Staff members for these types of events are responsible for learning proper setup, operational guidelines, and safety techniques. Equipment used for these activities must be designed for the adventure sport industry and will be exposed to extreme forces. Therefore, it should not be used for other purposes. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Fall precautions should include spotters or crash pads. Stepping off the line safely is recommended when a participant feels he or she is about to fall. Trees used for anchors should be protected from damage and be at least 8 inches in diameter. The line should never be more than 3 feet high. Never allow more than one participant on the line at a time. Acrobatics (any time your head is lower than your torso) are prohibited.
A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. The BSA believes choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer to the question of what specific knife should be used. We are aware that many councils or camps may have limits on the type or style of knife that should be used. The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixed-blade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.
Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken aboard commercial aircraft.
References: Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook,
Bear Handbook, and Wolf Handbook
The BSA’s prohibition on the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:
- Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
- Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
- Legs should not hang over the side.
- Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.
Include these safety considerations when planning a unit fundraiser:
- Money-earning projects should be suited to the ages and abilities of youth participants.
- Proper adult supervision should be provided.
- Youth should engage in money-earning projects only in neighborhoods that are safe and familiar and should use the buddy system.
- Leaders must train youth members to never enter the home of a stranger and to know whom to contact in case of an emergency.
- Youth participants should be familiar with safe pedestrian practices and participate during daylight hours only.
- Compliance requirements:
- Check local statutes regarding solicitation rules and permits.
- A Unit Money-Earning Application must be obtained from the local council service center.
Bicycle riding is fun, healthy and a great way to be independent. But it is important to remember that a bicycle is not a toy; it’s a vehicle! Be cool—follow these basic safety tips when you ride.
- Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. As with all Scouting activities, these principles should be applied in your cycling event.
- Wear a properly fitted helmet. Protect your brain; save your life! Bicycle helmets can reduce head injuries by 85 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Adjust your bicycle to fit. Make sure you can stand over the top tube of your bicycle.
- Assure bicycle readiness. Make sure all parts are secure and working well. Assure that tires are fully inflated and brakes are working properly.
- See and be seen. Wear clothing that makes you more visible, such as bright neon or fluorescent colors. Wear reflective clothing or tape. Avoid riding at night.
- Watch for and avoid road hazards. Stay alert at all times. Be on the lookout for hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, animals, or anything that could cause you to crash. If you are riding with friends and you are in the lead, call out and point to the hazard to alert the riders behind you.
- Follow the rules of the road. Check and obey all local traffic laws. Always ride on the right side of the road in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow—not against it! Yield to traffic and watch for parked cars.
For more information on bicycle safety, visit the NHTSA website at www.nhtsa.gov.
Skating, which includes ice skating, skateboarding, roller-skating, and in-line skating (rollerblading), is fun and healthy. But it is important to remember the safety concerns, primarily risks of falls and collisions, while participating in any of these skating activities. These safety tips emphasize prevention, and are meant to cover all BSA skating programs.
- Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. As with all Scouting activities, these principles should be applied in your skating event.
- Always skate within your ability. If you don’t know how to skate, seek instruction. If you haven’t skated in a while, take it slow and easy. Don’t try to skate too fast or do fancy tricks. Know how to stop safely.
- Skate at a safe and comfortable speed. Avoid dangerous pranks.
- Watch where you skate! When skating indoors, keep in mind that others have varying abilities of expertise. Skating into people can cause serious injury.
- Racing, hockey, or similar activities are to be held only in areas free of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and hazardous objects. No skating activity is authorized on streets that have not been blocked off to traffic.
- Skate on a smooth surface or terrain. A skating center is best because the surface is well maintained. When you skate outdoors, check the surface. Any small rock, pothole, or crack could cause you to lose your balance and fall. Iced surfaces should be rigid and completely frozen.
- Do not skate at night. Others can’t see you and you can’t see obstacles or other skaters.
- Wear full protective gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads, and wrist protectors) when skating outdoors. The gear is optional when skating indoors at a skating center as risk of injury is reduced when the skating surface is smooth and well maintained, and discipline is enforced. Protect your brain; save your life! Helmets can reduce head injuries by 85 percent, according to the NHTSA. Visit their website at nhtsa.gov.
- Wear properly fitting equipment and assure equipment readiness. Make sure all parts are secure and working well. Before permitting equipment to be used in a BSA activity, the supervisor should determine that all skates and/or skateboards are well maintained and in good repair, consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendation. Actual maintenance and repair are the responsibility of the owner.
- See and be seen. Wear clothing that makes you more visible, such as bright neon or fluorescent colors. Wear reflective clothing or tape. Avoid skating at night.
- Watch for and avoid road hazards. Stay alert at all times. Be on the lookout for hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, animals or anything that could cause you to crash. If you are skating with friends and you are in the lead, call out and point to the hazard to alert the skaters behind you.
- Follow the rules of the road. Check and obey all local traffic laws. Yield to traffic and watch for parked cars. NEVER “hitch a ride” on any vehicle.
For more information, go to www.safekids.org/safetytips.
Horsemanship activities in Scouting include merit badge activities, arena rides, multi-day trips (including treks and cavalcades), and Cub Scouting familiarization rides.
Each sponsoring council should take care to design age- and activity-appropriate procedures and guidelines for each particular equine activity. Policies and procedures should include routine horse care, participant guidelines, staff policies, and emergency plans.
Requirements must also be met if the horseback riding program is provided by or at an off-site facility. The council must enter a contractual agreement as outlined in the resident camp standards.