A Waikato man who shot himself with a pistol down his pants was lucky he didn't hit an artery and die, police say.
The 35-year-old shot himself while trying to hide a gun from police while returning from possum-hunting with his brother on Friday night.
The man did not have a licence for the .22 pistol he had in his pants and was attempting to get rid of it before police saw it, Sergeant Jim Corbett of Thames Strategic Traffic Unit said today.
Officers were called to reports of shots being fired on a farm at Waitekauri, between Waihi and Paeroa, about 9.40pm on Friday, Mr Corbett said.
Police set up a checkpoint to stop cars coming down Golden Cross Road, when the man and his brother pulled up in a van.
"He'd got out of the car and he'd been trying to get the pistol out of where he'd had it positioned it in his trousers, and it went off. After he shot himself he managed to throw the gun over into the scrub."
"He went to the ground and the officers sorted out his wound while they were waiting for the ambulance to come....He was losing quite a bit of blood to start off with. He was conscious throughout and left in the ambulance."
Mr Corbett said the man was in shock and a lot of pain after he realised he'd shot himself in the upper thigh with the pistol in his pants.
"He was very lucky because if he'd hit the main artery, he could have very easily bled out and died."
He was treated at Waikato Hospital but it was understood he discharged himself with the bullet still in his thigh.
Mr Corbett said police were going to interview the man, who could face charge of unlawful possession of a pistol.
Police were also interview the man's brother, and had not yet decided whether to lay charges against him.
"They had been shooting possums and they had plucked possum fur in the van."
The pistol and some ammunition thrown into bushes had been found by police, he said.
Mr Corbett said he'd never seen this type of incident happen before, and a number of lessons could be learnt from the incident.
In addition to providing legislative guidelines on the owning of firearms, the licensing process also guided people through basic safety steps, several of which were ignored on Friday, he said.
"We've already mentioned the man didn't have the landowner's authority to be shooting on the property, it is also unlawful to shoot in a state forest, forest park or national park during the hours of darkness," he said.
"It is also unlawful to be using a firearm without a license or to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Given the occupants of the vehicle approached a police checkpoint with a loaded firearm this incident could have had far more tragic circumstances."
Mountain Safety Council chief executive Darryl Carpenter said people shot themselves accidentally "surprisingly very little".
He said most firearms users are well aware of safety and use their firearms wisely.
But there was one main message he said: "Don't put your loaded firearm in your pocket."