A Washington state man was killed when he shot himself in the face with his .45-calibre handgun while taking selfies.

The 43-year-old man and his girlfriend were photographing themselves with the weapon at a residence in the town of Concrete on Sunday when he shot himself, confirmed an official at the Skagit County Sheriff's Office.

"Both of them had been taking pictures throughout the day. He'd been kind of modeling with the gun, pointing it towards himself on occasion, always loading it and unloading it," said Patrol Chief Chad Clark.

"What we determined so far, is that during this last go-round, he didn't realize that he had one in the chamber when he pulled the trigger ... and it went off."

The distraught girlfriend ran over to the neighbours, who called police, but by the time officers arrived the man was dead.

The death is being investigated as accidental, and there was no indication drugs or alcohol may have played a role, said Clark. The man's name has not been released.

'Lessons to be learned? Treat all guns as if they are loaded. Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. These are all firearms safety rules and it appears at this point that those were violated," said Clark.

With files from Associated Press