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Range etiquette for the new (and old) shooter



Range etiquette

Going to the gun range is something that every gun owner takes seriously. It is an important part of owning firearms. After all, the only time we can safely discharge our weapons is at the range. But, just like bowling, golfing or anything else you can think of, shooting has its own set of rules that must be followed in order for everyone to have a good time and stay safe.

  • Never, under any circumstances point your firearm at another person. You need to practice muzzle awareness at all times, because the last thing you could ever want to happen is to accidentally shoot someone else at the range.
  • Always point your weapon downrange, even if it is unloaded. It is a good practice to get into, and makes people feel a lot safer at the range. Even if, and I don't recommend doing this, you have to walk with your gun in your hand (which isn't a good idea) leave it pointed down range (in fact, scratch this one off. Just don't walk with your gun in hand unless it's in its own case).
  • Don't shoot at targets other than your own. This has happened to me before, and it absolutely drove me nuts. The other people played it off like it wasn't a big deal. They saw my point after I told them I was writing a gun review for The Truth About Guns, and needed to show how accurate the rifle was.
  • If there isn't an RSO, make sure you have someone calling the shots. In other words, if nobody else is calling range “hot” and “cold” you need to do it. The best way for everyone to stay safe, is to have someone telling all shooters on the line when it is okay to fire and when to stop.
  • Always clean up after yourself. Nothing is worse than having to go remove someone's targets and having to pick up their brass. Well, some people leave brass for other shooters who like to reload. But, I never leave mine because I think it's just rude.
  • When the firing line is cold, never, ever pick up your gun and start handling it. That is a good way to give someone a heart attack.
  • When the line is called cold, remove any and all ammunition from your weapon. It's also a good idea to leave the action locked open.
  • When you're on the firing line, you're shooting. If you're not shooting, you're not on the firing line. It's that simple. To expand on this, when you're actually firing, you belong on the line. Not in front of it. Not behind it. On it. Oh, and don't hover over another shooter. That's just rude.
  • Transport your firearms in some sort of case. This kind of goes along with the not muzzling someone rule above, but is different enough that it gets its own bullet point.
  • If you bring someone to your range, make sure they know the basic safety rules before you ever put a firearm in their hands. In fact, you better know the four basic safety rules, too.
  • Never handle another shooter's gun without explicit permission first.
  • If you don't know what you're doing, tell someone. Gun enthusiasts love to help people, and often like to offer up help without you ever needing it. Trust me when I say that it's better to ask, than it is to put someone's life in danger.
  • Be courteous. Don't try to coach anyone else if they're doing something wrong (unless it is dangerous).
  • Finally, it's always a good idea to refresh your range's rules each time you go. It can't hurt, and only takes a few minutes of your time. This could potentially save someone's life.

I apologize if I sound angry, but I've seen so much stupidity at the range, where people could have gotten hurt that it's amazing I haven't witnessed anyone getting shot, yet. This is serious stuff that needs to taken as such. Sound Off Gun Carriers! Do you agree with all I've said here? Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below. Then, make sure you've signed up for Gun Carrier's FREE newsletter so you don't miss anything.

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  1. Mikial

    May 3, 2016 at 4:37 PM

    You know, when I read through this article I thought these were really such basic considerations, why in the heck would you ever have to write an article about them. But then, I thought about some of the stupidity I’ve seen at ranges, and understood completely.

    I’m pretty good friends with Paul, the guy who runs our local indoor pistol range, and some of the stories he tells me and the things I’ve seen there are absolutely astonishing. Like the guy who rented a pistol there and then took it out on the range to show his friend how to shoot, disassembled the rental gun, and promptly launched the recoil spring down range. He asked all us other shooters to hold fire so he could go down range and retrieve it, but I told him no way was he going down range and to go get Paul to deal with the situation.

    A time I didn’t witness but was told about, was a guy who’d bought a new XD and took it to the range. The typical ignorant sporting goods store clerk who sold it to him had told him he had to dissemble the gun after every five shots and clean it for the break-in period. So, he took it to the range and did just that, but he wasn’t too good at it and launched the recoil spring down range not once but twice before Paul finally figured out what was going on and set the poor guy straight.

    I’m very happy to see new shooters getting into gun ownership and learning to enjoy shooting and protect themselves, but we really need a way to identify and give new shooters the support and training they need.

  2. Pat

    May 3, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    I was at a public shooting range that uses a RSO from its club members. I had finished what I come come to do but the line was still hot. As i sat at my shooting bench I bagged up my gun, boxed up my ammo and step off the line and sat on the bench several feet behind the yellow line and waited for the cease fire, chamber check and the all clear call to clean up my empties and remove and return my target and frame set. But after i sat down to wait the RSO bellowed through the PA system that I had violated safety proticall of the range. What is the universal procedure when finished? Thank you.

    • Joshua Gillem

      May 3, 2016 at 1:32 PM

      It’s always best to check the rules and regs of your local range to make sure you’re up to date. Each range has different rules in place.

    • Mikial

      May 3, 2016 at 4:27 PM

      Some ranges have a bewildering array of rules and regulations. I used to live in Utah and enjoyed going to the excellent outdoor range that was provided by the State of Utah. There was an nice array of pistol, shotgun and rifle ranges and very few rules or restrictions. Then I moved out East to Virginia for a job, and was very surprised at the difference here.

      A while back I was on one of the few local outdoor ranges where I could shoot rifles, and was enjoying a day with my M1A. I stood up at my spot and fired a few shots off, but was then told by the RSO that I was violating the rules. He pointed to (please believe me on this) three long lists of rules posted at the far end of the range from the entry point. Sure enough, there it was . . you could only shoot rifles at this range when sitting on the bench at your shooting point.

      I thought this was a bit over the top, but after I did some research I found that this range (behind a gun shop) had been built long ago when there were no other businesses around. Since then a lot of commercial property had been sold and the only way these guys could keep their range operating was to implement a lot of rules intended to keep the neighbors, and more importantly the zoning commission happy. I rarely use that range anymore because it’s a pain to go to, but I do understand why they do what they do.

  3. left coast chuck

    May 3, 2016 at 11:08 AM

    If you can’t find chamber flags, you can buy brightly colored zip ties at Harbor Freight, 100 for a couple of bucks. They will fit all chambers from .22 on up. At one time H.F. had dayglow yellow zip ties which were perfect as c.s.f. Recently they have been out of the dayglow color but still have other colored zip ties other than black or white. Not shilling for H.F., just mentioning another source of supply.

  4. Jim

    May 3, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    A proper gun case prevents access to the trigger, and does NOT include that of a gun sock.

  5. George Washburn

    May 3, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    Smoking of any kind should be strictly forbidden near any shooter using black powder. Just a spark from a cigarette can ignite a container of powder.

  6. Cliff A

    May 1, 2016 at 3:32 PM

    I have to agree with Mr. Joshua Gillem on his basic rules for Range Etiquette. I would like to include this one added rule, “Consider all guns are loaded and they are not toys; therefore, there is not horseplay, playing around or near the range, and “keep your children in sight at all times.”

    I live in Southern California where there are ranges that are open to the general public. However, they are not regulated or over seen by a range master. This requires the shooter(s) to police themselves and follow proper “Range Etiquette.” Like Mr. Gillem has mentioned, he has seen a lot of crazy and dangerous stuff happening on the range. So have I. What really burnt my biscuits is that a friend of mine had invited me to this range one weekend. He proclaimed that he was very knowledgeable in shooting and handling his weapons. He even professed to knowing Range Etiquette and has practice it for years.

    When we arrived I was concern over the range and lack of control held on the firing line. We had to supply our own targets and set them up. But it was very difficult to get the other shooters to stop shooting and call a cold line because they didn’t know what it meant. So trying to get people to stop shooting so that you can go out and change your target was like pulling teeth from a dragon. A few times you would go out there to change your target only to have a shooter change his target before you got back to the firing line whereby the idiot would pick up his gun and start firing at his target leaving you halfway back, then running for your life. After heated words and a clearing understanding as to safety protocols those on the firing line got together to understand the importance of range safety. Then this guy came to the firing range with his AR-15. He shot not only his targets, but everyone elses on the firing line. He then started to shoot the target stands, the berm and tree limbs off to the far border of the berm. I went over to him and told him that he had to leave because he was dangerous, unsafe and endangering peoples lives with his careless actions. I had to threaten him with calling the police since he had a weapon that is illegal in California. Reluctantly he left saying a few parting words before he rode off into the west.

    What happened next left a bad taste in my mouth that is still there today. After fixing our targets once again the shooters began to shoot once again. With my friend to my right, I was about to pull the trigger to my 9mm when a gust of wind blew the paper target out of my friends hand and into my lane. My friend suddenly ran forward in front of me to grab his target when I was just about to pull the trigger. He was within an angles’ breathe away of being shot in the head. I withheld my fire. I turned and returned to my stand and retrieved my ammo from my weapon, cleared and lock you weapon away and went to my car. My friend was trailing after me asking me what was the problem. After pulling my weapon in the trunk of my car I turned to him and said, “Do you know how freaking close you came to being shot in the head chasing your paper target?” “I almost killed you and you didn’t even know what you did wrong.” “Where the Hell is your range etiquette?” With that, we parted company. I see him at work every now and then; but we don’t talk anymore and I never have been back to that range either.

    My point is this, if the range you go to doesn’t feel safe, look safe, or is safe; then it isn’t safe and you should leave and go somewhere else.

  7. John

    May 1, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    Use a Chamber Safety Flag even if the range does not require it. During matches the CSF is required by our range but not during open shooting times. Many of the member who shoot competition use the CSF even during practice and open shooting times and encourage others to use the CSF.

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