Whether you are a newbie, or a seasoned professional, it is always good to mind your manners when you go to the range. As a new shooter, you may know there are fundamentals of safety that everyone should follow while at the range, but did you know there are also social “rules” you should follow? If you are an old pro, maybe it is time to dust off this “I got this” attitude and remind yourself.
First, let’s run through the four golden rules of firearm safety:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
- Know your target and what is beyond.
Regardless of where you are; a friend’s private range, the back 40, the ridiculously expensive skeet range, or your local dive, always follow these rules.
The number one rule: do not show up with a loaded gun. All ranges will have their own rules. Those rules should be posted in plain sight. I would be cautious of ranges that don’t. Read over the rules. Follow the rules. For example, plenty of ranges have ammo restrictions. Make sure you have the kosher ammo to shoot. Some ranges require lead-free or do not allow full metal jacket. To make sure, call ahead. Further most ranges discourage rapid fire. To err on the side of caution, do not rapid fire unless you have clear permission to do so. Rapid fire makes people nervous, and we don’t want to do that. All ranges will require you to put your safety glasses and hearing protection on before entering the firing lanes.
Familiarize yourself with range commands. The two important ones are “cease fire” and “hot.” Cease fire means to stop shooting. When you hear cease fire, immediately stop firing, clear your gun, and lay it down with the barrel pointing down range. Step away from the gun. Do not approach the lane or your gun until you have the all clear. It is a good habit to wait for others to approach the lane; don’t be the first. When the range is hot, it means everyone can start shooting again.
Ranges generally have separate pistol lanes and rifle lanes. Make sure you are shooting the right gun in the right lane. Generally, a rifle chambered for .22 Long Rifle is OK in the pistol lane, but ask at the front desk to make sure. The last range I went to had only one rifle caliber private lane. They have a 20-minute limit in that range. If you happen to run into the same situation, keep track of your time and quit when it is time. The person behind you can’t wait to shoot either, so be respectful of their time.
Listen to and respect the Range Officer (RO). They are the RO of that range for a reason; they are experienced, knowledgeable, and are there to keep everyone safe. If an RO wants to give you tips, let them and be appreciative. Their tips will help you improve your shooting technique. Listen to and respect the Range Officer (RO). They are the RO of that range for a reason; they are experienced, knowledgeable, and are there to keep everyone safe. If an RO wants to give you tips, let them and be appreciative. Their tips will help you improve your shooting technique. If you have a malfunction and cannot fix it yourself, put your gun on safe, if possible open the action, put down your weapon with the barrel pointing down range and alert the RO.
All of these rules are safety rules, but there are social norms to follow while at the range as well. You probably won’t be lucky enough to have the range all to yourself, there will be other people there. Meeting new people at the range is a great way to make friends; after all, you already know you have at least one thing in common! It is okay to be sociable at the range, but there a few ways to go about doing so. First, do not disturb someone’s concentration. Do not interrupt someone when they are shooting; don’t tap them on the shoulder and don’t yell at them. Wait to talk to them when they are resetting targets or causally reloading. You can always wait to chitchat with them in the lounge. Do not ever touch anyone else’s stuff. Again, this will make someone nervous. If you do strike up a friendly conversation and you want to compare guns or show your gun to someone, always clear the weapon and present it with the action open. Never, ever shoot someone else’s target.
One thing I have learned is that some people are hypersensitive to too many questions. They may not want to tell you how many guns they own, where they live, what they do for a living, and so on. I’m an open book; I love discussing my firearms, but others don’t. Respect their privacy.
Also, watch what you say. Don’t be a weird-o. Joking around about the Zombie Apocalypse is generally acceptable, but talking about militia and Waco, and constructing cans out of homemade materials is generally NOT okay.
Guns are fun to shoot and range time should be a good time, but don’t get overly excited. Don’t bounce around, horseplay, or freak out. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Again, weird-o jittery behavior will make others feel nervous.
When you are done, clean up after yourself. Grab the broom and sweep up your brass, throw away empty ammo boxes and used targets.
Be safe, be respectful, and you should have a good time.
Did I leave anything out? If so, tell me about it. Does your range have any strange rules? Share them!