Range etiquette is sort of a taboo topic among old hand shooters. That’s the realm of new shooters or kids. Us experienced folks know what we are doing … right? Having been a member of multiple private ranges for almost 25 years and working at several indoor ranges, it is amazing to see what the general public does when it comes to range etiquette. Time for a refresher!
Safety is the basis of all range etiquette, and they go hand-in-hand. There are four basic fundamentals for firearm safety they should be treated as gospel:
- Treat all firearms as if they are loaded even if you just checked.
- Never point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
- Always be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
If you are visiting an unfamiliar range, it is always best to ask if they have any specific rules you need to be aware of. For example, some ranges require only one person in the shooting lane at a time. Others state that if you have a misfire, the range officer has to clear your firearm. Some ranges do not allow you to draw from concealment, while others do. When in doubt, ask!
Know the lingo
Cease-Fire: Stop shooting immediately. Put the firearm on safe, and unload any ammunition still in the gun (not by shooting it out!). Put the gun down with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Anyone can call a cease-fire at any time if they see a safety issue; you don’t need a range officer to do it.
Cold/Hot Range: A cold range means that all firearms are unloaded and are not to be handled or touched. This is usually called for after a cease-fire. A hot range means that shooters are allowed to handle, load, and shoot firearms.
Downrange: This is the area where the targets are located. For example, the range master might call for a cease-fire, and call for a cold range to allow shooters to change targets downrange.
All Clear: Is the command given when the range officers have cleared all safety issues and no one is downrange. Remember you cannot shoot or handle firearms until the range master gives the command of commence firing or hot range.
Range Master/Range Safety Officer: all shooters should act as range safety officers and make sure there are no safety issues. That being said some ranges use designated people as range master/range safety officers. Their job is to ensure the range is used in a safe manner, and all shooters are acting in a safe manner as well.
Firing Line: This is the area of the range where you shoot from. It is also the point that you cannot go past until a cease-fire and cold range has been established. The firing line is also the only area where firearms should be handled, loaded, and unloaded. Please do not handle firearms out of the case or holster from the viewing area behind the firing line. Make sure that you store all the firearms back in their cases at the firing line. Once the firearms are stowed away, then you can walk around with them and take them back to your car.
For outdoor ranges, make sure your target is high enough off the ground so that your rounds will impact into the berm and not ricochet off the ground.
You also want to make sure you are using the proper target for what you were shooting. For example, shooting steel targets is fun, but you need to make sure they are placed at a proper distance to be safe—especially if you were shooting them with a rifle.
The range is not a junkyard or landfill, so make sure you police up your spent brass, ammo boxes, targets and other detritus. Shoot the appropriate gun for the appropriate range you are on. Some ranges limit calibers for safety reasons.
For those more experienced shooters, it is always tempting to help shooters who are struggling. But unless they are doing something dangerous, you should respect the other shooters around you and realize that other people may not want your help. Don’t be a busybody and let others enjoy the range … unless, of course, they ask for assistance.
Speaking of how to treat other folks on the range, here’s some safety and etiquette advice from the bottom of my heart: PLEASE do not give a new shooter more gun than they can handle. I have seen countless videos on YouTube where some jack wagon gives a child or his girlfriend a heavy-recoiling firearm and then laughs when the inexperienced shooter gets hurt. If you’re bringing a woman to the range for the first time, you should advise her to wear a crew-cut neckline so she doesn’t wind up with burns from expended brass landing on exposed flesh. Open-toed shoes are also a bad idea regardless of sex.
Video and photo
Don’t get me wrong: I’m always posting about my day’s doings online. But chances are that you won’t be alone on the range, and it’s important to respect the privacy of others around you. The 2A crowd can be finicky about our privacy and may not wish to be part of your video. It’s always best to ask others around you if they mind, or to go to a more private part of the range to document your shooting fun. Speaking of fun, while we are at the range we stick to sodas and water. Alcohol and guns do not mix.
Going to the range is probably one of the best things I do—I look forward to it all week. One of my hobbies is actually visiting ranges when I travel. I especially love renting new firearms that I may have not shot before. I say any day at the range is better than the best day at work.
–James The “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself.
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