SKILLS: Shooting Range Etiquette 101

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Don’t be “that guy” who threatens others enjoyment and safety at the shooting range. Here are 7 “always” and “nevers” to fit in like a seasoned pro. Keep reading…

Adapted courtesy Team Springfield Blog

Team Springfield

So you just bought your first pistol and cannot wait to get some rounds downrange? Congratulations and welcome to the exciting, wonderful world of firearms and shooting! If you’re like most of us, though, you probably don’t have your own private land to shoot on, which means you will be heading to a range on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories out there about poor shooting-range conduct. When range rules get broken, it’s usually because of the lack of education and the lack of practice of proper techniques.

So we’re here to help you avoid being “that person” — the unsafe and disruptive shooter.

Being a conscientious firearm owner comes with many responsibilities, safety being the main priority, of course. And understanding range etiquette is an integral part of firearm safety.

Following and practicing good range etiquette, whether at an indoor or outdoor range, is always the way to go. It only takes one bad apple to reflect poorly on us all. Here are a few simple rules and courtesies to keep in mind when you hit the gun range.

ONE: FUNDAMENTAL SAFETY — FIRST AND ALWAYS
While this may seem obvious, it’s vital to learn and always practice firearm safety. Sometimes even experienced shooters get too comfortable in their routines and become lax with gun safety. This is never acceptable. You should always be a good student and ambassador of the universal firearm safety rules. And always, always be aware of the moment.

Treat all firearms as if loaded.

Never point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy.

Know your target and what’s beyond it.

Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target.

TWO: FOLLOW RANGE RULES
This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — follow the rules of the shooting range you’re on. Shooting ranges all operate on fairly similar rules, but each individual range will most likely have one or more unique rules. If you have a specific question, call the range before heading over. This could save you some time and grief. If you’re wanting to shoot your new AR-15, for instance, some indoor ranges may not allow rifles. Most ranges have specific rules about ammunition also, and don’t allow steel-core (armor piercing) ammo.

THREE: LISTEN TO THE RANGE SAFETY OFFICER (RSO)
Range safety officers are present for everyone’s safety. Unfortunately, they sometimes get a bad rap for yelling (remember, we all have ear protection on) or being mean. Trust us — they have a hard, risk-filled job full of responsibility — a job most people would probably not want. Help make their job easier! If you follow firearm safety rules, practice good range etiquette, and are always listening for and following the RSO’s commands, you should never get singled out or yelled at by the “mean” RSO.

FOUR: SLOW AND EASY
If you are a beginning shooter, you are undoubtedly experiencing a lot of new rules, terminology, techniques and procedures. Simply put: it can be overwhelming.

Slow down! Take the extra time to think about what you are doing — everything you are doing at all times. Think about where the muzzle is pointed, think about where your trigger finger is, the status of your firearm, and your neighbors on the range.

FIVE: LOADING AND UNLOADING
When you are on a shooting line, there are going to be other shooters next to you. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that the muzzle never points to the right or left of you.

Take extra care when loading and unloading your firearm, making certain to keep the muzzle pointed downrange. If you need more leverage to manipulate the slide, turn your body sideways (instead of turing the gun sideways). This enables you to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

CEASE FIRES
During a “cease fire” RSOs require you to unload your gun and lock the slide/cylinder open and then ask you to step behind a visible line on the ground while shooters go downrange to tape and set targets. Firearms are not allowed to be handled during a cease fire. Once unloaded, leave the firearms alone and grab everything you need from the firing line before backing across the line (phone, water bottle, etc.). Cease fires are a good time to chat with the shooter next to you, hydrate, send a text or check some emails. Just do all of this behind the cease fire line!

SIX: DON’T BACKSEAT SHOOT
How many people are fans of backseat drivers? Probably not many. The same goes for the gun range. Unless someone asks, it’s courteous to keep the technique corrections and tips to your own lane, even if the person next you isn’t using the stance you would.

However, if someone is doing something dangerous, it needs to be addressed immediately. Report the incident to the RSO, or, if you are comfortable doing so, deal with it directly.

SEVEN: ONE LAST THING…
Make sure to clean up after yourself when you’re done shooting. Any brass, ammo boxes or miscellaneous trash should be picked up. It might seem like a small ordeal, but leaving your mess for someone else to clean up is frustrating for the next person and leaves a less-than-stellar impression. And make sure you wait for a cease fire before venturing forward.

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3 thoughts on “SKILLS: Shooting Range Etiquette 101”

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t put “don’t videotape everyone at the range with your cell phone.”

    I for one don’t like being videotaped while I am at the range by the family whose mom is out there panning across the entire firing line with her cell phone to make a family video with dad and the little ones shooting guns or the girlfriend who wants to Facebook her first outing to the range and so she videos every little thing going on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around after firing and seeing someone with their cell phone pointed right at me or the guy next to me. It’s totally obnoxious and disrespectful of my space.

    Most public ranges should have a rule that says no cameras or videotaping. It’s not a trip to the local theme park with the kiddies on a splash ride. There are legal issues and people are using dangerous items and preparing to hunt or defend themselves with them.

    In my opinion a range that doesn’t protect the privacy of its patrons isn’t well managed at all.

  2. This is a story that needs at least a quarterly re-hash. I tend to see the most poor ‘Shooting Range Etiquette’ at outdoor ranges. Indoors it seems to be more ‘Good… than the Bad and the Ugly’. New firearm owners’ that believe they have received all the necessary training from the shoot’em-up tv/movies/youtube vids or try to self-train without proper instruction from a certified or knowledgeable instructor. Bad idea!

  3. Thank you for going over these points as a RSO I wish all would follow these simple rules. It makes all on the range have a safer and happier day too. Thanks Mike

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