By Morgan F, Asst. Director/Editor, TRS
How many times have you been to the range? How many times have you encountered an obnoxious shooter overanxious to offer a pocket full of useless advice on your shooting technique? Have you ever encountered a mindless shooter who flags you more often than a hitchhiker on the side of an interstate? Have you had someone else’s ejected brass plink you on the shoulder just as you’ve sighting in the target?
Shooting Range Etiquette isn’t hard as Range Rules are often posted in numerous locations throughout the facilities. In some cases, the Range Safety Officer is there to remind you of those rules; however, at private and outdoor ranges, this may not always be the case and etiquette is up to each individual. Regardless, not following basic range etiquette leaves other shooters frustrated and feeling as though the entire time was a waste. Don’t be that guy.
Etiquette Starts at Home: You wouldn’t wear scuba gear to play golf so why would you wear flip flops to the shooting range? Don’t be that guy hopping around from hot brass hitting his foot. Don’t be that girl jumping around with hot brass in her bra. In other words, wear the appropriate clothing so you don’t get hurt and so that you don’t become an annoying distraction. Proper clothing does not include tank tops, shorts, or open toed or heel-less shoes (no sandals, no flip flops, no Crocs). I also suggest bringing a hat to shield your face from the sun if you’re headed to an outdoor range.
Safety Trumps Inexperience: Don’t be or pretend to be a know-it-all. Inexperience at the range is an easier fix than an accident that occurs from unsafe practices. Asking questions and admitting inexperience is not a sign of defeat or ignorance but is a sign of a willingness to learn. In other words, by setting your pride aside and becoming a student at the range, you open up many opportunities for training to become a better, safer, and more experienced shooter. Who doesn’t want that?
Treat It Like It’s Loaded: Every gun is loaded. Say it with me, “Every gun is loaded.” When you treat every gun like it’s loaded, you are assuming the proper safety position in which your finger is off the trigger and the gun is pointing down range. Even if you saw someone clear the gun five minutes ago, when you pick it up, it is now your responsibility and should be considered loaded until you clear the weapon safely.
Gun on the Table: Guns placed on the table or bench between use should be left with the slide open in a locked position (or utilize chamber flags. Don’t know what that is? Then keep it locked open!) This signifies that the weapon is clear and goes hand in hand with the previous practice.
Down Range or Go Home: Keep your gun pointed down range. This one should be easy to remember. No one enjoys being flagged by a weapon, loaded or unloaded (remember: every gun is loaded). Flagging someone is not a respectable way to get attention; in fact, it’ll get you booted off the range. Don’t be that guy. Keep it down range or go home. Easy enough?
Know When It’s Hot, Know When It’s Cold: When the range is “hot,” weapons are loaded and the range is open for fire following all safety guidelines. A “cold” range signifies a ceasefire during which individuals can walk down range to swap out targets, etc. When the range is “cold,” guns are left on the table (safety position) so that individuals can walk down range with peace of mind knowing that some fool is not behind them adjusting their sights or grip and pulls the trigger by mistake. If the range is “cold” and you’re just itching to do something, check out Facebook and like the TRS page or post on Twitter. You can do a million other things but don’t mess with your gun.
Malfunction Much? Know how to handle your malfunctions and, if you don’t, get the proper assistance. Never compromise safety. A malfunction does not mean the gun is inoperable and therefore safe; rather, it is much to the contrary as the gun is suspended from its normal use. Always keep your finger off the trigger and the gun pointed down range in the event of a misfire.
Keep It To Yourself: So the girl next to you has a new Sig that you’re just itching to hold, right? Or perhaps a guy brings out a 1911 that you’ve been dreaming of for months now and you just want to hold it, feel the weight of it in your hand. Don’t touch it. Don’t even think about it. Ask first. Have the common courtesy not to walk up and pick up someone’s gun without even so much as a “hello.” People at the range love to talk about what they’re shooting so the fact that you show an interest will win you mega points. With that, they’ll probably talk to you about it and they they may, just maybe, let you hold it. Only if you ask first.
Yeah, Keep That To Yourself, Too: In the same respect, if you have opinions about how someone can improve their shooting, keep it to yourself unless they ask. Unless you’re signature is deemed a high value autograph in the gun world and you have a high following of admirers (not stalkers…there’s a difference), I guarantee that your insight into my inability to prevent “that little guy” from ending high right on the target isn’t going to do me much good and will likely break my concentration and aggravate me. Unless I ask or unless you have a fail-safe method (and can prove it by your own shooting) as to how to hit a quarter consistently with 100 rounds, then keep quiet.
Clean Up: Clean up procedures vary by range; however, like my mom always taught me, “Leave a place cleaner than how you found it.” Pick up your brass. Dispose of your targets. Sweep the area for dropped magazines, etc. Put away any range props in their appropriate places. Just because you use something doesn’t mean the next person will so be considerate. Put it away at the end of the day.
Importantly, Have Fun: Smart shooting starts when you make the choice to purchase your first gun. It encompasses everything from what you wear to the range to how you leave it for the next shooter. Overall, practice safety and humility and always, always remember good etiquette. After all, no one wants to be that guy.