So you just bought your first pistol and cannot wait to get some rounds down range? Congratulations - 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 definitely 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 at the range.
Being a responsible firearm owner comes with many responsibilities, safety being the most important, of course. And understanding range etiquette is an integral part of firearm safety.
Following and practicing good range etiquette, whether an indoor or outdoor range, is always the way to go. It only takes one bad apple to reflect poorly on all responsible firearm owners. Here are a few simple rules and courtesies to keep in mind when you hit the gun range.
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.
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
Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target
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 operate on fairly similar rules, but each individual range will most likely have 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 SAINT™, some indoor ranges may not allow rifles. Most ranges have specific rules about ammunition, also, and don't allow steel-core (armor piercing) ammo.
Listen to the Range SAFETY Officer
Range safety officers (RSOs) 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 where they occasionally get guns pointed at them - a job most people would probably not want. So why not help make their jobs easier? If you follow the 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.
If you are a beginning shooter, you are undoubtedly experiencing a lot of new rules, terminology, techniques and procedures. Flat out - it can be overwhelming.
Take the extra time to think about what you are doing - at all times. Think about where the muzzle is pointed - think about where your trigger finger is."
Safety is always the No. 1 priority when handling firearms. Once you make the commitment to learn proper gun safety and get some experience under your belt, you'll realize that it's the best investment you can make.
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 the 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 (versus the gun). This enables you to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, as opposed to pointing it at the person next to you.
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.
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, deal with it directly.
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.