Range Etiquette 101, it sounds so very basic but sometimes people forget things like I did this past weekend so we here at The Arms Guide though it would be a good time to write a refresher course. The topic can be as simple or difficult as someone wants it to be, and that is part of the problem. Many shooters forget simple safety rules and acts of courtesy that many of us take for granted. While breaking a few rules might not kill or injure someone, they still can cause a great deal of panic on the range. These lapses in judgement can eventually lead to dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences, but admitting they happened and correcting them is the goal, not berating the offending party. I will say that I am not just talking about range etiquette for shooters, but also for the range safety officers or RSO’s as they are more commonly known.
We know the four most basic rules for operating or handling any sort of firearm but just in case anyone has forgotten them I took the liberty of listing them below. We put them there as a basic safety list, but the overall goal of this article is to cover some situations that I have encountered recently that are clear violations of range etiquette. These people may or may not have ever been taught the correct way to shoot at a public range. If this is the case then they are defiantly correctable behaviors, if they are being bad shooters just to be a problem child then that’s a totally different topic all together.
THE FOUR RULES
#1.) TREAT ALL GUNS LIKE THEY ARE LOADED
#2.) NEVER POINT THE GUN AT ANYTHING YOU AREN”T WILLING TO KILL/DESTROY
#3.) ALWAYS BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEHIND IT
#4.) KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
Now that we have the basic safety rules all taken care of lets turn our attention to the matter at hand, Range Etiquette. There are a million ways you can make a trip to the range a nightmare and potentially ruin another persons time at the range. I have at times been guilty of exhibiting bad range behavior, and looking back it bothers me. A few of the times I was oblivious to how my actions were impacting the people around me, other times I admittedly didn’t care. Other times I have been subjected to peoples bad range etiquette and their lack of adhering to range safety rules. Luckily I haven’t been injured or killed as a result of them. I wanted to take this time to go over a few examples of these situations.
Example #1.) My friend and I were recently shooting at a covered outdoor venue and shooting short barreled rifles. We were under the canopy and safely in the shooting lane and engaging targets, no problem. I chose a position where my brass would be ejected towards the side wall and away from people. What I failed to notice was the shooter in the position to my left was trying to teach his 6 or 7 year old to shoot a .22 rifle. The concussion from a 10.5″ AR15 is loud enough, but put that under a covered position with a wall to my right and a wall behind me the sound and concussion only had one place to go. You guessed it right into the space occupied by this small child, the poor kid freaked out started crying and would not come back to shoot with their dad. Now if I had more situational awareness maybe I would have said something to the father or moved to the other end of the line. Either way you slice it I was the asshole that day and didn’t realize it till the damage was done. Poor Etiquette at its finest.
Example #2.) Same range, different day. This always seems to happen though and its classic selfish range hog behavior. A group of people are enjoying blasting away at paper targets of all shapes and sizes and decide they need to change paper. Generally they clear and safety their weapons and place them down on the bench and step back waiting for the ” CLEAR” call from someone on the range. Gradually all the other people shooting at that range notice and do the same procedure figuring that they too want to change their targets. EXCEPT THAT GUY. There is always one guy that will glance over at the 10-12 people standing back well away from their weapons giving the thumbs up and motioning to their targets. Its pretty clear what the intention is, but THAT GUY just keeps blasting away with whatever he has. When he does finally stop he bitches about how people are wasting his time.
These two examples are just minor annoyances that happen in some variety on a regular basis at public ranges. These are generally harmless in the physical aspect but can go along way to grate on your nerves as a shooter. In both instances a little bit of situational awareness would have gone along way to making a more enjoyable shooting experience for everyone at that particular range. Shooters aren’t the only people who can and do make mistakes at the range. We are all human and even the most seasoned Range Safety Officer can make mistakes in judgement that quickly earn them the title of “Range Nazi”. Being a range official of any shape can be a great job, it can also be thankless and full of ridicule and hatred.
The next two examples of terrible range etiquette are what I have witnessed recently from Range Safety Officers (RSOs), and various ranges in my local area. One was in my opinion a major safety violation and the official should have been given a refresher course on range rules or reprimanded. The second more recent incident was a result of my error at a local range that resulted in some ruffled feathers on one range official. It is also a text book example of how not to act if you are a RSO, or even near a shooting range.
Example #3) I was shooting at my favorite club and had my MP5 resting on the bench, bolt locked back with the magazine removed and ejection port facing up. The range was cold and I was down range changing my targets and talking with my friend when we turn around to go back to the shooting benches and I see a range officer in a bright yellow vest holding my MP5 in his hands. Ten people were down range on a declared cold range and the RSO was in broad daylight fumbling with my gun. When I yelled out to him he set my gun down and said he was making sure it was safe. Bottom line the RSO was wrong and endangered all the shooters that were forward of the firing line. His curiosity could have resulted in a catastrophic situation had things been different. My first thought was how many other times had he handled peoples guns while endangering people. Bad etiquette that made a situation dangerous.
Example #4) Recently I was shooting at an indoor range and broke a safety rule without thinking about it. I failed to read the range rules and I uncased a weapon in a common area of the range to show it to a friend. When I was advised of the violation I apologized and quickly corrected the situation. That’s when the problems started, I admitted my fault but that wasn’t good enough for the off duty range official. He began to berate me at try to embarrass me in front of my peers, many of whom were fellow Veterans and former members of military shooting teams. For the next five minutes I got lectured about how I couldn’t read the signs and was asked the same three questions over and over. It was a classic example of when a RSO goes wrong. I get the fact I was wrong, that is only part of the problem with this situation. The bigger issue was that many times fellow shooters and RSO’s talk AT people rather than TO People. This type of situation plays out over and over again at ranges all across America on a daily basis.
These are just a few of the incidents Ive seen, bottom line is not everyone you encounter at the range has the same level of training or familiarity that you do. Basic situational awareness sometimes goes out the window at the range, trying to watch your guns, watch you kids, watch your guests, it can all get very hectic very fast. There is nothing wrong with calling a time out when you are out shooting and letting a situation calm down. Take the RSO’s I mentioned above, if they had just taken a second or two and exhaled a bit they might have handled the situations differently. Don’t assume someone is being dangerous because they woke up that day and decided to roll the dice and test fate. Some people just have momentary lapses in reason.
We want to hear from you about what you consider to be polite or annoying range etiquette. Have you come across situations like I have ? How did you handle it ? Many of our readers are new shooters and I think could benefit greatly from different points of view on situations. Acting like a bad ass and screaming at the range with armed people nearby is a recipe for disaster or a felony charge. So remember at the range to keep your situational awareness up, and remember to think before you act.
Now let’s hear those stories