There’s not much that can ruin a shooting experience quicker than getting stuck in a lane near someone with poor range etiquette. Whether you’re a fresh gunny, or a shooting veteran, everyone can benefit from brushing up on proper range etiquette before heading out to a shared shooting location (most of the “rules” mentioned in this post apply to personal firing grounds, too). While this isn’t meant to be a definitive, all-inclusive set of range regulation, it should serve as a helpful starting point.
First and foremost, regardless of the shooting locale, are the rules of safe firearms handling.
1. Treat all firearms as loaded.
Even if you watch someone clear a firearm before handing it to you, clear it again. You never know if they missed something by accident, and complacency kills.
2. Do not point the firearm at anything you do not wish to destroy.
Anything traveling at a few hundred feet per second hurts, even a .22 LR round. Bullets are really good at putting holes in things that way.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger and and out of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Pulling the trigger doesn’t require a lot of effort, especially with more sensitive 2-6lb triggers, so it’s safest not to put your finger anywhere near that bang switch til you’re sure you want to fire.
4. Be aware of your target and what’s beyond it.
This applies less with organized indoor lanes and more to open ranges, especially when shooting on private property. Any time something or someone is downrange, they’re at risk from your muzzle, even if you’re not trying to aim at anything beyond your intended target. Not to mention, paper (as in a paper target) is not really known for being able to stop bullets. Berms are better on that front.
These next rules are specifically applicable to range etiquette.
Follow your range’s rules.
Some ranges are restrictive about whether or not you can draw from a holster, how fast you can shoot, and what calibers are allowed, among other things. Each range is different, so it’s important to pay attention to the individual range’s regulations if you’d like to continue shooting at that facility. Generally, the particular rules at a range are in place for the safety of everyone who shoots there, and to keep the experience positive for as many as possible.
Watch where you load and unload your gun.
Most ranges have specific areas where they want you to uncase/case or unholster/holster firearms. While you might be pulling an unloaded firearm out of your case to get it prepped before you step into your lane, those around you who are following the first rule of firearms safety don’t think it’s unloaded, and that is worrisome. Walking around with a firearm in hand when you’re not in the designated areas for handling uncased/unholstered guns is another way to arouse discomfort from range officers or other range goers, and is a good way to get yelled at, even if you’re not muzzling (pointing the gun at) anyone.
Shooting in a shared space sucks when the people around you aren’t respectful of the other shooters or the facility and can make a great range experience sour in a hurry. It’s a complete bummer when I’m headed out to the range to get some footage, or just plain do some plinking with my family and a couple of lanes down are some young guys trying to show off for each other with their displays of “firearms bravado,” which normally includes denigrating each other loudly, and shouted boasting of their shooting “skills,” and using their firearms to gesture animatedly (and unwittingly muzzling half the other range goers). Don’t be those guys. Follow your range rules, have a good time, and clean up after yourself (for example, police your spent brass and toss used targets).
Far be it from me to make style recommendations, for men or women, but this guideline is meaningful for its practical and respectful benefits. Shooting at a public range means that there are other people around. It’s respectful of the others around you to tone down any graphic or offensive clothing. Shooters often tend to be a more conservative crowd, and while it’s not a strict “rule” not to wear shirts like this, you’ll probably end up aggravating fewer people if you avoid wearing them at the range. This guideline takes a practical tone in regard to female clothing especially. Looking sexy is certainly not against any range rule I know, but the more exposed skin, the more places you can catch a hot casing and earn yourself a burn. This becomes more meaningful with regard to low cut tops; I’ve seen plenty of screeching and gun-waving from women who didn’t plan for that particular “wardrobe malfunction.”
Wear comfortable shoes.
I always try to make the most of every range trip, so I rarely spend less than a few hours every time I visit. That kind of time on one’s feet can get uncomfortable if the range goer is sporting impractical footwear. This often-overlooked aspect of shooting prep is especially helpful when shooting in outdoor ranges, which are susceptible to precipitation. Ladies seem to fall victim to impractical footwear more than males (I love heels, but they aren’t well suited for the range). The burn risk mentioned above is also affected by shoe choice. Open toed shoes, like sandals, put those toes and tops of feet at risk for making an uncomfortably hot catch.
As mentioned earlier, these few points aren’t the only rules for range etiquette, but they should serve as a starting guideline for minding your manners at the range. What are some pointers for range etiquette you follow when you go shooting?