As a companion guide to our Gun Shop Etiquette, we thought it could helpful to provide a similar guide for etiquette at the gun range.
Whether you’ve never been to the range, are a casual range shooter, or you go so often people think you work there, we believe this guide can provide some helpful tips and advice on how to make the range experience best for everyone.
If we missed something, please share with us in the comments!
1. The Four Rules Of Gun Safety – Always and Forever
No matter where you are or what you are doing when it pertains to guns, the Four Rules Of Gun Safety should always be followed. Seems like we shouldn’t have to remind people about this when it comes to live firing at the range, but for the sake of importance, we are making this #1
2. Come Prepared
One of the worst things that can happen to your range trip is showing up without everything you need. This obviously includes the guns you want to shoot, but also the right ammo for the gun. Also remember to bring enough ammo to get the most out of out your time there. You might be surprised how quickly a box of 50 rounds can be spent.
Another thing to keep in mind is that often time ranges have rules about ear and eye protection. Make sure you comply with the range you are intending to shoot at and bring with you the proper gear that they require you wear. Leaving these behind could send you back home, eating up your precious range time.
Lastly, remember to bring any accessories you may need or want to try. This includes speed loaders, shooting gloves, clay pigeons, targets, and holsters. Make a checklist of everything you need before heading out the door, and make sure you’ve packed it all with you.
3. Listen To The Range Officer
Shooting ranges vary so much from place to place, that most setups and experiences will be different at each range you shoot at. Many times, a range will have a Range Officer on duty (also referred to as the RO). If there is Range Officer present, they are the first and final authority on all things that happen at that range. Their primary goal is to make sure everyone is safe. This doesn’t mean they are there to stop you from having fun, it means they want to ensure no one accidentally hurts themselves or other shooters at the range.
Their secondary goal is to assist and help when needed. When the RO speaks, please listen. When they ask you to do something, please comply. You might not always understand why they are asking something, but be confident it is for a good reason. Following their instructions and rules will make everyone’s experience at the range a better one.
4. Know What Is Expected Of You During A Cease Fire
At any shooting range, when a Cease Fire is declared you must take this action seriously. Again, depending on the range it may be something as simple as someone shouting Cease Fire, or there may be an alarm that sounds to notify you of a Cease Fire. Generally, a Cease Fire occurs when someone needs to go down range. A Cease Fire occurs to ensure no one is still firing when that person walks out onto the shooting area.
When a Cease Fire is called, you are asked to put down all firearms and not touch them until the Cease Fire has ended. Yes, this rule might sound excessive, but it is absolutely all about safety. Cease Fire’s don’t usually last long, so use the time to take a quick break. No matter what you do during a Cease Fire, don’t touch your firearms for any reason.
5. Respect The Range Equipment
For some reason, some jerks like to shoot at the equipment found at ranges. For outdoor ranges this includes the wooden beams and ballasts. These are expensive to replace and could post a safety hazard if they are weakened by bullet damage. For indoor ranges, some idiots try and shoot at the device that brings the target to and away from you. Don’t be one of these people. Respect the property and equipment of the range.
6. Don’t Interrupt Other Shooters
When another person at the range is actively shooting, please be considerate and not interrupt them. There is obviously a danger factor to this, as you don’t want to distract someone that is firing hot lead. More importantly, however, is that it is just rude and disruptive. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to tap you on the shoulder and break your concentration while firing, others don’t want that to happen to them either.
There is one exception to this rule: If there is an urgent matter that requires their attention immediately, such as spotting a dangerous malfunction on their weapon. Otherwise range time is best when you shoot and let shoot.
7. Know What Firearms Are Allowed On The Range – And Types Of Shooting
As mentioned earlier, ranges have many variations. Just as each range has their own general rules, many ranges only permit certain types of firearms to be used. This is most apparent between indoor and outdoor ranges. 50ft indoor ranges generally don’t allow high powered rifles. There may be some other restrictions, so be sure to check with the range before you start firing.
Another important example of this is that outdoor ranges often have shooting bays specific to types of gun. They will have bays that are meant for handguns, others for rifles, and maybe even other specifically for shotguns. Know what bay you are using, and respect the range policy on what gun to use.
Also, in some rare cases ranges have restrictions on how you can shoot your weapon. Some ranges do not want to see people doing mag dumps. As fun as it is sometimes to just go wild and fire your gun as fast as you can, be respectful of the range if they prohibit this kind of shooting.
8. If You Aren’t A Range Officer, Don’t Behave Like One
Range Officers have a specific role at the range. Not only do they police the range for improper behavior and unsafe situations, but they are also there to be helpful and offer advice to shooters when appropriate. Those things are their jobs, not yours.
The experience level of those shooting at the range can vary from beginner to expert. You may experience novice shooters doing novice things. You may see other shooters who do things differently then you. In these instances, please do not try to be a coach and correct these fellow range shooters. If they ask for advice, please be as helpful as you like. Otherwise, allow the RO to offer coaching and assistance when they see it.
One exception to this rule is if you see someone doing something dangerous. Use your judgement and determine if it’s best to notify the RO, or step in yourself. Stopping someone from doing something dangerous can save their life. Even if they get made at you, its worth it.
9. Give Space To Other Shooters
One of the most annoying things you will ever experience at the range is someone standing right behind you or next to you while you shoot. There is something about it that is wildly distracting and uncomfortable. Being too close to another shooter can also be a safety risk. Be respectful of space at the range, and allow other shooters to shoot without you hovering behind them or close to them.
10. If It’s Not Yours, Don’t Touch It
One of the best things about going to the range is seeing all the different guns in action. Always wondered what that Rhino looked like in action? You’ll probably see it at the range. That new AR everyone is talking about? Someone will probably have it. Maybe if you ask nice enough, they might let you look at it up closely or hold it. However, never assume that it’s OK to touch someone’s firearm without asking. Even if it is just sitting behind them on a bench, its not polite to go through someone’s gear and touch their things.
You will find most people at the range are friendly. When an opportunity presents itself to talk to that person with the shiny gun you’re interested in, go ahead and say hello. If they are friendly and seem receptive, let them know your interest in their firearm and see if they will let you examine it. Who knows, they might even let you shoot it. Always ask first though and make sure you safety check ANY firearm you pick up.
11. One Gun At A Time Please
When you are out on the line, please only bring one firearm at a time with you. It’s OK if you want to bring all your guns to the range with you and get a little time with all of them. However, you should only take one gun up to the firing line at a time. Leave the others with your gear behind you and swap them out as you see fit.
12. Clean up after yourself
Check the policy of the range you are shooting at. Some ranges ask that you clean up your brass when you’re done. They will often leave brooms and barrels to make it as easy as possible to clean up. Other times, ranges don’t require this, and it is optional. However, it’s always polite to clean up after yourself regardless. Unless, for some reason, the range prohibits you from collecting your own brass, consider the range a carry in, carry out type of place.
13. Enjoy The Experience
You’ve waited all week, maybe all month or longer to get to the range. Now that you are there, enjoy the aromatherapy of gun smoke, the sounds of the bang bangs, and that sweet feeling of throwing lead 2,500 feet per second down range.