The Range Experience: Public Range Etiquette

(Photo courtesy of the Clark County Shooting Complex)

In the Fall 2012 issue of the Journal, “The Range Experience” showed you some of the coolest ranges across the U.S. But before you visit one of them or a local range, it’s always worth reacquainting yourself with the basics of range etiquette.

If you tend to spend most of your range time at a police range, it’s easy to forget some of the basics of public range etiquette. Public ranges are enjoyed by shooters of different disciplines and skill levels, so even if you could recite the following tips as easily as directions to your home, it’s not a bad idea to review them, especially when taking a spouse or youngster shooting.

  1. Always keep the safety on when not shooting. Better yet, lock the action open or remove the bolt. Lay the weapon with the action up, where everyone can see from a distance that it is unloaded and safe.
  2. Make sure guns are only pointed at the ground or targets on the range. This goes for unloaded firearms and firearms with the safety engaged. New shooters understand not to point the gun at a person — even if it is unloaded — but many do not think through the dangers of gravity. What goes up must come down — somewhere.
  3. Get the “all clear” before going onto the range to set up targets. Look up and down the range and make sure the rest of the shooters are clear of their weapons as well before proceeding downrange. Likewise, you don’t want to be downrange while someone is fiddling with the action of their gun. Accidents happen; you don’t know the individual messing with his gun during the break, and worst of all, you’re the one who is downrange. Keep the guns on the bench and people a few yards away until the line goes hot again.
  4. Do not pick up a gun and point it downrange while other shooters are setting up targets. Reload magazines off the line and away from firearms. You may know how to handle your weapon, but monkey see, monkey do … and you don’t want that monkey touching off a round in your direction.
  5. Ask if all shooters have ear protection in place before shooting. Some guns are louder than others. Without protective covering, eardrums can be damaged. Be courteous and make sure everyone is ready before firing. Kids are notorious for slipping muffs off or forgetting the plugs in a pocket. You don’t want someone blowing your kid’s eardrums out, so take a few extra seconds to survey the line to prevent someone else from getting their bell rung.
  6. Shoot at targets and nothing else. Trash cans and portable toilets, as tempting as they may be, are not meant for shooting. If you use plastic jugs or cans as targets, always clean up afterward. Do not leave pieces of the material lying around the range for others to clean up. The range staff will thank you for keeping the environment clean and making their job easier. And remember that trees are not targets. Buy a stand or take a few minutes to build one from a couple of two-by-fours, two-by-twos or whatever — then take it home and dispose of it when you are finished.
  7. It’s unlikely that your mother works at the range. Even if she does, she still does not want to clean up after you.
  8. Follow the rules of the range. Know what is expected before using it. Some ranges require you to pick up spent cartridges and hulls — others specifically prohibit it.
  9. Teach gun safety at home before going to the range. Remember, you need to plug your kid’s/spouse’s ears at the range, and they only half listen when they are not wearing hearing protection. If you want them to listen, do it outside of the range.
  10. You are still a guest of the range. On the street you may be the law, but the range is no time to set someone straight. This is a great time to be lazy; inform the range safety officer and let him take the hot call for a change.

What are your tips for proper range etiquette? Share them by commenting below.

Get a look at some of the neatest ranges in the U.S. Check out “The Range Experience” in the Fall 2012 issue of the Journal.

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