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Gun Range Etiquette

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A visit to your local gun range can be great fun, and it’s a valuable way to hone your marksmanship skills in a comfortable environment. However, if you or a fellow range visitor don’t adhere to basic range etiquette, the environment can quickly become uncomfortable. Do yourself a favor and double check that you’re following all the basic gun range rules before you ever lock and load. You’ll look like a pro, which is always a great thing, and you’ll earn some mad respect from your fellow range peers. Here are some of the top range etiquette items to be aware of before you hit the range.

Always Follow Basic Firearms Safety

This first rule is a no-brainer, but it’s always worth discussing. If you aren’t following basic firearm safety rules at the range, there are going to be some pretty angry folks. Worse, you risk an accident, and taking any chances with gun safety is simply inexcusable. Always treat a firearm like it is loaded, even when you’re absolutely sure you’ve unloaded it. Never point a firearm in anyone’s direction, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Never aim your firearm at anything you’re not absolutely sure is safe to shoot at. This goes for any target on the range. Make sure you know that the target and what is behind the target is clear before you ever load your firearm. These rules are easy to follow, and you should always take them extremely seriously.

Be sure to wear proper eye and ear protection whenever you’re on the range.

One other safety rule, always point your firearm down range. If you turn around with the weapon in hand, you’re going to make a lot of people nervous. The only time when you should walk away from the range with the gun in hand is when it is safely unloaded and either cased or displayed as unloaded with a chamber safety flag.

Obey Range Instructions

Often a busy range will have one or more range officers that keep shooters informed of the range status. Follow all their instructions carefully and never do anything without their permission. Often a range officer will call the range “cold,” and this means you should cease fire and step away from your weapon immediately. Place your firearm down on the table and take several steps away from it as long as the range is cold. No one will like you hovering over your firearm when the range is cold, and in any cold range situation, the rule is completely hands off your firearm until the range is hot again. This means you shouldn’t tinker with your gun, clean it, or even stare and admire it. Just step away from it and do something else. Make sure you leave the barrel facing forward at the range when you set it down. Once the range is declared safe you can get back to it.

Always follow range instructions, be it from a range officer or posted instructions.

While we’re talking about pointing your gun range forward, it is also worth discussing where to fire the weapon. You should only shoot a firearm at the firing line. Standing back from the firing line actually places you behind others who are shooting, and this is an uncomfortable place to be for anyone. So stay tight on that firing line whenever you’re ready to shoot.

Stay tight on the firing line whenever you’re shooting or getting ready to shoot.

Interact With Other Range Visitors Carefully

Ok seriously, no one likes a showoff or a blabber mouth, and this is especially evident when you’re on the range. You need to interact with anyone else on the range carefully and with respect. This comes in many forms. First and foremost, never pick up or handle any firearm without permission. Anyone’s firearm is sacred territory, and really you shouldn’t even ask to pick it up. Now if the owner suggests that you hold it or shoot it, that’s another matter. Remember if you are asked to do so, handle it safely like you would any other firearm, and always treat it as though it is loaded.

Whenever someone else is shooting on the range, give them plenty of space. No one likes a “hoverer,” especially when they have a loaded weapon in their hand. Mind your own business, and if you do watch, do it from a safe space away and only in moderation. You don’t want the person shooting to think you’re constantly staring at them.

Only check your targets when the range is declared cold or you have checked with others to cease fire.

Even if you consider yourself an “expert,” keep your tips and opinions to yourself while you’re on the range. If someone approaches you and asks for advice that is another matter, but don’t go around like you’re the end-all authority on everything firearms. Stay humble and concentrate on enriching your own marksman skills.

Enjoy Yourself With Some Reserve

Finally, it’s important that you enjoy your time on the range. You are enjoying your Constitutional freedoms after all. Just make sure you do so with some reserve. Hollering, showing off and making a scene is not appropriate at a gun range. You can certainly celebrate a great session or shot, but just don’t act like a fool when you do so.

Once you’re finished at the range, don’t forget to pick up your empties. This is especially important when you’re at an outdoor range as you don’t want to pollute the area, but it matters all the same indoors. Have a good time at the range and may your shots land on target!

Is there some etiquette we left out? Let us know!

Image three and thumb courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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