Range Day Etiquette
I have been wanting to write about this for months, and I've finally made it a priority. So without any catchy titles, or hooks, here's what you need to know to have a safe, fun, and successful range day.
1. Read the range rules
It sounds so cliché, but really, first step, read the rules. Every range has a unique set of rules, be sure to familiarize yourself with them, and follow them. These include what firearms may be brought and used at particular locations within the facility, speed limits, minimum age requirements for shooters (if any), types of ammo/targets that may be used, where to park, hours of operation, final shooter check in times, if you may still carry concealed and draw from holster, is smoking allowed, etc.
Generally the range will open before first shots are allowed, this is for a reason. If the first shots are at 9:00am for example, show up at 8:45 to get yourself set up and targets placed. Shooters who show up at 9:00 or shortly after will have to wait for another cease fire to be able to set up their targets.
2. Case your firearms
Always bring firearms to the range in a case or bag. I've seen folks using plastic grocery bags, Tupperware containers, blankets, and of course super fancy tactical range bags. Whatever it is, transport your firearms from your car to the shooting area, locked up and cased. Use a sharpie or sticker on your case to identify which way the muzzle is pointed within the case, and be sure to uncase the firearm with your muzzle downrange. Some ranges require you to uncase all firearms at the shooting benches/tables, be sure to check before uncasing that you're doing it in the right spot.
If the range does not allow you to shoot from holster/concealment or allow to carry concealed while firing, find the conceal carry clearing station to clear and secure your CCW firearm. remember to reload and holster when you leave!
3. Follow the range commands and directions from the Range Officer
Again, sounds cliché, but remember that the Range Officer (RO) has the ultimate final say in how that firing line operates. Whatever they look like, however old they are, whatever gender they may be, they are in charge, be respectful. Understand that RO commands and range rules are nothing to be taken personally. Everyone from time to time has a lapse of judgment and will do something unsafe, accept what may be a stern barking command from the RO, and move on. Everyone's safety (including yours) is worth more than one person's hurt feelings.
If you require special assistance, such has hard of hearing, or need helping setting targets, ask the RO. If you miss any range commands, ask the RO, if your firearm malfunctions, you get a squib round, if the shooter next to you is making your feel unsafe or being rude or disrespectful, alert the RO. RO's are there to keep the line safe and help keep things operating smoothly.
What RO's are not there to do- give free one on one lessons. Unless how your are operating your firearm will cause injury or damage, do not expect any tips or pointers on how to be a better shooter from the RO, they do not have the time generally to watch the line and train shooters.
4. Pack your trash and clean up after yourself
Again, remedial and cliché, but whatever garbage and mess you create, clean it up. This includes water bottles, ammo boxes, wrappers, etc.
Check with the RO before you pick up brass, some ranges do not allow you to take brass from the range grounds, others encourage it. If allowed to take brass, and you do not collect to reload, a quick way to make new friends is to ask the person collecting if they would like to keep yours. If you are feeling generous, you can sweep the brass. Brass, generally, is always swept down range.
Pull your targets! If you are unable to wait for a cease fire to go down range and pull your target, notify the RO, or ask someone on the line if they'd be willing to pull for you. Leaving your target up makes it appear as if there's still a shooter there, and can jam up the line on busy days.
Keep your area clean, don't block walkways and create trip hazards or take up extra chairs and benches for your stuff.
5. Multiple Shooters
If shooting with a multiple shooters and you will be sharing firearms, review the range rules and talk to the RO before you begin for any special instructions. Check if more than one shooter is allowed on the firing line at a time. Anyone in your group who is not firing, must be in a safe area away from the shooters. NEVER PASS LOADED GUNS BETWEEN SHOOTERS. Put firearms on the bench or table to be picked up by the shooter. All firearms that are on the bench should be unloaded, with a chamber flag. If you are loading a firearm for another shooter (If allowed by the range to do so), it needs to be placed on the bench for the shooter to pick up themselves, with any and all external safety's engaged.
If utilizing multiple calibers and firearms, keep yourself organized. Remember loading incorrect ammo into a firearm can be catastrophic. Whatever is not being used by the current shooter, should be flagged or cased to avoid confusion.
Check the range rules for any minimum age requirements for shooting. Be sure your kids have a complete understanding of the range rules, never leave kids unattended. Have proper safety equipment for them, most ranges do not have eyes and ears available to rent for their sizes. Never sacrifice supervision and attention to them, to snap pics and socialize. Follow all the suggestions for multiple shooters above.
MOM HACK: Bring water and snacks (wash hands before eating), a tablet, or coloring to keep them occupied if they don't want to shoot. Be prepared to leave when they want, don't push the experience on them, don't force them to shoot if they're not ready. Sometimes the best thing is to just get them introduced tot he environment, noises, etc. Ask if they want to load mags, get a speed/easy loader! Explain what you're doing while you're dong it, why you're point the firearm a certain way, how you're gripping it, the steps to unloading it, ask them to help you visually and physically double check it's empty, unlock cases, re-case, carry stuff, etc. There's lots of ways to include even the youngest kids. Kids want to be included, help out and know the "why" behind your actions.
Check range rules before bringing your animals to the range. The range is a great way to expose hunting dogs to noise, and socialized, but be sure to keep them leashed and near by as possible. Never leave an animal in the car on a hot day, be sure to pack water and pick up poop. Because there's a chance you won't have your eye on your animal 100% of the time, I suggest not bringing aggressive, poorly trained animals to the range.
8. Safety is YOUR responsibility
If you see something say something. If someone is acting unsafe, mishandling firearms, making you feel unsafe by their actions or words, say something (respectfully). If you're not comfortable addressing them directly, find the RO.
Likewise, be prepared to be reminded if you break safety protocols, don't take these reminders from range staff or even other shooters personally. Use it as a learning opportunity.
The range is NOT the place to learn how to use your firearms. You should not bring firearms to the range that you are not familiar with or are in poor condition. You should have a solid understanding of how to manipulate, load, and use your firearms before taking it to the range. This includes clearing malfunctions and field stripping. You should have any required tools needed to field strip and repair your firearms/accessories (screw drivers and wrenches for lights, scopes, laser, etc.). Keep a bottle of gun lube in your range bag.
Check with the RO if testing reloads is allowed, never pick up rounds off the range grounds to shoot in your firearms.
Never bend down on the firing line, never go forward of the firing line unless cleared by the RO. Do not be afraid to yell a "cease fire!" for emergencies (ONLY).
Never take pictures or film other shooters or their firearms without permission.
Range etiquette is similar to the universal firearm safety rules, common sense. Never assume anything, if you don't know or aren't clear, ask.
Finally, consider getting a membership to your local gun range if offered. Many of these ranges are family owned and operated and memberships help keep the ranges maintained, operational and support family owned businesses.
What do you think? Any other recommendations or range day hacks you know? Lets hear them!
Thanks for reading, until next time, train hard, stay safe!
Mama Bear Defense, Solano County, CA