Shooting Range Safety and Etiquette
Safety is the most important component of an enjoyable time at the shooting range.
In addition to the rules of firearm safety, each shooting range has their own set of rules, and there are unspoken range etiquette rules in the shooting community. This can make for a nerve wrecking experience for first-time shooters.
Here’s some insight into staying safe on the range and being kind to your neighbors from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Rules of firearms safety
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but a lot of people who come to public shooting ranges don’t know or respect the 4 rules of firearms safety. Learn the rules of firearms safety BEFORE you go to the shooting range and put forth the best effort to abide by them.
Learn the range rules
Every shooting range has their own rules beyond the rules of firearms safety. While every shooting range has pretty standardized hot/cold range procedure, ranges tend to have other rules. Common rules include no rapid fire, no drawing from a holster, no multiple target transitions, no movement, only shoot at paper targets, no firearms anywhere but on the line or in a bag, and things like that.
If it is your first time at that shooting range, even if you are an experienced shooter, figure out the rules of that range. It would suck to get kicked out because you unknowingly took a rifle to the pistol line.
Wear eyes and ears
Eyes and ears protect people other than the shooter. Sometimes ricochets happen or small bullet fragments can fly around and can hit people who aren’t the shooter – especially when steel targets are in use.
Hearing damage does not discriminate, no matter how much of a bad ass you think you are. No one likes tinnitus and no one likes wearing hearing aids when they’re older. Wear hearing protection. Doesn’t matter if you have a gun in your hand or not.
Always keep the firearm pointing down range
This one seems like a “duh” component of a shooting range. But it’s so incredibly easy to accidentally point a gun up range, and it is especially easy with handguns. Be extremely mindful of the direction of the muzzle. Use your pointer finger to index the firearm and always point that finger downrange.
Never leave a loaded gun on the shooting bench
Even if the gun is on the firing line and pointed down range, never leave an unattended firearm unloaded. Should the range go cold, a forgotten loaded firearm is a safety hazard.
Keep firearms unloaded, with the slide locked open or even use a chamber flag.
Stop shooting immediately a ceasefire is called
And by “immediately” – I mean immediately. Don’t finish your magazine and get around to stopping shooting, immediately stop shooting as soon as you yell ceasefire.
Most likely, the range is simply going cold to swap out targets, range maintenance, or closing time. However, there might be a safety issue with someone or something being down range that shouldn’t be down range.
This is one of the reasons why electronic hearing protection is such a valuable tool at the range. While it protects hearing from the sound of gunshots, it’s still possible to hear conversations and direction from the range safety officer.
Anyone can call a ceasefire
While the range safety officer usually is the one calling a ceasefire, anyone at the range can call a ceasefire if they see something unsafe down range. For most ranges, it isn’t advisable to call a ceasefire for any reason. It’s kinda rude to stop the entire firing line because you want to put up another target at that time. But when it comes to safety, there are no exceptions.
Immediately when you see something wrong down range, call a ceasefire.
When leaving, completely unload the firearm, then case it
Don’t ever carry a loaded firearm outside of the shooting range, unless it is a conceal carry firearm that never left the holster. Similarly, don’t carry a loose firearm outside of the range. All firearms should enter and leave the shooting range in some sort of bag or firearm case.
Bring a friend!
Bringing a frined makes any range trip more enjoyable! Training with an experience shooter also allows y’all to critique each other and become better shooters, faster.
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.