Many years ago, I went to a shooting range with my husband and some of his friends. I was new to shooting and wanted to learn everything I could about safety and how to shoot properly. I made sure to listen and be as careful as I could. One of the friends we were with didn’t know what he was doing. We were taking turns at our station and when it was his turn, he was careless about where he was aiming his rifle between shooting. My husband and our other friend noticed this and had to remind him to never let the barrel of the gun point towards others, even if he thought it wasn’t loaded. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this made an impression on me. I saw how easy it was to become careless and that’s how mistakes can be made. In this article, we’re going to discuss proper gun range etiquette so you can have fun and be safe during your next practice session.
Rules at gun ranges may vary depending on where you go. Some even offer safety classes which are a great idea to take, especially if you’re new to shooting. The rules may seem like common sense, but it’s important to brush up on them every so often so they’re fresh in your mind. The NRA shares 3 rules to follow no matter what range you’re practicing at.
1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Many ranges have Range Safety Officers or RSOs. Their job is to supervise and enforce the range’s rules. They will also handle emergencies and give range commands. Make sure to learn the range commands so you can follow them when they are called. The most common range commands are “ceasefire” and “commence firing”. “Ceasefire” is called when time is up, someone needs to go down range, for retrieving targets, or in rare cases, emergencies. You may find yourself in the position of having to call a ceasefire in the event someone falls ill or something else unexpected happens.
“During a ceasefire, there should be no handling of firearms.” The NRA gives very specific things you should always do during a ceasefire. Make sure the chamber is empty and the magazine is removed. You should step away from the firing line. Before anyone goes downrange, the RSO will do a visual check to make sure it is safe.
There are a few other things to consider when visiting a gun range. Check ahead to see which targets are approved by your gun range. “Some ranges allow only approved paper, cardboard, club-furnished metal targets and clay targets.” Only aim at your targets as posts and frames are expensive to replace. Always leave your area cleaner than when you got there and return anything you borrowed.
Hopefully you learned something you can take with you the next time you go practice shooting!