Accidental shootings at gun ranges aren’t tracked, but the good news is they are rare.
However, it’s always best to take safety precautions when you’re around firearms. And, the best way to prevent accidents is to follow gun range etiquette.
Here are seven tips for gun range etiquette that will keep you and others around you safe and ensure you have a great time when you visit the range.
1. Review and Follow the Range’s Rules
There are all types of ranges out there. Each has its own list of specific rules which are often listed near the shooting area or on their website. Take the time to review the rules beforehand for the range you’re visiting and familiarize yourself with them.
It’s a safe bet that all gun ranges have at least a few cardinal rules about gun handling that everyone should respect, such as never pointing a gun in anyone’s direction.
But, they may also have fines for shooters that damage property on the gun range, including structural areas. So read through their list, before your visit if possible, and let their regulations seep in.
2. Always Handle a Firearm Like a Pro
Handling a gun professionally extends to when you’re not actually shooting it. All professional gun owners know how to handle a gun responsibly so no one, including themselves, can get hurt.
This means automatically removing your finger from the trigger the second you’ve stopped shooting. This is a memory reflex which often needs to be developed over time, but it will differentiate you as a gun owner that takes shooting seriously.
You also never want to point the muzzle at anybody or anything other than your target. So when you’re not using the gun, make sure the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. When shooting indoors, this means laying the gun on the table with the muzzle pointed towards the targets.
The safety catch should always be on when you’re not shooting, and all parts of the gun including the chamber and magazine should be completely empty of ammo. If someone wants to see your firearm, these safety precautions must be in check before handing it over to another person.
3. Respect the Range Safety Officer
Most gun ranges have employees on hand to ensure everyone is following the rules and shooting in a safe manner. Range safety officers have authority above everyone else visiting the range, so treat them with respect. Listen to them if they give gun range commands such as cease-fire, because that means they’re making sure everyone visiting the range is safe.
This is particularly important when shooting outdoors. The range safety officer won’t allow anyone to go downrange to inspect their targets until everyone has emptied their ammo, engaged the safety catch, and has put down their firearm in a safe location.
Although they may sound intimidating, gun range employees are friendly and willing to help if anyone has any questions or isn’t sure what a particular command means. They can also help refresh your memory on a gun’s components and proper handling. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it.
4. Remember That You Can Call a Cease Fire
The command “cease-fire” doesn’t have to be shouted by only the range safety officer. It’s everyone’s responsibility on the range to use the command if they see something that looks unsafe.
If another shooter is unwell that’s an excuse to call a cease-fire. It can also be used if someone inadvertently wanders onto the range area. Good gun enthusiasts will always look out for everyone else and the safety of others.
5. Don’t Touch Someone Else’s Equipment
It’s tempting to want to pick up someone else’s gun especially if it’s brand-name gear you’ve had your eye on for a while. However, that unfamiliar firearm may be loaded—plus, it’s just poor manners to touch someone else’s possession without asking for permission to do so.
Most gun enthusiasts are more than happy to share information about their purchase and let someone else hold it, but you should ask first. They need to ensure their firearm is completely empty and they may not wish to be interrupted between rounds.
Don’t touch anyone else’s bag or equipment unless you have permission to do so. And don’t shoot at someone else’s target; this can confuse them and throw off any progress they think they’re making.
6. Don’t Interrupt Another Shooter
It’s unsettling to be interrupted in the middle of a round, even if it’s just a tap on the shoulder. It’s also dangerous; some people may instinctively whirl around to face you while still holding the gun pointed outward.
The one exception is if you see another shooter doing something that can compromise the safety of themselves and others. In this case, most gun ranges will allow you to shout, “Cease fire!” and a range safety officer will handle the situation.
If you wish to talk to another shooter, wait until they’re finished with a round and can safely engage with you. You wouldn’t want to be interrupted when you’re concentrated on hitting your target. Respect another person’s personal space, and their shooting time.
7. Pick Up Any Litter
Don’t leave behind any ammo boxes, water bottles, brass casings (if they’re your own) or other trash. Deposit it in provided trash bins and leave the range neat and clean for other shooters to enjoy.
The one exception is sweeping up other shooters’ brass casings. Some people like to keep their brass.
Follow These Gun Range Etiquette Rules For a Safe Experience
Knowing the proper gun range etiquette will ensure that everyone has a safe and fun time at the range. It also helps you stand out as more professional, even if it’s your first time shooting.
Now that you know the rules about gun range etiquette, it’s time to spend a day at the range. Search for a gun range near you.