Are you looking to get some marksmanship experience or try out a new firearm at the shooting range? Whether you’re a brand-new firearm owner or you’ve owned a rifle or two your whole life, you’ll need to master gun range etiquette to have a safe and rewarding experience.
Gun range safety may not sound exciting, but practicing good etiquette could save someone’s life. Practicing good safety fundamentals is an integral part of gun ownership. The firearm industry faces a lot of criticism nowadays, and it’s important for those of us who own and carry weapons to set a good example of responsible gun ownership.
Most importantly, behaving properly on the shooting range will help ensure your safety and the safety of others. It will help put others at ease, so everyone has a good time. And it will help you enjoy the experience and get the most out of it.
The good news is, gun range etiquette isn’t difficult to learn. This article should have just about everything you need to know. To learn all about gun range safety and etiquette, keep reading.
Table of Contents
Terms to Learn
Learning the terms of gun ownership isn’t exactly necessary for practicing gun range etiquette, but it can help prevent confusion. The following are some words and phrases it might be helpful to understand the meaning of.
Hot and Cold
The terms “hot” and “cold” are going to be very important to understand when you get onto the shooting range.
Simply put, when a shooting range is “hot,” that means shooters are active and permitted to fire. Conversely, a “cold” range means all shooters in the area have unloaded their guns and locked them open.
The firing line at a shooting range is the line where shooters may stand to fire, usually painted on the floor. To load or fire a weapon, you must be standing at the line. You must also step behind the line during ceasefires or to take a break.
Downrange refers to the area past the line of fire where the targets are set up. It’s important to remember this term, as it may come up during safety commands.
The backstop is simply the barrier or wall behind the targets. It’s meant to block any stray bullets that miss the targets.
At a shooting range, benches are tables or counters that you can rest your firearm on. You use these once your firearm has been unloaded and locked open.
Each shooter in a gun range will have their own lane to fire in. A range is made up of several lanes running parallel to each other. You must stay within your lane and only fire at the target in front of you.
Basic Safety Fundamentals
Now that you know some of the basic terms you might hear at a shooting range, it’s time to talk about gun safety. At the end of the day, proper range etiquette is all about keeping yourself and other shooters safe. We’ll start with some fundamentals.
Perhaps the most important rule in gun range etiquette is to always stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. You wouldn’t walk into a dangerous area without paying careful attention to everything around you. Likewise, simply paying attention as much as possible can prevent as many accidents as memorizing rules might.
Stay aware of your own actions and pay attention to the actions of others at the shooting range. Know which target is yours and what’s on the other side, especially at outdoor ranges, where a stray bullet could fly surprisingly far. Most of all, stay mindful of your weapon at all times.
Regardless of whether it’s loaded or not, you must always be mindful of the direction your firearm is pointing in. While you’re at the shooting range, always keep your gun pointed down-range in the direction of the targets.
A good rule of thumb is to only ever point your gun at something if you intend to shoot it. When you’re walking around carrying your firearm, keep it pointed at the floor.
This rule goes along with the one above: always treat a gun as if it’s loaded, even when you know for certain that it isn’t.
This isn’t a rule you follow because you never know when a gun might be loaded (although you may not). It’s simply a matter of being safe rather than sorry. Even when you’ve just emptied the chamber and locked it open, treating a gun like it’s loaded is a part of sportsmanship etiquette.
Finally, you must keep your finger off your gun’s trigger at all times unless you intend to shoot. Although it seems like an obvious rule, staying mindful of this can prevent serious accidents. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard at all times, and only place your finger on the trigger after you’re lined up to shoot your target.
Equipment to Bring
Proper gun range etiquette isn’t just about the way you should behave and the words you need to understand. It’s also about the items you should bring with you (unless you plan on renting everything from the range). We’ll discuss some of those next.
Under no circumstances should you bring a gun to a shooting range without a case. For one thing, it’s illegal in many places to travel with a gun if it isn’t concealed in a proper case. For another, even the shooting range staff will be uncomfortable if you walk in carrying a firearm in the open.
In addition to a good gun case, you should have a shooting or sportsmanship bag to contain your other gear. It’s essential for keeping careful track of all your belongings, and it makes transportation easier. It will also make you seem more professional and experienced.
Hearing and Eye Protection
Hearing protection is another all-important item to bring. Gun ranges are very loud, especially indoor ones. Even a single gunshot close to your ear can cause long-term hearing damage, so play it safe and bring the best foam earplugs or earmuffs you can find.
You can also find electronic headphones which block out loud sounds like gunshots while allowing other sounds to pass through.
Additionally, having eye protection is a good idea. While it’s not as obvious that you should protect your eyes as it is that you should protect your hearing, sparks and flying debris are not uncommon around gunfire. Sunglasses and prescription glasses don’t count—make sure you find a high-quality pair of safety glasses that fit comfortably.
You can’t get by as a sportsman for long without a gun repair and maintenance kit. You also never know when you might need to repair or adjust your firearm at the shooting range, so a good maintenance kit should be an essential part of your arsenal. A good maintenance kit, including lubricant and cleaning supplies, will help ensure you have everything you need to keep firing.
Additionally, you never know what spare parts you might need at the shooting range. You can find gun parts from a supplier like Aero Precision.
A few more things to note: first of all, the first thing you do when you get to the shooting range is read the official rules. Each range will have its own set of guidelines, and it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with them. You will probably notice several places where they overlap with the guidelines presented here.
It’s worth noting that many shooting ranges will require you to sign a waiver promising to abide by the rules.
Next, pay careful attention to the range safety officer and obey every command. Your safety is their number one priority, so be respectful.
Master Gun Range Etiquette and More
Firearm ownership is exciting, and being able to visit the shooting range for practice is a rewarding experience. But using guns also comes with a big responsibility, and it’s important to take that seriously. Fortunately, with these rules and tips for gun range etiquette, you should have all you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable experience.
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