Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Being Home on the Range: Range Etiquette

Going to a shooting range can be fun and a necessary part of a training program. I go often because I love the feel and the smell of a well used range. My range is outdoors so I love to go and enjoy some fresh air and the sharp report of the weapons as they shoot. I go to the range to relax even if I have an intense workout. I know, I am weird.
Being polite never goes out of style. When you visit a range first and foremost is safety. A close second is courtesy.
Newer Shooters
Learn and know, and live the 4 safety rules (1.All guns are loaded, 2.Don’t point gun at anything you don’t want to destroy, 3.Keep finger off the trigger, 4.Know your target and beyond)
There is a little taught rule 5. Never, ever point a gun at me or any part of me!
Never forget this rule!
For newer shooters, here are a few other things to consider when shooting in a shared space, like a public range. Many of these things center around common courtesies that ought to be extended to other range goers, and respecting the range facilities. It’s far from a complete list, but it highlights a few points. Included are:
• Follow your range’s rules. Every range has its regulations, such as making sure to have chamber flags for cleared firearms, limiting rate of fire, or restricting the types of ammunition allowed to be fired. If a range is going to let you use their facilities, it’s important to respect their rules.
• Don’t show up with a loaded weapon (exclusions would be conceal carry pieces). Many ranges have a lobby or display area before accessing the firing lanes. It’s best to keep your firearms cased and pointed in a safe direction until you’re in your own lane and preparing to fire.
• Be respectful of others at the range. It’s important not to disturb others’ concentration or make them feel uncomfortable. That’s not to say you can’t be social. In fact, I love striking up conversation with other shooters. I already know we have a shared enthusiasm for firearms, and I love hearing others’ opinions. But, there’s a time and a place to approach people for that kind of interaction. Respecting other people at the range also means cleaning up after yourself and being considerate that you are sharing the space with other customers.
• Watch what you say. You don’t want to make yourself appear like some kind of scary sociopath while holding/operating a loaded weapon. So, talking about how much you hate your ex, the government, etc., is not a good idea.
• Think about what you wear to the range. The people who go to the range tend to be a more conservative crowd (of course, there are exceptions). It’s not a great place to try to stand out, especially if you’re displaying some kind of adverse political statement, or something that might be offensive to other range goers. As for the ladies, you may want to avoid those low cut tops… You might feel sexy operating a firearm wearing them, until some hot brass flies down your shirt and you start jumping and flailing with a loaded gun in your hand. That’s not safe for you, or anyone around you.
• Wear practical footwear. When I hit the range, I generally don’t spend less than two to three hours shooting, so I want to be sure that my shoes are comfortable. It’s also wise to wear a shoe that covers, just in case someone’s spent brass lands on your toes. Just like in high school chemistry, it’s just safer.
Experienced Shooters
For the more seasoned shooters, range etiquette still includes the cardinal rules of safe firearms handling. It’s sometimes easy for those who have firearms experience without incident to become complacent instead of vigilant about safe gun handling. There are also considerations for other range goers that are more unique to regular shooters. For example:
• Don’t be a know-it-all. Not everyone is ready for or open to advice, even if they lack experience. It can make learning to shoot more intimidating to be corrected without requesting help. If another shooter is doing something unsafe, however, that’s another matter, and the range safety officer (RSO) needs to know.
• When bringing others to the range, don’t go cold. Make sure you cover basic firearms handling safety before you get there. Sharing the shooting sports with others is wonderful, but the excitement and pressure of being at the range is a poor time to be introducing someone to firearms and giving instruction. And when you do bring them to the range, consider not shooting yourself so that you can make sure they’re being safe and to help them learn.
• Relax, and have fun. Sometimes, it’s good to just enjoy putting rounds downrange without focusing on preparing for a self-defense encounter or improving competition scores.
• Be patient. Shooting at a range (instead of on private property, etc.) means that you’ll have to share the space with other shooters of varying levels of skill, interest, and focuses. Sometimes that means waiting for an open lane before you can shoot. Sometimes, that means trying not to get irritated by the conversations of others.
• Keep an open mind for instruction or advice from others. Taking firearms classes can help to keep your skills sharp, and even expand your skill set. You are never too experienced to learn something new.
These points are only some guidelines for range behavior that help everyone to have a positive and enjoyable range experience. Above all, safety is most important, no matter what your level of shooting experience is. It is also important to be respectful of others at the range so that all can make the most of the shared facilities. I mention some things to think about when you next head out to shoot, but it isn’t a complete list of do’s and don’ts for range etiquette. Being safe and enjoying your visit is the important part. Not all ranges are indoor, you may need to alter these suggestions because of your location.
Semper Paratus
Shoot On!