How to Practice Good Gun Range Etiquette
When someone near you is holding a gun, you obviously want to be sure they know what they’re doing. Likewise, there are few easier ways to make people around you nervous than handling a firearm irresponsibly. So it goes without saying that when people get together at the gun range and are all shooting guns within several feet of one another, there are rules that need to be followed for everyone to feel safe and comfortable.
Practicing good range etiquette will not only ensure the safety of yourself and the people around you, but it will also put everyone at the range at ease, so Range Officers and fellow shooters alike will feel better about you and be more welcoming of your presence on return visits.
If you haven’t visited a gun range yet, it’s good to get an idea of the expectations you’ll encounter before you go in. Additionally, even an experienced marksman can benefit from brushing up on etiquette now and again. So here are the guidelines you should always follow at the gun range.
Safety Always Comes First
The most important rules to follow are of course those that ensure that keep everyone safe—nobody should be putting themselves or others at risk of injury or death simply because they can’t follow precautions.
Before you even enter the premises of the gun range, safety begins with what you bring. Always bring your firearms in a bag or case (unloaded of course). A gun range is a business, and like any other business, walking into the front office holding a gun that nobody else knows is loaded or unloaded can obviously be perceived as a threat, so keep your firearms secured until you get to your lane.
You should also be sure to bring proper eye and ear protection, as it’s mandatory you wear it to shoot. Nobody wants to see you putting yourself at risk of permanent hearing or eyesight damage—least of all on their property.
Once on the range, there are four rules you must strictly adhere to. This is probably the most important information for you to always keep at the front of your mind.
First of all, always treat a gun as if it’s loaded. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s clear, or even if you just saw it cleared a second ago, you should always do a safety check upon picking the firearm up or setting it down. Treating the gun as loaded even when it’s not assures everyone you’re being safe, prevents mistakes from happening, and solidifies good safety habits for when it is loaded.
Once you’ve picked the gun up, never point it at anything other than something you intend to shoot. At a gun range, this means you always, always, always aim it downrange. If you’re holding a firearm, you should be facing forward, not turning to the side to speak to someone or turning around to collect brass.
Shooters are particularly prone to breaking this rule when racking the slide—as natural as it may feel, you should never bring the gun to your left to hold it sideways and rack the slide, as you’re putting everyone on that side of you at risk in the event of a discharge.
That’s especially true if you also break the next rule: you also should never, ever have your finger on the trigger or in the trigger guard until you’ve decided to shoot. Instead, always rest your index finger along the frame and slide.
And before you shoot, you should always be sure of your target and what lies behind it. Bullets will travel through objects, so you need to be sure in a gun range that you know where your rounds will end up.
Courtesy at the Gun Range
There are also rules you should follow at the gun range simply as a courtesy to those around you.
Some of these, of course, are still at least somewhat related to safety and assuring people around you that you’re responsible and your intentions are good. For instance, you should always stand all the way up by the shooting line and not further back, as people generally don’t like having someone with a loaded gun standing behind their back.
Other such safety-related rules revolve around ceasefires. When the Range Safety Officer (RSO) calls a ceasefire, you should immediately your firearm’s chamber is empty, the magazine is removed, the gun is set down pointing downrange with the action open, and you’ve stopped touching it and stepped back and away from the firing line. It’s important that you stay away from the firing line and don’t touch any firearms the entire time the range is cold, as it makes the RSO’s job easier, keeps everyone at ease, and prevents any mistakes from happening, especially at outdoor ranges where this is the time when people walk downrange to retrieve targets.
There are also other rules you should be following that just fall under the category of general good manners. Don’t touch anyone else’s belongings or collect their brass without their permission, and don’t offer tips, pointers, or coaching of any kind unless someone asks for it—nobody likes backseat shooters, and if you see something that really may be a safety violation you should be mentioning it to the RSO instead.
You also should never shoot target frames or supports, or targets in other lanes. Frames cost the range money to replace, and no shooter adjacent to you wants your bullet holes spoiling the group they’ve shot with the target they’ve paid for.
And, of course, clean up after yourself and try to leave your lane better than you found it.
Obey House Rules
On the topic of RSOs, you should also generally keep in mind that regardless of how things may be at other ranges you’ve been to, you must follow the directions of the range you’re shooting at in that moment.
RSOs are trained safety officers, and each range develops its own rules, so a key point of good gun range etiquette is to always follow the orders of the RSO tasked with maintaining a rigorously safe environment for all patrons of the range.
With these guidelines in mind, you’re ready to hit the range as a responsible and courteous member of the community. If you’re looking for a gun range in McHenry, Second Amendment Sports has you covered: our indoor shooting range features nine 75’ lanes and five 50’ lanes, the latter of which are air-conditioned in the summer and all of which are heated in the winter, as well as kept clean with a state-of-the-art HVAC system, so you always shoot in comfort. Give us a call at (815) 385-5522 if you have any questions, or walk right in—our professional staff are always happy to see new faces!
Second Amendment Sports
3705 W Elm St
McHenry, IL 60050