Your first trip to the shooting range may feel intimidating, but don't stress. Shooting ranges are designed for experienced marksmen and first-timers. The key is to enjoy yourself and perfect your skill while respecting the range rules.
Learning to shoot and familiarizing yourself with a new gun are both best done at a range. Not only are you in a controlled environment, but everyone around you has experience.
But what about shooting range etiquette? As a beginner, it’s tough to know what you should bring and how to act when you arrive at the range. In this article, we’ll give you a quick rundown of gun range safety rules and etiquette.
Before You Leave Home
Proper preparation is key to enjoying your time out at the range. You need to know the safety rules, research the range, and pack all the necessities you may need.
Gun Safety Rules
Every gun owner should understand their state’s safety standards. Most states adhere to the following regulations to ensure everyone at the range has a safe and enjoyable time:
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded
- Always control the muzzle of your firearm
- Be sure of both your target and the area beyond your target
- Never shoot at a flat, hard surface, including water
- Never point a firearm at anything you don’t want to shoot
- Never climb, run or jump with a loaded firearm
- Lock up firearms and ammunition separately
- Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions
- Unload firearms when not in use
- Always wear ear and eye protection when shooting
These are the main rules you need to understand before going out to the range, hunting, etc. When on the range you need to understand the lingo shooters use for their protection as well as yours.
The most common phrases and their meanings include:
- Firing Line: the channel through which you can fire your gun.
- Ceasefire: ceasefire is a phrase people use on the shooting range to get all shooters to stop shooting immediately. You should unload your magazine and leave the chamber open. After doing so, you should step back from the firing line.
- Commence fire: when you feel ready, you may begin shooting.
- The range is hot: when someone says the range is hot, it means you can commence firing. When the range is hot, you cannot step past the firing line.
- The range is cold: all firearms have stopped firing and shooters have stepped away from their firearms and the firing line.
When you go to the gun range, dress appropriately. Gun barrels heat up, so we always recommend wearing a long-sleeved shirt to protect against burns. You also need eye and ear protection.
Sometimes the range provides these, but if you have shatter-proof construction glasses and ear protection, bring those with you.
You shouldn’t wear open-toe shoes. Casings may land on your toes (causing burns) or you could drop something heavy on your foot. Wear a shirt with a tight collar too. These shirts help make sure casings don’t go inside your shirt and burn your skin.
It's recommended that you use a suitable gun case, such as the D-TAP R1. This case is designed to transport your pistol in safety and also stores ear and eye protection.
In time you can upgrade to a gun case for more experienced range enthusiasts - providing slots for 2 handguns, extra ammo, and a range-friendly quickdraw position.
When you arrive at the range, you’ll first want to check in with the range officer. After their approval, you can begin setting up to shoot.
While checking in, you should leave your firearm in your vehicle. By doing so, you’re following the safety standards of most gun ranges.
Be sure to let the range safety officer know you’re new to shooting ranges - they will likely share some pointers about how to act responsibly while on the range and go over the safety standards.
This is a good time to review and make sure you’re up to date with all the essential gun range safety rules.
You’ll also need to pay your range fees at this point. If the range provides targets, they’ll give you one when they assign you a number that indicates your shooting station.
Set your target behind the firing line at the station the supervisor gave to you. Retrieve your unloaded firearm from your vehicle and set it down beside your target. Leave your firearm in its case for now.
All of the prior rules you learned are still in effect when you begin using the firing range. To practice proper shooting range etiquette, always pay attention to the instructions from the range supervisor and be respectful of those shooting.
Feel free to ask for help too—most shooters are ready and willing to give a fellow shooter some tips!
When you’re on the range, it’s essential to follow the supervisor’s instructions because they are in charge of the range.
Supervisors are the people who communicate the “ceasefire,” “range is hot,” and other command phrases. Listen carefully for these commands since they may result in life or death injury.
Respect Other Shooters
When we say have respect for other shooters, we mean it in two ways. First, you need to respect the other shooters’ space. The range assigns everyone a set space. Don’t invade another shooter’s space, even when you’re walking by.
The other type of respect is mental. Shooting takes concentration and mental fortitude. Don’t distract shooters by trying to talk to them while at the firing line—wait until you’re both at the clubhouse enjoying a coffee.
Before You Leave the Range
After you’ve fired your last shots, there’s still significant work you need to do. You need to clean up your area, safely pack up your belongings, and wash your hands.
Cleaning up after yourself is a part of gun range etiquette you can’t ignore. After using the firing range, you’ll leave quite a mess.
First, you need to collect all the bullet casings. These often fly several feet away from your firing station, so be sure to collect as many as you can when the supervisor tells you the range is cold.
You also need to retrieve any targets you used during shooting. During firing, you may have ripped some of these to shreds. To maintain a clean shooting range, try to collect as many pieces of the target as you can.
After you’ve cleaned up your mess, you can start packing your belongings. When the supervisor says the range is cold, you should take the magazine out of your firearm and leave the chamber open.
Pack up all your items, including your safety gear, and if the range doesn't have a place to dispose of bullet casings take them with you and dispose of them off site.
It’s essential to wash your hands thoroughly. Although many bullets don’t contain lead anymore, that’s not always the case. You don’t want to track lead residue into your vehicle, let alone leave it on your skin.
Wash your hands as soon as you can after you’ve secured your firearms.
The shooting range provides (disciplined) fun and is a great way to hone your concentration and skills. Now that you understand the basics of gun range etiquette, you can safely enjoy your time at the range.
So give your local shooting range a call - trust us, once you experience the thrill of shooting at the range, you'll be back for more, sooner rather than later.