So you're a new gun owner planning your first trip to the shooting range. It's okay to admit the idea is a little intimidating. You're all ready to test out your new marksmanship skills, but don't want to look uncomfortable and clumsy in front of everyone else.
To help ensure your time at the range is fun and leaves you itching to go back, here are eight tips on range etiquette to keep yourself and others safe while enjoying your day out. Special thanks to NRA Headquarters Range General Manager Michael Johns for helping to put this together.
1. Follow the three fundamental rules for safe gun handling ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
2. Bring safety gear Eye and Ear protection are MANDATORY for proper safety and health, no matter if “required” by range rules or not. It is the shooter’s responsibility to ensure proper protection is secured and used prior to entering/using any range. Hearing loss can be instantaneous and permanent in some cases. Eyesight can be ruined in an instant with a catastrophic firearm failure.
3. Carry a bag/case Common courtesy and general good behavior dictates that you bring all firearms to a range unloaded and cased and/or covered. No range staff appreciates a stranger walking into a range with a “naked” firearm whose loaded/unloaded condition is not known. You can buy a long gun sock or pistol case for less than $10.
4. Know your range's rules Review and understand any and all “range specific” rules/requirements/expectations set forth by your range. What's the range's maximum rate of fire? Are you allowed to collect your brass? Are you required to take a test before you can shoot? Don't be afraid to ask the staff questions or tell them it's your first time. They're there to help.
5. Follow ALL Range Officer instructions Range Officers are the first and often only authority on any range; their decisions are generally final and made to ensure safety or to protect range assets. Arguing/debating with a Range Officer is both in poor taste and may just get you thrown out depending on circumstances.
6. Don’t bother others/touch their guns Respect other shooters’ privacy unless a safety issue arises. Do NOT engage other shooters to correct a perceived safety violation unless absolutely necessary – inform the RO instead. Shooters have the right and responsibility to call for a cease fire should a SERIOUS safety event occur. Handling/touching another shooter’s firearm without their permission is a major breech of protocol. Offering unsolicited “training” or other instructional suggestions to other shooters is also impolite.
7. Know what to do in a cease fire IMMEDIATELY set down your firearm, pointed downrange, and STEP AWAY from the shooting booth. The Range Officer(s) on duty will give instructions from that point and/or secure all firearms prior to going downrange if needed. ROs do not want shooters trying to “secure/unload” their firearms in a cease fire situation, possibly in a stressful event; they want the shooters separated from their guns instantly so that they can then control the situation as they see fit.
8. Clean up after yourself Remember to take down your old targets, police your shooting booth, throw away your trash, and return any equipment/chairs/tables, etc. Other people use the range too and no one wants to walk up to a dirty lane.
Follow these rules and you'll be a model citizen at the range, have a great time, and everyone will be happy to see you come back next time. Now get out there and have some fun!