Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own personal shooting range, most of the time you’ll be shooting your guns at public shooting ranges. These can include outdoor or indoor public ranges and gun clubs.
Shooting ranges are the best asset we have to practice our shooting skills and meet fellow gun enthusiasts. However, in order to ensure everyone is safe and you don’t make a fool of yourself, make sure you follow these essential rules for range etiquette.
Gun safety is paramount
Safety is without debate the most important aspect of shooting range etiquette. If you’re unsafe with firearms, you’ll put yourself and others in severe danger that could result in serious injury or death.
Not following basic gun safety rules will also get you kicked out of shooting facilities, with the best-case scenario being you just look like an idiot.
There are 4 primary rules of gun safety that are widely accepted and taught in the gun community. These rules are crucial and must never be broken to ensure the safe handling of firearms.
Always keep these rules in your head and you’ll have a safe time at the range. There may be additional safety rules set by the range, but these rules represent the bare minimum.
Review and obey all range rules
Aside from the 4 cardinal gun safety rules, shooting ranges may have additional rules that vary depending on the facility.
Carefully read and obey all range-specific rules. These rules are carefully implemented by the range owners to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment.
Some common rules you may see depending on the range are:
Even if you don’t like or agree with a range’s rules, be courteous and follow them anyway, otherwise, you may be asked to leave by the range staff.
Additionally, the majority of shooting ranges have range safety officers (RSOs). These individuals are employed by the range and are given special training to observe and ensure all shooters are operating safely. Listen to the RSOs and if they call you out for being unsafe or not obeying range rules, don’t argue with them.
Stay in your lane
Most shooting ranges have designated and well-marked shooting lanes. You may be assigned to a specific lane or given the choice to choose one that’s not already in use. Regardless, always stay in your designated shooting lane. This will ensure safe shooting, and you won’t be encroaching on another shooter’s space.
Staying in your lane will also ensure you’re shooting at your target, and you remain behind the firing line. Shooting lanes are purposefully marked to guarantee all shooters are shooting behind the designated firing line and at their own targets.
This etiquette rule also closely follows one of the primary safety rules of knowing your target and what’s beyond it.
Don’t bother other shooters
Socializing with other gun enthusiasts to talk about your guns, ask questions, and exchange tips is a part of going to a shooting range, which is one of the things that makes the gun community so great.
However, some people go to the range to have some alone time to focus on their shooting. That’s why some folks call it “range therapy” or “lead therapy”. Don’t engage in conversation with someone at their firing lane unless they initiate first.
Hovering over someone at their firing lane is just as bad. It can make people feel uncomfortable and lose focus. It’s best to give other shooters plenty of personal space.
Also, don’t give out unwarranted advice or tips to other shooters. Even if you’re an expert firearms instructor or elite competitive shooter, they may not know that, and it will just come off as rude and pretentious.
There are plenty of opportunities to engage in chats with fellow shooters such as in the range lobby or common areas, so keep the chit-chat to a minimum on the firing line.
Being prepared is an important component of range etiquette and being a responsible firearms owner.
Don’t head to the range without all the necessary gear, but most importantly, don’t forget hearing and eye protection. Many ranges require it anyway, so make sure you have it with you before you walk out your door.
If you come unprepared and have to ask other range goers for basic gear like targets and hearing protection, it’ll come off as annoying.
Properly functioning and clean firearms are also important. Keeping your guns clean and maintained will allow them to work properly and most of all safe. Be prepared by not neglecting your guns so there’s less risk of an unsafe firearm.
Clean up after yourself
Respect your surroundings and leave the range better than you found it. This is an easy and courteous thing to do, but you’d be surprised by how many people are too lazy to do it.
Before you leave your shooting lane, clean up all spent brass, ammo boxes, targets, and any other trash.
It’s just the right thing to do. Show some respect to the range and its employees by showing you appreciate their facility enough to clean up after yourself. It’s as simple as that.
If you’re unsure about something, speak up
In the event you’re unsure about any of the range rules, have a question about shooting technique, or see someone being unsafe, don’t hesitate to ask.
There’s no shame in asking another shooter or range employee about something if you’re unsure, especially if it’s a safety concern.
If you want some instruction on how to be a better shooter, many ranges offer classes. Otherwise, RSOs are typically experienced shooters and can give you some basic tips. Additionally, fellow shooters are happy to help more often than not if you ask. After all, the gun community is a welcoming one.
If you want to be a good shooter, going to the range is an absolute requirement. While you’re there, make sure to follow the proper etiquette rules.
Range etiquette isn’t just about being respectful to the range, its employees, and fellow shooters. Proper range etiquette allows for a safe environment, so these rules are especially important because of the inherent risks of firearms.
When firearms are used safely and people are courteous to each other, going to the shooting range can be an extremely enjoyable activity for all who participate.