Of the firearm ranges that I visit, 9 out of 10 tend to only ask one safety-related question before sending me on my way to the stall to shoot which is, “Do you have eyes and ears?” Their way of asking if I have protective glasses and hearing protection. When it’s a range I don’t often visit, I am surprised that the range staff assumes everyone knows all of their range rules and common range etiquette.
Every range is different, I’m of the mindset that it's always best to assume that there won’t be a briefing on all of the range specific rules and expectations at each range you visit. With that said, the responsibility is on you to ensure you’re maintaining the safety of others and yourself at the range.
While there is no universal list of range rules to follow, there are plenty that will serve you well at any range, indoor, or outdoor. The following 10 rules may not be all-inclusive to every range but are important ones that I always follow and go over with any new shooter.
1. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
2. Always wear appropriate eye and ear protection.
3. Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction down range at all times.
4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
5. Do not hand loaded firearms to another person; unload them first.
6. Wear the proper attire (e.g. no open toe shoes).
7. Never cross the firing line, unless a cease fire has been called and acknowledged by all.
8. Use the approved ammo of the range. Typically, indoor ranges prohibit steel cased ammo or green tip ammo.
9. If you experience a malfunction, stop shooting immediately.
10. Keep your head on a swivel – know where everyone is at all times.
The list may seem daunting, but following it adds very little effort to your range trip. In the end, you’ll never be disappointed that you were too safe.
Touching back on the gear for a moment, your eye and ear protection are definitely not something that you want to skimp on. You want to look for glasses that meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 standards (American National Standards Institute) and hearing protection that has a NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) rating of 28 or higher, preferably above 31 if indoor shooting. If you are concerned with the noise levels even with earmuffs on, it’s not uncommon to double up and wear ear plugs underneath them. When it comes to hearing protection, electronic earmuffs are by far my favorite, as they allow you to hear noises at a safe decibel level but are instantly activated when any noises are above a certain level. Being able to communicate easily is crucial at the range. Ideally, you should hear commands from the Range Safety Officers and communications from shooters in the stalls beside you; electronic hearing protection allows you to do just that.
While the proper safety gear itself is of course important, your mindset and observation skills are just as important. Ranges are meant to be a place for learning, improving your skills and having fun, in that order.
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