Protective gear, ammunition, and a firearm sitting on a booth at an indoor shooting range

Beginner’s Guide to Shooting Range Etiquette

Whether you’ve been shooting for years or just finished customizing a first gun and are ready to put it to the test, proper shooting range etiquette helps keep the range safe, friendly, and fun for everyone. Anytime you visit a shooting range, you’ll potentially be standing feet away from others while working on your accuracy, honing your precision, and developing your shooting skills as a responsible gun owner, and they’re there to do the exact same thing. With so many weapons in such a small space, gun range safety is a priority. While every range sets and posts its own rules, you’ll find they’re all centered on preventing accidents, ensuring clear communication, and establishing an environment where everyone can put in work to improve their shooting.

Polite, Efficient, Safe

The old adage that a well-armed society is a polite society holds true at the gun range. Far from being due to the fear-mongering critics ascribe to the age-old saying, this feeling comes from a sense of community and shared purpose. After all, everyone is at the range to get some rounds in, shoot better, and enjoy the experience. You’ll find brand new shooters firing a gun rental, professionals who carry in the line of duty who are perfecting a vital part of their trade, and old-timers who have tens of thousands of rounds under their belt. Shooting range etiquette helps all of these work with their guns, shoulder to shoulder–those that may need advice, those ready to give it, and those who need to get their rounds in and get back on duty–safely and efficiently.

Beginner shooter practicing shooting stance with an instructor guiding her

First Time At The Range

If you haven’t been to a gun range before, don’t let the idea intimidate you. These businesses exist to give everyone a safe place to enjoy their Second Amendment rights. The staff is ready to answer questions, enforce shooting range etiquette, and manage the facilities. Here’s how to get ready for your first trip:

Visit the Range Website 

Like most businesses, your local gun range probably has a web presence. Visit their site or social media and look for posted rules that cover their shooting range etiquette expectations and any requirements to use their facilities. Check out their prices, what products are available at the range itself, and whether they offer any classes or other services that might interest you. Don’t forget to check their business hours.

Buy Plenty of Ammo 

Many gun ranges sell a limited selection of ammunition for the most popular calibers, so shooters who run short can extend their range time, but this is often at a higher markup than your local gun store, which does more volume to get lower prices. Ranges are more than happy for you to bring the ammunition you choose to shoot with.

Bring Your PPE 

Many ranges do have loaner protective equipment, like hats, muff-style ear protection, and shooting glasses, but it’s always better to bring your own. That way, you have gear that fits you well, and you know it’s clean.

Shooting Range Etiquette

Follow the Instructions of the Range Master 

Above all else, from posted rules to personal preference, follow the instructions given to you by the Range Master, whose responsibility it is to ensure the safety of staff, patrons, and the public. This includes calls of cease-fire, cold range  (indicating know live weapon should be pointed down range or shots fired), hot range (advising all shooters firing may begin), or commands to load or unload your weapon. 

Know Your Range Rules  

While the Range Master has the ultimate authority over gun range safety and activities, the rules let you know what conduct, commands, and activities to expect. Following these rules will go a long way toward following shooting range etiquette.

Only Load and Make Ready Your Weapon on the Firing Line  

While there may be a separate loading area to charge your magazines, The gun should only be loaded, made ready, or cocked on the firing line when the range is hot.

Person aiming their firearm down range

Only Point Your Gun Down Range 

From the time you take it out of its case until the time you return it there after unloading it and showing it safe. Remember the basic gun safety rule that you treat every gun as if it’s loaded, including the ones you brought and the ones fellow shooters are using.

Shoot Your Own Target and Police Your Own Brass 

Know your target and its surroundings, even at the range. Ensure you’re aiming at and shooting your own target. On a crowded firing line with similar targets mere feet away from each other, it’s far too easy to inadvertently fire at a neighbor’s bullseye. Once you’re finished, unless prohibited by range rules, collect or sweep up brass that’s landed behind the firing line to prevent it from becoming a slipping hazard for other shooters.

Never Fire When Someone is Downrange 

Whether the range is cold or hot, do not fire if you see someone move beyond the firing line, even if it’s just a “quick duck under” to grab something they dropped. 

Ask Questions and Accept Answers  

Don’t be afraid to ask about anything you’re uncertain of at the range. Staff are there to help and have a wide range of information, from how to manage weapon malfunctions to gun control laws in your jurisdiction, but you also need to respect the answers given. This includes when approaching other shooters to ask questions about their weapons or technique. While plenty of gun owners are forthcoming and helpful, everyone has a busy day, and some shooters prefer to focus only on their practice without distractions.

Mind Your Manners 

Common courtesy is definitely part of shooting range etiquette. Please, thank you, excuse me, and polite smiles carry plenty of weight on the line or around the shop.

Get Ready to Get Your Shots in

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