Ah, the gun range. One of the only places in the world where you can have fun sustaining minor inner ear damage and publicly debate terminal ballistics without earning sideways looks from soccer moms.
The patrons are friendly, helpful, and (sometimes) knowledgeable, but they can also be…eccentric. What follows is a brief rundown of some of the characters you’ll run into at a shooting range. If you frequent these establishments, these folks will sound familiar. If you’ve never had the pleasure of shooting deadly weapons with a group of strangers, well, you’ve been warned.
He’ll take his rifle out of the case and put it on the shooting bench. He may even fire a round or two. But that’s mostly for show. Really, he’s there to chat it up with anyone who wanders into his general vicinity.
You’ll know this fella by his favorite icebreaker, “Hey, whatcha got there?” he’ll ask, leaning in to take a closer look at the barrel stamp. Or, if he’s a comedian, he’ll do a kind of redneck bartender impression with a line like, “What’s your poison, slick?” Translation: He’s asking what kind of gun you’re shooting, but he mostly wants to talk about his own.
If you get caught small-talking with this gentleman, don’t expect to go back to shooting any time soon. But also remember to appreciate the impromptu community you now have the pleasure of enjoying. It only takes a few minutes for strangers to become fast friends at a gun range. This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
You’ll find at least one couple at a busy shooting range. These pairs come in several flavors, all of which you’ll observe if you hang around long enough.
If it’s a younger couple, one of them is either bored or in love. In the latter scenario, the woman (it’s usually a woman, but not always) is following her man around with a wide-eyed expression usually reserved for math tests and driver’s ed. She’ll act afraid of shooting a rifle even if she’s not, and he’ll take the opportunity to adjust her stance and hand position. There will be a great deal of giggling.
If it’s an older couple, they’re either ready for the apocalypse or they spend more time arguing than shooting. The apocalypse couple wear matching plate carriers and run team drills with his-and-hers tactical handguns. They might fight about which target they should be aiming at and say things like, “Are you sure this is sighted in?” and “I am not upset!”
If any of these couples approach you, disengage. I repeat, disengage.
This individual is either independently wealthy or they refinance their house every five years to update their arsenal. They don’t settle for mediocrity. If it costs more, they’ll buy it. Why? Because it costs more.
Do they need the latest and greatest because they’re Navy SEALs or law enforcement? Are they competitive shooters? Do they visit the range more than twice a year? Usually, the answer is “no” to all of the above.
But every once in a while, you’ll meet a person who owns a Nightforce scope and knows how to use it. If they’re willing to give you a few pointers, take ‘em.
Muzzle brakes reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise. They can be effective and useful tools in the field, especially if you’re running a large caliber in a light rifle.
But there’s always someone at the gun range who wants to shoot his .300 Win. Mag. tank-style muzzle brake in the bay right next to yours. The brake directs gas and noise away from the shooter and right into your head.
The good news is that most folks have enough common sense to shoot those guns way down at the end of the line—or they’re happy to wait until you’re done shooting to sight in their Barrett.
He just bought a new package of paper targets at Cabela’s, and by George, he’s going to use every one of them.
A range must go cold before anyone can walk down and adjust targets, so the best strategy is to place as many paper targets as you think you’ll need all at once. But this guy has other ideas. He plans to place a single target every time he goes downrange and asks to place another every ten minutes.
Before you get too hot and bothered by this obviously inconsiderate behavior, remember that this person might be a new hunter. This could be the first time they’ve ever tried to sight in a rifle, and that should be reason enough to cut them some slack.
Take a page out of the small-talker’s playbook and introduce yourself. Ask how they’re doing and offer to help with whatever they need. That’ll keep the downrange trips to a minimum and probably save this person some time and ammo.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the characters you might meet at a gun range. Tactical bros are frequent patrons (though they often overlap with the “buy once, cry once” crowd), and old-timers sometimes show up toting enough WWII-era rifles to outfit an entire platoon. You also might see a YouTuber (so common they’re now known as “GunTubers”) wandering around the range with a camera crew in tow.
But the great thing about the gun range is that no matter who you meet, everyone is there for the same reason: to have fun, hone skills, and enjoy some time at one of the best places on earth.