Nearly 14 million Americans purchased a gun for the first time in 2020 and 2021. Some sold their guns after the pandemic subsided, but many still have those firearms locked in safes or tucked away in underwear drawers–and they still haven’t fired a shot.
There are many reasons for this, but one is that visiting the gun range can be a scary proposition for first-timers. No one wants to embarrass themselves in front of strangers, and gun ranges, like all institutions, have rules of etiquette you may not find on publicly posted signs.
This article is for those folks. If you can avoid these gun range faux pas, you’ll be well on your way to a safe and productive trip to the Greatest Place on Earth.
You’ll find the four rules of gun safety posted at most ranges. You should read them for yourself, but you should be especially aware of the two ways they’re most commonly broken.
First, new gun owners often pick up a firearm with their finger curled around the trigger. This is understandable–guns are designed so that pulling the trigger feels natural. But you should train yourself to keep that finger pointed forward and resting along the gun’s stock or frame. Placing your finger on the trigger before you’re ready to shoot will make the other patrons nervous, and is a great way to wind up in Internet infamy.
I’ve also seen range-goers break the first rule of gun safety by turning towards spectators with a gun in their hand and inadvertently pointing it in the no-go direction. I get it. You’re excited. Shooting is fun. But remember to keep that gun pointed downrange as you look back at your buddies with a goofy grin on your face.
This may not be an explicit rule at the range, but you should avoid touching or holding your firearms during a ceasefire. It’s never a good feeling to be downrange setting up a target and see someone holding a gun at the firing line. Your gun may be unloaded and the action might be locked back, but the folks at the 200-yard targets don’t know that. Leave those guns on the table until the range is hot again.
Technically, everyone is responsible for making sure they’re wearing ear protection when the range goes hot. But it’s common courtesy, especially if there are only a few people at a range, to glance down the line before resuming blaster mode. If you see someone without hearing protection, make eye contact and give ‘em the old ear tap (to your ear, not theirs).
I’m not sure I correctly used the word “literally” here. (Editor’s Note: He did not). In any case, don’t ask for ceasefires too frequently.
If you visited public swimming pools as a kid, you probably remember “adult swim.” Every 45 minutes, the lifeguards would get all the kids out of the pool so the adults could have the water to themselves and the lifeguards could have a smoke. That’s a pretty solid ceasefire timeline. You can expect the range to go cold every 45 to 60 minutes, and you should be sure to set up everything you need for the next hour during each ceasefire.
Ok, ok. It is possible to use a muzzle brake at a range without being a jerk. I’ve done so myself. Just make sure that there isn’t anyone shooting at the bay right next to yours. Also be especially careful to avoid dick move #3, above.
This one is more tempting for veteran gun owners than for newbies. Correcting someone’s shooting form, commenting on their gear, or advising them on windage or holdover isn’t always welcome.
There’s a balance, of course. One of the best things about a gun range is the in-person interaction, and it can be a great place to find information and advice. But declaring yourself Range Guru and dispensing nuggets of wisdom to everyone within earshot is never a good idea.
The majority of people you’ll meet at a gun range are friendly and helpful. And why wouldn’t they be? The gun range is the Greatest Place on Earth. But every once in a while, you’ll run into someone who’s just a real dick. Whether they mock other range-goers, criticize their gear, or can’t respond to a question without a scowl, these are the folks you really don’t want to imitate.
The other items on this list are usually honest mistakes. This one just means you’re a bad person. Don’t be a bad person.
As in all of life, the best policy at a gun range is to treat others like you’d want to be treated. If you want others to be kind and considerate, be kind and considerate yourself. If something would make you feel unsafe if you saw someone else doing it, don’t do that thing. If you see someone else doing something that annoys you, avoid that behavior.
Bottom line? Once you get a handle on the basic safety rules, avoiding gun range faux pas isn’t all that difficult. Just be safe, stay focused, and enjoy yourself.