Good Gun Etiquette At The Range | regular guy guns

Whatever your motivations may have been, you have taken a big step into the world of individual rights and freedoms – you’re now an armed citizen and budding Second Amendment Radical. You got the gun, through the grace of the Almighty or a well-funded bank account, you’ve got the ammo. You’ve researched the Four Rules, and you’re training. You’re going to the range, but maybe it’s been a solo affair and you’re Grogu without a Din Djarin to show you the subtleties of good gun etiquette…

Selecting a proper gun range can be a tedious task, but once you’ve got that out of the way, you’ve got to be down with the little niceties of the “gun nut” world. Despite the hype and stupid viral videos, people of the gun are safety-conscious and are congenial about educating new folk. All you gotta do is ask, and certainly avoid glaring social gaffes at the range. And they are very glaring since you’ve got yourself an AR-15 rifle or a shiny new FN pistol. “Excuse me” doesn’t cut it when you’re swinging a loaded weapon around.

You don’t want to be “that guy” or “that girl”. I’ve personally left ranges where I’ve felt unsafe, and it didn’t look like the range staff was up to the task of keeping things safe. As gun owners we try to police ourselves, but we don’t have 360 vision and can’t be everywhere at once. Anyways, here’s some guidelines on how not to be a complete ass at the range.


One of the Four Rules dictates that we don’t point a gun at something we’re not prepared to destroy. Another is to assume the gun is always loaded. You’re at a range, it’s probably loaded. Pointing a gun at someone trips off instinctive wiring in their mind. Danger Will Robinson sort of things. They don’t know if it’s loaded or not.

Also, in a range environment, no one likes to break their concentration. It’s hard enough with all the banging and booms, including the guy 3 rows down with the obnoxious muzzle brake on his AR. Or the other guy who got an AK pistol for the laughs. Or the 50 BMG aficionado. Adding “Holy Shit – watch where you’re pointing that thing!” and the range officer calling for a cease fire is a good way to get dirty looks, not make friends, and probably get escorted from the premises.

Simple procedures and precautions ensure you won’t muzzle someone. Whichever gun you are training with that day, bring it into the range unloaded and in a case. If you’re training with your carry pistol, have that cased, and have a second pistol as your carry pistol that day if possible. Of course don’t draw that back-up gun in the range. When loading and making ready, make sure it’s always pointed downrange. Also be wary if the range officer or staff has called for a cold range. If the range is cold, don’t touch your gun.

You might be part of the Miculek clan. You could be Colion Noir’s long-lost brother. You could be the resurrected Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper. But no one really likes unsolicited advice from a random. Outside of people violating the Four Rules, it’s usually best to leave well enough alone. If someone has a weird stance or a rather strange grip, let them find out on their own. Or maybe lead by example. They’ll see your impressive technique with an AR-15 and decide to mimic it. Of course if you’re a range officer, do your job and keep the peace and educate. People expect it.

But if you’re just someone going to the range? Don’t offer help unless someone asks.

Primary Arms

One of the cool things about a proper gun range is that it’s usually a rather congenial atmosphere. People of all stripes gathered practicing their craft as Pro-2A folk. You’ll also see a lot of cool guns and accessories in use. Or someone may ask a question about your gear. That’s actually a good way to lead into getting to check out other’s guns. If you’re running an FNX-45, and someone asks about it – you can be a nice guy or girl and let them run that .45 ACP beast. Conversely they’ll automatically let you run whatever it is they got. Maybe you’ll get lucky and it’s something exotic in 300 BLK or similar.

In this case, switch lanes/people, not guns. He shoots your gun in your lane, you shoot his gun in his. That way you’re not dragging potentially-loaded guns around and muzzling people.

A durable rifle or pistol will just keep running. A well-made AR-15, with a little TLC, won’t have many malfunctions. Thousands of rounds, and no jams or misfires. A proper pistol will just keep blasting. But sometimes, things go awry. If an immediate action doesn’t clear it, set the gun on the table, pointed downrange. If it’s a hang fire (click rather than bang with a loaded weapon) then wait a few minutes before attempting anything. If further action is required, it’s best to summon a range employee. If you’re shooting in unsupervised land, keep the gun pointed down range and be extremely cautious about any sort of field service.

For the most part, a range won’t let you disassemble a gun in the lane to address a malfunction. The range employee will help your render the weapon safe, and from there’s it up to you to seek remediation and repair.

At any dedicated shooting facility, there’ll be one or more employees in the bay or at the lanes. These are the Range Safety Officers aka the RSOs. For the most part, these guys and gals have all taken an NRA-accredited course to get the job, so they know a thing or two about policing the range. The best way to think of them is as the captain of a ship. What they say, goes.

Three key phrases to keep an ear out for are:

  • “Cease Fire!”: Stop shooting, make your gun safe, and place your firearm on the bench, pointed downrange. You can hang around until the RSO declares the range hot again.

  • “The Range Is Cold!”: Make your weapon safe, put your gun down, facing downrange, and step away from it backwards a few steps. This usually means something is going on that requires people to be downrange. THey could be retrieving targets off of stands, or someone could have had a major malfunction. The RSOs will be working on the situation.

  • “The Range Is Hot!”: Back to normal. You may fire when ready.

In the first two instances, this means something is going on that requires everyone to render their guns safe (unloaded and the actions open) and to not be handling them. This isn’t the time to clean or service. Again, something is happening that requires the RSOs to have complete safety.

Violating this one is an excellent way to get yelled at and most likely ejected. With multiple people doing things downrange, it’s not a good idea to mess with your gun.

In a nutshell – don’t be that guy or girl. Despite everything, sometimes dopey and downright dangerous things go down at a range. Decent gun owners try not to do it themselves. It’s not too difficult. Just follow the Four Rules, and the RSO instructions, and you’ll have a grand old time, and probably make some new friends along the way.

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