When you first get a new firearm, you may be anxious to get out to the range and test it out. After all, you bought it to work with it, so what better way than a morning or afternoon testing it out and working on your target practice? Whether you’ve been to many ranges before in your life or are heading to one for the first time, gun range etiquette is important to know and follow, and because of the dangerous weapons being used, could be the difference between life and death.

There are several gun range etiquette tips that must be followed every single time you are at the range. If you think you are too experienced to follow this list, then you are lacking in experience, and need to brush up on safe gun handling. Handling any type of firearm is very serious business, and must be taken as such. At the range, there is your life, as well as that of the range officer, and other shooters that must be taken into account, so always proceed with caution and respect for yourself and those around you.

Common Gun Range Etiquette Tips:

  • Listen to your Range Officer. He or she is there for a reason, and they are putting their lives in potential danger by having this position. Show respect, and listen to any instructions that are given. Failure to do so could result in serious consequences, and is potentially very dangerous. Your Range Officer is the one with the authority to call a cease-fire as well as a commence fire. Listen for these words, and do not shoot your firearm until you are given a commence fire, or your RO says it is ok to start shooting.
  • Know your terminology. While it seems pretty commonplace, for those who don’t know, cease-fire means stop shooting. Once the cease-fire is called, you are to stop shooting, remove your magazine, and ensure the chamber is empty. From there, you will need to step back from the firing line. This allows the RO to easily see that the range is no longer hot and that shooters are able to go reset their targets or go downrange. Hot is another term, and means that there are loaded guns on the range, even if they are not necessarily firing. At this point, depending on the range, you will need your ear and eye protection on, and are not allowed to go downrange, even if no one is shooting. This is generally a time to load your weapon and prepare yourself for a commence firing. When the RO says commence firing, you may begin shooting your weapon. As with handling any weapon, make sure that you are focused in on your target, and you are aware of your surroundings. You cannot start shooting your weapon until the RO says commence firing or begin shooting.
  • Be safe. There are common safety rules that should be followed at all times with a firearm.
    • Don’t ever point your gun at someone. Your gun should only ever be pointed downrange, never at a person.
    • Do not put your finger on the trigger until the gun is pointed downrange, and you are ready to fire. Many get their knowledge of guns from movies, and it’s just not accurate. Until your target is lined up and you are ready to take a shot, you do not need to have your finger on the trigger.
    • Check your safety. Unless you are shooting and the range is hot, your safety should be on at all times.
    • Don’t ever drop your firearm. When you’re trying something new, always be prepared for a kick, so that you aren’t startled and don’t drop the firearm after you shoot. This could lead to deadly consequences.
    • Keep your firearm unloaded. That’s right, until you are ready to shoot, your gun needs to be unloaded. When you bring it on the range, it should be in a case, with the magazine removed, and the chamber empty. As soon as a cease fire is called, you need to empty your chamber and remove the magazine.
    • Don’t play around with your gun. For any responsible gun owner, this is a well-known thing. Guns are not toys, you do not need to be holding it up, even if it is empty, unless you are ready to shoot or are loading it. Do not toss it around, and do not wave it around, those actions could get you removed from the range or could cause injury.
    • Do not fire if anyone is downrange. Even if the range is hot, if you see someone wander downrange, cease fire immediately, and call for the RO to call a cease fire.
  • Do not talk to fellow shooters while they are shooting. We know it can be tempting to try to hold a conversation, but while firing a weapon, everyone needs to be focused on their target. Keep your conversations for times when the range is cold, and you are resetting or waiting for more shooters to show up or while you are cleaning up.
  • Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave shell casings on the ground or empty ammunition packets, the RO’s job is not to clean up after you.
  • Do not reach over to anyone while firing or come up behind someone while they are shooting. Many shooters get in a zone, and while an RO may come up to your side to speak to you, you should not try to speak to anyone or get their attention while they are firing unless it is an emergency.

If you follow these gun range etiquette tips, you will be more than able to have a successful day on the range. If it seems like there is a lot here, that’s because there is. Gun handling and safety is a very serious issue, and while a day at the range can be fun, it is also something that must be taken very seriously.