Whether a seasoned shooter or a novice, regular visits to shooting ranges should be part of your training routine. In fact, in some states, it’s even mandatory. Responsible gun owners know the ability to shoot well and handle firearms safely are perishable skills. A shooting range is the safest way to become a competent and consistent shooter.

Basic Gun Safety Rules

  1. Always treat and assume guns are loaded and ready to fire.
  2. Keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  3. Always keep your finger outside the trigger guard.
  4. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond your target.

Knowing the basic safety rules creates a foundation from which it is easier to build skills and safely adapt to various shooting scenarios. And while shooting ranges may have location-specific rules, the four rules of firearm safety are the cornerstone for a safe and comfortable shooting experience.

Novices and people outside the firearm world may be nervous to think about shooting competitions and ranges. But statistics show otherwise, according to an FBI study cited by USCCA.

These general gun safety instructions can significantly help you prevent negligent discharge at the shooting range. However, shooting ranges have additional requirements and specific etiquette rules to follow.

Shooting Range Etiquette

Due to shooting range construction, many indoor ranges forbid shooting from long guns, whether shotguns or rifles. The apparent reason is the loud sound is a nuisance to other shooters, mainly when using a muzzle brake. As well, most indoor ranges aren’t rated to stop larger calibers or shotgun slugs.

By rule, most indoor ranges prohibit rapid fire or “mag dumps” because of the concussive force they create. There’s also a higher potential of losing control over the gun.

Almost all ranges restrict use of certain ammunition. The range masters usually prohibit using bird or buckshot, steel-jacketed, armor-piercing incendiary and tracer ammo types. Furthermore, some ranges go so far as to not allow shooters to fire hand-loaded or hollow-point ammunition. These ammo types will damage their equipment (bullet traps, posts, hangers, etc.) or make ricochets.

Shooting Range Restrictions

Most shooting ranges forbid drawing from a holster or firing from the hip. And many prohibit shooting with two guns at a time, so-called “two-gunning.” Finally, eye and ear protection are required on the range at all times.

The vast majority of shooting ranges offer a safe and controlled environment because they are supervised and have safety measures such as adequate backstops and partitions between shooting lanes. For safety reasons, the shooting ranges come with marked shooting lanes and setups designed to minimize any chance of ricochet. In every aspect, the shooting range is a safe place to learn how to handle any firearm.

In addition to the elaborately designed shooting range, an essential safety factor at the range is the range master or Range Safety Officer (RSO). Most commercial ranges are supervised properly by RSOs, who are in charge of preventing accidents from happening.

How to Be Safe at Shooting Ranges

  1.   Discipline at the range is key. Whether indoor or outdoor ranges, commercial or private, supervised or unsupervised, all shooters must be aware of and utilize safety commands. If there are Range Safety Officers, you should follow their instructions. Range officers are not firearms instructors. Though they are often competent in using guns, RSOs are there to ensure everyone’s safety, not to teach.
  2.   Your firearm must be unloaded and pointed down the range when accessing the shooting booth. If you bring your handgun in a holster, the range master probably won’t allow you to draw from it. Shooters are generally only able to fire from the low-ready position. After shooting, unload your weapon, lock the action open with the magazine, and leave the gun on the firing line or bench.
  3.   Be aware of where everyone is positioned. No one may handle the firearm when you and other shooters are beyond the firing line or downrange to place and check targets. All shooters must step away from the bench or firing line until the range is clear.
  4. Situational awareness is as important at the shooting range as in daily life. At the shooting range, you must know what is happening around you, as well as be aware of the target and beyond.

Like precision shooting, safe gun-handling discipline is vital to safe ownership and use. Successful shooting begins with safe shooting and building muscle memory.