One of the biggest problems with the shooting sports is that there is no be-all, end-all, definitive guide to etiquette. Miss Manners never published a Sooper Dooper Guide to Shooting Etiquette, and I never recall going to the range for any of my charm and finishing school field trips.
Seeing this glaring omission from the shooting community training curriculum, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of tips on how to be a nice shooting range neighbor. If I missed anything, please feel free to comment with your suggestions!
1. Case your guns
No matter where you shoot, you have to get your guns from your home to the range. How you move them up to the range parking lot is your business. How you move them from the car to the shooting table involves your shooting range neighbors. Wandering through the parking lot and into the front door of a secure business waving a few guns around is a great way to have a really bad day. The very best way to do this is to case your guns and move them to all the way to the shooting table fully encased, unloaded, and with actions open.
2. Check to make sure everyone has ear protection before you start shooting
Yes, a verbal “Range hot” command should, in theory, ensure that folks have their ears on. Just in case, I like to be considerate and look around to make sure everyone is hearing protected before torching off my .890 Glock Magnus ++P++P++.
3. Don’t booger hook your trigger unless you’re in the act of shooting
As much as we all talk about trigger-finger discipline, it’s never too much. With perfect trigger-finger etiquette, we will all have a perfect safety record. In the context of this list of “polite” actions, think of keeping your trigger finger visibly out of the trigger as a courteous visual cue to your neighbors. If they see you always handling your gun with the trigger finger out, they’ll feel safer and more comfortable with you as a range neighbor.
4. Be visibly cold to your range neighbors
Not in social demeanor, but in behavior. When the range is “cold” for target changes and such, make a physical show of acting cold. By this I mean put your guns on the table. Don’t touch them, even if they’re unloaded. Because guns are always loaded, right? Again, considering the good range neighbor angle, if you aren’t touching your guns, folks can easily see that you’re not touching your guns. And they feel safe and secure based on your visible behavior. So, looking at it this way, being visibly cold at the range is actually polite.
5. Please sir, step away from the guns
Here’s a bonus tip for extra-special good manners behavior: in addition to acting cold when the range is safe, back away from the shooting table a few feet—and stay there—until the range goes hot again. This is yet another visible signal to neighboring shooters that you know the range is cold and are behaving safely.
6. Lock that sucker open
When not actively shooting, it’s a good practice to leave your gun locked open and facing down range. Get ready, you’ve heard this in other points here—it’s a visible signal to your range neighbors that lets them know you’re thinking about their safety. And that’s always polite.
7. Don’t shoot other people’s targets
This means intentionally or unintentionally. Remember Rule 4? Be sure of your target and what’s behind it? Pay attention to where your bullets go after they pass through your target—especially at outdoor ranges. If you’re shooting at your target from even a slight angle, your shots may be hitting someone else’s target further down range. And it’s not polite to spoil that killer group they were working on.
8. Walk the line
Back-row shooters are scary. You know, folks who stand a few feet behind the firing line to shoot, so their muzzle is technically behind you? I don’t care if you’re Mother Theresa’s long lost Navy SEAL nephew. If your muzzle is behind me, I don’t trust you. If you want to be polite to your range neighbors, make sure your muzzle is always in front of the line when shooting. I’ve yet to see a bullet u-turn.
9. No hokey pokey
Turning yourself all around? No, that’s not what it’s all about at the range. If you just have to turn around to show your friends your .381-inch free-hand group, be sure to put your gun down first. If you turn around and see people around you dropping like former Disney Channel child stars, perhaps you still have a gun in your hand? Feel free to put your handgun forward, and even put your right foot in. You can even do the Hokey Pokey, just don’t turn yourself around.
10. Use the evil eye, when necessary
I know this one doesn’t sound like an example of showing good manners to other shooters, but hey, it’s for their own good. After a range is called “cold” I always look down the line to make sure no one is playing with their gun. If I spot someone still tinkering when folks are about to walk downrange, I make a slightly dramatic show of stopping in my tracks and staring at them with an innocent, questioning look that says “ the range IS cold, right?” I confess, this is a bit childish, but it sure is effective. For the really clueless ones who don’t figure out the body language, a polite reminder to stop playing with their guns when the range is cold is the next step.
11. Question everything
We shooters have some sort of ego sickness. Meaning we hate to ask for help or clarification. You’d think we were driving or something. Personally I love it when someone at the range asks me a question. That means they care about doing things right. So I try to remember the same courtesy. If you’re the least bit unsure about procedure or etiquette at the range, feel free to ask. It’s polite to be certain before you act. And I’ve yet to experience anyone giving me an attitude when I asked a safety or procedural question. Have fun, be safe, and ask a question if you’re not sure! It’s the polite thing to do.
What suggestions do you have to improve our manners at the shooting range?
Images by Tom McHale