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.

The Media Day range at the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational displayed especially good manners. Note all guns pointed down range, tables with chambers open and chamber flags in place.
The Media Day range at the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational displayed especially good manners. Note all guns pointed down range, tables with chambers open and chamber flags in place.

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

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8 thoughts on “Eleven Ways to Be a Better Shooting Range Neighbor

  1. I guess I was a lucky boy. My Grandpa, my Dad, and a lot of my uncles taught me every bit of what is said here. If someone isn’t paying attention it is a duty to remind them of the dangers. BE POLITE! If they still don’t get the message ask a Senior member of the range to ask them to leave or just pack your stuff up and wait for another day.

  2. The last time I went to my, used to be, favorite, range I kept getting strange looks because I stepped back on every cold call. The shogun was on the table, action open, and I was probably 3 or 4 feet behind it. The saddest part was even the range boss was looking at me that way. I’ve got a need to find a new range now and I’m not happy about that since that one is only 7 miles from the house.

    1. That’s unfortunate. We still have a lot of educating to do out there, don’t we? The number of people I see tinkering with guns o a cold range because “they’re unloaded” is shocking. Needless to say I politely ask them to stop and so far that’s not caused any real issues. A polite request with an explanation goes a long way to educate and change behavior.

      1. After around 20 years away, except for a time as a state employee 15yrs ago, from the “gun culture”, I came back remembering that action. The range boss shouldn’t have to be reminded of safe practices if even I can remember it.

  3. Most etiquette prevents hurt feelings. Range etiquette prevents physical harm. Being a dick when you need to be is showing good range etiquette. Don’t stop with the stare, tell people straight-out when they are risking the safety or trust of others.

  4. Here’s another one:
    Pay attention to where your brass is going. My brand new Lead Sled DFT has paint chipped off in several spots because a guy TWO STATIONS OVER kept showering me with brass from his AK, even after I asked him to shoot from the other side of his bench. Anymore, I try to get there early enough to get the leftmost bench.

  5. Hey how about the group of guys who come to the range and talk loudly and laugh and joke creating a distraction to other shooters. I’m not saying don’t have a good time but how about showing some respect for the other shooters…

  6. If you are bringing a new shooter to the range with you, be sure they are crystal clear on proper range safety and etiquette before you get there. Go over the rules at least one more time when you are actually at the range. A range can be intimidating to folks who aren’t familiar there and the adrenaline and excitement of the situation can cause memory loss. I’ve seen it a thousand times. No matter how many times I remind new shooters to always keep their muzzle down range they almost always, inadvertently, turn back towards me and forget about this rule.

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