Common practices can act as unspoken rules
There are common practices that are considered unspoken rules by many on the range. Knowing about these expectations will help you to be safe and feel welcome. Not knowing them can create awkward moments that nobody wants to experience.
Keeps guns cased and unloaded until they are on the firing line, pointed downrange.
NEVER handle firearms if someone is downrange setting up a target. Don’t handle the guns, leave the chamber of your gun open, empty chamber indicator inserted, or leave it on a rack off the firing line.
Be considerate if you are shooting a loud gun. For example, don’t set up to shoot a loud, large caliber next to a youngster with a .22; move over and give them space. If you have a rifle with a muzzle brake, separate yourself or move to an end lane. Tell people next to you that it will be loud, they may want to choose to step back when you shoot.
Do not move forward to pick up brass unless the line is clear and all guns are empty.
Consider the backdrop to your target: if you move a pistol target in too close, you can potentially impact the floor, or ceiling Indoor range) or cause rounds to impact over or outside the berm (outdoor range). So, understand your target and beyond. If you don’t know where to put it, ask range staff for help.
If the range has gone “cold” and people have stopped shooting, give a verbal warning that you are going to shoot again. Say, “Going hot. Everyone have eyes and ears?” and make sure you give people a chance to put their hearing protection back on. This is a key point to making yourself and others feel safe. It’s setting the expectation you don’t want your hearing damaged, and it’s just courteous.
Don’t shoot at other peoples’ targets. If someone is trying to zero their rifle and you walk up and start shooting their paper target, it’s not going to make you popular! This is more of a concern on outdoor ranges. If you don’t have paper, ask whoever is shooting if there is a target you can shoot at. They will likely tell you what they are using as a target and what you CAN shoot at. Too, most likely, they will give you a paper target to shoot at.
Don’t shoot across lanes indoors as this can lead to a round impacting the concrete floor, walls, or ceiling.
Pick up your brass when you are finished shooting. Follow any clean-up rules for the range you are at.
Public land and special concerns
Many states allow shooting on public land. This is common in Western states where shooting in the desert might be allowed. Strive to be a good steward of the land!
People often bring junk to shoot at...this is not advised! You can have ricochets or pieces of bullet and bullet jacket sent in random directions. Shooting at anything that puts you at risk from catching fragments from projectiles is a bad idea, especially in remote locations!
When competing out West, we have used public land to obtain a 100 yard zero and it’s a very fun experience. One simply needs to address the shooting situation with an overall focus on safety.
Points to keep in mind on public land where you know shooting is allowed
Clean up whatever you bring; targets, sticks to attach them to, anything you shoot at - pick up your trash!
Pick up your brass or shotgun hulls.
Do not shoot at glass or other items that can leave dangers for others.
Make sure of your target and beyond! This is a very important step since there could be people hiking on the land that is “downrange” from where you are shooting. This is why many states and municipalities have outlawed shooting on public land.
Have a plan for emergencies! If you are shooting remotely and something goes wrong, you might be far from EMS or cell signal. If you don’t have a first aid kit and means of obtaining help, it’s truly a risk. Bring a friend to shoot with! A second set of eyes is always a good plan if you are on public land.
Check out if your state DNR has a page with info on public land open to shooting. It might help you understand what you need to pack before you go.
Focus on the positive
Wherever you decide to shoot, whether a fully-staffed indoor range or public land with no staff, understanding the 4 rules of firearms safety. Have a plan for what you want to accomplish. A safety plan will help get the most of your range time. And remember to treat anyone you meet on the range with the same level of respect and courtesy you’d like- it’s the best way to make new friends and have a good time.
Make sure that you are following Winchester for more tips on ways to enjoy your range time!