16 Gun Range Etiquette Rules For Shooters

Gun Range Etiquette Rules
Treat every firearm as loaded, never point it at anything you don’t intend to destroy and follow RSO's range commands. No gun should ever be taken behind the firing line. Always point the muzzle downrange, even when you aren’t holding it.

1. Point Downrange

The muzzle of your gun should always be pointed down range, whether or not it is loaded or being held.

Never point the gun back into the range or anywhere near another person – always keep it pointed in a safe direction. If you must place the gun down, unload it and put it on the bench with the muzzle pointing downrange.

2. Don’t Be Trigger Happy

One of the most important range safety tips is to keep your finger off the trigger of a loaded firearm (or even an unloaded one) until you are ready to fire.

This is a crucial aspect of gun handling safety rules. According to PEW Research Center, over 44% of adults know someone who has been shot. Keeping your finger off the trigger is a big step towards preventing accidental discharge and causing accidents.

3. The Firing Line

The firing line shows you where active shooters are allowed to stand. You can only load your weapon when standing beyond the firing line.

No loaded guns should ever be held or placed behind the line. Before stepping back behind the firing line, you must visually unload your weapon, lock the cylinder, or slide the gun open.

4. Take Your Time

Never rush or panic while at the shooting range. This is a very important tip for first-time shooters. Most accidents occur when somebody goes too quickly through the gun safety steps, often because they are new to holding weapons and get jumpy.

New shooters should take their time, stay calm, and be deliberate and methodical in going through the safety processes. If you are ever unsure or nervous, step away from the weapon and talk to the range safety officer for advice.

5. Keep Your Mind Sharp

There are strictly no alcoholic beverages or drugs allowed at the firing range. This also applies to arriving already inebriated by alcohol or drugs. This is a completely non-negotiable range safety rule and should be followed at all times (even on special events such as birthdays)

An incredibly important part of firearm safety is keeping your mind sharp and focused – being drunk or high will put you and everyone around you in danger.

6. Ceasefire

A ceasefire is a range command called by the range safety officer (RSO). It means every shooter has to stop shooting, unload their gun, lock the cylinder or slide it open, and step behind the firing line. Ceasefires are used to allow range officers to go downrange to do target maintenance or other jobs.

Step beyond the firing line or touching a gun during a ceasefire is strictly prohibited. Instead, use this part of range time to relax and socialize – you can step away from your own lane and chat with your neighbors, safe in the knowledge that no guns will be fired.

During a ceasefire, the range officers and staff trust the customers to keep them safe. Take that responsibility seriously and follow the rules to the letter. When it is safe, the RSO will give the order, and you can commence firing once again.

7. Be Attentive

While at the gun range, you should always pay attention to what is happening around you.

This means being alert to range commands from the RSO, being aware of people walking behind you, and generally keeping an eye out for anything that could compromise your or anybody else’s safety.

8. Cold Range

man unloading a gun
Man unloading a gun

A range is ‘cold’ when all shooters have unloaded their guns, locked them open, and stepped behind the firing line. It is only ever acceptable to go downrange when the range is ‘cold.’ It is completely prohibited to even touch your gun during a cold range.

9. Hot Range

A range is ‘hot’ when active shooters and loaded weapons are present. During a hot range, you must never go downrange and should stay behind the firing line unless you are the one shooting. Keep an ear out – the RSO may call ‘hot range’ and ‘cold range’ as range commands.

10. Target Awareness

An important range rule to remember is to be aware of your target and what is behind it. The range should have a strong backstop in place to stop any projectiles – however, sometimes, things go wrong. Always have an awareness of what is going on in the vicinity of your aiming point.

11. Specific Range Rules

Every range has different rules. Before you begin shooting, familiarize yourself with the regulations of the specific range, and introduce yourself to the RSO.

12. Be Mindful of Others

While at the pistol range, it is important to be mindful of others. Try not to distract other people while holding weapons or cause them to worry about your safety. Keep an eye on those around you as well – even experienced shooters make mistakes, so stay alert.

13. Wear Protection

woman wearing proper ear and eye protection
Woman wearing proper ear and eye protection while shooting

When at the gun range, wearing proper ear and eye protection is important. You can bring these yourself or rent them from the range. Most ranges won’t let you shoot unless you can show them your protective gear.

14. Treat your Gun as Always Loaded

A good range rule for gun safety is always to act as if your firearm is loaded. This means never pointing a gun, even an unloaded one, anywhere near another human being and keeping your finger off the trigger.

Bits of ammo or debris can get lodged in a handgun even when it is unloaded and can cause serious injury if accidentally discharged. Remember, you are responsible for the safety of others around you, and law enforcement will get involved if you are negligent.

15. Equipment Maintenance

Bring a small maintenance kit with you to the range. This will allow you to ensure your gun keeps functioning throughout your session.

16. Dress Code

Covering as much of your skin as possible when at the firing range is a good idea. This means higher necklines, closed-toe shoes or boots, trousers, not shorts, and hats. This will help keep you safe and comfortable throughout.

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What is the best way to walk into a gun range?

Keep your firearm inside a case, bag, or holster when arriving at a gun range. This ensures your finger stays off the trigger and the weapon is never pointed toward anybody, keeping everyone safe and comfortable.

What are the rules for how many people can go on a lane?

Generally, up to four people can share a lane at a gun range. Remember that at any one time, only one person may ever step beyond the firing line of a lane and that no weapons should ever be taken behind the firing line while you are waiting your turn.

What is the optimal distance between two shooters?

Most ranges will be set up to have the optimal distance between shooters for safety and comfort. This will usually be a few yards with walls in between, keeping you safe from both projectiles and noise.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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