It can be exciting to visit a shooting range for the first time. A shooting range is a great place for enthusiasts to gather, socialize and get some time to practice with a new or favorite firearm. It is also a great place to learn more about firearms safety and how to properly handle and shoot a gun. Long-time members of gun ranges tend to find excitement in the visit just as much as newcomers.
Before you go to a gun range, it is important to learn the etiquette. It’s easy to spot shooters who are not well-informed about safe and considerate practices. They tend to be disruptive, risky to be around, and can cause a lot of stress for others using the facilities. If you are familiar with the rules, you are less likely to have an accident.
If you follow etiquette rules, you will fit in and also be safe. If you know the proper way to do things, people will respect you and you’ll feel more confident while you’re working. If you go to a place a few times, you will probably feel relaxed and confident enough to talk to the people who go there regularly.
Good etiquette is important to follow when visiting a shooting range. This guide provides an overview of gun range etiquette, from the basics to more specific guidance, to help you avoid problems.
Terms You Should Know
Some basic terms used at gun ranges are: * firing line: where shooters stand to shoot * shooter: a person who is shooting * target: what the shooter is aiming at * muzzle: the business end of the gun, where the bullet comes out * ready position: stance and grip shooters assume when they are ready to shoot It is helpful to know a few basic terms used at gun ranges in order to avoid confusion. Some of these terms include: firing line (where shooters stand to shoot), shooter (a person who is shooting), target (what the shooter is aiming at), muzzle (the business end of the gun, where the bullet comes out), and ready position (stance and grip shooters assume when they are ready to shoot). Some of the most frequently used expressions include:
Firing line: This may be one of the most important to know. The firing line determines where shooters may stand. You must be positioned at the line before loading or firing any weapon, and you must step behind it during cease-fires or if you need to take a break. Before you can step behind the line, you need to have unloaded and locked the slide or cylinder of your firearm open. A painted stripe across the floor may visually represent the firing line.
Downrange: When someone uses the term downrange, they mean the area past the line of fire and where the targets are set — or in other words, anywhere past the shooters. This is important to remember, as it may come up in safety commands. Any individual going downrange is crossing the line of fire and will be walking in front of shooters, which should only occur during a cease-fire.
Hot and cold: Safety officers will often call out ‘hot’ or ‘cold,’ so these are essential terms to understand. When a range is hot, that means shooters are active, or you are permitted to commence firing. During this time, no one should advance past the line of fire. When a range goes cold, that means all shooters have unloaded their weapons and locked them open. Only when a range is cold are you allowed to go downrange. Hot and cold may be used as commands, and you must always follow the rules of a cease-fire.
Backstop: The backstop is simply the wall or barrier behind targets. At indoor facilities, it will just appear as a back wall. At outdoor ranges, the backstop is usually a man-made berm or embankment of soil. It is made to stop stray bullets and projectiles that puncture through targets. Every time you shoot, it is important to shoot straight and parallel to the ground so that the backstop can block your bullets safely.
Lanes: At an indoor facility, each shooter will have their lane — the area from a shooting stall or booth to the target. The range is made up of multiple lanes running parallel to one another. Every shooter is expected to keep within their lane and fire at their targets only.
Bench: Benches are the tables or counters in each stall where you may rest your firearm once it is unloaded and locked open. While it isn’t crucial to know this term, it may prevent some confusion.
The more time you spend exposed to the language, the more comfortable you will become using it. If you are uncertain about a term or don’t know the meaning of a word, you can usually ask a experienced shooter or staff member and they will be glad to show you. You should pay close attention as officers may occasionally use some of the terms for safety purposes. You will eventually start using these words as part of your normal vocabulary.
Read the Range Rules
Every range has independent operating procedures in addition to universal best practices. It’s essential to read the specific regulations for your range before going in for a session. Once you are in the facility, it is important that you follow all of the required rules and expectations. This is a great way to stay safe and earn the respect of the people you see regularly.
Many ranges will require you to sign a waiver agreeing to follow the range’s rules after you have read them. This waiver protects the facility from being sued if anyone gets hurt while shooting. This is standard procedure.
It is recommended that you also check the maximum rate of fire and ammunition allowances for the range you will be using before bringing in one of your guns. Indoor ranges typically only allow handguns and ban most high-powered rifles. Adhering to the posted firing range limits is crucial, as indoor ranges are not equipped to handle anything outside those restrictions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the shooting range, and if you’re not sure about something, it’s better to ask than to make a mistake. Get to know the staff and let them know if it’s your first time there. The staff are there to help you with whatever you need, and will likely appreciate your consideration.
If you have a question about anything while you’re in the process of shooting, you can ask someone else for help as long as that person is not in the middle of shooting themselves. You should only interrupt someone in the middle of their session if there is an emergency, such as a noticeable malfunction or other immediate danger. You can ask for advice from shooters who are taking a break between sessions. You might become friends with the person.
If you know the rules for one shooting range, don’t assume that the same rules apply to all other facilities. Always read the regulations for each center thoroughly and ask questions if anything is unclear.
Keep your firearm unloaded and case until you enter your shooting stall. Do not enter the store with a loaded firearm. In case all firearms are in the shooting stalls only. No firearms are allowed behind the stalls.
Always keep firearms unloaded and your finger off the trigger until you are in the stall, on target, and ready to shoot.
When leaving the range area, ensure all firearms are unloaded and cased.
Eye and ear protection must be worn at all times while in the firing area. This includes entering the airlocks. Earmuffs are required to be worn while inside the range. Earplugs are not considered to be sufficient ear protection.
Dry firing is permitted from the shooting stall only.
If you have a jam or malfunction and cannot clear the issue yourself, place the firearm on the bench with the barrel pointed down range. Then, ask a Range Safety Officer (RSO) for assistance. Do not remove the firearm from the shooting stall.
Do not hand a loaded firearm to another person. Place the firearm on the shooting bench and allow them to pick the firearm up from the bench.
Commands issued by a Range Safety Officer must be followed immediately. When the command “CEASE FIRE” is given: STOP SHOOTING immediately and REMOVE your finger from the trigger; keep the firearm pointed down range, remove the magazine from your firearm, lock the slide to the rear, and place your firearm on the bench. Wait for further instructions from a Range Safety Officer.
Two people maximum per lane – other guests must remain in the retail area and can watch through the viewing windows. Only one shooter may fire at a time.
No one is permitted across the firing line at any time. Request a Range Safety Officer to retrieve any equipment that falls beyond the firing line.
Use the appropriate size target, placed on the cardboard backing below the black line, to ensure that your shot strikes the backstop and not the floor, ceiling, or target carrier.
Shooting at anything other than your target is prohibited and will subject you to immediate removal from the range. No cross-lane shooting.
Report all violations of range rules to range staff.
Triangle Shooting Academy’s bullet traps are designed to handle handgun and rifle calibers under .50 caliber. If you are unsure if your firearm may be shot on the range, please ask a Range Safety Officer for assistance.
Be sure your firearm is safe to operate and know how to properly operate it. Please see a Range Safety Officer if you have any questions.
Accidental discharges, damages, or injuries (no matter how minor) must be reported to a Range Safety Officer immediately.
The dress code is in place to keep you safe and to stop hot brass from touching your skin. Triangle Shooting Academy may refuse anyone who does not dress according to our code.
No open-toed shoes or high heels are permitted on the range. We suggest comfortable tennis shoes.
No tank tops, low-cut, see-through, or cropped shirts are permitted on the range. Hoods are not to be worn inside the facility at any time. No bathrobes or any other uncommon attire.
Pants are to be worn at waist level at all times in the facility.
All guests of Triangle Shooting Academy must comply with the following age requirements:
Shooters must be a minimum age of 12 years old.
Shooters between the ages of 12-17 must be with a parent or legal guardian and under their direct supervision to shoot a handgun or long gun.
All shooters under the age of 18 must be accompanied on the same lane by a parent or legal guardian at all times on the range.
To rent a semiautomatic or bolt-action rifle, you must be 18 years of age or older.
To rent a semiautomatic or pump shotgun, you must be 18 years of age or older.
To rent a handgun or suppressor, you must be 21 years of age or older.
To rent or operate an automatic firearm, you must be 21 years of age or older.
Shooters aged between 18-20 must be accompanied by someone 21 years of age or older to shoot a handgun. This age requirement includes handguns legally owned by individuals under the age of 21.
To purchase shotgun ammunition, rifle ammunition, air-rifle pellets, or BBs, you must be 18 years of age or older.
To purchase handgun ammunition, primers, or reloading powder, you must be 21 years of age or older.
All firearms must be cased at all times anywhere in the facility, excluding when you are in your assigned lane in the range.
Anyone who wishes to go into the range must obtain a range or membership card, by filling out our Range Safety Waiver and watching the Safety Video.
When renting a firearm from Triangle Shooting Academy, shooters are asked to have a Range Safety Officer check the rental firearm in the lane before leaving the bay and returning the firearm to the rental counter.
Triangle Shooting Academy asks that all participants be honest when referring to their background and knowledge of firearms. New shooters may receive help from experienced shooters in their party or from a Triangle Shooting Academy Range Safety Officer.
Drawing from a holster requires prior certification from Triangle Shooting Academy’s Range Safety Officers or completion of Defensive Pistol 2.
Prohibited Ammunition, Devices, and Materials
Some types of ammunition may not be permitted on the range, such as:
Steel or Aluminum Cases
Green-Tip or Tracers
Black Powder or Muzzleloaders
Bird-Shot, Buck-Shot, or any other type of ammunition which includes a Shot type of projectile
Any other type of ammunition which is not listed but deemed unsafe by a Range Safety Officer