Range Safety, Part I…

So, being out at the range the other day, I observed yet another set of range behaviors that again defied my understanding.  I don’t get how people can commit such egregious safety fails without any understanding of why it is a problem.

And while pointing it out in articles time and again doesn’t seem to be helping, I thought I’d write about it again because there ALSO seems to be a lacking of understanding of how range rules are ALSO things you have to pay attention to regarding safety and range procedures.

Everyone should of course know the basic four rules of safety (if not, put the gun down, step back, and learn them first.)  1) Behave as if the gun is loaded at all times, 2) don’t point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy, 3) keep your finger off the trigger until you are prepared to shoot, and 4) know your target and your backstop.  Sure, there are multiple variations of the wording for those, but the meanings tend to be fairly consistent.

And yet…

So I’m at the range, and I see a guy wearing a bright red hooded sweatshirt that says “POLICE” on the back in big block letters, and he is “instructing” three other folks in shooting.  He first brings himself to my attention because one guy is standing there with the gun up in a not-too-bad stance and grip, and the “instructor” is standing directly in front of him hitting the front of the gun with the palm of his hand.

Now, I get the “showing how a good grip and stance mitigates recoil” demo going on here, but literally, this is why blue guns were invented, so you didn’t have to stand in front of a real gun and put your hand over the muzzle.

I can hear it now:  “But it wasn’t loaded!”

I don’t care.  That was stupid.  Don’t do that.

(Taking a closer look later as I walked by, I saw that the back of his hooded sweatshirt actually said “POLICE Firearms Instructor” which did not make me feel better. I rather pitied his police students.)

Later, I’m sitting in my car getting ready to leave, and I look up to see what looks to be a grandfather/father/son group on a bay, setting up.  The son runs downrange to set up a target when the father pulls a gun out of a bag (carefully pointing it downrange), works the slide a couple of times, puts a mag in and out twice, works the slide again, and sets it down.

It was of course pointed straight at his son the entire time, because his son was straight downrange putting up a target.

I can hear it now:  “But it wasn’t loaded!”  I don’t care.  (And it WAS, briefly, since you put a loaded magazine in it a couple of times, though I’m not sure why.)

That was stupid.  Don’t do that.

But separate from the numbers of people who ignore the rules of general firearms safety, we have the people who don’t seem to understand that it is ALSO important to understand the safety rules for the particular range you are using.  They have additional rules, and you should abide by them.  Sure, some may be in place purely for insurance purposes, or were made by people who are afraid of anything that makes you shoot faster than once every two seconds–but some are probably there for reasons that are safety-specific to that particular range.

And you don’t get to pick-and-choose which ones you are going to follow.

Example:  At the Eastern Nebraska Gun Club, the rifle ranges are common firing lines.  However, the pistol bays are NOT.  Whoever is on the bay first has the bay, and if they don’t want anyone else shooting in that bay, that’s how it is.  Now, a couple of the bays are large and wide, and sometimes people don’t mind making a common firing line–but it isn’t required, and if someone is practicing USPSA or Multigun, moving, shooting at angles, etc, they don’t want someone else on the bay shooting at the same time.  It isn’t safe.

So that same day when I’m on the range watching the “POLICE Firearms Instructor” and the grandfather/father/son trio, I also have to have a talk with a guy who walked up to a large bay (in which someone was already shooting) and started to unload his stuff, to pull out guns and targets.  The original guy said “you can’t shoot here” and the second guy started to argue with him.

Now first:  Don’t argue.  If you need to discuss something, ask for clarification, whatever—sure, do it.  But don’t argue.  Don’t raise your voice, don’t declaim angrily “this is a public range!  I can shoot here!” when neither of those things are true.

But secondly:  The range rules are clear.  Whoever is in the bay first has the bay, at ENGC.  Other ranges may be different.  The rifle bays at ENGC are different.  But in the pistol bays, those are the rules.  And if you are going to be shooting at any range, you need to understand the rules of the range.

If you don’t, you are wrong.  That’s stupid.  Don’t do that.

The other day I saw a guy running a pretty energetic rifle practice.  He had paper silhouette targets all over the range, and was double-tapping (ug! but we’ll let that go because it isn’t a safety issue) everything left and right as he ran complicated patterns through them.  At one point as he was running he turned to the side and put two in a paper target that was slightly behind him next to the berm, took another step forward, then turned the other direction and took two shots (that also hit) at a paper target on the other side of the bay next to the berm that was ALSO slightly behind him.

We had a little talk about breaking the 180, and not keeping the muzzle pointed downrange.  That’s a range rule at ENGC.

His contention was that he was shooting into the berms, so it wasn’t an issue.  My response was pretty simple:  It is against the range rules.

And the REASON for that particular range rule is because we live in Nebraska, and there are these things called “rocks” that exist and sometimes can be found in berms.  If you shoot one, the bullet may ricochet off and continue to head uprange.  Where other people are standing.  Matter of fact, this particular bay’s uprange end was pointing toward the back of a different bay, and anything heading uprange would head right into the most-used firing line in the pistol bays.  (Yes, I’m aware that ricochets happen with rocks for other reasons.  But shooting uprange makes the potential for problems much more likely.)

There may be other ranges where “as long as it goes into the berm, it’s good” is a range rule.  This isn’t one of them.  And you don’t get to argue whether or not the range rule is a good one when you are shooting.  You want it changed?  Come to a board meeting and argue.

When you are shooting, obey the range rules.

If you don’t, that’s stupid.  Don’t do that.

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