Before you head to a public range you need to realize that they will all have different rules regarding different behaviors on the range. Some ranges will not allow you to draw and fire, others won’t allow certain types of ammo, and others may restrict you to certain guns.
These rules will all be posted and listed at the range, so make sure you read and follow the range rules posted there. However, there are a few universal rules we need to cover before you go to the range. Some official, some less so. Read on to get the low-down on these official (and unofficial) rules!
10 Things to Know Before You Hit the Range
The 5 Official Rules
#1: Gun Safety: The Big 4
The Big 4 weapon safety rules all apply at a range, and that should go without being said. I will, however, say it because these 4 rules are the most important rules for you to follow. If you only remember one thing from this article it should be these 4 rules of firearms safety:
Treat Every Weapon As If It Were Loaded.
Never Point a Weapon At Anything You Do Not Intend to Destroy.
Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until You Are Ready to Fire.
Know Your Target and What Lies Behind It.
#2: Bring Proper PPE and Don’t Take it OFF!
PPE is Personal Protection Equipment. At the gun range it's your eye protection and ear protection, often shortened to ears and eyes. Most ranges will have a line or door that marks where you should put on your PPE. Once you are past this line the PPE stays on at all times. If you take your PPE off, more than likely a Range Safety Officer will step in and correct you, but it may also lead to a cold range and several angry shooters.
Outside of normal Eyes and Ears, you should dress for the range. You will want to wear closed-toed shoes and avoid heels or any footwear that leaves your feet exposed. You will also want to avoid low-cut shirts or deep v-necks in general. If you leave your skin exposed and hot brass touches your skin, it can burn you. This often causes shooters to twist, and turn, wielding their guns with reckless abandon. Try a T-shirt, sneakers, and jeans; be comfortable and safe.
#3: Know Important Commands
Before you go to the range you need to understand two important commands, cease-fire, and cold range.
A ceasefire is pretty easy to understand. Stop shooting your gun. Put the safety on if applicable and listen for the range safety officer.
The cold range is a little different. It means no one shoots, but you also need to unload and show clear. Drop your magazine, remove the round from the chamber and lock your bolt or slide to the rear. Allow the RSO to inspect the chamber and leave on the table or bench. There is absolutely no handling of a firearm when the range is cold. The RSO needs to call for a hot range prior to you even looking at your gun with intent.
#4: Only Load Where Allowed
Gun ranges will have a dedicated area for loading, and it's at the firing line. The firing line will often feature a table or bench to allow you to easily load your weapon. Sometimes you can load magazines off the line, but this is rare. If you do not know when and where you can load a gun it’s safe to assume you can do so on the firing line.
#5: Know Your Lane of Fire
When shooting at a range you’ll likely be shooting with multiple people. Every shooter gets a lane of fire and for safety sake, you need to stay inside your line. Firing at an angle that is different than straight forward is incredibly hazardous. You could send a round at a wall, or outside the berm. Stick to your lane of fire, and if you don’t know your line of fire, stop and ask.
The 5 Unofficial Rules
#1: Watch Your Muzzle Brake
If your AR-15 is equipped with a muzzle brake, you may want to move further away from your fellow shooters. Muzzle brakes are incredibly loud and you may not realize it when you are behind the gun. A AR-15 muzzle brake is brutally loud and has a massive concussion, especially if you are to the left and the right of the gun.
#2: Don’t Be a Brass Bandit
A brass bandit is a person who purposely takes other people's brass. Some do it to sell, others to reload, and others may take a piece or two just as a collector’s item. If it’s not your brass, don’t take it without asking. Brass bandits are the worst, so always ask before taking brass.
#3: Don’t Destroy Targets
If you have a shotgun, don’t shoot at wood and cardboard targets. These guns will destroy the targets and ruin them for everyone. The same goes for shooting steel targets designed for pistol rounds, as shooting with a rifle will destroy them. Don’t be a jerk! Targetry is expensive and destroying it is just plain rude.
#4: Clean Up After Yourself
Most private ranges will force you to clean up your targets, your cardboard ammo boxes, and other trash. However, public ranges may not have an RSO or anyone to enforce rules or etiquette. If you come out, make a huge mess, and leave the range destroyed, you’ll get the range shut down. This will make you the worst type of shooter! So clean up after yourself and be a responsible shooter.
#5: Be Considerate With Mag Dumps
Mag dumps are a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love just shooting fun and fast? It’s a complete blast. However, it's loud and disruptive. It can kill the focus of shooters who are trying to aim and train. Be responsible with mag dumps and do it when the range is empty or close to it. Also, check with the range before you do it to make sure you aren’t violating the range’s own safety rules.
Bottom Line: Use Common Sense
Rules at the gun range are ironclad and aren’t made to be broken (or even bent). Since guns are inherently dangerous, rules are there for a reason. Some rules may seem frivolous but are likely in place due to an idiot's previous actions (so be responsible and don’t be the idiot who causes the creation of new rules). Common sense is the guiding light with guns and their associated rules.
Use common sense, be safe, and happy shooting!