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This National Shooting Sports Foundation range safety video pretty much tells a newbie what they need to know about not doing something stupid at a gun range. But not everything. There are a few range safety tips that the NSSF, instructors and the range staff aren’t going to tell you, ’cause they might scare the proverbial horses. The three most important of these involve other people. People who might harm you. Here are Robert’s Rules of Order, in no particular order, in order to keep you safe and secure at your local gun range . . .

1. Know when NOT to shoot

Shooting involves a lot of prep work: assembling and securing guns and ammo, choosing targets, finding time in your busy day. Peer pressure is in play; you don’t want to lose face with your shooting friends. Shooting is a buzz; something you really look forward to. In short, there’s a lot of psychological momentum moving you towards the firing line.

Stop. Look around. Is there anybody or group of bodies that look suspicious? Are your spidey senses tingling? If you’re getting a bad vibe, SLOW DOWN. Reconsider your options, especially the one where you walk out the door, alive and intact. If you’re with a bunch of pals, a sudden headache or desire for food will let your exit, stage right, without wimping out.

Don’t be in a rush to return. If at all.

2. Know when to stop shooting

Maintain situational awareness. Keep an eye on what’s going on throughout the range. Have a lazy little stroll up and down the line. If you see someone who’s unsafe—muzzle discipline, too much joking around, anything—STOP. Do not lecture them. Leave the line. Rat them out to the range officer (discreetly). Don’t start shooting again until and unless you see that the miscreants have changed their ways. If they haven’t, leave. In any case, move lanes. Get as far away from potential trouble as possible.

3. Carry a spare loaded gun

Gun ranges are not known for murder and mayhem. But it does happen. Click here for something the NSSF isn’t going to show you: a video of a woman who shoots her son in the head and then kills herself at a gun range. Note: she could have just as easily topped the weight-challenged individual in the nearby lane.

If something bad goes down, you may need immediate access to a firearm. Some gun ranges let you carry, some don’t. While I would never suggest violating gun range rules, CCW permit holders may wish to keep a small loaded revolver or similar in their pocket. Above all, don’t let your guard down at the gun range. Ever.


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  1. Platt and Maddox (perps slain in the infamous 1986 “FBI Murders” gunfight) also killed several other people at “gravel pit” gun ranges, with the objective of taking whatever firearms they brought that day to use.

  2. Two classmates of mine were murdered at a shooting quarry near Boulder, Colorado in 1990 by escaped convict and spree-killer Michael Bell. Bell walked out of the woods with a gun drawn (he had just murdered two campers several miles away) and demanded their guns. They complied, and he executed two of them on the spot. A family friend fought back, ran like hell, and narrowly escaped alive.

    My friends and I used the same shooting quarry, informally known as ‘Gun Canyon’, at least once a month at the time. This incident taught us to leave one shooter on discreet overwatch with a loaded Mini-14 or buckshot-loaded Mossberg, and for each of us to always wear an extra loaded gun at all times.

    • Chris, I also had a run in with Micheal Bell in 1990 in Boulder Co. I was 16 and thankfully it was before he had a gun but still it was the scariest moment of my life. He pretended to be a police officer, saying he needed our car. I could tell he was pure evil.
      So sorry to hear about your friends.

  3. This is vitally important info. There was a nutjob who killed two deputies at a range I quit going to just a couple of months before. Use sound judgement and trust your gut. At public shooting areas, you are very vulnerable and an easy target. Many of us bring a lot of hardware and ammo to shoot, much of which is very desirable to those with bad intentions. It should go without saying that you need to be prepared to defend yourself at all times. Never go shooting by yourself if you can help it, and not just incase you get injured. Somebody needs to watch your back. I always leave somebody standing watch over the weapons when I go down range to put up or check targets. Try to keep a low profile as much as possible. This is probably not the best place to show off your big money, tacticool weapons by leaving them in plain sight. I try to keep anything that I’m not shooting cased and secured inside my vehichle, out of sight of prying eyes. Acknowledge anyone who comes upon you while you’re out shooting. Make sure that they know you’re keeping an eye on them. You could start a whole other story on public shooting area eticate or lack there of. Be vigilant and stay safe.

  4. My regular shooting buddy always has a loaded gun on him and he watches everyone like a hawk. I used to think he was just being silly, but not anymore.

    • Absolutely, you cannot be too careful. It’s reassuring to have a person you can count on checking your six. I believe more is better in this regard. I like to “Roll Deep” if you know what I mean.

  5. This is nuts. If this is the actual threat level at a gun range, and this also becomes the perceived threat level of everyone at the firing line, how long until someone gets off an AD and everyone opens up on each other? Please tell me where you guys shoot so I can be somewhere else.

    I keep hearing about how knowledgeable and responsible you DIY LEOs are, but you don’t trust each other to handle firearms safely or even sanely. That’s f**ked up. I’m supposed to be confident of you folks out on the street with your firearms when you are scared to death of each other at the practice range? What, are you kidding me? What this shows is that once you start down that road, paranoia knows no boundaries.

  6. The point is that bad things can happen anywhere at any time. The vast majority of shooters I have come across are responsible, upstanding people. Does that mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your surroundings? The answer is hell no.

    Most of my comments are geared toward shooting at a public shooting areas. These areas are open to anybody and are very secluded by design. I don’t go looking for trouble, and always hope for the best. I always try to be prepared for the worst just in case, and I don’t feel paranoid about that at all.


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