New Shooter’s Guide: Gun Range Etiquette


Gun-range etiquette combines common sense and courtesy with safety. A day at the shooting range should be fun and safe, and good shooting-range etiquette or manners makes a trip to the gun range fun for everyone.

Many shooting ranges require shooters to watch a short firearm safety video prior to shooting. This gun safety video refreshes the shooter on rules of always keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and keeping the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Who Are Range Safety Officers or RSOs?

Range Safety Officers (RSOs) or Range Masters keep shooters on ranges safe by supervising shooters and making sure range rules are followed. RSOs provide shooters with instructions that must be followed at all times to keep shooters safe.

Common commands are Cease Fire and Commence Firing. Gun range users may also hear commands like “Range Hot” or “The Line Is Hot,” which means shooters can start firing, or “Range Cold,” which means shooters must place their unloaded guns on the shooting bench and step away from the shooting line. When an RSO shouts out “Cease fire” or “Range Cold,” no gun or ammunition should be handled because shooters will shortly be walking downrange to check or replace their targets.

Basic Terms Used At Almost Any Gun Range

Here are a few shooting-range terms to be familiar with.

Firing Line: This is where shooters stand, sit, or lay to fire their guns. Many times, there is a line painted on the floor, and when you stand in front of the line, you can shoot. If you stand behind the line, you cannot have a gun in your hand.

Downrange: This is the area past the firing line between the shooter and the target. You should only be Downrange when there is a ceasefire or range cold command given.

Lanes: In both outdoor and indoor shooting ranges, each shooter is assigned a lane, which is the area from a shooting stall or booth to the target. Shooters are expected to shoot within their lane at their target only.

What Are The Top Gun Range Rules?

Most shooting range rules are common sense, but here are the top five shooting range rules.

  1. Do not shoot at posts or target frames.
  2. Only use range approved targets.
  3. Pick up your empty brass or shells.
  4. Always point the muzzle of your gun down range.
  5. Only handle and load guns at the firing line.
The most important shooting etiquette rule is gun safety first. Always point the muzzle of the gun downrange when loading and shooting.

What Equipment Should You Bring To A Gun Range?

When shooting at a gun range, you need to have eye and ear protection. Eye protection consists of eye glasses to keep debris from getting into your eyes. Ear protection in the form of foam ear plugs or earmuffs will protect your hearing.

Some Other Gun Range Tips

There are the range rules above, which are inviolate. They must be followed. Then there are some strong suggestions that will make you a better firing-range mate:

Dress for Success

Low-cut tops and loose collars can funnel pieces of hot brass on to your skin. Wear clothing that covers your skin and doesn’t allow brass to pop inside your collar. Also, for the same reason, closed-toed shoes are best on a gun range.

Eye and ear protection are mandatory gun-range equipment.


Start Safe

Never arrive at the range or enter the range with a loaded firearm. Ensure any guns you take to the range are unloaded before you go.

Shoot Only One Gun at a Time

To reduce clutter and increase safety, take only one gun up to the firing line at a time. Leave the others with the actions open in the range racks, in their cases, or in your vehicle, and swap them out as needed.

Be Aware of Others

If you’re firing a large-caliber rifle or shooting a pistol with a muzzle brake, try to pick a spot away from other people. Even people who double up on their hearing protection can be deafened by concussion from other firearms. If you can, give them space.

Watch Your Brass

Semi-automatic rifles or pistols can send spent hulls into the lane next to you. Be aware where your hot brass is going and keep it off other folks.

Be Cool

Shouting at people, laughing loudly, and being a putz are always bad behavior, but they are even worse when you distract people who have firearms in their hands. Also, don’t bug other shooters when the line is hot and they are shooting. Wait until the shooter is done before striking up a conversation.

Don’t Mess with Someone Else’s Firearm

It’s not okay to pick up or even touch someone else’s property without permission. If you’re curious about a gun, wait till a cease fire and talk to the owner first. Most shooters are happy to talk guns with other shooters.

If You See Something Unsafe

Get out of the line of fire and notify a range safety officer of the issue. People are usually more receptive to corrections from an official rather than from a stranger.

No Food or Alcohol At The Range

Don’t drink alcohol at the range. Consuming behavior-altering drink, medications, or drugs when you’re around guns is always a no-no. Also, no open foods or drinks on the line. Having a bottle of water or a snack bar behind the line during a cease-fire is okay, but not on the line. You don’t want to be eating around lead residue and primer and powder smoke.

Police Your Brass Frequently

It’s a good idea to pick up your brass in between cease fires. Keeps the clutter down. But make sure you pick up your brass and no one else’s. Many people reload ammunition, so pick up your only your headstamps.

Clean Up Early and Often

Pick up your trash. All of it. Don’t leave cans, junk, boxes, wrappers, targets, brass, or hulls around.

Wash Up Afterward

Wash your hands thoroughly after each range visit, particularly before eating. It’s also a good idea to use wet paper towels in a restaurant bathroom to wipe your face, hair, and forearms to get lingering range residue off your person before you dig into some ribs or whatnot.

Have a Great Time

Shooting is fun, even if there seems to be a lot of rules associated with it. Just learn the rules and apply them so you can come back and shoot again another day.

Got other range etiquette suggestions to pass along? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below.



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