Gun Range Etiquette You Need to Know

  • by Casy Smith
Gun Range Etiquette You Need to Know

Jump to:

If you've heard the famous Bruce Lee quote once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: "Practice makes perfect." This applies to every facet of life, including your shooting skills. If you're a new firearm owner or concealed carry license holder, we understand your desire to achieve perfection. 

Many gun owners use firing ranges to practice firing their weapons, develop better accuracy and maintain their shooting skills. While shooting is an individual skill, heading to the firing range is not an individual activity. You want to be safe and courteous around others at the range. The best way to keep yourself safe and in good standing with fellow firearm owners is to brush up on gun range etiquette.

If you've never been to a gun range, learning all of the common courtesies can feel a little bit overwhelming. It's best to go with an experienced shooter who can show you the ropes. However, if you're taking your first trip alone, we can cover a few basic range etiquette items you should know before you go!

8 Critical Gun Range Rules and Etiquette Items

#1. Always follow the four rules of firearm safety.

You may have learned about the four firearm safety rules if you've taken a firearm safety or concealed carry course. If not, let's quickly cover them:

  • Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
  • Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot.
  • Keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to fire.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. 

These rules are important any time you handle a firearm but are especially vital when you are at a shooting range due to the number of people you will come in contact with.

Check out our blog covering these critical rules for more info. 

#2. Familiarize yourself with essential gun range vernacular.

If you've never entered a gun range before, learning some of its most common phrases and safety commands is a great idea. A few terms you may hear include the following:

  • Ceasefire: This command means all shooting must stop immediately. Anyone can give this command, meaning you should take it seriously regardless of whether it comes from the range officer or the shooter at the table next to you. Once a ceasefire is ordered, you must take your finger off the trigger and lower your weapon. Then, you will unload your firearm and lock the action. No one should touch a firearm during a ceasefire. 
  • The range is cold/hot: A range is cold during a ceasefire, meaning that no firing should take place to ensure the safety of individuals crossing the firing line. Once all individuals have returned to their firing position, the range can be declared hot, meaning shooting can commence. 
  • Muzzle: You may hear this if someone's firearm muzzle is facing in an unsafe direction
  • Downrange and uprange: Your muzzle should only face "downrange," which is toward the targets. "Uprange" faces away from the targets toward the firing line. 
  • Firing line: The firing line is where everyone lines up to shoot at the targets. Firing lines may have tables or benches where you can sit your firearm, ammunition and other gear. You should NEVER cross the firing line while the range is hot! 
  • Backstops, berms and baffles: Backstops are any walls or other physical barriers designed to keep bullets from going beyond the designated targets. Berms are an example of a backstop, as they are large hills behind targets usually seen at outdoor firing ranges. Baffles are like backstops but are placed above the shooting line toward the target. These safety items are designed to contain bullets that are fired above the target.

Each firing range is set up differently and may utilize variations of the vocabulary listed above. Before heading to the firing line, it's essential to look at the listed rules to make sure you can speak the range's language. Ask a range officer or fellow shooter if you have questions about the posted regulations.

#3. Keep your eye and ear protection on at all times.

Eye and ear protection are critical when visiting the range, as gunfire can surpass the 140-decibel mark and firing a weapon can create all kinds of debris that can hit your eyes. Don't be the person who needs multiple reminders to keep their Keeping your eye and ear protection on when you get to the firing line is a common courtesy to range officials and a way to preserve your hearing and sight. 

#4. Only use allowed ammunition and targets.

Checking range rules before going is key, as different ranges have different ammunition limitations and allowed targets. Armor piercing, tracer and incendiary rounds are not permitted at most gun ranges. Paper targets are common at public gun ranges.  

Only shoot at the specified targets. Don't shoot at target frames or any other equipment at the range. 

#5. Always listen to your range officer.

Always listen to the safety officer's commands while at the range. They are designated to look out for everyone's safety on the range. Everyone wants to have fun at the shooting range, but non-compliant individuals can quickly become a safety hazard. 

#6. Communicate with fellow shooters.

Whether you go to a staffed or unstaffed shooting range, you need to be willing to communicate with the other shooters. Shooting at the range is a community event that requires cooperation from everyone involved. 

Communication is especially important at unstaffed ranges. Understand the other shooters' ceasefire protocols and ask questions if you need clarification on a range rule. The Missouri Department of Conservation suggests waiting to discuss ceasefire protocol until parties currently at the range have completed their round of shots. However, if you are already at the firing line and see a new party approaching, it is courteous to stop firing to discuss ceasefire plans.

#7. Be aware of your surroundings.

When you are at the range, being aware of your surroundings is important. From minding other shooters' nearby equipment to being on the lookout for unsafe activity, like someone crossing the firing line, you need to be vigilant. Handling weapons requires a steadfast dedication to safety and responsibility. Anytime you see something dangerous, you should call a ceasefire immediately. 

#8. Schedule regular practice to maintain safe habits.

Firearm shooting is a diminishable skill that must be maintained through regular practice. Continued training and practice not only make you a more capable shooter but also help you maintain safe firearm handling habits. You will not be the most accurate or effective marksman the first day you go to the range, so practice and patience are critical.

Find the Perfect Place to Store Your Firearms at Home! 

When you're away from the range, having a secure and discreet place to stow your rifles or handguns is a great idea. Our selection of concealment flags, furniture and decor offer smart firearm storage in a stylish package. Browse our product lineup today to find the perfect fit for your home! 


No Products in the Cart