How To Stay Safe at the Shooting Range: A Comprehensive Guide

A day at the range is an excellent way to improve your skills and precision in long-range shooting

Reviewing the fundamentals of safety and etiquette is a good idea whenever you plan to spend time at the range.

Practice Situational Awareness

First and foremost, situational awareness is critical. Enjoy your day perfecting your techniques, but never ignore what is happening around you. 

Other People

You can never assume that because you are following safety guidelines to the letter, everyone else is too. 

Be aware of what is happening around you with other shooters and spectators. If children are present, this is crucial to ensure safety.

Any safety concerns should be addressed with the Range Safety Officer (RSO) or the others at the range if there is no RSO.

Your Target

Any firing range should have a backstop or berm that prevents the bullet from traveling beyond a certain distance. 

However, practicing this awareness is still a great habit. Always be aware of what else is beyond and near your target. This can help to avoid unintentional impacts. 

Practice Basic Range Safety Fundamentals 

The same safety principles apply whether you are at a 50-yard- or 1,000-yard range. Follow safe shooting practices at all times.   

  • Always assume a firearm is loaded and treat it as such. 
  • Always keep your weapon pointed downrange.
  • Always perform a safety check of your gun to ensure everything is in good working order before you fire your first shot. 
  • Always keep your finger away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • If your firearm has a safety, it should remain engaged while you are not shooting.
  • Always wear appropriate ear and eye protection. This applies to every person at the range (not just the shooter).
  • Always continue pointing your firearm downrange if it malfunctions. 

Adhere to Expected Conduct at the Range

Let’s review the etiquette and guidelines you should always practice in addition to any posted rules in a shooting environment.

Follow the Range’s Posted Rules

Every range has its own set of rules and code of conduct. Ensure you are familiar with those specific guidelines before firing the first shot. 

These rules can include the firearms and ammunition you can use, the types and locations of targets, the expected clean-up, and more. 

Maintain a Safe Distance

Most ranges will have set lanes that ensure a safe distance between shooters. If these lanes or stations are not present, it will be up to you to maintain a safe distance. 

Moving From Your Shooting Lane

If you are moving to and from your lane, communicate clearly with other shooters who are present. 

Remember that everyone is (or should be) wearing hearing protection that may impede their hearing ability. 

Give the appropriate command and get visual confirmation from each shooter before going downrange. 

Respect Other Shooters

Everyone has a different ability and experience level with shooting and target practice. No matter how well-intentioned, do not offer unsolicited shooting tips and advice to others.

Avoid excessive and loud talking that can be distracting to others. 

Do not engage in horseplay, roughhousing, and similar antics. These activities have no place at the range. 

Use Effective Range Communication

Communicating with fellow shooters is imperative when sharing the range with others. This is especially true if you leave your firing lane for any reason. 

Always obey commands by other shooters or range staff. Adherence to commands is vital to maintaining everyone’s safety. 

Familiarize yourself with the most common commands:

  • Cease Fire: Stop shooting immediately and remain where you are. Await further instructions. In some cases, this will be followed by “Range Is Cold” to confirm all shooting has ceased. 
  • Downrange: This means someone intends to leave their station and go downrange. Any shooting activity should cease. Before you go downrange, get visual confirmation that each shooter heard and understood the command. 
  • Range Is Hot: Everyone on the firing line can shoot downrange when this command is said.  

Respond Quickly in an Emergency 

Accidents can happen despite following all safety protocols. Always prepare to act. 

This is why having a first aid kit and basic medical supplies is essential for your range kit. We recommend a tourniquet but ensure you know how and when to apply it. 

Give a “Cease Fire” command immediately if an accident occurs. Use your first aid kit to render immediate aid.

Dial 911 for emergency assistance and follow their instructions until help arrives. 

Seek Out Training & Education

Accuracy in long-range shooting requires continual skill acquisition and honing. Search for courses and workshops to help you advance your techniques and improve your precision in various situations.

Attending these courses can help you stay informed about the continuously changing shooting rules, regulations, and laws.   

Enjoy Your Time at the Range

Long-range shooting is an exciting sport that can provide an additional challenge to those accustomed to shorter distances. 

Other than practice, the tools you use have one of the most significant impacts on maximizing your chances of success. The right equipment and accessories can accelerate your skills.

PFI scopes help you achieve proficiency faster. We designed our scopes to do the math and calculations required for a precise shot. 

That leaves you to focus on three simple steps at the range: 

(1) Zero your firearm

(2) Engage your target

(3) Enjoy the sport!

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