So you're heading to a public range for the first (or maybe the second, or third) time. Here's what NOT to do, both from a gun safety and a common courtesy perspective.
6. Bring a shotgun and shoot it with anything except slugs. In most public range settings, lanes are set mere feet apart from each other. While a shotgun loaded with any pellet-type load might hit only your target at 10 yards, at 50 yards the spread of its pattern will turn your neighbor’s pristine new target into Swiss cheese. For this reason most ranges don’t allow shotguns on the range for anything except slugs. You should know this beforehand, so you don’t buy everyone new targets later.
5. Place your finger on the trigger before your sights are on the target. This is the quickest way to tell everyone in the range, “Hey, everyone! Look at me! I don’t have the foggiest clue what I’m doing! Ha! Ha!” You may notice people begin to look at you like you’re wearing a Bin Laden costume as they back away slowly. Why? If you don’t know the second NRA rule of gun safety, you are obviously not safe. So keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Perhaps you can’t hit a bullseye to save your life, but at least everyone around you knows you’re trying to be safe.
4. This one is for indoor ranges that max out at 50 yards: Don't bring your .338 Lapua Mag. (or .300 Win. Mag. or any other high-power rifle that’s equipped with a muzzle brake) to “sight it in.” To zero your rifle for hunting you should shoot it at 100-200 yards anyway, so why kill people’s ear drums at the range by getting in on paper there? A muzzle brake sends sound waves and hot gases backwards, and many times the long, 26-inch barrels of magnum hunting rifles extend past the side barriers, sending those unfiltered sound waves and gases directly back at your neighbors. Think the opposite of the Nike commercial and just don’t do it.
3. Place your target above or below eye level. Some ranges clearly post rules against this, while others do not. Regardless, consider what your bullet does after hitting the target: It continues on its merry way at its given angle, and if that angle is steep, it will stop in the floor or the ceiling, not the backstop as it should. Wood and debris from the floor or ceiling will fly, and the range officers will begin eyeballing you like buzzards above a bloody road kill. So place your targets at eye level so your bullet goes into the backstop where it should.
2. Give unsolicited advice to complete strangers. Sure, it’s OK to politely point out or correct a major safety violation if someone is clearly being unsafe (if the range officers are non-existent), but if the good-looking girl on lane 14 would’ve wanted your advice, she’d have given you some type of signal. That’s right, like a “Hey, you” from across the range complete with “come 'ere” wave and a tractor-beam eye hook. But 100 times out of 100 she just wanted to shoot her new Springfield a few times without being hit on as if it was closing time at Hooters. And see that cool dude with her? One of the reasons she’s with him is because he’s not always telling her what she’s doing wrong. So go back to your lane, make happy face targets with your .357, then go home and make yourself a few bachelor burritos.
1. Let some Magnum PI-looking yahoo on lane No. 13 tell you how to shoot your own gun. I’ve seen it all too often. The minute you try to be polite by saying, “OK, thanks for the advice,” Magnum thinks he’s Steve Spurrier with a renewed license to coach. So instead, just say, “If I wanted instruction, I would’ve hired a professional,” and turn away. I hate to sound crass, but the shooting range isn’t the place to put up with this kind of nonsense. Of course, if he or she is offering good advice in a non-creepy way, and is in fact Tom Selleck, feel free to listen.