No discussion of gun-range safety for new shooters is complete without talking about range commands. When you arrive at the range, you’ll probably focus first on the sound of gunfire. That's not the most important sound you'll hear, though: That would be the commands given by the range officer—the person in charge of the range. The range officer’s primary duties are to control all shooting activities on the range and to ensure that the shooters are obeying all safety rules. Speaking of those safety rules, remember that following these rules at all times will ensure that even if you miss a range command, you'll still be a safe shooter.
Three Rules of Gun Safety: ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Here are some of the most common range commands and what you should do when they are given (they may differ slightly from range to range). It’s important that you follow these commands at all times because they are for the safety of everyone on the range.
“Load.”: When shooters are on the firing line and the range officer gives this command, the firearm may be loaded.
“Commence firing.”: Firing may begin as soon as the shooter is ready. When shooting in a match, there will be a time limit on how long the firing period lasts.
“Cease firing.”: This command means to stop shooting immediately. Even a shooter who is in the process of pulling the trigger for a shot must immediately stop, remove his or her finger from the trigger, and, while keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, unload the gun and wait for further instructions from the range officer.
The “cease firing” command can be used during normal range procedures or in an emergency situation. In an emergency situation, the “cease firing” command is not restricted to use by the range officer, but should be used by anyone who detects an unsafe situation. If an unsafe situation occurs, don’t wait for the range officer’s intervention—call out “cease firing” immediately!
Additional commands may be used by the range officer depending upon the shooting facility, the number of persons shooting and other variables. These additional commands are generally used to direct the flow of shooters to and from the firing line and to provide necessary instructions or information. There are also special commands used for competitive shooting purposes. Remember, it’s your responsibility to know, understand and obey all commands spoken by the range officer. Being knowledgeable about the rules of the range will make your shooting session a lot more productive—and fun too.
Firearm Malfunctions: If your firearm malfunctions while you are at the range be sure to keep the gun pointed downrange or in a safe direction and raise your non-shooting hand to notify any range personnel of a problem and to ask for their assistance.
Do's & Don’ts
Don’t handle any firearm under any circumstance while other shooters are downrange checking or changing targets.
Don’t touch any other shooter’s equipment with-out his or her permission. This includes other shooters’ brass because they may intend to reload it.
Don’t distract other shooters by starting up any unnecessary conversations while they are shooting, or by engaging in loud, boisterous behavior that might be considered annoying.
Do straighten up your area before leaving and pick up all of your trash, including used targets, empty ammunition boxes and empty brass.
Do wash your hands and face thoroughly with cold water after shooting to remove and residue.