Foreman’s Forum – Shooting Range Etiquette

Three rifles walked into a saloon and took seats at the bar. They ordered drinks, but the bartender refused to serve them. Why did the bartender refuse service to the three rifles? They were already “loaded!” There is more where that one came from, but I’ll save them for another day.

Even before I started teaching firearms and self-defense classes, I witnessed unbelievably bad etiquette, or manners, displayed by way too many gun owners. This display of bad manners has been observed by myself to be the worst at public gun ranges. I have not visited the public range south of Athens for at least three years now. I certainly hope it has gotten better since I was last there.

During the seven or eight times I did go there to shoot, I found the place to be both dangerous and filthy. On one particular occasion, my buddy and I arrived early and found the fifty-yard range empty. There were two or three guys down at the long-range rifle area. (The short-, medium-, and long-range areas are separated by a high earthen berm.) We both walked downrange and were setting up our targets when a man drove up, got out of his truck, and began blasting away with his handgun at some unknown objects downrange. We both yelled at him to hold his fire until we got off the range. We hustled back to the shooting line. The man was reloading, allowing us a few moments of safety. He left as abruptly as he had arrived.

On several other occasions, I observed shooters walking back and forth setting up or checking targets while others were still shooting. There was one such time I had the audacity to shout out loud, “Hey everybody, let’s call the range ‘cold’ and everybody put their guns down while people are going downrange!” I continued, “Then, when everybody is safely back at the shooting line, we call the range ‘hot.’” Boy, did I get some strange stares. You would have thought I cursed out the pastor right during church! Two guys who were downrange came back to the shooting line; so I yelled, “OK, the range is HOT!” Some unidentified man down at the far end of the line yelled, “Who does that guy think he is?” My buddy and I left. We have not been back since.

Shooters should NEVER, EVER have a gun in their hand when someone is downrange. When the range is “cold,” all firearms should be on the table, with actions open. Shooters should keep all firearms pointed downrange at all times. Guns should be pointed downrange even when they are lying on the table.

Shooters should only use proper targets, not old cans and bottles. Shooters should clean up after themselves. Don’t leave empty ammo boxes and torn targets scattered across the range. Take your trash home with you. I have been to the range south of Athens when all the trash barrels were overflowing. The cans and broken bottles were a real eyesore.

Never ever pick up someone else’s gun. I would go so far as to say, “Don’t even ask!” When there is no Range Safety Officer on site, it can be a problem. If fellow shooters don’t like a “non-official” Range Officer, then my advice is to leave. Good manners off the range are also important in maintaining good relations, especially with non-shooters.
Keep your gun in its holster! Any public arena is NOT the place to be showing off your new gun to your buddy, such as in Wally World. I personally believe in “concealed carry.” It just does not seem wise to let everyone around you know you are armed. I really have nothing against “open carry.” It just needs to be done with some modesty and discretion. I have a good friend who carries his gun openly. He uses an inside-the-waistband type holster, and you need to look really close to notice the grips showing above his belt.

Last year we went to a popular restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. Outside, walking back and forth was a young man, maybe 21 years old wearing a large, full-size 1911 semi-auto 45. He had a fancy, black leather holster and really pretty wood grips. This is a huge handgun by anyone’s standard. It was just NOT good manners parading around showing his gun off to several dozen people who were waiting for their dinner.

By: Paul Foreman
Paul Foreman is a retired deputy sheriff from Lee County Florida. He is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor. For self-defense firearms training, Paul can be reached through his web site,, or e-mail at
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