11 Ways To Be A Better Shooting Range Neighbor

Open shooting ranges especially can benefit from good neighborly conduct.

Open shooting ranges especially can benefit from good neighborly conduct.

One of the biggest problems with the shooting sports is that there is no be-all, end-all, definitive guide to etiquette. Miss Manners never published a Sooper Dooper Guide to Shooting Etiquette, and I never recall going to the range for any of my charm and finishing school field trips.

Seeing this glaring omission from the shooting community training curriculum, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of tips on how to be a nice shooting range neighbor. If I missed anything, please feel free to comment with your suggestions!

1. Case Your Guns.
No matter where you shoot, you have to get your guns from your home to the range. How you move them up to the range parking lot is your business. How you move them from the car to the shooting table involves your shooting range neighbors. Wandering through the parking lot and into the front door of a secure business waving a few guns around is a great way to have a really bad day. The very best way to do this is to case your guns and move them to all the way to the shooting table fully encased, unloaded and with actions open.

2. Check to make sure everyone has ear protection before you start shooting.
Yes, a verbal “Range Hot” command should, in theory, ensure that folks have their ears on. Just in case, I like to be considerate and look around to make sure everyone is hearing protected before torching off my .890 Glock Magnus ++P++P+++.

3. Don’t booger hook your trigger unless you’re in the act of shooting.

The Media Day range at the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational displayed especially good manners. Note all guns pointed down range, tabled, with chambers open and chamber flags in place.

The Media Day range at the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational displayed especially good manners. Note all guns pointed down range, tabled, with chambers open and chamber flags in place.

As much as we all talk about trigger finger discipline, it’s never too much. With perfect trigger finger etiquette, we will all have a perfect safety record. In the context of this list of “polite” actions, think of keeping your trigger finger visibly out of the trigger as a courteous visual cue to your neighbors. If they see you always handling your gun with the trigger finger out, they’ll feel safer and more comfortable with you as a range neighbor.

4. Be visibly cold to your range neighbors.

Not in social demeanor, but in behavior. When the range is “cold” for target changes and such, make a physical show of acting cold. By this I mean put your guns on the table. Don’t touch them, even if they’re unloaded. Because guns are always loaded right? Again, considering the good range neighbor angle, if you aren’t touching your guns, folks can easily see that you’re not touching your guns. And they feel safe and secure based on your visible behavior. So, looking at it this way, being visibly cold at the range is actually polite.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: Not Flipping the Bird

I always get things mixed up. Maybe it’s a result of that jungle gym base jumping accident back in ’66.  One of the things that’s always confused me is flipping the bird. Most of us have five fingers on each hand – how on earth are we supposed to remember which one to flip in the heat of the moment? At least I get it right about twenty percent of the time. But I don’t feel too bad about my success rate – it’s still way better than Piers Morgan’s.

Flipping a spirited bird is not always a bad thing. Even if you are using the wrong finger!

Flipping a spirited bird is not always a bad thing. Even if you are using the wrong finger!

Most of the time when you flip the bird, you can reasonably expect to get a fist, or maybe a beer mug, in the face. However, there are many times when flipping the bird is actually encouraged, even if you are using the wrong finger. Hold that thought for a sec…

How many stories do we have to read about some average Joe (usually not Jane as they are better at paying attention) shooting himself in the leg or worse. None of these are accidents in the strictest sense. To me, an accident is a fluke of nature, engineering and animal husbandry. Like those times when lightning strikes your pistol, disengages the safety, melts part of the sear and blasts the firing pin forward. Those times are legitimate accidents. The other ninety-nine point nine percent of cases are what I call “negligents.” I know “negligents” is not a word, but it fits the same theme as “accidents” so bear with me. I think it has potential. Given that modern guns just won’t fire unless a trigger is pulled, it seems to me there’s an easy way to prevent all those negligents from ever happening: Get people to keep their dang fingers off the triggers unless they really mean to shoot something!

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: An Undisciplined Muzzle

Discipline is one of those words that, more often than not, conjures up unpleasant thoughts.


Imagining a giant lightsaber extending from your muzzle helps you think about where that muzzle is pointing!

When you’re trying to enjoy a quiet dinner date at Applebee’s, undisciplined children at nearby tables can ruin the ambiance and atmosphere you tried so hard to obtain with your careful choice of a romantic restaurant. Of course my own children were never undisciplined in public places. Just ask them about the “you better stop that tantrum right now because we’re in public” secret pinch. As soon as they get out of therapy, they’ll be more than happy to tell you all about that.

As I live in Charleston, South Carolina, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pat Conroy’s epic novel, The Lords of Discipline. While a fantastic read, that book is filled is bad imagery of discipline gone wild. Spoiler Alert: While seemingly polite and disciplined, Tradd St. Croix turns out to be a bad guy who was disciplined ineffectively as a child.

And of course, there’s Piers Morgan. Talk about an undisciplined muzzle! If he was really disciplined, perhaps be would have celebrated Independence Day by independently deciding to go back to his old job in England fabricating the news.  But that’s beside the point.

Most disciplinary issues are simply annoying. When it comes to gun muzzles, disciplinary failures can be really, really bad.

So what is muzzle discipline? Simply put, it’s making sure that the muzzle of your gun obeys your safe intent – at all times – no matter what. It can never, ever, ever point at anything you’re not willing to destroy, not even for a split-second.

Every time I take a new shooter to the range, I give them a lecture about Obi Wan Kenobi. I have them pretend that their gun has an infinitely long light saber inside the barrel. This light saber is always on and swishes through the air as an extension of the barrel, destroying everything it crosses. Besides being  cool fantasy, this imagery seems to help people understand that “pointing” a gun at something is more than just aiming deliberately. Pointing involves every movement of the gun. That means every movement from table or holster to shooting position and back. And removing the gun from a case and putting it back. And handling it for cleaning. And showing your buddy. And any other movement.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

A Litte More On Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A Gun Is Always Loaded

Rule 1: A gun is always loaded!

Yes. Always. Even when it’s not.

Every year we hear about people who are accidentally shot with ‘unloaded’ guns.

  • “I thought it was unloaded!”
  • “I’m sure I unloaded it last time I put it away!”
  • “It wasn’t loaded before!”
  • “Maybe I was loaded last time I unloaded it!”

Of course, a gun is not technically always loaded. But the intent of Rule 1 is to treat a gun as if it’s always loaded. If you treat a gun like it is loaded, you tend to change your behavior in terms of how you handle that gun.

Hopefully you won’t check out the sights by aiming it at someone.

Hopefully you won’t pull the trigger, unless you’re actually ready to fire the gun at a safe target. More on that in a minute.

And hopefully you won’t do anything else careless with it.

Rule 1 is first on the priority list, because it’s Rule 1, but also because it covers a lot of safety ground. Treating a gun like it is loaded and ready to fire has a fantastic ripple effect that makes everyone around safer.

So take it seriously. Pretend that a gun is loaded every single time you look at it or touch it. Pretty soon you’ll start believing that it IS actually loaded. Even when you look, and verify that it’s not, you’ll want to look again to make sure. This is a good thing. Never ignore a gut feeling to check the status of a gun just one more time to be sure.

Ruger LCR Revolver loaded rule one

Is this Ruger LCR loaded? Trick question! Of course it’s loaded!

I like to have some fun with this when teaching new shooters the safety rules. Not for fun’s sake alone, but to really drive home the point.

Immediately after telling them Rule 1, the gun is always loaded, I pick up a gun, point it in a safe direction, and open gun’s action to show them. It’s empty of course, but I don’t tell them that. I ask them if the gun is loaded. It’s even better when both kids and adults are present in this new shooter orientation. Almost without fail, the kids look at me with an odd puzzled look for a second, then respond “Yes! It IS loaded!” Kids are much better students than adults. They love getting this trick question right! Adults tend to score about 50% on this pop quiz. About half of them look intently then tell me that the gun appears to be unloaded. We all have a quick laugh when I tell them, “WRONG! It’s ALWAYS loaded!” Then they get it.

So be creative when talking about the rules of gun safety with others. You can have fun teaching people to be safe – and just maybe they’ll tend to remember a little better!

8 Shooting Tips: How Not To Look Like An Amateur Shooter

Even if you’re new to shooting, you may have heard names like Julie GolobRob LeathamSara AhrensIain Harrison, and Tori Nonaka. Whether you know them from the competitive circuit, see them on shows like Top Shot, or your obsessive shooting sports fan neighbor just can’t stop rattling off stats about them, one thing is clear. They have a reputation of being experienced, no make that expert, shooters.

But wait, you’re new to this whole thing. How do you make that first trip to the range, gun store, or even a friend’s house to check out a gun or two without looking like a total doofus? Admit it, we all want to be cool and look comfortable and confident when learning new shooting tips and gun handling skills. Like all new things, learning how to handle guns can be intimidating. But how do you take the first step and learn basic gun and shooting technique now that Miss Manners’ Sooper Dooper Guide to Shooting Etiquette is out of print?

Check out these shooting tips and you’ll be safe AND looking like an pro shooter, or at least a well-rounded intermediate, in no time flat.

1. Gun Safety Tip: Practice ‘Open sesame’

When someone hands you a gun, whether it’s in a store, at the range, in their house, or at an armory in Kandahar, Afghanistan, point it at something safe, like the floor, and immediately open the slide (or cylinder if it’s a revolver) to verify that it is in fact unloaded. (Tweet This!)

Do remember to keep your finger off the trigger while doing this. That alone will get you 12 extra bonus points! But still remember, a gun is ALWAYS loaded. Even after you’ve opened it to verify that it’s empty. We know, it’s kind of confusing. Just trust us on this one. If you pretend that it’s always loaded, you’ll never do something silly like pointing it at someone or something you really don’t want to shoot.

2. Proper Handgun Grip: Don’t drink tea at the range

How not to grip a gun - the teacup or cup and saucer handgun grip

A teacup, or cup and saucer, grip is about this effective. Hint: Don’t do this.

Friends don’t let friends enjoy tea while shooting. Save it for the post range outing ice cream social.

If you watch some of the faux shooting shows on TV, you might hear someone mention a teacup grip. Some call it a cup and saucer grip.

Just to be clear, a cup and saucer grip is not a compliment or indicator of social refinement. It’s an observation of poor shooting form. (Tweet This)

If you’re going to use two hands to shoot a handgun, you might as well get some benefit out of the support hand. Rather than cupping it under the base of the grip like a teacup saucer, how about snugging it right along side the grip so your support hand fingers can reach around the front? You’ll be amazed at how little your feisty little pistol or revolver jumps when you use a proper grip.

Lack of recoil control is a malady that affects millions of Americans. Only you can help by using a proper grip. (Tweet This)

Here’s a great video that shows how to achieve a proper grip.

3. Safe Shooting Tip: Know that eye and ear protection IS cool

OK confess. You don’t particularly like to wear helmets while riding a bike either. It looks kind of dorky. And you’re probably not going to fall on your head right?

When it comes to the need for hearing protection at the shooting range, there is no probably. There is only absolutely. As in positively.

Every shot you fire without ear protection WILL permanently damage your hearing. (Tweet This)

And each additional shot after that WILL damage it more. You probably won’t know it for a while. Maybe years. But it WILL happen. Same thing with eye protection. If you shoot, stuff WILL bounce back at you and hit you in the face. Bullet fragments. Target fragments. Backstop fragments. Irritable forest critters. And who knows what else? While every shot without eye protection does not result in vision loss, it’s only a matter of time before something wrecks one or both of your eyes. They don’t react well to metal fragments and flaming powder gasses.

The easiest way to spot a new, and foolish, shooter is to look for those too cool to wear shooting glasses and ear protection. There are thousands of stylish eye and ear protection options out there so you can even look cool sporting your common sense safety gear.

4. Handgun Grip Technique: Don’t be all thumbs

Crossed thumbs shooting grip

This grip technique may cause you to bleed all over the shooting range. We don’t recommend it.

I can share this new-shooter tip from a vantage point of, ummm, let’s call it personal experience.

Remember Ghostbusters? And how it’s really bad to cross the streams of the Proton Pack particle accelerators? Well there’s a similar rule of thumb (pun fully intended) for shooting semi-automatic pistols. Don’t cross your thumbs. See the picture in this article? Don’t do that! Sooner or later, that thing called a slide is going zoom backwards at Warp 17 and slice the dickens out of the webby, sensitive skin between your thumb and your index finger. If you want to splatter copious amounts of blood around the range, feel free, but once is enough for me.

Fortunately there’s an easy way to avoid bleeding all over your range. Don’t cross the streams.

When shooting a semi-automatic pistol, never cross your thumbs! If you do, you will get blood all over your gun! (Tweet This)

Point both thumbs forward and keep them on the weak hand side of your handgun. Your hand, and your local drug store, will thank you.

The video linked in Step 2 above shows excellent thumb form.

5. Gun Safety Tip: Learn to be cold to your shooting range companions

Being cold at the shooting range isn’t rude. Or event anti-social. In fact, it’s not Cruel To Be Kindit’s cool to be kind.  Kind of cold that is.

How can you be cold at the range? When you hear “Range Cold!” that means it’s not hot. Which means there is no shooting. Or even pretending to shoot. Which means put your gun on the table. Which means don’t play with it or show your friends anything about it that involves touching your gun. The table and the gun become one. A hot item. And you’re suddenly the third wheel in that relationship. Keep it that way until you hear “Range Hot!” Then, and only then, you can try for a threesome with the gun / table love festival.

When the range is cold, do NOT touch your gun. At all! Step away from the shooting table until the range is hot. (Tweet This)

Bonus tip: If you want to look like a real pro, then don’t just put your gun(s) on the table when you hear “Range Cold!” Step away from the shooting table and stay there the whole time the range is cold. This is a sooper dooper move that let’s nearby shooters know that you are not messing with your gun(s) while the range is cold. It’s very considerate and they will love you for it. Who knows? You might develop your own new relationship while your gun and the table are focused on theirs.

6. Shooting Terminology Tip: Ban the word “Clip” from your vocabulary

You know how you can spot a high school prom couple at an exclusive restaurant? Like when the pimply mannish boy requests A-1 Steak Sauce with his Chateaubriand?  Well, there’s a similar thing in shooting – when people carelessly throw around words like clip.

Clips and magazines are both legitimate shooting related objects. While sometimes subtle, there are differences.

A clip is a device used to hold cartridges for the purpose of storage, packing, and easy loading into a magazine. Clips were a big deal back when the world had anger issues expressed by frequent large-scale wars. Five or ten rounds of ammo might be attached to a clip, which would allow a soldier to slide the rounds into the magazine of his rifle or handgun quickly and easily. Clips are still used today. Some .223 or 5.56 ammunition comes on clips to make it easier to load lots of rounds into a magazine at once.

A magazine is the container that holds cartridges for the purpose of feeding them into the chamber of a firearm. Magazines can be built into the gun, as with many rifles, or they can be removable, as with most semi-automatic pistols and AR type rifles. That thing that falls out the bottom of a Glock? That’s a magazine.

Confused? No problem. We’ve got a near fail-safe tip for you. These days you’re pretty safe referring to most things that hold bullets as a magazine. More often than not, you’ll be correct referring to it that way.

Mixing the words ‘clip’ and ‘Glock’ in the same sentence is a sure-fire way to show you’ve still got a few things to learn.

7. Shooting Tip: Don’t do The Bernie

While the movie Weekend at Bernie’s qualifies a cult movie and spawned it’s own cool dance moves, it really doesn’t play well at the range. Dancing tends to throw off your aim.

Nor does leaning way, way, way backwards when you shoot have any practical value. You see, there is little chance that your gun will suddenly turn around and start chasing you, so the backwards lean position really provides no tactical advantage.

Leaning backward while shooting a pistol provides no tactical advantage. And it makes you look like a n00b! (Tweet This)

if you want to look awesome and skilled like the pro shooters, lean forward into the gun, and towards your target when you shoot. If your shoulders are just a tad in front of your belt buckle you’re in great position. Not only do you look tough, all that aggressive body position really helps to control recoil and keep your shots on target.

After all, you never see Chuck Norris leaning away from those nameless henchmen do you?

8. Last but not least: Don’t be shy about asking questions!

The best way to look like a pro shooter? Even if you’re new to the whole thing? Ask questions! If you’re not sure about something, just ask. You can even ask a pro. We’ve found them to be nice and helpful folks. It’s OK. One of the most pleasant surprises from getting involved in the shooting community has been the overwhelming friendliness of the people. You just might be surprised how far people will go to help a new shooter.

Have fun, be safe, and ask a question if you’re not sure!

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

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Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters


Do You Make These 5 Range Mistakes?

Spoiler Alert: One of these 5 range mistakes involves the Hokey Pokey.

We do a lot of our testing and recreational shooting at a public range, located in an unnamed and top-secret national forest. You can assume that it borders the Area 51 Dreamland property if you like. While the state maintains the facility, it is unsupervised and there is no range officer on duty. People who shoot there put on their big kid shorts, take responsibility for their actions, and generally self-administer range etiquette and safety. Kind of like the old days.

In any given week, there are plenty of examples of less than stellar range behavior and most of them are a result of simple ignorance – not malicious or willingly irresponsible behavior. Although there is the occasional drunk security officer. Not everyone out there consumes gun magazines and books by the metric ton as we do.

And add to that the fact that humans believe that they are genetically pre-wired to know how to operate a firearm. Well at least the males of our species seem to think so.

Why do men think they are genetically pre-wired knowing how to safely operate a gun? (Tweet This)

In short, we find plenty of opportunities to provide firm, but good-intentioned advice and guidance to newer shooters at this facility. You see, we’re on a training mission from God.

Here are some of the more common range etiquette faux pas that we see…

1. The Side Slide Swipe

We value our love handles. Don’t shoot them off.

Yes, dieting is hard, but far preferable to ballistic waist reduction. (Tweet This)

The Side Slide Swipe happens when a shooter tries to rack the slide of a semi-automatic pistol. Given the simple geometry of us human folk, we generally have hands and arms mounted on the sides while the eyes face forward. So, standing at the range, naturally facing the target, the natural motion to rack a slide is (from a right handed point of view) to  point the gun to the left, grasp the slide with your left hand, and rack. Nice and easy. The only real problem with this method is that your gun is pointed directly at all the shooters to the left of you.

It actually takes a bit of effort and concentration to rotate you body so that the gun is pointed downrange while racking the slide.

It’s worth the trouble though. If not for yourself, do it for the love handles. Please.

2. The Itchy Magnet Finger

Apparently the best way to scratch your index finger while at the range is to rub it around the inside of the trigger guard.

We know that index finger trouble is hard-wired into our human DNA, like nose picking at traffic lights, because we see it all the time. (Tweet This)

Yes, the magnetic draw of a gun trigger is an irresistible force of nature for most index fingers – especially for new shooters. The millisecond that gun metal contacts the hand, the finger is magnetically latched on to the trigger. The finger just belongs there doesn’t it? If it didn’t why is there a big hole and a neat little handle to rest your finger on?

There’s endless debate about the practical value, or lack thereof, of competitive shooting. One thing is for sure though. Enter a few IDPA or Steel Challenge matches and you will most certainly be cured of any trigger finger discipline problems.

3. The Hand Trouble

While not as frequent an event at indoor ranges, Cold Range scenarios are a regular part of shooting at many outdoor ranges and clubs. Basically calling Cold Range gives folks an opportunity to safely go down range, change targets, clean up their mess, or whatever. Without fear of getting shot in the backside. Cold Range means no shooting. While not as literal as “no shooting,” a command of Cold Range also means “don’t mess with your guns.”

Yeah, we know. But your gun isn’t loaded!

Do everyone a favor and save the hand trouble problems.

Play a game of Angry Birds or catch up on some good old-fashioned texting while the range is cold. Just don’t fondle your firearms. (Tweet This)

4. The Back Seat Shooter

Back seat drivers are the worst. Frustrating, dangerous, and generally too wimpy to move forward and drive themselves. So are back seat shooters.

These are the ones that hang back too far behind the shooting line so that the muzzles of their various firearms are actually behind other shooters on either side of them. Is it the result of some instinctive Dirty Harry reflex to have the drop on everyone else at the range? We don’t know, but as nice as you seem to be, I don’t trust you! Not when you have a loaded gun behind my back anyway.

Step on up to the shooting line.

Look at the bright side, you’ll be a little closer to the target and shoot a better group! (Tweet This)

5. The Hokey Pokey and Turn Yourself About

Turning your self all around? No, that’s not what it’s all about at the range. Especially when you’re holding a handgun.

Handguns are really short. Even shorter than Ryan Seacrest. So be careful turning around. (Tweet This)

That means when you turn your head around to say something like “Hey look! I just shot a pomegranite to smitherines!” that your gun will most likely be pointing at the dude beside you or even someone behind you. If you see people around you dropping like Jersey Shore cast members, it may be a result of your gun handling skills.

Feel free to put your handgun forward, and even put your right foot in. You can even do the Hokey Pokey, just don’t turn yourself around.

What bad range habits do you see out there?

Find gun holster options in our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - available at Amazon.com! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Rule Four: Always be sure of your target and what’s behind it. And behind that. And behind that. And behind that…

Rule Four: Always be sure of your target and what's behind it. And behind that. And behind that. And behind that...

Rule Four: Always be sure of your target and what's behind it. And behind that. And behind that. And behind that...

Rule Three: Never Point A Gun At Anything You’re Not Willing To Destroy

Rule Three: Never point a gun at anything you're not willing to destroy...

Rule Three: Never point a gun at anything you're not willing to destroy...

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