Range Dilemma: What to Do If Someone’s Being Unsafe

You’re not comfortable with the unsafe practices you’re seeing from someone you don’t know at the range. What do you do?

by posted on April 24, 2023
Deering Range Dilemma Safety

Range safety is everyone’s responsibility and everyone’s concern. If you’re trying to enjoy a day at the range but someone else is breaking safety rules—their finger is on the trigger when they’re not about to shoot, they break the 180, they flag themselves or someone else with their muzzle, their action is consistently kept closed during a cease-fire, etc.—it must be addressed. How?

Any shooter has the right to call a cold range at any moment, and if you see a serious safety violation that needs addressing immediately, don’t hesitate to shout “Cease fire!” and repeat yourself until all shooting has stopped and you have every shooter’s attention. You can do this even at a supervised range with a range officer if you see an immediate danger that they haven’t yet noticed.

If there is an RO or other range staff present, it’s their job to handle these situations. They can’t watch everyone at once, so if they’ve missed a safety violation, your best bet is to approach the range officer and discreetly let them know you’re concerned about a particular behavior from a particular shooter. Let them handle it. If they don’t handle it to your satisfaction, leave, and consider speaking to the range owner or management about it. An RO who is lax about safety or is afraid to address real problems should not be supervising a range.

If you’re on an unsupervised range, things get stickier. You’ll probably need to speak to the offender yourself. Walk up to them slowly and make sure they see you approach—don’t sneak up on anyone at the range! Be exceedingly polite, but firm, and approach them not with an accusatory, “Hey, Buddy, what’s the matter with you?” tone but more of an, “Excuse me, I’m a little concerned—can I talk to you about something?” conversation starter. The goal is to educate, not start a fight.

Not everyone takes this kind of correction well. If they are receptive to learning better handling practices or they’re apologetic and seem genuinely determined to do better, you can all go back to shooting. Keep an eye on them. If the unsafe behavior continues after your discussion, or if they were hostile when you suggested they were unsafe, I advise leaving. If the first conversation didn’t work, a second is unlikely to improve anything, and I do not recommend you stay in an unsafe situation just because you want to finish shooting or you want to avoid offending someone by leaving. Get out. Consider calling range management (if it’s public, that might be a game warden) to alert them to the issue if it’s bad enough.

Some unsupervised ranges are in the middle of nowhere, often without cell service. If I’m shooting alone at a range like this and witness unsafe behavior from a man, and he and I are the only ones around, I might choose to just take off rather than start a potentially contentious conversation with a stranger in a remote location. Use your judgement on this one.

Bottom line: Range safety is everyone’s concern. When you witness someone being unsafe at the range, it’s your duty to bring it to the range officer’s attention or calmly address it yourself if you think it is safe for you to do so.




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