When you’re on the shooting range, safety is paramount. There’s a loaded weapon in your hand, and you don’t want to accidentally hurt someone. Whether you’re learning to shoot for the first time, training advanced techniques, or simply getting in a little practice at the range, following these five key safety tips will ensure that you and everyone else around you stays safe while you’re there.
No matter what you’re shooting or how long you plan to be there, you should always wear eye and ear protection when shooting. Shooting glasses–whether you choose a pair of sunglasses rated to also work as eye protection or a pair of goggles specifically for that purpose–ensure that nothing ends up in your eye while you’re at the range. From a ricocheting bullet or shell to a twig or dirt in an outdoor range, there are plenty of things that could cause serious problems. As for hearing protection, keep in mind that firearms produce enough noise to cause permanent hearing damage if you don’t protect your ears when shooting. No, you might not have time to cram those things on in an emergency. Practicing at the range, however, isn’t an emergency, so keep yourself safe!
Watch Your Muzzle
Any time you’re at the range, it’s important to know where your gun is pointing. In general, the muzzle of the gun should always point downrange. “No matter what you’re doing, from practicing drills to shooting with friends, you should never point your gun in the direction of another individual,” said D5 Ranges. When your gun points the wrong way, accidents can happen fast. More simply, make a practice of never pointing your gun at something you don’t intend or want to shoot. Remember, when you’re at the range, you should assume that all guns–including your own–are loaded at all times. That means that even if you’re sure there’s no ammunition in the gun, it’s good practice to keep the muzzle pointed away from people.
Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger
Never raise your finger to the trigger of your gun until you’re ready to shoot. If you’re practicing with a group, the “commence firing” command should be the first time your finger touches the trigger. If you’re practicing on your own, lifting your finger to the trigger should be the last step in shooting your gun. Practicing this technique will help ensure that you don’t accidentally fire the gun when you don’t intend to. When your finger is clear of the trigger, you’re less likely to have accidents drawing your gun, accidentally firing before you’re ready, and a number of other common problems.
Be Sure of Your Target
When you’re at the shooting range, your target is usually fairly obvious. In general, once the range is “hot,” or there’s active shooting taking place on it, you will probably assume that there’s nothing beyond your target that you don’t want to shoot. Shooting ranges are designed to provide a safe place to practice basic gun skills. Any time you’re shooting, however, you should make a practice of being aware of what is around your target. That means noting what’s between you and your target, what’s behind your target, and anything that could interfere with your shot. Be sure that the area is clear before you fire your gun.
Be Prepared for Malfunctions
Guns don’t always do exactly what you intend for them to do. You may have issues with misfires, problems with jams, and other concerns. Be prepared for this possibility before you step out onto the range. Know how to deal with common issues with your gun. This includes keeping it pointed downrange while unloading, holding your shooting position in the event that the gun fails to fire, and understanding how your gun works so that if you need to clear a jam, you’re able to do so safely and efficiently. Never point your gun at someone else when it’s failed to fire.
Most rules of range safety are put in place to keep every patron safe. Take the time to read the posted rules before you step out onto the range. Make sure you understand your surroundings, your gun, and your target before you begin. Range shooting is very safe when practiced appropriately. Keeping up with those basic safety rules, however, is your responsibility.