Firing Range Etiquette

While the way that firing ranges operate vary from business to business, I’m going to take this time to explain proper etiquette and safety rules that you should be following regardless if the range is outdoors or indoors, private or public property, and/or if there is a range safety officer (RSO) physically present or not.

While I do have issues with ranges that don’t have an RSO physically present (you can read more here), there are, however, proper etiquette and safety rules that you should follow so that you and the other patrons can be safe while having fun and practicing.

Universal Safety Rules

The universal safety rules are as follows:

  • Treat all guns as though they are loaded, and always perform a clearance check every time you pick one up.
  • Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger OFF the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are on target and have made the decision to shoot.
  • Always be sure of your target and beyond, including in front of and beside it.

Some additional safety rules that I would like to add are: 1) Take your range bag up to the firing line and unload your firearm there BEFORE setting your bag on the back bench. When you leave, you’ll pack up in reverse order. 2) Aside from skeet shooting, NEVER point the muzzle up in the air or at the ground. 3) NEVER walk past the firing line with the firearm in your hand without it being in a case or holster. 4) Make sure to shoot at the target and not the hanger / equipment in order to prevent potential damage and ricochets.

I can’t begin to stress the importance of following these safety rules! As an instructor and RSO, I’ve seen so many “experienced” shooters violate at least one – typically majority – of these rules due to being in Condition White (i.e. Unaware) of their surroundings and being complacent. Violating these safety rules is the easiest way to piss me off! Here’s the sad reality, I’ve had more guns pointing at me within the first month or two as an RSO and firearms salesman than I have the entire time I’ve worked in security.

Range Etiquette

Some basic etiquette that’s been recommended by NSSF that you should follow while at the firing range:

  • ALWAYS practice safe basic firearm handling
  • NEVER touch a firearm, for any reason, if someone is forward of the firing line.
  • ALWAYS walk around someone else’s equipment, never step over it.
  • NEVER leave your equipment where someone has to walk around it.
  • NEVER touch someone else’s equipment without their permission.
  • DON’T let ejected cases or hulls hit your neighbor.
  • IF in doubt, ASK. Shooters and range operators are happy to help.
  • INTRODUCE yourself to the person next to you.


When at the firing range, be sure to be respectful by following the universal safety rules (along with any additional rules that are laid out by the range) and to use proper etiquette. While it’s important to have fun as you relieve stress and practice, it’s just as important – if not, more important – that you and everyone else around you are safe.

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