Ranges are indoor or outdoor facilities where you can practice with your firearms safely. Every gun is unique in the way it feels, handles, and fires, so it’s important to practice with every gun you own to get as comfortable and familiar with them as possible. Going to a range to practice on a regular basis will help improve your balance and focus, develop courage and confidence with your firearm, and increase your mental discipline.

This page will take you through the basics of the rules of the range and what to expect when you get there.

Gun Range Etiquette Guide

While there are some common basics, each range has their own specific rules. Make sure to check with them when you arrive or call ahead. We recommend arriving with your firearm unloaded with the slide locked to the rear to show the range staff that it is clear.

Remember, these rules are there to make sure that everyone is having a safe experience.

Range Basics

  • Follow the 4 Rules of Gun Safety. Always follow these rules, no exceptions!
  • Listen to the Range Safety Officer (RSO), sometimes called the Range Officer (RO). Most ranges will have an assigned RSO who is responsible for making sure everyone is being safe.
  • When a range is “hot” it means that shooters are allowed to begin firing. A “cold” range means that firearms are always unloaded except when at the firing line.
  • Never handle a firearm behind the firing line. If you need to uncase or un-holster a firearm, take it to the firing line and uncase it with the firearm pointing down range. Firearms should only be loaded at the firing line and only while the range is hot.
  • If a range permits a loaded firearm behind the firing line, keep it in the holster or case until you approach the firing line. If you are unsure about that range’s rules, ask the Range Officer.
  • Always make sure you are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when a range is hot. Standard PPE includes safety glasses, hearing protection, and closed toe shoes, which protect you from expelled cartridges. Wearing a shirt with a high neckline and a hat aren’t required but can also help with this.
  • Always shoot into the backstop. The backstop is constructed to stop or re-direct fired bullets. Don’t shoot across lanes, only shoot at the target in front of you. Do not shoot range equipment, including target carriers or holders.
  • Do not interfere with active shooters unless you see an unsafe situation.
  • Anyone can call ceasefire if they see an unsafe situation, like a safety infraction or a serious malfunction. If a ceasefire is called, everyone must stop what they’re doing immediately. Unload your firearm and make it safe. If it’s possible, place the firearm pointing down range on the bench or stall in front of you and back away from the firing line. DO NOT handle any firearms during a ceasefire.
  • Never cross the firing line unless the RSO says it is ok during a ceasefire. The firing line will be marked with a bright yellow or red line.
  • Clean up after yourself. Be sure to follow the range rules on picking up your brass or sweeping your brass forward the firing line, and remove used targets and debris before you leave.
  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using your firearm to remove any lead.


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