December 29, 2010
A little common sense on the shooting range helps keep everyone safe.
One of the important aspects of shooting is range safety because there is nothing in the design and layout of a range that can protect from us every gun safety mistake a shooter could conceivably make. First and foremost, follow all posted rules, but be mindful of other, seemingly obvious things that can affect everyone's safety.
Fire all rounds straight downrange and use your peripheral vision to track other shooters. In the past, many ranges—particularly police ranges—were comprised of a single, wide firing line. With a line of cops moving along the range to engage targets from varying distances, it was inevitable that people would get out of position, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Today, ranges are more often partitioned with berms, walls or tunnels separating the firing lines, but the caution still applies.
If you drop something like, say, a magazine, never move or reach forward of the firing line to retrieve it until a cease fire is called. Most people know that, but it can be just as dangerous to pick up something that dropped at your feet but behind the line—-a move that can place your head and shoulders forward of the firing line. If you do have to pick something up, be aware not only of where your body is but also where your muzzle is pointed.
What may be okay on a rifle range may not be okay on a handgun range. Shooting at a clod of dirt on a 100-yard berm is one thing. Firing at a clod of dirt on the ground not far out in front of you with a handgun is quite another because it could ricochet.
Practice target discipline. I have seen 30-foot pines on the high berm of a police range take a beating. Shoot only at properly located targets—and keep your finger off the trigger until you're on that target. And don't fire over the berm.
Today's steel reactive targets are great for training, and most are designed to give a little when struck and direct the bullet to the ground. But getting too close to the target can be dangerous, and so can hammering the stand instead of the target itself if you're too close. Be mindful of where you are in relation to the target.
Last, and this would seem to be very obvious, but it's surprising how many people don't do it: Bring only one type of ammunition to the bench at a time. I have seen 9mms fired in .40 caliber pistols, with blown 9mm cases often the result.