Do You Make These 5 Shooting Range Mistakes?

Do You Make These 5 Shooting Range Mistakes? By Tom McHale

My Gun Culture
My Gun Culture

USA –-( Spoiler Alert: One of these 5 range mistakes involves the Hokey Pokey.

We do a lot of our testing and recreational shooting at a public range, located in an unnamed and top-secret national forest. You can assume that it borders the Area 51 Dreamland propertyif you like. While the state maintains the facility, it is unsupervised and there is no range officer on duty. People who shoot there put on their big kid shorts, take responsibility for their actions, and generally self-administer range etiquette and safety. Kind of like the old days.

Ouch. Mistakes 1 AND 2 on display...

In any given week, there are plenty of examples of less than stellar range behavior and most of them are a result of simple ignorance – not malicious or willingly irresponsible behavior. Although there is the occasional drunk security officer. Not everyone out there consumes gun magazines and books by the metric ton as we do. And add to that the fact that humans believe that they are genetically pre-wired to know how to operate a firearm. Well at least the males of our species seem to think so.

In short, we find plenty of opportunities to provide firm, but good-intentioned advice and guidance to newer shooters at this facility. You see, we’re on a training mission from God.

Here are some of the more common range etiquette faux pas that we see…

1. The Side Slide Swipe

We value our love handles. Don’t shoot them off. Yes, dieting is hard, but far preferable to ballistic waist reduction.

The Side Slide Swipe happens when a shooter tries to rack the slide of a semi-automatic pistol. Given the simple geometry of us human folk, we generally have hands and arms mounted on the sides while the eyes face forward. So, standing at the range, naturally facing the target, the natural motion to rack a slide is (from a right handed point of view) to point the gun to the left, grasp the slide with your left hand, and rack. Nice and easy. The only real problem with this method is that your gun is pointed directly at all the shooters to the left of you.

It actually takes a bit of effort and concentration to rotate you body so that the gun is pointed downrange while racking the slide.

It’s worth the trouble though. If not for yourself, do it for the love handles. Please.

2. The Itchy Magnet Finger

Apparently the best way to scratch your index finger while at the range is to rub it around the inside of the trigger guard. We know that index finger trouble is hard-wired into our human DNA, like nose picking at traffic lights, because we see it all the time.

Yes, the magnetic draw of a gun trigger is an irresistible force of nature for most index fingers – especially for new shooters. The millisecond that gun metal contacts the hand, the finger is magnetically latched on to the trigger. The finger just belongs there doesn’t it? If it didn’t why is there a big hole and a neat little handle to rest your finger on?

There’s endless debate about the practical value, or lack thereof, of competitive shooting. One thing is for sure though. Enter a few IDPA or Steel Challenge matches and you will most certainly be cured of any trigger finger discipline problems.

3. The Hand Trouble

While not as frequent an event at indoor ranges, scenarios are a regular part of shooting at many outdoor ranges and clubs. Basically calling Cold Range gives folks an opportunity to safely go down range, change targets, clean up their mess, or whatever. Without fear of getting shot in the backside. Cold Range means no shooting. While not as literal as “no shooting,” a command of Cold Range also means “don’t mess with your guns.”

Yeah, we know. But your gun isn’t loaded!

Do everyone a favor and save the hand trouble problems. Play a game of Angry Birds or catch up on some good old-fashioned texting while the range is cold. Just don’t fondle your firearms.

4. The Back Seat Shooter

Back seat drivers are the worst. Frustrating, dangerous, and generally too wimpy to move forward and drive themselves. So are back seat shooters.

These are the ones that hang back too far behind the shooting line so that the muzzles of their various firearms are actually behind other shooters on either side of them. Is it the result of some instinctive Dirty Harry reflex to have the drop on everyone else at the range? We don’t know, but as nice as you seem to be, I don’t trust you! Not when you have a loaded gun behind my back anyway.

Step on up to the shooting line. Look at the bright side, you’ll be a little closer to the target and shoot a better group!

5. The Hokey Pokey and Turn Yourself About

Turning your self all around? No, that’s not what it’s all about at the range. Especially when you’re holding a handgun.

Handguns are really short. Even shorter than Ryan Seacrest. That means when you turn your head around to say something like “Hey look! I just shot a pomegranite to smitherines!” that your gun will most likely be pointing at the dude beside you or even someone behind you. If you see people around you dropping like Jersey Shore cast members, it may be a result of your gun handling skills.

Feel free to put your handgun forward, and even put your right foot in. You can even do the Hokey Pokey, just don’t turn yourself around.

What bad range habits do you see out there?

About: Tom McHale describes himself as a conservative gun-totin’ bible-clingin’ literary assault dude who enjoys finding humor in just about anything. His web blog My Gun Culture is an irreverent, twisted look at gun news bordering on the ridiculous. It covers shootin’ stuff, loud noises, defending your own, the occasional mall ninja, and about 200 years of the American way. “These are the (partially) true stories of… My Gun Culture” says Tom. Visit:

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Wayne Twombly
Wayne Twombly
4 years ago

I live in Oak Creek Wisconsin. I go to brew city supply on the south side of milwaukee. I love it. People are friendly and staff is helpful if needed. Simple rules apply like at all ranges. Great place check them out if you haven’t already. Everyone there is safety conscious and rather clean . If there is other ranges available that I don’t know about please clue me in .

Robert Krawiec
7 years ago

When I lived in N.J., I belonged to the Fort Dix Gun Club. Never have seen another range operate like it. we had a spotter in a tower to cease fire every 30 minutes. He then gave range commands to unload, unlock weapons and back away from table. You had to post a red or green flag when finished to show compliance. Terrific, I wish more ranges would work this way. While it may seem a little slow to some, it teaches and stresses safety. Failure to follow procedures would send you home early. Repeat offenses would not permit you… Read more »

7 years ago

Never ever let the wife hold your gun wile you put up fresh targets (loaded gun that is)

8 years ago

I must admit that I'm guilty of the itchy magnet finger. I need to be more careful with this.