By Tom McHale
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- I’ve seen some doozies when it comes to gun safety violations.
Looking at this list, it’s a miracle that I’ve not seen more events that lead to episodes of Untold Stories of the ER.
I do much of my shooting at an outdoor range, smack in the middle of a National Forest. The Park Service has built it into a nice facility, complete with covered shooting benches and berms at 25 and 100 yards. What’s both wonderful and problematic about this range is that it’s unsupervised and open to the public at all daylight hours. As a Second Amendment purist, this is the way it should be. If we really believe in the unrestricted rights of all individuals, then we also need to believe in personal responsibility and accountability.
What do I mean by that? If you’re going to own a gun, it’s up to you, and no one else, to take the initiative to learn how to use it safely. It’s up to you to learn how to behave safely when in the presence of others, like at a shooting range.
If you don’t, and something bad happens, you, and you alone, are entirely responsible for the consequences.
Now me, I don’t care about someone suffering the consequences after I get shot as a result of their negligence. Whether they pay my medical or funeral bills doesn’t matter much after I’ve been perforated by some idiot who thinks they know everything they need to know about guns because “they’ve been shooting for 20 years.”
I used to be a nice guy when I saw people doing stupid and unsafe stuff at a public range. Not anymore. After all it’s my life at stake, and that of everyone else present. Of course, if I see a new shooter trying to learn the ropes, I love to jump in and offer some help. They’re almost always appreciative, and more importantly, a much safer shooter next time they come back. Now when I see someone who’s obviously been around guns for a while exhibiting unsafe behavior, watch out.
If you think Richard Simmons was upset when they made him wear Sansabelt business slacks, you haven’t seen one of my range hissy fits. Screaming, stomping feet, tears – nothing is off the table.
While 90% of the shooters I encounter are polite, respectful and safe, there have been a few Darwin Award honorable mentions. Here’s my top 5 most egregious countdown…
5. Eyes and Ears Are Easily Replaceable, Right?
It drives me batty when people show up to the range without eye or ear protection. Come on people, investing five seconds in the most basic shooting knowledge will tell you how important it is to protect your eyes and ears around guns.
One day, a teenager was shooting a Mosin Nagant at the bench and I eventually noticed he wasn’t wearing ear plugs of any kind. He asked me if he could check out one of my guns, and I responded “as soon as you get some hearing protection.” With a slightly condescending look, he informed me that he was “conditioning himself for hunting season to get used to the muzzle blast.”
Sheesh. I used to condition myself against migraine headaches by beating my forehead with a ball peen hammer. That didn’t help either.
On a different occasion, I was shooting and heard a loud BOOM to my right. Looking over, I saw a shooter sitting at the bench staring at his now beet red and somewhat char-grilled hands. Turns out he had stuffed a 300 Blackout round into a 5.56mm AR rifle and gotten the predictable result. Considering that the upper and lower receivers, grip, barrel extension, magazine, buffer tube and barrel were all trashed, he was damn lucky to still have his fingers. Even more miraculous, I noticed he was not wearing eye protection. I immediately started inspecting his face, expecting to find puncture wounds.
He claimed his eyes were fine. Who says miracles never happen anymore?
4. Provoking a fight at the gun range?
Sometimes reality is so unbelievable you couldn’t make it up if you tried. One quiet afternoon at my usual outdoor range, I was at one end and a family with a couple of 10 to 12-ish aged kids was at the other. They were having a great time shooting tin cans, clay pigeons on the ground and other fun stuff with a .22LR rifle. Before long, a grizzled old guy took one of the center benches. He had a revolver and single box of ammunition.
After loading it up, be proceeded to start shooting the targets that the young shooters had so carefully placed. The father politely asked if he could shoot other targets, as his kids had spent a lot of time collecting and placing them. Mr. Grizzled Face responded that he was a “Security Officer” and would do what he wanted. That didn’t make Mr. Dad very happy, and he started asking Mr. Grizzled Face which mall he worked at for his “Security Officer” job. Things escalated quickly as I packed my stuff to beat a quick exit. After a few minutes of back and forth tense shouting, Mr. Mall Cop headed off to go provide vital public safety services elsewhere.
While I can certainly understand Mr. Dad’s frustration, the very last place you want to escalate a fight is at a shooting range.
Worse yet, his wife and kids were behind him. That’s a great time to set aside the pride and just leave.
3. Muzzling The Entire Range With Every Shot!
My next guy at least got partial credit for practicing self-defense skills with his handgun, but all those points and more were lost by the way he went about it.
Positioned at one of the center benches, with a range full of benches to his left and right, be proceeded to draw a semi-automatic [
revolver Sorry, typo, Ed.] from a small of back holster and shoot a target down range. While he practiced this ninja move slowly and deliberately, he still managed to muzzle the entire shooting line with each and every draw, with a loaded gun.
As you might guess, he got some friendly advice from the other shooters.
2. Bringing The Party To The Range! Woo, Hoo!
While funny Youtube videos often start with “Hold my beer and watch this!” that’s not a phase you really want to hear at a gun range. Late one Saturday afternoon, as we were packing up to leave, a new group showed up, complete with open beers in the hand, extras in six packs, and pistols in hands. As you might guess by the behavior so far, fingers were in the triggers as they were walking from the parking lot to the shooting line.
And here I thought I’d seen it all…
1. Being A Target While Setting The Target?!?
Our Shooting Range Darwin Award Champions are three young adults, two men and a woman. Arriving at the range, the two young studs took targets down range to the 50 yard mark. Yelling back to the lady at the bench, they requested instruction to make sure they were placing the targets in line with their shooting bench.
Can you guess? Our lady was peering through a scoped AR rifle to see the target and offering placement advice based on her sight picture of her two friends holding the targets. Who’s the bigger moron? The lady pointing a rifle at them, or the two idiots down range thinking this was a fine way to set their target just right?
“A little more to the left honey, I can’t get a good gut shot on you just yet…”
Being polite is great, but if you see someone out there endangering the lives of others, feel free to give them a good, old-fashioned bollocking. What’s a bollocking? As I learned personally, it’s when you get a royal ass chewing. My first bollocking experience happened in the back of a London, England paddy wagon, but I’ll save that story for another time.
Be safe out there folks. Got any stories of your own?
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.