Top 5 Worst Gun Safety Moves I’ve Ever Seen At The Range

By Tom McHale

Shooting Range Gun Safety Darwin Award Grand Masters
Our Shooting Range Safety Darwin Award Grand Masters! Read on to find out why…
Tom McHale headshot low-res square
Tom McHale

USA –-( 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.

55-year-old woman brought to the emergency department after she was shot above the right eye with a BB gun.
55-year-old woman brought to the emergency department after she was shot above the right eye with a BB gun. Eyes and Ears Are Easily Replaceable, Right?

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.

Fortunately, most shooters know that no one goes near the guns when the range is cold and folks are down range.
Fortunately, most shooters know that no one goes near the guns when the range is cold and folks are down range.

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.

Glock Gun Barrel
Muzzling The Entire Range With Every Shot!

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?

Targeting Gun Danger
Our Shooting Range Darwin Award Champions


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.

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I watched a man try to clear a jammed, loaded 1911 with the barrel pushed into his chest while racking the slide


Guy with an 8-10 year old son walks up to the bench next to me. Unboxes his handgun on the bench (I believe he bought it the same day)……. Son asks : “Dad do you know how to do this”…. Dad answers: ” Yes, I watched a few Youtube videos….”.

I left.

Colin Sharp

I was at a Public Range one Saturday Morning with my family, We just brought a Beretta Nano and a couple Hand guns. But anyways we say hello to about 6 other people firing on the range a guy with a couple sks’s and some dudes with ar’s note this range had up to 1000m targets so they where having fun. We started to setup our bench and a older man helped us out. Then it was all clear and we proceeded to put up targets like everybody else. Then once everyone’s done we g back and everyone starts shooting… Read more »

Kevin Pa.

At a public range in Poconos Mts. A guy brings his girl to range and proceeds to shoot, now its her turn. i think they had a glock. She made it half way through a magazine when she turned and pointed right at me while looking over her shoulder to say “it stopped”. I ducked & screamed while moving away. But, I noticed the slide was back so I came up out of my crouch. Stupid me. Her boyfriend stepped froward and pushed the gun around , back down range. It wasn’t empty, finger still on trigger and a hung… Read more »


To be safe, you have to be anal about it, from gun storage and handling to range work. Being 99% safe is a recipe for disaster.

But I also don’t like pictures in articles such as this where guns are shown pointed right at the camera. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s just a picture, but gun owners above all should be setting an example of safe gun handling. Point the gun at what you need to shoot, remember?


so did i feel same way – and have had gun pointed towards me in real time
hate on that pic – pushed screen off to the right so wouldn’t have to see it
ptsd/ memory


I was at my club range enjoying sighting in a new rifle when a older member of the club showed up with his wife, I stopped shooting and helped them set up their bench and we proceeded to shoot, after a while they were done and the older gentleman proceeded to retrieve their targets when his wife picked up he 22 handgun and loaded a mag into it, and pointing it down range she chambered a round, I told her to put down the gun and that it was against range policy to handle firearms while others were down range,… Read more »


Safety Fail #1…I was at an open shooting area on public land one Saturday. BIG Mistake. There were about 50 people out there that day. It was like a war zone. One group of 6 shooters had brought out their EZ Up canopy, about 2 dozen different semi-automatic weapons of various calibers, and, you guessed it, a couple coolers of beer. Whenever they would shoot, at least two of them would be shooting at the same time, firing off as many rounds as fast as they could. Then they would shoulder their weapons, pick up a beer, and charge another… Read more »

Anonymous Patriot

Just some of the many reasons why I happily pay for range time at a private range.


I was invited to teach at the new range a friend was building on his property. He had many years of experience with firearms and seemed very knowledgeable so I had no reason to think that wouldn’t be a great idea. He was going to offer many classes for new shooters. But, as the the range design took shape, I became increasingly concerned. Berms were only about 8 feet high and about 10 feet long. Even the one on the 100 ft rifle line that would be used to teach first time shooters. The berms actually backed up against neighbors’… Read more »


Whose insurance? Often outdoor ranges cannot get insurance to cover accidents nor depending upon the state is insurance required. .

Shadow Patriot

I am the same way. I drive 45 minutes away from home to pay for time at a private range. No one there but me and a couple of friends. We all go through our rounds, then we all go downrange to take care of the targets. No idiots or morons around us at all.


I volunteer at a state conservation range, there have been days when you wonder if Darwin just took a day off or if god just feels sorry for some fine people. There are basic rules to every range, when in the booth guns are pointed in 1 of 2 directions, down range and up (we have concrete floors). To date I have had multiple guns pointed at me, to my surprise I get told each time I tell them to point them up; that the gun is not loaded! (Thus breaking 2 rules; point in a safe direction and treat… Read more »


Never been to Twin Ponds. Have been to Leeds in Sumter, but only very rarely anymore. Leeds was a 1 hour drive from our home in Lancaster, so maybe once a month. Never had any weirdos there when I visited. Everybody was really friendly and respectful. Usually we would shoot for 20 minutes or so, then go cold and change out or set up targets as new shooters arrived. Now we live near the Coast, about a 20 minute drive to NMB. Outside any city or town limits, sparsely populated area. Mostly farming. Backyard pistol and rifle range! 50 and… Read more »


Well there’s your problem, you’re at Twin Ponds in the middle of the day.

Terrence Bresden

This is all pretty sad. Over 57 years of shooting (you can guess how old that puts me at) I’ve learned that when I go to any range I take at least a few minutes watching folks on either side of me to first determine if I feel safe enough to shoot there without fear of some idiot sweeping me.

Keith Brockmiller

Hey Tom, that looks like the range at Ocala, and if so, I pretty much stopped going there. After driving more than an hour, and repeatedly leaving because of the morons and the drinkers (I know, same thing) it just wasn’t cost effective any more. It was safer to pay membership near Oviedo, which is home, and the cost kept out the riff raff, to be gentle.


At a PA game Commission range, I was witness to a young, inexperienced shooter who had just bought a Nagant at a gun show. He was loading a round into the chamber but the round would not seat properly so he began to slam the heel of his hand against the bolt handle continuously. The hammering fired off the unchambered round throwing metal and wood splinters into his right, (hammering) hand and lower arm. I gave him some immediate first aid , but he was definitely “in shock” that he got injured at all. His friends, also young and numb… Read more »


A local free shooting area was closed for several years and when it was finally reopened it was a for fee range. Not only that but what had been a miles long open shooting area was limited to less then 1/4 mile. The reason given for closing the area was because of the weekly accidental shootings. The final straw was that a car had been abandoned on the range and quickly became a favorite target. That is until a body was discovered inside the car trunk and the Corner was unable to establish if the victim was killed in the… Read more »


Interesting story! It is usually pretty easy for a coroner to determine whether gunshot wounds occurred pre- or post-mortem, but if they body was just too shot up I guess it would be a problem.


Great article! Our National Forests do provide some great shooting ranges. They often do this in cooperation with a state game & fish agency. Always remember that our National Forests are USDA where as the Park Service/ National Parks are USDI. The shooting range you mentioned in the article was likely maintained by Forest Service recreation personnel, not by the park service. Appreciate your good work educating the public.


About 25 years ago my girlfriend and I went to a place in the country that we normally shoot at that had a high bank of soft sand without any rocks in it. We had been plinking with a .22LR rifle and a .357 mag handgun when two young guys showed up and asked if we minded them shooting. “No of course not.” I said. They shot for a few minutes into the bank and then saw a couple of turkey vultures flying in circles about 200 yards away to the east of us. They started opening fire on the… Read more »


Every place I’ve lived it has also been illegal to shoot vultures (either turkey or black).


My 30 year old and I were at a indoor range with 5 shooting booth per area with a glass observation area behind the booths . What my son didn’t see was the moron and his friend 3 booths over muzzling him as he spoke to his friend behind him. He did this 3 times when a ATF officer was passing by and saw him doing so. The officer immediately came in and grabbed the rifle out of the morons hands and said he could have been shoot for brandishing a weapon . The Range officer came in and confiscated… Read more »

Terry Jerome

Maybe I missed something but can you tell me what a “semi-automatic revolver” is????? You mentioned this in your #3 Shooting Range Darwin Award Story.

Paul Vadasz

Hey, Tom; Just wondering, what was the make of the “semi-automatic revolver” mentioned in the #3 Worst Safety Move?


I try not to shoot around other people If I can help it – mainly because most of them can’t walk and chew gun at the same time – much less shoot a firearm without endangering everyone around them. Something about Darwin Awards come to mind.

Frommer Bishkva

My favorite gun range rage story…About 18 months ago I was taking rifle training with a respected NRA instructor. He got into a discussion with the guy 7-8 stalls south of us about target changes. They exchanged a few words. When he went to make the range hot again my instructor shouted, “Ready on the right? Ready with the a**hole on the left?” The guy charged us and I hid behind a garbage can. Nothing came of it but why would anyone start a fight with someone who is armed?


I’m not sure but that a$$hole on the left might live upstairs from me. This guy is always on the prod and is not a good neighbor and I’m sure acts the same on the range.
People, learn to be nice and tolerant on the range, driving and in living in general.


Been a long time since I’ve seen a semi-auto revolver!

Richard L

You know, Don and Mike, I was kind of wondering about that. Must be a Bloomberg thing.


Rule 5: Don’t write during happy hour! For God’s sake, think of the children!!!


They do exist. Pretty cool concept and they are quite expensive and rare as hen’s teeth. I would love to get my hands on a Mateba Autorevolver like this one in this video.

Don Pastor

What exactly is a semi-auto revolver?


There actually is such a thing. Things like the 1901 Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver and the 1997 Mateba Unica auto-revolver, which is may still be in production. The world is full of strange things.


And I’m sure this guy owned one of them. Be for real, the author made a mistake.


“1997 Mateba Unica auto-revolver, which is may still be in production”

Nope isn’t in production. It’s also an under barrel gun. This reduces muzzle flip. Look up the Chiappia Rhino Revolver. Designed by the same guy.

Dr Timothy-Allen Albertson

Excellent. Good advice for anyone. But particularly for those of us who are getting back into firearms after an absence, TNX


Got a better one for you! I was training the SWAT team equivalent of a federal police agency in covert rural reconnaissance once while I was on a counter-drug task force. We were doing our training with them out at their range, as they had a nice variation of terrain and vegetation around. While I was finishing my course with about half a dozen agents on proper infil (on the hill behind the range), the rest of the agency decided it was a good time to start their night time quals, without doing a body count. We made it halfway… Read more »

Joe McDaniel

An even stupider #1 was seeing people going downrange to hang targets while others were still shooting! This happened at a State Forest range near me. I also found that the concept of a cold line was completely alien in general.

Ned Bitsack CEO Chamber-view,LLC

Thank you Tom for the editorial. Greatly appriciated.