Gun Training on “Hot” Ranges? I Say YES!

By John Farnam

AR15 Safety Switch Trigger : img Iron Viper Industries -
AR15 Safety Switch Trigger : img Iron Viper Industries –
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( The “State of the Art!”

“There is nothing in this world in such dire need of correction as are other people’s opinions!” ~ Anon

Within my lifetime, our courageous progenitors, like Jeff Cooper, audaciously introduced us all to the “hot” range. He was ahead of his time! Prior to the “Cooper Era,” nearly all police pistol training took place on a cold range. In 1970, when I went to the Police Academy in WI, cold ranges were indeed the rule, and any suggestion to the contrary was heresy. Military ranges on which I had previously trained (prior to being deployed to Vietnam) were the same. Some of us young Turks discussed running a “hot” range, but only in whispers!

Today, hot ranges are the order of the day in most of the police training community. Frightening predictions that hot ranges were inherently unsafe proved erroneous.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few elite units, our military has still not updated to the idea of “hot” ranges, and due to an intense infestation of risk-aversion throughout the System, probably will not any time soon.

Another example of “cultural lag” are manuals that come with modern pistols. Many still recommend that the weapon never be loaded, nor carried, and remain locked-up all the time. Most lawyers who compose this literature don’t even own a gun, much less carry one for serious purposes, and the intent of these manuals is to legally benefit the manufacturer, not practically benefit the consumer. There has been some progress in this arena, but it is glacial!

My courageous colleagues, Mas Ayoob and Manny Kapelsohn, to whom manufacturers actually listen to carefully (unlike me) have bravely moved this process forward, more so than nearly anyone else. As a result, many weapon manuals today are actually useful to the consumer, at least to some degree. They’ re now spending time and pages honestly confronting real security issues, rather than just hedging their bet and endlessly declaring their innocence.

Most non-police/non-military commercial training and trainers have also embraced the concept of the hot range, at least for pistols.

Running a rifle training range “hot” is a newer concept, and many trainers, even enlightened ones, are still hesitant. Everyone is deathly afraid of NDs, of course!

I have become persuaded that we have to run serious rifle training hot, if we are to have any chance of legitimately preparing our students for individual victory in real fighting. My personal experience in genuine warfare has influenced me to take this stand, and this is thus the way I currently run all my serious rifle training, and have for the last decade. (I don’t do non-serious “recreational” training).

Military rifles with which we train (ARs, XCRs, PTRs, M1As, SIG 556s, AKs, SCARs, Tavors, et al) are all designed and built to be carried loaded, by soldiers, during active combat, regardless of what the manual says. Unlike pistols, all come equipped with a manual safety lever/button.

The big question is: What is our training doctrine with regard to the use of the rifle’s manual safety?

Safety” and “readiness” will ever be mutually antagonistic. As trainers and philosophical entrepreneurs, our goal is always finding a reasonable compromise.

Most modern pistols (Glock, XD, M&P, SIG320, Walther PPQ, H&K VP9, FNS, Ruger AA) don’t have manual safeties, yet we still routinely move with them in our hands during training exercises, relying mostly upon a strong “register ” position of the trigger-finger to prevent NDs. Still, we don’t prevent them all, no matter how careful we try to be!

Can we do the same with our rifles, or do we insist students keep the manual safety in the “on” position except when in the process of firing intentionally?

My answer to that question is:


I accept it either way, but I teach the former.

Of course, I tell students that I want the manual safety “on” when the rifle is slung, and I want them to check it frequently. Scant argument there.

However, when the rifle is in their hands, the position of the manual safety becomes optional.

Even so, I emphasize that the position of the trigger-finger is NOT optional, and I want it in a strong, “register” position until/unless (1) sights on target, (2) the shooter intends to fire immediately.

I run a lot of drills where students, moving rapidly with their rifles in hand, are in and out of their sights quickly, suddenly, and often. Who try to put their manual safety into the “on” position every time the rifle comes out of the sighting-plane, then back “off” again as they come back on target (sometimes less than a second later), are visibly slower than those who just leave it “off.” In fact, with an AK’s manual safety lever, the foregoing is all but impossible.

And, I see students who are trained to keep the manual safety “on” except when on-target and intentionally firing (which I don’t insist they change) attempting to fire with the safety “on” with monotonous regularly!

Yet, I am ever learning, and philosophically flexible. When I witness a rash of NDs, I may be compelled to alter my training doctrine. At least over the past decade, all those NDs have not materialized.

Of course, I don’t train people who don’t want to be there! Many have made the case of how big a factor that is.

I know the foregoing is controversial. I hope I’ve made a persuasive argument!

We are preparing students for the fight of their lives. We can never forget who is working for whom!

“Truth is… a streaming fountain. When her waters are not in perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.” ~ Milton


More of of my paid training videos as well as free videos can be viewed on:

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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Vanns-40 and Mike,
Actually, Pat Goodale has had two ‘wet ND’s’, ( and ND where someone is injured, bleeding), in his classes in the last five years. A product of rushing students to perform beyond their safety training and capabilities.


Are you serious? Complaining about jargon? Abbreviations? Did you read the article or spend all your time looking up ND? No need for politics and especially bad politics. Great article about a pertinent subject.



Geezer Andersen

Jim Macklin – Why did you turn the discussion into something political?
I for one find the articles here interesting and informative because they are
not of a political nature. For that “crap” you can look on Facebook.


I’m right there with you. His statement was based either on ignorance, bias or both. In any case it was totally irrelevant to this discussion.

Jim Macklin

Everybody “learns” just by being alive. In WWI & WWII the Germans thought every GI was a car mechanic [ I read that someplace.]. American kids know how to drive before the sixth grade. TV & movies Knowing how to shoot is the easy part. Knowing when to shoot is the hard part. Whether it is hunter safety, or a Navy Seal, knowing when to shoot matters. Beginners have “rules” to keep them and others alive while they learn. Some ranges should be very cold and some hot, it all depends on good judgement. Americans may be preparing to vote… Read more »


ND–Naïve, Nay, Narrow, naval, nar’y, natural and North Dakota immediately come to mind. I run across the same situation when someone says it’s accidental. If my gun is standing next to my desk as I speak it will NOT discharge without my assistance and that my friend is NOT an accident. Yes my guns are always loaded and even my youngest Grand Child when allowed in the Gun Zones of home and shop know they are loaded. My 7 year old is also very good with my AR-22 and handles the 20 gauge surprisingly well for her stature. I was… Read more »

Gene Ralno

One of my pet peeves is the use of an abbreviation that’s not immediately understood by the vast majority. As a graduate journalist, I’ve always followed style manuals and most of them require a full spelling of the term when first used followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Thereafter, the abbreviation may be used alone. Just for exercise, I researched and found the abbreviation “ND” stands for 71 other terms. Since I’m old and experienced, I knew intuitively that it stood for some kind of unintentional discharge but for the life of me, I couldn’t dredge up what the “N”… Read more »


I wondered for a little while but quickly caught on. Like you, I prefer that the author of any article at least first spell out the phrase before resorting to acronyms or initials to describe something. Every occupation uses them now and to know them all is pretty damn near impossible. Sometimes I think that “shorthand” is creeping into our writing and all these acronyms are going to be the new way of communicating, at least with people that have the same interests as we do.

ole Shoemaker

I fully agree. Please, please write it out once. I hate it when one is just expected to know the latest letters to abbreviate something. I for one don’t !!! I don’t know all the latest gun “slang” either. I have read whole articles and never understood what the letters meant. Not necessarily gun articles, but even some of these articles are amazing the abbreviations that are used or slang. Someone responding to or voicing their opinion can write as they wish and is different than a “supposed to be” professional writer, but if one wants to get their point… Read more »


“Hot range” does not mean safety off, it refers to all firearms being loaded at all times or are presumed loaded at all times. People who have taken tactical courses or been to ranges with any frequency generally know whether a given range is hot or cold. Of course you could have just used Google!


“it refers to all firearms being loaded at all times or are presumed loaded at all times.”

Well then,,,since I have always been taught and have always taught that ALL firearms are ALWAYS presumed loaded,,,we are constantly in a ‘hot’ environment.


No, and I’m guessing you have never taken a tactical training course and probably don’t get to the range very often. All this nonsense complaining about the use of AD/ND is just that nonsense. If you don’t understand the terminology quit complaining and let Google be your friend.

If you were reading any other fields talking points you’d find abbreviations and acronyms you didn’t know. Would you whine about those also? Probably.


My instructor for years, Pat Goodale, agrees with you completely. Pat’s place, from classroom to range is always “hot” for handguns and the range is always “hot” for long guns. Never had a single problem as far as I am aware. What you do in real life is reflected by how you train.


What you do in real life is reflected by how you train! Amen and Amen.. A weapon of either strip is not of any use if not ready when needed. It’s like the roofer with his pneumatic nail gun on the 2nd story roof and then having to return to ground level to turn on the air and obtain a load of nails. What a waste of time that was.


Actually Pat’s classes have experienced two ND’s in the last five years.

Mike Murray

Trigger management is the ultimate safety. Relying on some little lever to somehow allow fingers on triggers is a recipe for an ND. If you can train with and carry a Glock safely, why not an AR or AK? It is much easier to sweep the area with the muzzle of a pistol than a long gun.

Matt in Oklahoma

There is a time and place for both.