A Little to the Left… and Other Gun Safety Horror Stories

Gun safety range officer
A Little to the Left… and Other Gun Safety Horror Stories

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- The very human propensity to harm ourselves is only surpassed by our ability to judge each other. Sure, we joke about earning Darwin Awards, but the term “Hold my beer and watch this…” didn’t just emerge from the primordial soup. Nor did it begin with the advent of YouTube “I’ll be famous now, alive or dead!” videos. We earned it.

Sadly, there are still far too many gun safety dumpster fires at our range outings. Why? I think people – mostly men – have a hubris gene. We’re biologically pre-wired to believe that we instinctively know how to operate firearms. How hard can it be? Point gun in the desired direction and squeeze. Anyone who seeks training or asks more experienced shooters must be a fairy pansy, or maybe worse. If you ask for help, you’re just admitting your failure at being a man.

If you think about it, proof of the hubris gene is easy to find. When you see a shooter saying or doing something dumb, and call them out on it, you’ll almost always get a response like, “I’ve been shooting guns since I was a kid.” I’ve also been listening to the radio since I was a kid, but you don’t want me singing at the Grammy’s. When you hear that explanation, it’s awfully tempting to ask why they’ve been repeating the same dumb comment or action that long, but I digress.

While gun safety statistics are better than ever, we’re not quite there yet. Here are two encounters that prove my point.

My favorite outdoor range, now a DNR-monitored first-class facility, used to be a free-for-all affair. While it was owned and maintained as part of a national forest, there was no staff present, so it was self-monitored by shooters. That made for some interesting scenarios from time to time. I refused to go on weekends when bad safety behavior was the rule. At least during weekdays, the shooters were generally knowledgeable and safety conscious. One day while zeroing a rifle, three twenty-somethings – two men and a woman – arrived with a scoped rifle. No worries, that’s what the range is for. No one present gave them a second look.

During the next cold range for target changes, the two “Hold my beer…” guys took their target 50 yards or so downrange. The woman set up behind the rifle, assumed a firing hold, and peered through the scope. That’s bad enough, but within a moment, she began calling out target placement instructions to our young Darwin stallions. “A little left… No, a bit more to the right…” and so on. She was making sure the young bucks were square in the crosshairs to make sure the “target” was in the right place.

Range safety
If you see these people at your range, pack up and leave!

Where do you even start with a situation like this? Inadvertent muzzlings are bad enough, but a deliberate muzzling with a scoped rifle? Yes, they probably vote too. I apologize on behalf of all humanity.

On another occasion, at the same range, I was packing up for the day when a scruffy-looking guy wandered in from the parking lot. He had some extra mileage on his 60 or so year-old frame and I wondered if he might be drunk. He wandered up to the firing line, dangling an uncased revolver from his right hand and carrying a box of cartridges in his left. OK, then…

He proceeded to set up a couple of benches away from a young family. The mom, dad, and two ten to twelve-ish aged boys had set up a veritable shooting gallery for the boys’ amusement. Tin cans, balloons, clay targets, and more were laid out in front of the family’s shooting lane so the boys could plink away with their single-shot .22 rifle. It sure looked like a fun family outing to me. As you might guess, the kids put some time and effort into setting up the target gallery; they were clearly excited to start shooting.

When the range went hot, our scraggly revolver man proceeded to shoot across two lanes at the kids’ targets. Mom and dad were stunned and turned to stare at our sixgun hero. He finally clued in and asked them what their problem was. The father responded, rather politely I thought, “Hey, those are my kids’ targets. They spent a lot of time setting them up. Would you mind shooting at your own targets in your lane?” Apparently Bitchy McCrankyPants was in no mood to take requests from anyone. He shouted back something along the lines of, “I’ll do what I want!” A bit of back and forth ensued until Mr. Raggedy Ass thought he settled the matter. “I’m a Security Officer so I can shoot whatever I want!” As you might surmise, that didn’t go over well, and the dad asked, in an equally loud and sarcastic voice, at which mall he worked.

So, let’s recap the situation. We have a drunk or crazy self-proclaimed ill-tempered mall cop, with a loaded revolver, arguing with a family of four. We have a young dad, also armed, standing right next to his wife and two young boys, arguing with, and insulting a brave retail hero, at least in his own mind. What could possibly go wrong?

By this time, I had accelerated my packing so I could get the hell out of the soon-to-be OK Corral. Contemplating the situation as I drove away, I couldn’t figure out who was the bigger idiot. Clearly, the Medal of Honor Recipient for mall security was a complete ass. He had no concept of gun safety from the moment he walked the 50 yards from the parking lot to the firing lane waving a revolver around to the point where he engaged in obnoxious behavior escalating to an armed, but verbal confrontation. Oh, and if he was drunk, that’s a whole new level of gun irresponsibility. But the dad was also a complete idiot. Why on God’s green earth would he engage in an argument with a disturbed, possibly drunk or at least shakey, and armed individual? Especially when surrounded by his family? I have no problem with him asking the guy to please stop shooting at his kids’ carefully arranged targets. But the instant things turned sour was the time to shoo his family to the car and get the heck out of there.

When you’re armed, it’s your responsibility to suck up your pride to avoid escalating a senseless conflict. If you have to use a firearm to save your life, that’s one thing. If you have to use your firearm because you insisted on engaging in a pointless argument, that’s just stupid.

So, what can we do to overcome the sometimes stunning lack of common sense and knowledge all too frequently encountered on our shooting ranges? It’s our obligation to call out unsafe behavior when we encounter it. There’s never harm in doing that diplomatically and respectfully, but firmly. After all, unsafe gun handling puts everyone at risk, not just the offender. In most cases, those of us nearby are in more danger than the one with the firearm. If that doesn’t work, and in most cases it does, take a lesson from Mr. Let’s-Argue-With-An-Armed-Man-In-Front-of-the-Kids. Pack up and leave. There will be plenty of other opportunities to shoot later – safely.



About

Tom McHale is the author of the 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
8 months ago

My nearby outdoor range is “operated” by the Department of Conservation. In other words, they do the upkeep on it. But they have no presence there. I’ve been going for 20 years and never seen an agent.

That said, the people who go there are all very responsible. I’ve never seen anything even remotely dangerous and like I said … 20 years. Guess I should be grateful.

StWayne
StWayne
8 months ago

I sense some sarcasm there, and “half to wunder hows cum these ideiots coud even find there way their when we no that men cant even ask for direcktions? If’n they cant stay in there onw lane when they drive, what makes anywon think they can stay in there onw lane when shooting?”

This is “Idiocracy” on steroids.

Jim
Jim
8 months ago

WHEN i SEE NEW SHOOTER STUPID STUFF, I politely approach the people and ask “Folks, can I make a few suggestions?” Generally at this point they have never been helped and just have no idea of what the process is but they are willing to learn quickly. I gently explain the safety issue and what legally happens if they shoot someone. Then I help them with muzzle awareness, holds, loading and resting the firearm locked open. I am not a super patient person but we were all once new to this and their dad probably did not shoot–so help them–and… Read more »

Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Great idea and you sound like a teacher at heart. Have you ever had any of these “newbies” refuse you aid or get arrogant about it?

CaptainKerosene
CaptainKerosene
8 months ago

Not just shooting ranges. Too many men and some women assert or assume they can ride a horse or drive a car too. At least so far few think they can fly an airplane without training. Of course some rich and powerful pressure some charter clients into violation of common sense as to what is safe. They sometimes bring family and friends on a doomed flight .

FPV02
FPV02
8 months ago

Okay, Tom, you asked for it. I few years back, I was at a club rifle range which, that day, I had all to myself (no other shooters, no range officer). I had a rifle on a rest, sighting it in. Two other guys drove up — one about 50 and someone who appeared to be his somewhat elderly father. The younger guy and I nodded at each other as they began setting up, and I went back to zeroing my rifle. Between shots, I happened to look up and, to my horror, discovered the older man *walking down range*… Read more »

Finnky
Finnky
8 months ago
Reply to  FPV02

@FPV02 – It’s one thing to put one’s own life in danger and quite another to put others at risk. Once upon a time I was at an outdoor archery range with a cheap kids bow. I was set up at a fairly short range (~15 yards?) and had the range to myself. Suddenly I noticed arrows sprouting in the next target over. Some experienced archers with modern compound bows were shooting in the next lane from maximum range. To put it mildly I practically shat myself – had (far too gentle) words with the idiots. They claimed there was… Read more »

Sisu
Sisu
8 months ago

Mr. McHale, I’m going to think a bit more about the scenarios presented. That said my initial reaction is there is little instructional value in what are situations that appear to continue to trouble you. Many times others interrupt one’s attempt to go about life. Walking away while always an option can lead to more introspection than putting oneself at risk of being wrong. As a “city boy” I long ago learned everyone is their own “first responder”. The propensity to avoid conflict is too prevalent in our society. I’m not talking about being a “hero” or putting yourself into… Read more »

Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
8 months ago
Reply to  Sisu

Very well said. I think many/most of these gun forums teach the “walk away” approach a little too much. My daddy didn’t raise me that way and while I don’t go looking for a fight, his Irish blood won’t let me walk away from one, either. Not without at least seeking to intervene. Ignorant people need to be taught. Idiots need to be confronted. “If not me, who?”, right?

Arizona Don
Arizona Don
8 months ago
Reply to  Pastor Roy

Looking for a fight and not backing away from an unnecessary GUN fight that could lead to someone getting killed are two different things. Killing someone is something that will adversely effect nearly everyone.

It takes a big man to walk away from a fight that could lead to a life changing outcome against an unreasonable bully.

However, self protection and protection of property and loved ones is different again.

Finnky
Finnky
8 months ago
Reply to  Sisu

– Must strongly agree with your last sentence. Far too few engage in the introspection which I find is often the most educational part of pretty much anything. While we all expect to learn from our failures, I am often surprised how much I learn from reexamining successes – both cementing what I did right (purposefully or by accident) and what I could do better.

GaryRamey
GaryRamey
8 months ago

Nothing worse than being at the range (or anywhere else for that matter) and seeing a lack of firearm safety.
People don’t put the firearms on the table with the gun racked back and the breech facing up.
They fail to keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction. We also see the firearm pointed to the side (towards another shooter) while they load or talk to their buddy.
Or they have the wrong holster for their firearm and holster is not secured properly.

God bless the RSO’s.
Sometimes it is better to pack up and get home.

handload223
handload223
8 months ago

Many of these ranges on Natural Preserves or Public Land that are “Free Range”, are huge mistakes. After I retired from the Army (23 years), it took me a long time to find a Club that had the facilities that suited my shooting disciplines, did not cost an arm and a leg, I could come and go as I pleased, and except for the average age of membership being 67 and they act like grade schoolers, I can (for the most part) put up with/deal/handle just about anyone. I was very vocal about the ByLaws, Rules, and Safety that after… Read more »

ed
ed
8 months ago

For everyone getting upset nowhere did Tom say he didn’t contact authorities. If this is where I think it is county deputies could be a long way off, this is one of the largest counties in the state. My son in law is a county deputy and will not go to that range again.

ed
ed
8 months ago

Boggyhead?

Core
Core
8 months ago

If he did not comply I would have packed up and called the range authorities. I tend to agree that the authorities should have been notified, despite my preference to deal with people personally. When I go to the range I carry concealed because I learned at a young age things go south real quick. It’s a sad reality to the lack of morals in the world we live.

CEMinMO
CEMinMO
8 months ago

Mr. McHale; How would you have felt if you just left, got home and then saw and heard on the news that this man’s wife and one of his sons was critically injured or killed? WHY would you just drive off instead of trying to diffuse the situation, convince the family to move to safety and/or call the Sheriff’s Department so that they could deal with a possible “drunk with a gun” and DWI situation? You said that you saw him drive up, right?

Desert Ranger
Desert Ranger
8 months ago
Reply to  CEMinMO

So why didn’t he?

Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
8 months ago
Reply to  CEMinMO

Too many authors in these gun forums teach the “none of my business” and “just walk away” philosophy. Where’s the concern for one’s fellow man? Where’s the desire to do the right thing? We ARE all our brother’s keeper and, as you said, if a member of this family was injured or killed by this idiot, could the author have lived with knowing that he might have been the one to prevent the tragedy?

Macpuma
Macpuma
8 months ago

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!!! That is not a safety situation. That is a CRIMINAL call 911 situation. The drunk guy was clearly belligerent and threatening. And all YOU can think to do is to pack up and LEAVE!! If you are at an uncontrolled range like that, YOU have a responsibility to be RESPONSIBLE. That does not mean break out the arms and start shooting when some yahoo starts acting threatenly. BUT IT DAMN WELL DOES MEAN GETTING TO A SAFE AREA AND CALLING 911. You want to shame the drunk guy? He at least has the… Read more »

Desert Ranger
Desert Ranger
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Shame on you! In my RSO class we had an idiot pointing a revolver at us literally 180 from downrange. Our instructor ran inside and disarmed the asshole and kicked him off the range while another had his gun out and pointed ready to end the threat. The only thing you proved in this article is you are a selfish jerk.

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago
Reply to  Desert Ranger

May I suggest, DR, that a bit less of the stimulant you are consuming might be in order. Life is too short to get that excited over this.

Whit
Whit
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

I don’t think an assumption is being made? From your article: ”By this time, I had accelerated my packing so I could get the hell out of the soon-to-be OK Corral. Contemplating the situation as I drove away…” you didn’t give us anything else to go on. I’m willing to hear otherwise just don’t have anything else to go on? While I agree that escalating the situation further was a bad idea from either party, going over and speaking to the father after first calling the cops on the revolver idiot would have been more in line with most of… Read more »

Vanns40
Vanns40
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom McHale

Tom: Sorry, but in relaying the story, of a first person encounter, including the final resolution is important because it directly affects how we view your credibility. If you called the police or did something else to defuse the situation and ensure, to the best of your ability, that no harm was going to befall anyone then that is a crucial part of the incident. You are absolutely correct that we weren’t there and don’t know the details but it is your responsibility to provide them.

Enjoy your articles, keep up the good fight.

JungleCogs
JungleCogs
8 months ago

In my view, all ranges (government and private owned or operated) should have a Range Officer present at all times. One, to monitor the users, and two, to be available in the event of an emergency. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but it seems like plain common sense to me.

DMH
DMH
8 months ago
Reply to  JungleCogs

I agree that it’s good idea. As with so many public safety issues, the problem is in the implementation. There’s only so much manpower (government or otherwise) to go around, and then there’s the matter of payroll for either the “government monitoring plan” (more taxes that would be *hard* to justify to the non-shooting public, particularly those that don’t want us to have guns in the first place) or somehow funding a private “friendly local RSO” plan. I.e., unless you can gin up enough volunteers (that are not on a power trip…) to cover 24×7 shifts (because stupid people do… Read more »

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago

I have only left a supervised range one time because of unsafe/weird behavior. I was pretty sure that if I stayed I would have had to shoot a person and didn’t want to go through that hassle that day. I was pretty much through doing the shooting I had planned for the day so that made the decision easier. I have spoken to plenty of people about their unsafe behavior over the years at the same range and if my intervention didn’t get the desired result I would bring the person running the range into the discussion which generally resulted… Read more »

JDC
JDC
8 months ago

My range has talked about similar issues. Of course, we can’t shoot cans, etc unless they are on the target stand/berm, as we worry about rounds going off range. Nothing on the ground. Worst thing I ever saw was an old guy who was shooting his .22. He’d take a shot, put the gun down, take a drag on his cigarette, take another shot. Lather, rinse, repeat. I went over to my table and after the range went cold, set my target up and started shooting with my .45. I finished the first magazine and saw the old gent holding… Read more »

KenW
KenW
8 months ago

I belong to a private club but to tell you the truth sometimes I miss the county range at Markham Park FL. complete with range officers. Pack up and leave is a good idea. At our club I heard car doors several car doors, as well as a motor mouth, “blah, blah, blah, etc.” well Mr. motor mouth walks right up to the firing line an announces that he’s going down range, on a hot line. Recently some dumbass decide to shoot down the range wind flag, who knows where those bullets went, then someone had their guests shoot over… Read more »

ConfusedForeignGirl
ConfusedForeignGirl
8 months ago

I had a guy show up with an ar15 wrapped in a moving blanket. He was using iron sights but didn’t have the rear one installed, and was using a 100 round drum. This was in California, and his rifle also wasn’t cali-legal (no fixed mag or featureless and drum mag) but he just didn’t know how to use the rifle, kept sweeping the people in the range, hitting everything but the target, didn’t know how to load the drum. It just seemed like it wasn’t his gun and/or he had no idea how it worked. I left to go… Read more »

Finnky
Finnky
8 months ago

@CFG – I completely understand you never going back there after being assaulted like that. One the other hand, one incident with one individual could be an aberration. Did anyone else observe the event and if so did anyone else react? Do you know what the range officer did after you told him? Regardless of your history, what “creepy guy” did was assault and not something anyone should be comfortable with. At least in Texas it would qualify as criminal assault. If you’d been in Texas, I’d be surprised that no one intervened. I hope for your sake your can… Read more »

ConfusedForeignGirl
ConfusedForeignGirl
8 months ago
Reply to  Finnky

@Finnky it was I. California. I don’t live there anymore. No one paid him any mind and the range officer said he would talk to him but I didn’t see him approach the guy before I left. It could have just been a random occurrence. As for Texas, unfortunately that’s where I was in the abusive relationship and while I’m sure I’d have better luck in other towns, the police at my college down there (Baylor) didn’t want anything to do with my problems when I tried to report him when I tried to break up

Xaun Loc
Xaun Loc
8 months ago

@wjd, I’d have to wonder if @CFG actually contacted the Waco police and actually tried to file a complaint. (I’m and not saying she didn’t but those are two common problems in situations similar to what she describes.) It sounds more like she reported the abuse to the campus cops. You have to remember that at EVERY college and university, the campus PD works for the university and their primary job is to avoid any sort of bad publicity. I don’t know about Baylor Univ and Tx law, but in many places the university police have been given exclusive jurisdiction… Read more »

ConfusedForeignGirl
ConfusedForeignGirl
8 months ago
Reply to  Xaun Loc

@Xuan Loc it was Baylor police and I did try to file a report but they didn’t want to help at all. I had a friend have similar Issue and they also wanted to downplay it. I eventually got a restraining order against him after he put me in the hospital and the nurse helped back up my story against him (not with the Baylor police)

JDT
JDT
8 months ago

I don’t understand whats creepy about going up to a girl you don’t know rubbing your junk on her like you’re on a busy subway?

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago
Reply to  JDT

That is because this is the USA and not Japan.

Grigori
Grigori
8 months ago

Confused Foreign Girl, did you at least ask Mr Biden for his autograph?

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago
Reply to  Grigori

Very good, very good.

Bobtail
Bobtail
8 months ago
Reply to  Grigori

Ok. That’s one of the better comment I’ve seen this month.

Heed the Call-up
Heed the Call-up
8 months ago

CFG,hearing about your experiences is quite upsetting. I would never have allowed that to happen, if I had seen that. From your posts to other stories, you seem to be a very nice person. Do not be so nice as to allow that behavior. As a female, you can defend yourself. Any damage to the perp would likely be dismissed, given the circumstances. You don’t need to put lead into him, but learn unarmed defense that can get the job done; a broken nose, nut, etc., will teach the perp not to do that again.

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago

I have to disagree Heed the Call-up, if you are not willing and able to deliver deadly force if need be, it is best to avoid physical confrontations. And some would add verbal confrontations to that also. In this world you just never know.

Heed the Call-up
Heed the Call-up
8 months ago
Reply to  RoyD

RoyD, simple assault does not justify lethal use of force. My comment about unarmed defense was in reference to her second incident at the range. One thing we are taught as instructors is to never touch someone without first asking if it is acceptable. When I am one-on-one, I ask if it is okay to touch their shoulder as a sensory indicator, along with a verbal command, to stop shooting. Sometimes it is difficult to hear commands, or as new shooters they are too focused on what they are doing for a verbal command to register right away. I touch… Read more »

RoyD
RoyD
8 months ago

Heed,
I went back and reread what your post just above mine was concerning and I see that you were basically talking about her breaking contact with creepy guy. Given that please disregard my post about use of force at that point in the interaction between her and creepy guy. I agree with what you posted. After contact is broken it would be time to reassess the level of force one might need. My error.

JIAZ
JIAZ
8 months ago

Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor range, I’m up with the sun so I can arrive just prior to opening time.
My experience has been the later the hour gets, the higher the Adam-Henry index climbs.

Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
8 months ago
Reply to  JIAZ

What is the Adam-Henry Index? I googled it, but with no luck.