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ome people have no apparent need for social acceptance — they just thrive on being the object of scorn and ridicule. In fact, they actively seek that position in life. It’s easy to find those folks online; social media trolls are more numerous than Hollywood actors at a "Learn how to love yourself with boundless enthusiasm" workshop. If you’re one of those types and just feel the need to draw the wrath of the Range Officer, get kicked off the range, and attract the stink eye from everyone else present at your next shooting outing, then we have some helpful suggestions for you. 1. Shoot at the Ground The polished concrete floors at indoor ranges are designed that way so you can skip bullets to the target, right?

This is the universal sign that the RO isn't happy.
This is the universal sign that the RO isn't happy.author photo

If you’re at an indoor range, the Range Officer is going to get super upset if you shoot at the floor, even accidentally. Ricochets indoors are a particularly bad thing, and bullets really tend to tear up even the most durable concrete floors. The very best floor shine and polish job ain’t gonna buff out those divots. The best ways to be thrown out of an indoor range for this offense are to have your finger on the trigger at the wrong times and to shoot too fast.

When outdoors, shooting at ground targets seems safe and natural, right? Not necessarily. Let’s illustrate the scenario with a quick pop quiz.

When a bullet strikes the ground, it will bounce and continue on its way as follows:

  • A. At an angle less than the original trajectory because the ground "slows it down" some.

  • B. At an angle equal to the original trajectory because every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

  • C. At any angle it feels like, up to and including right back at the shooter.

While A and B seem logical, the correct answer is C. If the ground was a perfectly flat, hard, and blemish-free surface, you might expect the bullet to skip at a similar angle to which it came from, kind of like a billiard ball bouncing off the bumper. Outdoors, there are plenty of tiny imperfections on the ground like rocks, sticks, and all sort of other debris. As a result, there is no way to predict where a bullet will go once it hits.

Even if your range has a big dirt backstop, there’s no guarantee that a bullet won’t skip right over it. And remember, a rifle bullet can travel a couple of miles, so even if it slows some, it can still travel long distances.

2. Shoot Over the Targets

Because the berm or backstop is just a suggestion, after all.

berm shooting range
Most outdoor ranges have berms like these to stop bullets after they pass through the target. Don’t ever shoot over them and don’t shoot at the ground in front of them as bullets can skip right over the berm and travel for over a mile.author photo

Outdoor ranges have big dirt backstops called berms. Some of the really cool ones out west even use mountains for this purpose. The idea is to stop bullets that either miss or pass through paper targets so they can’t continue flying to parts unknown. You can not only upset the Range Officer by shooting right over the berm; you can probably get banned from the range for life.

All kidding aside, launching a bullet over the berm is a really dangerous thing to be avoided at all costs. You don’t know who or what is out there on the other side.

Avoiding this problem is simple: don’t shoot faster than your ability to control your gun. And keep your finger off the trigger until you’re lined up on the target.

3. Play Off a Negligent Discharge with Some Method Acting

If the gun “goes off” and you did not make the conscious decision to make it do so, pretend it’s all part of a new speed drill you’re working on, or something…just be cool.

It’s confession time, because we’ve probably all done it at some point or another. I’m talking about firing a shot you really didn’t intend.

If you’ve ever done this, you might have also demonstrated some Academy Award-winning acting skills by quickly pretending that it was intentional. Granted, if you managed to put a hole in the ceiling, your performance wasn’t all that convincing.

There might be a number of causes but a common one is not controlling recoil, and you let off an unintended follow-up shot. If it’s recoil induced, there’s also a great chance that your gun is pointed up in the air, maybe even to the point where it will hit the ceiling of an indoor range or sail right over the berm at an outdoor range.

An observant RO will see what you did, despite your drama skills, and you’ll get a serious tongue lashing if not an ejection.

4. Shoot Glass Bottles

Definitely bring a crate of old beer bottles and other glassware to blow to sharp smithereens down range.

Glass bottles might be fun to shoot, but they're not so fun to clean up.
Glass bottles might be fun to shoot, but they're not so fun to clean up.photo from 52things52weeks.com

Here’s one that’s problematic, for me anyway. Shooting glass bottles is immensely satisfying, especially when they’re full of stuff like grape jelly. On a related point, did I mention that shooting .357 Sig hollow-point ammo at Costco-sized jar of grape jelly just might win the Golden Globe Award for best slow-motion video ever made?

The problem is the cleanup. Well, that and the safety issues from all that broken glass.

This one is a pretty obvious faux pas for indoor shooting ranges. I suspect you’d get more than dirty looks after tossing a few full jars of Miracle Whip down range.

Where it’s not so obvious is at outdoor ranges. With enough outings, you’re bound to see someone toting a crate full of old beer bottles. I know, the special impact effects are fun, and therefore tempting. But remember, someone has to clean that up and even if you pick up most of your own mess, there’s bound to be glass shards left over.

Some ranges will have specific rules about this posted and they may allow plastic bottles and/or aluminum cans even if glass is banned, as they can be picked up after you put holes through them. But you better clean them up. Additionally, any targets placed on the ground will likely have to be placed at a minimum safety distance (see #1).

By the way, lest you accuse me of epic hypocrisy, I did clean up the grape jelly-splosion. And that was the very last time I shot at glass. I swear.

5. Shoot Your Food

Be sure to bring half-rotten food to set down range and shoot, because it just splatters so good.

While picking up the can is easy, things like Cream of Mushroom soup will leave a mess and attract undesirable critters.
While picking up the can is easy, things like Cream of Mushroom soup will leave a mess and attract undesirable critters.author photo

While chunks o’ pumpkin don't create a safety hazard out on the range, they do tend to make a mess. After a few days, it becomes a stinky eyesore. After a few weeks, you might just have budding vegetable garden blooming between the firing line and 100-yard berm.

There’s one other reason that Range Officers won’t invite you to their holiday party if you shred fruit and veggies at the range. The remnants tend to attract critters, and usually, they’re not the cute and cuddly ones.

6. Perforate the Target Track

If paper targets are too large and easy to hit for you at an indoor range, try nailing the overhead target tracks instead.

Range owners love it when you shoot their expensive target track system.
Range owners love it when you shoot their expensive target track system.photo from shootersworld.com

Let’s make a bet. The next time you go to an indoor shooting range, take a close look at those overhead rails used to trolley the targets down range. I’ll bet you a trillion dollars that you’ll see holes and dents in them.

If you don’t see any, that simply means that the range just replaced them, so I still win the bet.

Most of these systems use easily replaceable sections because rail-makers and range owners know that there is a 6,298% chance that people will perforate them. Even still, they cost money and time to fix, so it’s a great way to tick off the Range Officer.

You will see the same behavior from folks at outdoor ranges who much prefer to shoot the chains suspending the steel targets rather than the steel itself, though this is far more forgivable at long distances…usually.

7. Show Your Buddy How Cool Your Gun Is

Definitely do this is well behind the firing line, while waving your muzzle all about.

This area is not for showing your pal you new firearm.
This area is not for showing your pal you new firearm.author photo

Most ranges have benches or some kind of seating behind the firing line. That area is for resting or maybe for people waiting their turn to shoot. This resting and socializing area is definitely not the place to do things like demonstrate the features or your new gun. It’s also not the place to do gun maintenance tasks like adjusting sights, clearing a jam, or trying to figure out while your gun isn’t working just right.

Come to think of it, rather than listing all the things one shouldn’t do behind the shooting line, we can make it really simple. Don’t handle guns - at all - when behind the shooting line.

The Range Officer will thank and not hate you if you bring guns right up to the line while still in their case.

Remove them only when the range is hot and keep the muzzles pointed down range in the process. If you need to make an adjustment or check something, do it right on the firing line while keeping the fiery end pointed in a safe direction.

Here’s the bottom line. Other range users and the Range Officer tend to get really nervous when people are handling guns behind the firing line for any reason.

Remember, the gun being “unloaded” is not an excuse. Why? Because of safety rule number one: a gun is always loaded!

OK, so we had a little fun with this. But seriously, all of the things mentioned in this article happen every day at ranges across the country. Every time I go to a range, I see one or more of these bad habits. Every. Single. Time.

That’s terrible. We can all do a much better job of being safe and responsible without sacrificing any of the enjoyment from a nice range outing. Be safe out there folks!