Guide To A Successful Day At The Range

Nothing boggles my mind quite like some of the stuff I see at the range. Take heed to some of my tips to have a successful day at the range, and everyone will be happy. I apologize if I sound abrasive here, but this is important stuff.

Be safe:

You know the gun safety rules, right? Treat every weapon as if it's loaded; keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire; don't point your gun at anything you don't want to kill; know your target and what is around/behind it.

More than that, your gun range likely has a set of its own rules that you must follow as well. For example, my gun range has a rule that says when the gun is not in use the action needs to be open. What is an action? The action on a handgun is the slide. The action on an AR-15 is the bolt carrier group. The action on a bolt action rifle is, you guessed it, the bolt. The action on a lever action rifle is, you're so smart, the lever. Revolver? It's the cylinder.

Savvy? Let's move one …

You must follow the rules to the letter, because they're there for a reason. At some point, someone got hurt or worse because that rule was broken. Don't be that guy/gal.

Brass Buzzard:

You know who the brass buzzard is right? He's the old timer who walks around picking up everyone's brass as if it were his, while people are still shooting. He never asked for permission to pick it up, he assumes that because it's on the ground it's free game.

Well, it's not. The person who shot it likely wants it back either for himself or a friend.

Personally, I don't re-load my ammo, but it's still rude to pick up the spent brass that other people spent their hard-earned cash on. I usually pick up my own for other people, and have several gallon sized bags worth of spent casings ranging in size from .380 up to .50.

Bring your own targets:

Fewer things bother me as much as someone else shooting at my target. If it's a mistake because our targets are so similar that you got confused, that's one thing. But, to shoot across lanes at someone else's target is wrong. Chances are, that person is measuring improvement of some sort. And, if you start shooting at his/her target, you're going to screw them up.

This has happened to me before, on more than one occasion, and I don't go to that range anymore. But, be sure that you're only shooting at your own target.

Clean up after yourself:

Listen, nobody likes a nasty gun range. Nobody wants to step on spent casings. Every gun range I've ever been to has a broom and a dustpan to clean up. On the bare minimum, at least sweep it into a pile to the side for someone else to pick up the brass if you don't want it.

This is also true of taking down your targets and throwing away your empty ammo boxes when you leave. Nobody else should have to pick up your garbage. Make sure you clean up after yourself.

Bring the right gear/snacks:

Yeah, you read that right: Snacks. Speaking from personal experience, I get stupid when I get hungry. My hands shake and my brain doesn't work at full speed. That's a dangerous situation when I've got a gun in my hand. So, I try to bring granola bars with me to the range when I need a quick pick me up.

As far as gear is concerned, it can't hurt to go above and beyond what you think you need. In the Marine's mindset, it's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Therefore, I bring tools, extra hearing protection, first aid kits, recoil springs, ammo, targets, stapler, staples, thumb tacks, etc.

Don't offer help when it's not asked for:

I may disagree with some people on this one, and I know that the gun industry is filled with people who genuinly just want to help those who look like they're struggling. But, what we have to keep in mind, is that we will have no idea the skillset of another shooter, or what they're at the range trying to do.

Case in point, one time when doing a gun review for a different publication, I was purposefully attempting to malfunction a Springfield Armory XD9 when a local firearms instructor told me I was limp-wristing the gun–which I was, on purpose.

After I mentioned that I was writing a review for guns dot com, he sheepishly backed off.

Now, there is another side of this coin. If someone is doing something stupid, or dangerous, you have a duty to say something in the name of safety. In the same vein here, this brings me to my next point …

If you need help, ask:

As I said a minute ago, gun folks are some of the nicest you'd ever meet. Granted, Glockophiles and 1911 fanatics don't always share the same outlook on life, but when the stinky brown stuff (AKA, poop*) hits the mechanical reciprocating device (AKA, fan), the only thing that matters is the Second Amendment and that we've all got each other's back.

Therefore, if you need help, ask. Even if that person hates your gun choice, he/she is more than willing and probably very able, to help you out.

Check out Matthew's .22 TCM review here.

Know your goals:

What is your purpose for being there? Is it to finish breaking that new gun in? Are you practicing drills? Plinking? Shooting groups? This is important because you'll better be able to concentrate on what you're doing, and actually track your progress.

Dress right:

This seems so basic, but you'd be surprised at how some folks dress to go to the range. Listen, I love my flip flops as much as the next dude, but there is a place for them and it's not (usually) at the gun range. Now, I put the word “usually” in parenthesis, because I am a strong believer that you must train the way you're going to fight.

In other words, if you were to bump into me in the summer, I can almost guarantee that I'd be wearing flip flops and a pair of cargo shorts. Therefore, I do go to the range a few times a year dressed like that, so I can experience it first-hand and know what to expect should I need to defend my life in my bum attire. It could happen, and I want to be prepared.

Don't touch anyone's stuff:

It's considered rude to touch anyone's gun or gear without permission, and for good reason. Chances are excellent that you don't know the condition of that firearm (both shooting, or of any work that person had done). Also, guns end up disappearing on a regular basis while people's backs are turned. By keeping your hands to yourself, you help mitigate being accused of anything.

Always keep your gun pointed downrange:

Hopefully this is a no-brainer that makes sense. If it's pointed downrange, nobody can get hurt unless someone is downrange, which brings me to my next point …

Never handle your firearm when people are downrange:

Again, this should be common sense. You want everyone around you to feel safe, and if you start picking up your gun or loading magazines when people are downrange, it's a big no-no.

Always clear your firearm before handing it to anyone:

This is something I learned during my time in the Marines, and is a good practice to get into on and off the range. In fact, if I had my say in what the fifth rule of firearms safety should be, it'd be this one. It's always a good idea to unload, show clear any firearm before handing it to someone. In fact, I always hand a gun to someone with the action open for their ease of mind, as well as my own.

There you have it. If you follow these simple steps, you'll have a successful, not to mention safe, time at the range. Are there any that I missed? If so, shed some light in a comment below.

*Yes, I said poop. In an effort to try and stay family friendly, we will not be using the other word in any of our blog posts, gear or gun reviews, podcasts, or anything else. If you're caught off guard by this because you skipped to the end, you really should go back and read what I said above. 

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. Jacob Paulsen on February 13, 2018 at 10:50 am

    A great list of solid tips Josh!

  2. Steve wieters on February 13, 2018 at 11:39 am

    What about single action revolvers? Does the cylinder need to be removed during cease fires between sessions?

  3. Wolf on February 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Steve, you can always leave the loading gate open and facing up .

  4. Rob Beckman on February 13, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Great points for all to consider. My only suggestions on picking up brass is don’t let it become so much that it’s in other people’s way or makes for unsafe walking conditions in an indoor range. When at the range and the floor gets covered with brass I will sweep them out of the way so people can walk safely. It’s not hard to sweep the brass you want to keep into a corner in your booth so others don’t have to deal with it. Reloading is fun and saving the brass saves a lot on the reloading costs.

  5. Gregory A Gower on February 14, 2018 at 8:38 am

    very nice pointers. most of us know this but i am sure there are a few people who don’t. curtesy goes a long way on both ends. nice article. have a good day—greg

  6. Bob Merriman on February 14, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Josh! I’m curious about the handgun in the photo. What make and model is it? I just purchased a Smith & Wesson 327/TRR8. There are not many eight shot revolver’s around, hence my curiosity. Thank you and thanks for a great article !

    • Joshua Gillem on February 14, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Hey Bob, nice to hear from you.

      The revolver is a S&W 627 Performance Center 8-shot, .357 Magnum. Review to follow shortly, in a few weeks time so stay tuned for it. It’s a great shooting revolver so far, and I’ll likely struggle to give it back to S&W when done with it.


      Josh ~ Editor

      • Bob Merriman on February 15, 2018 at 12:58 am

        Thanks Josh! I’ll be looking for the review!

  7. Sgt. L. Bjergo on February 14, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    I noticed the Speed Loader in the revolver photo. Is that a Speed Loader “Clip”? I’ve heard of them but NEVER seen one! Who makes it, and where can they be purchased!


  8. Gary on February 20, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    I have a suggestion for an additional rule:

    “After being handed a cleared firearm, even if you just watched the person clear it, clear it yourself”.

    It never hurts to be too careful.

  9. Marc on February 20, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    In retrospective I feel very lucky I found two of three great shooting ranges. I say two because the first one I visited after moving in the area I’m living now was kind ‘a undisciplined. After someone had a discharge inside the facility I never went back. But the other two where I shoot IDPA, Bowling Pins and shoot steel are excellent.

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