I have often thought back on moments when I've been out to the range with a friend or family member who is firing a gun for their first time. They are visibly nervous albeit often excited and anxious as well.
While it is important to be competent and safe with a firearm, today we will explore some of the things you can do to be perceived as safe and competent. The way others perceive you is important when guns are involved. You need the ability to put other people at ease and make them feel comfortable. Here are some tips to help you outwardly show that you can be counted on to keep others safe and comfortable.
1. When you first arrive at the range introduce yourself to everyone else there. During the introduction just ask them for their name and perhaps what they are practicing or training today. Ask if they come to the range often. These quick introductions will not only remove the stranger effect but they will also make you some friends in the process.
2. Review the safety rules with those in your group before the guns come out. If the rules are on the wall of the range you can just point and read them. Try to keep a brochure or paper in your range bag that you can retrieve to quickly review the rules. This communicates that you feel gun safety is important and you are not above the practice of reviewing them.
3. Be an example of humility. Gun folk are generally thought to be full of ego and pride. That attitude of “I know more and I know best” doesn't make others feel good. It makes them either hate you, distrust you, or feel intimidated by you. It never makes them feel comfortable. Look for opportunities to express what you don't know. I often do this in reference to guns I don't know making a comment like, “I've never fired that gun before do you like it?”
4. Have the right gear. Walk in with your eye and ear protection on. Use empty chamber indicators to show that your firearm is safe when not in use.
5. Take a course to become a certified NRA Range Safety Officer. Anyone can take the RSO course and it will arm you with the range commands and also the confidence to better manage yourself and others at the range.
6. Follow the safety rules EXACTLY. It sounds overly simple but if you become obsessed with the rules this will not only make others comfortable but it will also make everyone safe.
7. Become a master of your vocabulary. Become a student of the terms. Read the instruction manual for your weapons and always ask questions when you don't know what a certain firearm, part, type of malfunction, cleaning equipment, stance, drill, or anything else is called.
What else have you found that you can do or that others do around you that helps people feel comfortable?