Sunday, February 13, 2011

Range Etiquette... It's Not Nice to Point

As I mentioned, I worked for about six months in one of Colorado's nicest indoor shooting facilities and, during that time, met a ton of wonderful people and shot a ton of wonderful guns. The "Oz Curtain" moment came shortly after I started - the first time a shooter walked out of his stall, turned to talk to a buddy, and flagged not only me the entire firing line (protected, thankfully, by an inch of ballistic glass) and thought nothing of his transgression. How do you react to that? Quickly, at first. Then, once you're in a safe direction with your hand on the gun, you can start to explain why you just moved faster-than-light and you've just pointed someone else's gun in a safe direction for them.

Nothing will screw with a civilian shooter's OODA Loop harder than looking down the barrel of a loaded handgun for the first time... and, when it happens, there's little time for "scuse me, sir..." or "pardon me ma'am" until you've got your hand on the slide and are directing a very confused and nearly pissed-off shooter back into the stall and downrange. After six months of full-time RO, instructor, and range operations work, you'd think you'd evolved into something a little more than human... not because it's the cool thing to do, but because breathing and going home to your wife has ALWAYS been the cool thing to do.

Fast forward one year... I'm no longer wearing a red shirt and carrying a 1911 for fun and profit but I still shoot as much as my new job will afford. I've also never lost sight of those lessons learned as a range officer... the first always being "go home with the same number of orifices you came to work with." So... today... when an acquaintance (call her a social friend I know through the neighborhood) walks off the line with her husband's 1911 in Condition 1 my first reaction is to grab the slide - direct it toward the back wall - an emergency safe direction if needed - and proceeded to let her know that guns leaving the line need to be locked open, the magazine must be removed, and the gun carried muzzle up. After an indignant "it's empty" I realized that in a moment that I'd pissed off someone not likely to remain a friend very long, and that she had absolutely no regard for her fellow shooters on the line.

That may sound harsh, but here's the hard reality, folks. We are responsible not only for ourselves, but for everything our muzzles cover. That includes friends, family members, and strangers when you're walking out of the stall with a gun we can't tell is loaded.

When you walk out of the stall with what has every appearance of being a Condition 1 1911 - IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF SOME OF THE MOST BASIC AND CARDINAL RANGE SAFETY RULES - I'm not going to have a ton of concern for your feelings, regardless of whether or not that gun is empty and you're walking back to put it away. I would much rather try to rebuild a friendship over a cup of coffee and a calm conversation than have you explain to my wife why I have a .45 caliber hole in my gut and a shattered pelvis.

Just because YOU know your gun is empty, the rest of the folks on the firing line don't. Slide forward, magazine in, and hammer back looks an awful lot like a cocked-and-locked handgun and when you're leaving the firing line with it, I AM going to have a short conversation with you about it. Emphasis on the SHORT while I make DAMN SURE you don't have the opportunity to point that burner at me.

Be safe, friends. Enjoy your range sessions, and remember that cardinal rule all of us who've worked "downrange" of the gun owning public take to heart...

Go home every night with the exact same number of limbs, organs, and orifices you clocked in with.

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