As an avid shooter, I’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of shooting at a wide variety of ranges throughout the country. Suffice it to say, the operations and rules vary greatly from one range to the next.
They range from “Hold my beer while I shoot” type establishments to places with a rules manual as thick as a New York City phone book.
As with most places that are more “rule-intensive,” the most likely reason they have so many regulations is because of a phenomenon that I refer to as the LCD factor.
LCD stands for lowest common denominator.
-You know, “that guy.” The guy who looks down the barrel of a loaded gun when he has a misfire.
-The guy who loads 9mm into a .40.
-The guy with a hole the size of a 12-gauge slug in the bed of his truck created during an “unloading gone wrong incident” after a deer hunting trip.
-The guy who handloads his own rounds with enough propellent to try to get the projectile to travel at the speed of light.
-The guy whose favorite target for confirming zero is a bottle of propane.
-The mouth-breather, the windowlicker, the guy a few loads short of a full magazine, if you get my drift.
He’s the LCD. He’s the reason we can’t have fun at the range.
HERE ARE SOME RULES I have seen that are most likely a byproduct of the LCDers who came before me. At one range I shoot at, they have a rule that when driving your vehicle on the range you have to keep the speed below 3 mph.
Next time you are in your car, try driving it at 3 mph. It’s almost physically impossible to do and you’ll probably get passed up by an old lady with a walker.
But that’s not the strange part of the rule. You are also required to wear eye and ear protection while driving it!
So, let me get this straight. You want me to decrease my ability to hear when I’m driving? I guess rolling up the windows wouldn’t have made any sense.
Truth be told, if you run over a person while moving at a blistering 3 mph, even if they are screaming at you (which you can’t hear because of ear plugs), you probably shouldn’t be handling firearms anyways.
SKSs are limited to two rounds at a time. The rationalization for this one is the range master’s belief that the rifle will somehow magically turn into a full-auto weapon when loaded with more than two rounds!
So, I asked around and checked the internet and wasn’t able to find any examples of Simonov carbines going rogue into full “Pew! Pew! Pew!” mode, so I’m not sure where this comes from.
I’m guessing, at some point, some dude showed up at their range with modified SKS designed to go full auto and most likely, in an effort to avoid being arrested or kicked off the range, blamed a malfunction with the weapon.
No rapid fire. You must wait a full five seconds between shots. My first thought when I read this one was that the “I hate SKSs” guy came up with this rule.
After doing a little research, I came to find out more than one range had this rule. This is a great rule, if you are muzzle loading … But again, I can see how the LCD guy made this a necessity.
He was probably blazing away with some cheap ammo, spraying and praying, getting his aggressions out (probably with the evil SKS). But five seconds! Give me a break.
No holsters may be worn openly on range property, but magazine pouches are OK.
I read this rule to my dog and her head tilted sideways like she was hearing a high-pitched whistle. I could see a rule saying “no shooting from the holster,” but not outright banning them.
One of the most dangerous things about shooting at ranges is when newbies are retrieving weapons from their cases and putting them back in when done.
I’ve looked down the barrel of more than one 200-caliber firearm as its owner inadvertently pointed it at me while making it ready or putting it away. For those who have never had a weapon pointed at them, regardless of the actual caliber, when it’s pointed at your head it appears to be at least a 200-caliber!
The confusing part here is that mag pouches are OK. Holsters and mag pouches go together like liberals and CNN.
No zombie targets. I get the reason behind no humanoid shaped targets (humanoid is the term used in most range rules I read). Ranges are for target practice, so I don’t have a problem going to a range and shooting at bull’s-eyes.
But who exactly are we offending by shooting zombie targets? Is there a walking dead population in the area this range is located that has a strong political voice? Is there a Zombie American Antidefamation League out there that opposes zombie targets?
On a side note, is the term “zombie” considered offensive to them? Is “undead” preferable?
And, if they truly do exist, should I be concerned about whether or not my brain will be eaten? Anyway, it’s a stupid rule.
No tactical ammunition. I’ve been a cop for almost two decades, SWAT, been in combat overseas and I still don’t really know what “tactical ammunition” is.
There’s some obvious examples like armor-piercing incendiary ammo, 81mm mortar rounds, Hellfire missiles, and so on.
But what else qualifies? Hollow point? Fully jacketed? Pointy bullets that could be used as a stabbing implement to poke someone’s eye out? This one probably requires a little better explanation, like, no barrier-penetrating ammo or (an extreme example) no depleted uranium rounds.
Most of these “rule-intensive” ranges are accompanied by grumpy old men whose sole function is to watch you with a jaundiced eye and wait for you to run afoul of a regulation. They are like the “church ladies” of the range world with their “safer than thou” attitude.
“Hey, son, that was four seconds between your last pair of shots. One more violation like that and you’re outta here!” In their defense, though, they’ve probably seen some pretty stupid stuff over the years, which has left them jaded.
ON THE FLIP SIDE, I’ve seen some stuff at ranges that is so unsafe it boggles the mind that they are allowed to operate that way.
I shot at one outdoor range where there was no set time for going downrange to change/replace targets.
The shooters would agree to make their weapons safe, then go change them out. One time, when I was shooting there, everyone agreed to go cold and change targets.
As we were in the process of changing them out, some bonehead on the far end of the range opened up with an AK-47 (at least it wasn’t the dreaded menace, the SKS!).
Everybody freaked out! When confronted, the dude said, “You guys were all the way down at the end of the range! It wasn’t like I was trying to shoot you! Jeez!” Surprisingly, the “rangemaster” (the old man with nothing better to do than to hang out at the range all day) didn’t kick him off.
This range was one of those places where you bring old television sets, bowling pins, cans and other assorted garbage to shoot. I guess that should have been a clue that it wasn’t the safest place on Earth.
I went to another range where I was stuck next to a guy who was a muzzleloader. He had a black powder revolver with him. His favorite thing to do was to load it up and then shoot it as quickly as possible into the dirt about 10 feet into the ground in front of him.
He repeated this process about 10 times, then he packed up and went home, satisfied with the fact that he had a 100-percent hit rate on the dirt. No one else at the range said a word so, apparently, it was a perfectly acceptable practice.
ADMITTEDLY, I MAY HAVE BEEN guilty of some LCD-esque behavior too.
One time my SWAT team was at a range, shooting steel silhouette targets. When we set up the targets, we angled them wrong. When set up correctly the steel targets were designed to deflect the round down towards the ground.
We managed to set them up just right so the splash back (fragments of the rounds) came back at us as we fired. For the uninitiated, splash back hurts, a lot. A lot of foul language was heard as guys were catching pieces in their arms and legs. One guy caught a good-size piece in his neck.
We used a high-speed surgical tool known as a Leatherman to pull the errant fragment out of his neck. After about an hour of this, we switched to paper targets (we’re not stupid, after all).
Once during a carbine class, we had an instructor talk us into going down to the hot side of the range while he cranked off different calibers at us, firing them over our heads.
The point being, you could hear what different calibers sound like as they are impacting around you. I was young and dumb(er) at the time, so I agreed to do it. Thankfully, no one got hurt.
During SWAT school, we did a drill where officers went to opposite ends of the range and faced each other.
A “humanoid” target was placed next to you, to your left, about a foot to your left … Officers would advance on each other firing two rounds from an AR whenever the threat command was given. If your long gun ran dry, you were supposed to transition to your handgun and fire.
I was still in my young/dumb stage at the time, so I liked to run my rifle dry when I was farthest from my target, then transition to my handgun! I had a partner who was a bit of a worrywart, so it made it that much more fun to watch him squirm when I drew my pistol and fired at him.
What could go wrong, shooting a target 25 yards away, a foot from your buddy?! One of my other guys on my SWAT team went through the same course of fire during a different SWAT class. They had a guy who didn’t bring an AR, but instead he used a shotgun. He ran the same drill with 00 buck! In case you’re wondering, the company that ran the school is now out of business, for safety reasons.
They say the most dangerous thing in the Army is a second lieutenant with a map and compass. Once, while serving as second lieutenant in the Army, I ended up on the wrong end of a machine gun range.
My driver and I were out doing a reconnaissance of a training area at Fort Bragg for an upcoming operation. I had the map and I navigated us to the receiving end of an M-60 machine gun range.
I came to this conclusion when 7.62 rounds were being fired in our direction. This was before the carbine class where I let the instructor shoot over my head, but I could still tell it was 7.62. My driver, realizing that I had led us into an active range, took evasive action and got us the heck out of there. He then drove us home without me telling him to do so.
Recon mission over. So the next time you are confronted by a stupid rule at your local range, remember there is probably a reason (or person) behind it.
Editor’s note: Nick Perna is a sergeant with the Redwood City Police Department in northern California. He has spent much of his career as a gang and narcotics investigator.
He served as a member of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team as an entry team member, sniper and team leader.
He previously served as a paratrooper in the US Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a master’s degree from the University Of San Francisco.
He is a regular contributor to multiple print and online periodicals dealing with tactics, gang and drug investigations and veteran’s issues.
Story and Photos by Nick Perna
Posted in Editor's Blog Tagged with: Range Rules