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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know if this is the right forum for this post, but at least it will be seen here!

I was at the range the other day, when I almost did a really stupid thing. I hope that people who read this learn from my experience. And no, the rangemaster is not making me post this!

I almost always use the 100-yard range rifle range at my shooting club. They have the same rule as every other range – no handling of firearms while others are downrange. The 100-yard range has two smaller berms off to the left side at 25 and 50 yards. There were only two of us at the range the other day, myself and an elderly gent who is there almost all the time. His normal routine is to shoot a few rounds, hang out with the other retirees, come back and shoot a few more. Nice guy, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with him.

During one of his absences, I went downrange to tape the holes in my targets. I glanced back a couple of times to make sure that he saw me if he returned. I got back to the shooting line, sat down behind my Mauser rifle, and loaded five rounds. Just about then, the roving rangemaster walked onto the 100-yard range, and motioned frantically for me to get back behind the line. He pointed downrange, and I was horrified to see the other guy tending to his targets at the 50-yard berm. I will never understand how I failed to see him when I walked back from the 100-yard line. I would like to think that I would have seen him before I started shooting, but I can’t be sure of that.

Fortunately for me, I know the range master, so he did not make a big deal about it. I was very apologetic as I should have been. I can imagine how it would have gone if I were a 20 year old kid like my son, especially if I had given him any backtalk. What scares me the most is that I was probably only a minute or so from sending a round downrange. While the old guy was in no real danger, I probably would have had to appear before the executive committee to explain the incident and why I should not be kicked out of the club.

The point of all this is that when you are shooting, you need to expand the safety rule of “know your target and what is beyond” to “know your target and everything in the potential impact area”. Also, let’s add another one: “pay attention to your surroundings at all times”.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The long range (500-yard) rifle range has a similar flag. On that range, you can't necessarily see people downrange. I have never seen a 100-yard range with a flag, since it is assumed that you can see people at that distance. Maybe not such a bad idea, though.
 

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Fortunately, the RO made a timely intervention. Familiar activities often lead to a state of mind where the unexpected is easily overlooked. It's why we have to constantly remind ourselves that mistakes with firearms can be fatal.

My last gaffe was when I was talking to one of the ROs during the lull between the "Cease Fire" and "All clear to go downrange". When we finished our conversation I turned to head downrange and got about five yards beyond the firing line before the Chief RO screamed over the public address "HEY-GET BACK BEHIND THE LINE". My distraction by speaking to an RO during a critical time on the range caused us both to lapse. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and I didn't get kicked off the range, but I listened much more closely for the rest of the session.
 

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Does your club operate as a "supervised" range or "on your own" ? You mention "rangemaster" but are there other RSO's? Are cease fires called and enforced? Is there a flag or signal system for hot and cold? Is there a "tower" or observation point for the RSO or rangemaster to see the entire live fire area of the range?
Although you made a boo-boo, it sounds like the range rules and the operating system need a serious review and maybe some changes.

The massive influx of new shooters to many ranges has made range safety paramount and forced many changes on ranges that used to be run a lot looser.
I have watched this most necessary shift over the years on the range I use, to the point where it can be a PITA but needed and required.
Years back, when only the "regulars" were there, everyone was pretty loose but adhered to a safety regimen and the line could run well all by itself with only one rangemaster in the tower (and he was known to doze off) Anymore, it is necessary to have two RSO's walking the line, one on the handgun range, and a tower sometimes sporting two rangemasters and binoculars. The flag system is strictly enforced. There is a safety line and everyone must be 10' clear from the benches before the range is cleared for "cold" and target posting. The RSO's must "walk the line" and check that every gun is cleared and has a chamber flag. Before declaring "fire", the RSO's again walk the line, spot the berms and make sure everyone is back from down range. Only after all of them "clear" by radio to the tower, does the rangemaster declare "fire"

Despite all this ... there are "incidents"
People going to their benches and fiddling with weapons. Newbies boldly walking forward to post a target during live fire. People not clearing their guns for a cease fire. It's unbelievable some of the crap I witness. The RSO job has become most tedious as you just can't fix stupid!

Note that is also the responsibility of every shooter on the line to call "cease fire" if they observe a blatant safety violation.
I carry whistles and an air horn in my range box and have had need to use it more than once!

If your range is in need of an overhaul on operating procedure, the NRA Range Service Division can offer plenty of help and advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
"Does your club operate as a "supervised" range or "on your own" ? You mention "rangemaster" but are there other RSO's? Are cease fires called and enforced? Is there a flag or signal system for hot and cold? Is there a "tower" or observation point for the RSO or rangemaster to see the entire live fire area of the range?"

We seldom have more than one range safety officer, or rangemaster on duty at one time. The club has several ranges, so most of the time you are "on your own". Cease fires are called and enforced, but in this instance, I was the only one there when I called the cease fire. No flag or signal system on the 100 yard range - you can easily see the entire range, but you do have to look! Yes, it would make the range safer is there were an RSO there all the time, but we simply don't have enough people to do that. The membership is capped at a certain number (I don't know what it is), so we don't have many newbies during a given year. Most shooters are experienced, cooperative, and safe, so we seldom have any serious problems.

To give at least some perspective, the range I used to go to when I lived in Alabama was a "commercial" range. You paid a daily fee to shoot for as long as you wanted. The rifle and pistol ranges were right next to each other, oriented in the same direction, and separated by a plywood partition. The two were operated independently - a cease fire for one did not apply to the other. The partition itself was riddled with bullet holes. In addition to that, the corrogated fiberglass roof of the shooting house was full of bullet holes. To my knowledge, they never had any injuries there, but the place used to scare me.
 

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My local range has a flag that goes up when anyone is forward of the firing line for any reason.
Dale
Same here. We actually have two, a large 4 ft. square red flag that hangs down just in back of the shooting benches, and another on a stand that sits out about 10 yds. in front of the benches. The latter is the type you sometimes see at highway construction zones with two flags in a sort of "V" shaped configuration. You'd have to be legally blind to not see all those flags, and when they are showing and people are downrange NO ONE is allowed to handle any firearms, period.

When a cease fire is called all firearms must be unloaded, magazines removed, and the actions opened. This is pretty much standard procedure at any range that I've ever seen. Although it's optional, many of our members on the rifle range also use Orange or Yellow "chamber flags" to give a positive visual indication that the chamber is in fact empty and the action open. Then the red cease fire/safety flags go out. Then, and only then, is anyone allowed to move downrange to change targets.

There's also a thick yellow line painted on the concrete about 10 ft. behind the shooting benches, under no circumstances is anyone allowed in front of the yellow line while the flags are out and people are downrange. People headed downrange to change targets must go thru a gate on the side of the shooting pavilion to gain access to the range, that way they never come anywhere near the shooting benches, or any guns and ammunition that are on those benches while the cease fire is underway.

Our range is self policed by the members, we don't have any "staff" on duty, and the vast majority of people are safe and considerate, but there's always a few that can get careless.

I used to be one of a relative few NRA certified RSO's at my club, but after a few incidents over the course of a couple of years the board of directors made the decision to require all members who want to use the rifle & pistol ranges to become NRA certified.
 

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My range has flashing blue lights every couple of firing points (the lights are much like the old police 'bubble gum machine' lights, and can't be missed) that are activated by push button from any of several points along the firing line before anyone goes downrange.

There is also a buzzer similarly wired to get everyone's immediate attention, if necessary.

My range is also self-policed. No RSO's.
 
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