When’s the last time you went to a public range and had a horrible day—not because your guns weren’t cooperating, but because well-meaning idiots offered unsolicited coaching, handled your stuff without asking, asked questions or “corrected” your form when you were in the middle of shooting groups, or just plain made a nuisance of themselves? If you’re a regular at the shooting range, I’ll wager it happens to you all too often.
Not so very long ago, guns were regarded as something between tools and musical instruments, and a stranger wouldn’t presume to correct one’s shooting any more than they’d correct the way you use a crescent wrench or finger your fiddle during the schoolhouse jam session.
Don’t get me wrong: There are lots of fine, respectful shooters that are a pleasure to share a range with. I’ve made some greatly valued acquaintances by sharing a mellow afternoon at the range with courteous gun people. But today, every well-meaning mall ninja wants to show off the tricks they picked up at the local tacticool academy, and even stump-sitting, tobacco-spitting handloaders will heave themselves off their seat if they figure there’s something wrong with your ammo—and they’re the ones to fix it for you. Trying to spend a peaceful day at the range can sometimes be akin to standing on a fire ant hill and hoping if you ignore them, they’ll go away.
Recently some friends and I kicked around what we figure to be the most exasperating habits regularly exhibited by annoying range-goers. Here they are, along with are a few old-school gentlemanly tips to help you be the best range stranger you can be.
- Unless specifically requested, don’t offer advice or attempt to correct a stranger at the range—no matter how sure you are that you can help him or her. As good friend and NRA editor Jeff Johnston put it, “Unless a man points a gun directly at you, don’t say a damn word about his shooting techniques or range habits unless he asks for tips.” Over my decades of shooting, I’ve almost never received a quality unsolicited tip from a total stranger. Capable, accomplished shooters know how to behave like a gentleman at the range, and the techniques so eagerly pressed upon you by others are usually erroneous—and unwelcome to boot.
That doesn’t mean that if a neophyte shooter—or even an old hand—notes your expertise and politely asks your advice that you should refuse it. Quite the opposite: Offer all requested help, but wait until rapport and mutual regard is established before proffering knowledge unasked.