Range safety should be the number one priority of any gun range. Having and publishing a clear set of range rules that all customers must agree to follow before being allowed on the shooting range sets the tone for what kind of shooting environment the business encourages. (It is recommended that gun ranges use a written safety contract and keep it on file.) A gun range without range rules sets the stage for chaotic and unorganized behavior which puts fellow customers and range staff at risk for personal harm and increases the likelihood of litigation based on willful negligence from injured parties as a result. Range safety officers are individuals who supervise the behavior of those in the shooting area in order to promote communal safety and well-being. They act on behalf of range management to enforce safety rules and to remind violators on the rules found in the safety contract that was signed before being allowed to shoot.
Your local gun range is populated with customers that come from diverse backgrounds. Some customers are first time shooters who have never held a firearm before, while other customers are retired from active military duty and have extensive training using firearms. Some customers practice shooting regularly once or twice a month, while the majority wait to put in their range time during the holiday season between October and April. (The most popular time for all involved in the shooting sports is between Columbus Day and Easter.) If it weren’t for standardized range rules, each customer would have different interpretations on what constitutes proper safety, and each would act according to their preconception. In order to harmonize the actions of individuals concerning safety, gun ranges publish range safety rules, obtain consent from customers that they will follow the rules, and have individuals known as range safety officers (RSOs) who enforce the rules.
Family Armory range rules state:
The Range Safety Officer (RSO) has absolute authority in the shooting area. Failure to comply with the RSO is grounds for immediate removal without refund.
RANGE OFFICERS KEEP GUESTS SAFE
The range safety officer enforces the range rules unique to each range.
Because each gun range has unique design and build characteristics that must be taken into consideration, e.g., steel or concrete dividers between lanes vs. no dividers, indoor range vs. outdoor range, a rubber berm backstop vs. a metal backstop vs. a backstop made from dirt and rock, and because different management personalities want to place more emphasize on particular safety practices, there is no “one size fits all” approach to crafting gun range rules. While the four rules of gun safety will influence and guide a gun range’s rules in a general sense, each gun range will offer their own unique approach to achieve customer and staff safety. It’s the range safety officer’s job to familiarize themselves with their employer’s safety rules and procedures in order to achieve the protocol designed by management for the sake protecting customers, staff, and the business.
The range safety officer is not there to pick on you.
Most gun ranges will have customers sign a waiver of liability and a consent form to follow the range safety rules before being allowed to shoot. When the RSO approaches a customer on the shooting line, chances are pretty good that the RSO observed some infraction of the range’s safety rules or the RSO is attempting to offer assistance to address a firearm malfunction. It is important to remember that the RSO’s job is to keep each and every customer as safe as possible and to act in the interest of their employer. Feelings of anger due to the perception of a personal attack from the RSO is not constructive; you gave your consent to follow the range’s rules before being allowed to shoot. When the RSO observes an infraction, it is their job to provide guidance and help maintain the safe culture of the business.
Range safety officers have different personalities too.
At Family Armory, we instruct our range safety officers to interact with customers using a polite “mentor guide” attitude. Management believes that no one would deliberately act to violate the range rules and purposely jeopardize the safety of people and equipment; we assume that safety violators temporarily forget the nuances of our range rules and therefore need reminding. However, those who demonstrate egregious behavior or multiple infractions of the same rule, will be asked to leave. Other ranges, on the other hand, might take an authoritarian and more militaristic approach toward range rule enforcement. While the default position of our business is not to engage in aggressive confrontation with first time safety violators (unless warranted), there are other ranges that do. Regardless of the personality of the range officer, and regardless of the intentionality of the violation from the customer’s point of view, the range officer”s job is to prevent the worse case scenario resulting from unsafe behavior. The best piece of advice for customers is to always exaggerate their safety, be very familiar with the range rules before walking in the door, and maintain a cheerful attitude throughout their shooting experience.
Summary: All gun ranges should be staffed with an individual or individuals to encourage customers to remain mindful of the range rules in order to maintain a safe shooting environment for all guests.