Gun Range Rules

‘So, since the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office range (WCSO) has written range rules on a large sign, you can’t get much safer than that, can you?” a person asked me one Wednesday.

“Not true. Things happen.”

“Like what? Range rules must cover everything. What could possibly happen?”

“Things you’d never expect,” I begin. “One day, I’m watching Newbie shoot her gun. I’m standing well behind her and to the right. She turns to ask me a question.”

“What’s the big deal with that?” she questions.

“She had been shooting, and her 9-mm Glock was in her hands with her finger on the trigger. When she turned to speak to me, she still had her gun in her hands. It was pointed straight at me!”

“What did you do?”

“I was so shocked that I just stood there with my mouth hanging open.”

“Then what happened?”

“She realized what she was doing, and turned back downrange. I was so shocked, I didn’t react. Later I wondered: “What do you do in this circumstance?”

“So, what would you do now that you’ve had a chance to think about it?”

“I hope it will never happen. Immediately after, I thought maybe I should have dropped down on the cement floor.”

“You’re kinda old for that.”

“Thanks a bunch.”

Then I thought it might have been better to take my right arm and push her barrel downrange. I’ve replayed this scenario many times since then. Shouting at her might have startled her into pressing her finger that was still on the trigger. Perhaps standing there, not moving a muscle may have been the best thing to do. Bottom line is that unexpected things happen, even for those who have visited the range a lot.

“Did you see that video where a guy gave a .44-magnum gun to a young blond woman, and the recoil made her whack her head with the gun?”

“Yes. The gun was way over-powered for her. She had no training. The guy who passed her the gun, not explaining anything, was stupid and mean. He endangered her life. I don’t see why anyone thought the video was amusing.”

“Do these things only happen to newbies?”

“No, not at all. My guy, Joe, once shoved a magazine filled with 9-mm ammunition into a 40-mm handgun. He had been shooting two guns, and in this case, the 9-mm magazine fit perfectly into his 40-mm gun’s grip. He realized right away that he’d put the wrong mag into the wrong gun. He was very startled that this happened.”

“So, magazines can sometimes fit on more than one gun? Can it happen with ammunition too? Can one caliber ammunition fit in more than one gun? If it fits, is this okay?”

“No!” I exclaim. “You might be able to fit .380s into some 9-mm magazines. However, the .380 is not made for the 9-mm. The casing is shorter on the .380. This can cause the gun to have a failure to feed because it’s shorter length might not be able to feed up the ramp and into the barrel. Use the ammunition made for your gun.”

Not long ago, I was loading my Smith & Wesson .380 EZ from a handy dandy plastic case. All of a sudden, I noticed something looked different. At close inspection, one round was a 9-mm! How it got in there, I’ll never know. It happens. You have to be super vigilant.

“Now I’ll ask you a question,” I say to her. “What if Sheriff Miller, your best girlfriend you grew up with, and a deputy of 20 years all tell you their guns are unloaded. However, the Great Gun Guru tells you this is not true and asks you which gun is really unloaded. So, whose gun is really unloaded?”

“That’s easy. I trust our sheriff. If he says it’s unloaded, it’s unloaded. Right?”

“Nope. I think he’ll tell you to treat every gun as if it were loaded. For everyone’s safety, dump the magazine, pull back the slide and inspect the chamber. Trust but verify.”

“They always do this at gun shops. They dump the mag and show me the empty chamber.”

“Yep. If someone hands you a gun saying it’s empty, you might trust them, but you always verify the gun is empty.”

“Why can’t you just dump the magazine to show it is unloaded?”

“Some handguns can fire when the magazine is out, but there is still a round in the chamber. That’s why people pull the slide back so you can peer into the chamber to ascertain no round is left in there,” I reply.

“I saw someone at the range toting around a gun. I asked her to take it to the shooting bench and to point it downrange, but she told me it’s okay because the gun isn’t loaded.”

“Until you verify, the gun is loaded.”

“What about the person who is packing up his gun when the range is ‘cold’ and says that he is only going to put his gun away?”

“He shouldn’t even be over that red line when the range is cold. When the range is cold, he should not be touching his gun or ammunition at all; not even if he’s only putting it away in the sack.”

“Okay. Well, what if a person says it’s okay to walk around with a ‘naked’ gun because it has a safety, and he put the safety on?”

“The WCSO range expects all guns to be covered in some sort of sack when coming to and from the shooting bench,” I remind her. “Now, if he puts the gun down saying the gun is on ‘safety,’ and the range is ‘hot,’ then how do you treat the gun if he says you can handle it?”

“Like it’s loaded until you check it for yourself,” she replies. “I’m beginning to get this. Guns are loaded until you verify for yourself. That’s the way it is.”

“You got it. Here’s another question: When you take a newbie to the range for the first time, what kind of booze do you bring to celebrate: wine, beer or champagne?”

“Can’t fool me. I read the sign. It says you don’t bring alcohol to the range. That means no wine, beer or champagne. Now, can we shoot?”

I root around in my big range bag for eye and ear protection. I look for my black 9-mm S&W EZ sack.

What? Where is it? Then I remember. It’s on the kitchen counter.

It happens.

Finally: I received a note from a skilled NRA instructor who advised me that in the last issue, I used the words “permit” and “license” as the same. In Florida, you get a license to carry; not a permit.

Marj Law is the former director of Keep Wakulla County Beautiful who has become an avid shooter in retirement.

Marj Law is the former director of Keep Wakulla County Beautiful who has become an avid shooter in retirement.

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