End of class day 1:
“Ok… so when we are on the range we have a few simple rules. This particular range has two possible places that you can be standing. There is a concrete surface that is protected by a three sided aluminum building. The actual shooting area is dirt. We have one simple rule: When you are standing on concrete DO NOT HANDLE YOUR GUNS! Don’t touch your guns. Hell… don’t even look at your guns. In the morning you will arrive and you can put your gear on one of the tables located in that concrete area. You can put on your holster, you can put on your mag pouches. You can even load your magazines. The one thing you will NOT do is TOUCH YOUR GUNS. You will take your bag with your guns in them to the fumble table, which is going to be on the dirt facing a berm where an instructor will be standing. Once you get there they will help you take your gun out of your bag and holster up. Once it is in your holster it stays there until you are on the shooting line. We all good with that?”
All of the students dutifully nod their head.
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Start of class day 2:
“Morning guys. Ok you know the rules. DON’T TOUCH YOUR GUN in this area here in the back. Like we said yesterday, if you are standing on concrete you cannot be touching, moving, manipulating, fondling or caressing your guns. Once you have your holster on, take your range bag over to the fumble table located over there on the dirt, and one of the instructors will take your gun, do a serial number check and then help you holster it up.” We good?”
All of the students dutifully nod their head.
As we walk around watching students open up their bag it takes twenty seconds before one of the trainees reaches into his range bag pulls out a gun (with the slide forward and a magazine seated in it) and places it on the table.
“Whoa! I thought we told you not to touch your guns.”
“Oh… I was just putting it on the table.”
Sigh. “Let me take that for you and we’ll take it over to the fumble table and you can have the instructor put it in your holster for you when you get there.”
As students begin to line up at the fumble table, another student approaches. He has his range bag in his hand, on his belt he’s sporting two loaded magazines, a holster..AND a fully loaded 1911 in the holster.
“How did that get in there?”
“When did you put your pistol in the holster?”
“Oh.. back there at the tables as I was loading up the magazines.”
“What did we say yesterday and this morning about touching your guns on the concrete?”
“Don’t touch them?”
“Yes… so how did it get in your holster if you were were’t supposed to touch them?”
“Yeah… I was going to ask you about that. How were we supposed to do it?”
“At the fumble table with an instructor.”
“Oh yeah… I guess you did say that…. well… not a big deal, I’ve been shooting for years. I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to be one of your problem students.”
“Uh huh. Well good. That will make our job a lot easier and allow us to focus our attention on the newer shooters. Here is the thing though… if we notice that you are not following directions, or don’t seem to understand the instructions, we are going to assume we have not communicated effectively, and our attention is going to have to shift away from the newer shooters and onto you. That wouldn’t be fair to those guys that really need the instruction huh?”
“No… you have a good point.”
When we are doing live fire training it is critically important that we not only understand the rules of the range, but that we also understand supplemental rules of the training organization. Rules are used for two purposes. The first is obvious. To keep everyone safe. The second is a diagnostic tool. If the trainee cannot understand, or worse purposefully violates range rules, there is either a lack of communication on the part of the instructors, or underlying issues on the part of the trainee. Both require immediate remediation.
There is also the issue of ettiequte. All group activities have both formal and informal codes of conduct. Firearms training is one of the few endeavors where both formal and informal codes of conduct are openly stressed to all participants. The consequences for anti-social behavior at the range are too severe for anyone to rely on “common sense”.
Failure to adhere to informal rules of conduct in most social settings labels the violator as a “boor” Failure to follow proper etiquette in a firearms venue can result in immediate ostracization.
We look to be as inclusive as possible. We seek to expand the ranks of the armed citizen. We also want to ensure that each trainee, at any training venue gets the most out of their experience. As instructors we understand that each student comes to the training with different levels of experience. Our job is to ensure that there are no misunderstandings or lack of knowledge when it comes to safety and protocol.
Our students job is to listen.