Stupid Stuff at the Range

Last week we talked about faith.  This intersession between Christmas and New Year’s we are going to talk about stupidity… specifically, the arrogance of ignorance within our own community and how we must deal with that, not only for our own protection but, frankly, for our own reputation.

Two stories to help illuminate:

“The Stupid is Legion”

Last week I received an email from a client who, a year ago, moved to Texas.  He still reads this blog, and comments frequently to me (Hi Dave… hope things are going well in America!).  Anyhow, he has joined a local shooting club outside of Austin and regularly goes there to train.  He typically goes in the morning right after the outdoor range opens.  Usually the range has limited shooters at this time, and those who are there are mostly retired vets.  It is a self-policed range, and shooters share the shooting line with each other.  This particular day he went later than usual and brought his son with him.  When he arrived, the number of people on the range was heavier than he normally sees.  After a brief stay at the fumble table, he and his son approached the three-yard line to begin shooting drills out of the holster.

As I mentioned, this is a self-policed range and the shooting line moves informally up and down the range as the shooters collectively agree to move up or back from the targets.  This particular range does not have an RSO on staff… an unfortunate reality of many ranges throughout the country… but one that we have to deal with.  Regardless, our community is made up of safety-conscious, decent people, and informal systems of order manifest at all of these unsupervised ranges.  Polite people figure out how to make things work.

This particular day an interloper was at the range.

As Dave and his son were shooting, his son experienced a malfunction.  Dave helped him clear it, and as he did so he saw a young soldier standing on the seven-yard line, waiting for Dave and his son to finish.  Once Dave saw this young man waiting, he made the decision to move his son back to the seven-yard line so that this solider could start shooting.

Evidently, another shooter did not possess the same level of patience.  

As he was clearing his son’s malfunction, he heard a shot ring out from behind him.  He looked back and, standing on the seven-yard line on the opposite side of the range, stood a “unique” looking individual.  As Dave described:

….when from behind us, all of a sudden this jackass country bumpkin with unlaced shin-high boots with the tongues sticking and out laces dragging, unkempt beard and hair, and a goofy stance with a ridiculous grip starts unloading from behind us.  BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM, about five rounds in 2.5 seconds…

Both Dave and the solider “counseled” this individual on the problems associated with shooting while someone was down range.

Now, I say “counseled” in quotes, but that is essentially what they did.  They did not raise their voices or become combative.  They just wanted this moron to realize it was not a good idea to be shooting when people were between him and his target.  Apparently he was less than accepting of the criticism and stormed off the range muttering something about “hating people” as he marched past the fumble table where a handful of shooters stood in aghast watching what had just transpired.

The owner of the facility came to Dave and informed him that the individual would not be allowed back on the range.  That is good I guess… though I am a little concerned about the mental state of this gentleman.  

Regardless, both Dave and the solider handled this perfectly.  First, they moved quickly to safety, and then addressed the situation in a cool and professional manner.  The fact is that the bonehead was so insecure that he could not accept the fact he was putting others in danger and also could not tolerate a simple talking to.  Essentially, Dave did all he could do.

Now onto story #2…

“If You are an Ass, People Will Listen”

Some of you may remember this story from a couple of years ago, but it still burns me up when I think about it.  

I was at the range with two students.  One was an elderly gentleman who was just getting into shooting.  The other was a federal agent who wanted to get in a little range time prior to a qualification shoot.  The older shooter was a truly nice man who happened to be suffering from a debilitating disease that affects his speech.  It also tires him out pretty quickly.  After a couple of shooting evolutions, he returned to the benches at the back of the range while I worked with the agent.

While he was sitting down, he pulled out his gun to put it away.  This is a major safety violation since we were still down range, and one that he should have known better than to do.  

I never got a chance to correct his behavior.    

From across the bays an RSO from a security company began screaming at him.  He quickly put the gun away and looked sheepishly at the RSO and attempted to apologize.  The RSO was having nothing of it.  He continued to berate the student as I approached to intervene.  

The agent also approached behind me.  I apologized to the RSO and counseled the shooter on the breach of safety he just engaged in.  As I did so, the RSO turned and walked back toward his partner.  As he did so, the agent came up to the student and said, “What you did was dangerous, but that reaction was uncalled for.”  Now, he said this in a conversational tone, that was meant only for the student.  Unfortunately, the RSO’s partner was wearing electronic ears and heard this exchange.  Now it was his turn for righteous indignation.

The second RSO screamed at the agent.  “What the F@#K?!?  You don’t like the way we talk?!  You want to take this up with me?!?”

The second RSO, who was significantly taller than the first, started marching towards the agent, his face red, and the veins in his temples pulsating.

The agent stood there as this RSO crossed the distance to him.

“You want to question us?!  You want to go out into the parking lot and take care of this?!”

The agent just stood there with a slight smile on his face as this ass screamed at him and gesticulated wildly.

I looked at these two, astonished.  Both were carrying guns in their holsters as the RSO’s temper continued to elevate.

“Ummm… can I talk to you a minute?”  I said to the RSO trying to be as calm as possible.

“Did you hear what he said!?”

“I did… can I talk to you a moment?”

“What the F@#K??”

“You are about to engage in an altercation with a federal officer who is on duty.  You have no clue what a cataclysmic, life-changing event is about to occur to you.  I highly advise you to apologize quickly, and go back to your shooting bay.”

“He’s an agent?”



He quickly apologized and walked away.  

Here is the thing… federal agent or not… this dude was armed.  Who challenges an armed man to a fight in the parking lot?  Over what, a comment that he made to an embarrassed elderly man?

The initial infraction was handled poorly by the first RSO… the second interaction was… well… just weird.

We need to be aware of what goes on around us, especially at the range.  We need to know that while we are a tight-knit community, the people who gather at a shooting range come to the range with different abilities, mindsets and, in some instances, diminished impulse control.

As both stories above illustrate, we must be firm in enforcing our rules of conduct… but we must be judicious in how we communicate that enforcement.

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