The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Bummer at the range

Posted by Bill Nance on November 20, 2008

I’m not a fan of large public indoor ranges in general. Having 10 people blasting away only a few feet from you is a huge noise distraction and the smoke gets pretty bad even with good ventilation.

The really good part about some of these ranges is that they rent firearms. This is useful to trainers and also gives people a chance to try a gun before they buy one. Overall, they can be good places, but in general not high on my list of places to shoot unless they are small and I know the operators.

But last night it was go to a public range or don’t shoot and my Sweetie wanted to shoot her birthday present.

About 30 minutes into the shoot, three young men came in with their girlfriends. All of a sudden we had someone in the next booth blasting out totally uncontrolled rapid fire on an auto-feeding pistol. Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow- as fast as the trigger could be pulled.

We were using small 50-foot 10″ X 12″ pistol targets at 30 feet. The guys to our left were using giant, 50-yard 35″ X 45″ silhouette targets at less than 10 feet away. They were blasting away like some movie hero at a huge target and not even hitting the paper with more than one round out of a magazine.

This makes me nervous. It’s not that I have anything against rapid fire, but I definitely DO have a problem with uncontrolled rapid fire. Firing a weapon in a way you can’t control where the bullets are going is inherently dangerous to yourself and anyone else in the vicinity.  And if you’re missing 10-12 out of 13 shots at a 35 X 45 target 10 feet away, you’re not in control of the firearm.

So here we were, trying out the new guns, getting a feel for the way the sights work on each one, etc. and now three guys imitating Wesley Snipes are firing weapons totally out of control between 3 and 12 feet away. (The three booths to our side) while the girls have the flashes going from the cameras. -Certainly not an ideal situation.

As this is going on, the girlfriends are taking pictures of the boys, who are mugging for the camera with  loaded firearms, and sure as hell, while I was behind our booth while my wife was shooting, one of these idiots points a Glock directly to his side, at head level, waving the muzzle at half the people on the range. while shouting to his girlfriend with his finger on the trigger.

I started screaming at him to get the muzzle pointed down range. The guys to our right, who have been scowling at these idiots since they started screwing around with the uncontrolled fire give me look that says: “Oh My God.” The clown waving the gun around doesn’t seem to get it that he’s pointing the weapon in an unsafe direction, but finally sets it down, picks up a magazine and waves it at me with a grin.

I reported the incident to the guys at the desk, who went out and talked to these idiots, but we’re done. We’ll probably never shoot there again.

After the guy at the front desk talked to them, I didn’t observe any more gun-waving, but the uncontrolled fire didn’t stop.

That’s when we left.

This is the worst safety violation I’ve ever seen in person. Even though the guys who run the range seem like good folks, and have cameras present on the range, they apparently didn’t have anyone observing these guys.  I’ll never shoot somewhere where novices are handed firearms and sent out on a crowded public range with no trainer or rangemaster physically on the firing line.

It’s sad. Years back I was a regular at Kyle’s Indoor Range in Yakima, Washington (sadly now closed). These folks also rented guns. I’m a huge fan of these kinds of ranges because it allows you to try a firearm before you buy it. Not my favorite place to shoot necessarily, but they serve an invaluable function.

But I’ve never been on a range where new people weren’t being at least closely observed. The other three ranges of this type I’ve been to wouldn’t let you shoot until you had carefully read and listened to the range safety rules and wouldn’t let you shoot without direct, physical supervision until you had been observed shooting for a bit or were a well-known customer. If the range was crowded, they had someone physically on the firing line as a matter of course. The rapid fire I described would have brought immediate and close scrutiny just from the rapidity of the shots at a crowded range, just to be sure no one was being stupid. And these three clowns would have been kicked off the range within a minute without a customer saying a word after waving a gun around, not to mention the uncontrolled fire.

We weren’t read safety rules. (In fairness we had had enough chat with the guy who signed us in on a previous day that he probably knew this was unnecessary, but still, it’s a rule I wouldn’t let slide for ANYONE). I wonder if there was any such conversation with three knuckleheads in question?

Again, I’m not naming the range. They may be terrific folks and this could have been a freak thing. -A bad night, regular customers who were drunk, stoned or stupid, or God only knows what else. But then again it’s my first experience there. Having had my safety and that of my wife jeopardized, doesn’t exactly leave me foaming at the mouth to go back.

It’s frustrating to me as someone who both cares about the sport and values my Second Amendment rights. Behavior like this is dangerous. It’s the kind of thing that gets innocents killed or seriously injured.

I would have spoken to the guys in more detail about the issue, but they apparently didn’t speak English, not to mention what my wife says are the gang signs they were flashing for the camera.

Sadly having a constitutional right doesn’t mean we’ll all use it responsibly. And unlike the other amendments, particularly the 1st, many Americans don’t see the terrible consequences of the Second Amendment being incrementally restricted into non-existence. So unlike when a reporter writes a hugely irresponsible and factually incorrect article that results in something awful happening (see child-molester witch-hunts), the effects of someone getting shot are immediate, scary and guaranteed to get plenty of news coverage. So every time some idiot shoots themselves while cleaning a pistol or shoots someone else through negligence and stupidity, or just scares the Holy Bejeebers out of everyone in the vicinity through carelessness and dangerous behavior, our rights are endangered.

I wish I had a good answer for this. If this had been my home range, I would have made more of an effort to educate these guys. (Speaking better Spanish maybe would have helped too, but I speak enough that I might have been able to make myself clear). But then again, at my club, they would have straightened up immediately or police would have been called and their membership rescinded.

All in all it left a pretty bad taste in our mouths after what should have been a delightful time.

So what do you think? What should we have done differently, if anything? And how can we, as firearms enthusiasts, help to prevent these types of situations from recurring? I’m all ears.

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