True Story: Tough Range Safety Officers Gone Berserk

Exposed: Overzealous Range Safety Officers

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Overzealous Range Safety Officer?

I was wrong. I realize that. And I admit it.

Yes, I had technically, though unintentionally, just broken a rule.

It was a slow Sunday afternoon and for most of the shooting session with my wife and her father, we had been the only ones on the private access range.  When I was done shooting, I dropped the empty mag from my .45 and locked the slide open, checking once and then again that the firearm was clear. It was.

Keeping the firearm pointed safely toward the floor, I turned, took the two steps to the cart where my case was lying open and still pointed down, closed the slide and laid it inside. That’s where I messed up.

A moment later, a large guy was tapping on my shoulder, identifying himself as an RSO (a Range Safety Officer) and explaining the scope of his authority. He told me they had cameras rolling at all times at the range and he could go back, look at the video and write me up for any infraction of the rules and bring me before the board. He didn’t realize my father-in-law was the member, and I was simply a guest. I still wasn’t sure of what I had done.

I’m sure veteran public indoor range users reading this are probably shaking their heads. They know where I messed up. That’s right, I hadn’t cased my gun inside the station.

It’s a common rule at many public indoor ranges, which are often crowded, and must ensure firearms are always pointed in a safe direction-near universally downrange. It makes perfect sense, and I should’ve known as much, though I admittedly do most of my shooting on private property, at less crowded outdoor ranges with more space or at events where, while safety remains a priority, shooters are often switching between multiple firearms, either to actually shoot or to take photographs. In most of these situations, shooters aren’t dealing with cased personal guns, but shooting firearms taken from a single table or area behind the line. The times I have shot at more crowded public venues, the only place I had to put stuff was inside the station, so casing and uncasing my handgun in the station was inevitable.

I honestly had never thought about it beyond that. I follow basic safe firearm handling practices by ensuring my gun is unloaded when not on the line and pointed in a safe direction at all times. The RSO’s wife had been watching through an observation window at the rear of the range and alerted her husband. The dude chided me, noting in that moment I laid the gun in the case, it was technically pointed to the rear of the range. I politely listened. I hadn’t cased the gun inside the station, so I made no arguments. I let the guy finish, thanked him for pointing out my mistake and finished cleaning up. We again spoke before I left and enjoyed a cordial conversation. He wasn’t a bad guy.

But Are We Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face?

While you won't see this guy on the marketing materials for your local gun club, he's the reason many shooters don't want to join or renew, at least one study suggests.

While you won’t see this guy on the marketing materials for your local gun club, he’s the reason many shooters don’t want to join or renew, at least one study suggests.

As I thought about it later though, had I been checking out the range as a prospective member, the incident might have put me off a little. My treatment hadn’t left me feeling very welcome. I didn’t mind the guy calling me out, but he could’ve done so by simply informing me of what I had done wrong and pointing out why it was an important rule to follow. I would’ve left feeling appreciative and better informed, not feeling like some reckless lug.

You can never be too safe, but spend any time at a range and it’s a good bet we’ve all run into that overzealous RSO who treats his responsibility like he’s running the Gestapo. It’s a put off for sure and the type of intimidating behavior cited as a top reason in a Southwick Associates survey of why three out of four shooters don’t belong to or frequent ranges.

More importantly, it’s a teachable moment lost when a person is made to feel foolish, and quite possibly a chance squandered to make that shooter a safer, supportive member of the shooting community.

Has This Happened to You?

What do you think? Safety officers are tasked with keeping the range safe for everyone. It’s a huge responsibility. But does this responsibility always demand gruff action regardless of the infraction or can the response be dialed down to match the situation? Have you had a similar encounter either as a shooter or as an RSO? If so, how was the situation handled? We’d love to get your thoughts. Share them on our Facebook page or leave comments below. Some of the best comments will be shared on the Community Page of an upcoming issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Doug-Sig

76 thoughts on “True Story: Tough Range Safety Officers Gone Berserk

  1. rick108

    Just as a shooter is expected to know and follow the rules, RSOs are expected to act like professionals. Professionals don’t overreact or throw their weight around just because they can. If someone doesn’t follow the rules and makes a mistake, a professional will correct them on it as directly and reasonably as possible. Usually reasonable behavior gets returned in kind. Likewise unreasonable behavior.

    Incompetent shooters and unprofessional RSOs are both bad news and tend to run people off from a range or worse yet discourage a newbie from shooting all together. The shooting sports can’t afford to lose people, just makes it easier for the anti-gun crowd

  2. badmac

    Okay………..Ignorant question that has nothing to do with this topic:

    How do I make the long list of advertisements plastered on the upper right corner of this page go away?
    I don’t see a “close window” for them.

  3. amccann0486

    I’m gonna make this simple. I was a RSO at an up and coming gun range in my community. It wasn’t much but it was a fun place to shoot. We were safe and responsible. The NRA came in to “Help” with the range and “Help” improve it. They built a lot of stuff and went from volunteers to hired RSO’s. They took all the fun out of the range and raised the prices. I quit and built my own range at home and shooting is fun again. It’s not more dangerious or safer just fun.

  4. Proudtexan

    You had your gun pointed in a safe direction? Pointed at a concrete floor? You call that a safe direction?

    I have scars on my lower legs from an idiot pointing his gun “safely toward the floor”, a concrete floor. He was 8-10 feet from where I was. My sister (a former nurse) spent about an hour plucking jacket material out of my shins and dressing them.

    Although I was not there, from your description I do not think the RSO was “Overzealous”. Nor do I think he went “Berserk”. However, if I had been there, as a member or guest, and seen you do that I would have. And I would have also asked for an RSO to come talk to you about it.

    I do not go to the range as often as I would like because of how many times I have seen other shooters being unsafe.

    Safety Rules are not for just your own safety, but to protect others from YOU.

    I have seen way too many unsafe actions from experienced people who get complacent and arrogant. SAFETY FIRST AND ALWAYS. PERIOD!!!

    Could the RSO have been more polite? Yes. Should he have? Maybe. That you did not “talk back” or argue at that time was a good thing on your part.

    Have I seen an “Overzealous” RSO. Yes I have. My opinion, not this time.

  5. jcarter5

    Reading through these comments I notice a common thread. When someone wants to bash a RSO they refer back to the article where the RSO did not see the infraction and handled the situation poorly. When a RSO makes a point about gun safety issues they have observed at their range others still refer back to the article. I am an RSO at a private gun club that has shooting events open to the public. I run a pistol league and also am a RSO for IDPA. I previously worked in firearms sales. At our club we talk about ‘range Nazis’ and how to run a safe range while maintaining a friendly atmosphere. As a firearm salesperson, I can’t count the number of times I have had a pistol pointed at me. When I suggest that the customer take a firearms safety training course I usually hear that they have been shooting and hunting all their lives and know how to handle firearms. I have also seen shooters point their firearms up-range or at their toes. Recently, I saw a revolver shooter empty their firearm with the muzzle pointed under their chin. These are the type of infractions that RSO’s deal with way too often. There is a saying that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and it applies to shooters. One point to keep in mind is that many RSO are volunteers. The ranges would not be open if RSO did not volunteer their time. Safety is paramount. All NRA safety rules for gun handling and gun use must be followed 100% of the time. I know that most people can not recite them. If a shooter is not clear of the safety rules or local range rules, he should spend some time reviewing the rules before handling his firearm. The anti-gun crowd is quick to point out as an example the loud mouth gun owner who is an embarrassment to our sport. Many of the comments here seem to be made by folks who would fit this bill. The bottom line is that it is the shooter’s responsibility to know and observe the safety rules. Give most RSO a break. We are the ones who make shooting possible for many firearm enthusiasts by maintaining range safety. One shot over the berm could close the range for everyone.

  6. nmgene

    I do a lot of shooting at ranges, I have stopped going to ranges because of rude range officers. I have been shooting since 1962 and I still have my first gun. Knock on wood I have never had a gun go off that I didnt want to go off. I am very very careful. I shoot at least 1500 rounds a month and have done that for the last 20 years as well as shooting in competition.

    1. jmccrabb

      I been shooting at a range in Marion Kansas for 15 years. The RSO has short man syndrome. I am always very methodological when I go the this indoor range. I’m very careful to observe all rules and regs. this range makes their money on you buying their ammo. Well several years back I decided that I was not going to be held hostage by the price and availability of ammo. You cant shoot .50 cal there and I know it. one day I brought my desert eagle .44 to shoot. Got everything ready and began to shoot. Next thing know somebody is grabbing my shoulder and pulling me while I had 1/2 mag left next shot went high. “YOU CANT SHOOT 50 CAL IN HERE!” after I schooled him on touching a shooter in the middle of a mag he tried to pipe up again About 50 cal. I racked my baby open and said “YOU CANT SHOOT 50 Cal in here dumb ass” I emptied my eagle packed up and left with out paying range fees, canceled my membership and demanded a refund pro-rata to that date. Went to board meeting explained him grabbing me WHILE MY FINGER WAS ON THE TRIGGER. got my money and never went back.
      JIM McCrabb

  7. gitano

    I don’t understand “berserk”. Anticipating the responses from all of the self-righteous RSOs, I suspect “Doug” may have ‘softened’ his description of the event. Maybe “Doug” is just a ‘sensitive’ guy.

    That said, I understand his perspective, and agree with it about 95%. One thing I DON’T agree about is “You can never be too safe.” Bull Feathers! I’m sick and tired of the damned “Nanny State” where some self-proclaimed “experts” get to tell EVERYBODY else EXACTLY how they are supposed to act. This is SOCIALISM at its finest and it KILLS the human spirit! And the first thing you COWARDS do is blame it on “the lawyers”. Stand up and take it like the macho men you so badly want to be, and admit that “the lawyers” is just an easy EXCUSE for your wannabe big man on campus.

    I refuse to go to the only range within 80 miles of my house because of IDIOT RSOs. I’ll relate my story, and I won’t sugar-coat it for all the RSO cry-babies that have posted here so far.

    At the time this incident occurred, the range was essentially self-policed. EVERYBODY DID JUST FINE FOR 31 YEARS. I was returning from being downrange checking my target at 300 yd. I was the last of about 10 shooters at the 300 yd range to be returning to the bench. About half way back, some jackass STARTED SHOOTING! I dove for the side of the lanes and the other shooters started yelling at him. When he realized there was someone still downrange, he packed up and high-tailed it. By the time I got back to the bench, one of the other shooters had gone and gotten the RSO. He was steaming! HOWEVER, the stupid jackass was too full of himself to even ask ANY questions AND STARTED IN ON ME! I tried a couple of times to interrupt and point out that should disengage his alligator mouth from his hummingbird brain, but to no avail. Finally, after he had proven to everyone what a “tough guy” he was SOMEONE ELSE pointed out that I WAS THE ONE THAT WAS DOWNRANGE. “Oh.” But the SOB was too full of his “authority” to shut his mouth FOR ONE MOMENT to LISTEN. That he “banned” me from the range before he was set straight by someone else. I told him to get intercoursed, and I haven’t been back.

    Yeah, stupid jackass RSOs – and there are a helluva lot more of them that ARE than there are that AREN’T – do NOT improve safety; what they do BEST is just piss people off.

    As for the “thankless” job… QUIT WHINING. If you want “thanks” GET ANOTHER JOB.

    Most sincerely,
    Paul

    1. gundog1951

      Hey, Paul. let me get this straight. You had a conflict with ONE RSO so now we’re all jackasses? GET OVER IT!

      You said,”You can never be too safe. Bull Feathers!” Are you fucking kidding me?

      Socialism??

      I hope I never run into you on a range. You sound like an absolute asshole.

  8. jjfitch

    Sorry Doug but you are “off base” for your comments berating the RSO. I am one of 15 RSO’s at a local private range. One negligent discharge will surely shut us down. In todays anti-gun enviornment we must be “uber” vigalant in enforcing range rules.

    What about the guy that had just left the range just before you got there that “flagged” everbody up and down the range and was biligerant when he was reminded of the range rules?

    When at any range get a clear understanding of the rules before you begin to shoot and follow them, period. If you don’t agree or understand the rules ask for clarification or just leave.

    Most RSO’s are people too and aren’t looking for a confrontation just trying to be sure you don’t have the worst day of your life!

    John, Retired LEO, Certified L/E Firearms Instructor, NRA Firearms Instructor and NRA RSO

    1. ScottS

      No John, it is YOU who is way off base here. first off and foremost this RSO had not witnessed any infractions at this point and was making threats on others statements. This alone means he was NOT doing his job, HE was the MOST negligent one involved, and on his own words needs to be “brought before the board” An RSO is responsible for the safety of all people on the range. This one through his own words admits negligence beyond that of casing an open firearm off the lane. He failed the trust of ALL members of the club. But lets go further. A bullying attitude is NOT conducive to safety, in fact, it is quite contrary. It incites rebellion against the authority of the bully. You claim the Title od retired LEO, so you should know this through experience. There is a difference between vigilance and militancy.

          1. ScottS

            that didn’t come out right, it sounded too argumentative… the whole statement regarding it is too big to copy and paste, but it starts off with the RSO’s wife being the one who observed the infraction, and ended with the RSO threatening to roll the security tape back and write the shooter up on all the infractions he found. I’ve owned a private range it is no place to play games. But an RSO with that type of attitude on top of being negligent in his duties is a bigger risk to all involved since he is not keeping the range safe. The BIG question is where was he? If he was being a bully to someone else his actions were creating a greater safety issue by keeping him away from his duties to the overall range safety. if an infraction is so great that it must be immediately addressed the range activity needs to be stopped and all arms pot down for the duration. After he returns to his post shooting can resume. Anything less can be handled at the end of the session. But creating animosity escalates unsafe behavior through distraction

  9. onawhim7737

    I’ve seen my share of nit wits on the range to the point of packing up and leaving. Or where the RSO is busy talking to his buddies and not doing his job, again I just pack up my things and head out. The biggest problem is no 2 ranges have the same range rules and are rarely in writing so its up to the RSO to enforce the rules that are there or the ones he learned from the NRA. The worst thing is when an RSO makes things up to wit; at a out door range and during a cease fire I step back from the firing line, gun on the bench breach open with a flag 8′ or so and started to reload a magazine where upon the RSO was in my face before I had loaded the second round telling me in a loud enough voice so that all could hear how I was violating a posted range rule all the while 2 stations down his buddy (they were chatting earlier during live fire) had several loaded firearms on his bench fiddling with them. When I went up to the range office to check out I asked about getting a copy of their range rules. The man at the counter had the strangest look on his face when he asked, “what written rules”? Need I say more?

  10. chiefbuzzbee

    Well I agree with Gundog but that was so far back I don’t remember what it was. I will say that you haven’t lived till you do something stupid on the range, not checking your breach, and have a Marine Master Gunny explain the Fact of Life, Your Family Heritage and give you 100 or so pushups to start with. I will say I have never forgotten or made that mistake again. I will say I almost weather have a over zealous RSO than one who isn’t doing his job, I have packed up never to return to public ranges when I have seen things so far out I was not only concerned for my safety but the others and when I asked the so called RSO it was I never seen anything wrong. Nope didn’t return their. We all can learn and should think of it that way and so can Range Safety Officers learn the proper way of dealing with folks.

  11. circlei

    I am a NRA Certified Instructor and former AZ DPS CCW Unit Firearms Safety Instructor. I recently shot myself in the hand while using my Tac light equipped Glock as a flashlight at 2 AM while feeding my horses. I was holding the pistol in my left hand while trying to pry a flake of hay from the bale. I was concentrating on the hay and while my left hand was out of sight under the flake I was trying to pry, I was getting a better grip on the hay and unfortunately and without realizing it, got a better grip on the pistol which meant my hand naturally melded into the ergonomics of the grip and unknowingly moving my index finger from the side of the frame into the trigger guard. As I exerted force to pry the hay there was a loud and instantly painful blast and impact to my right hand between the knuckles of my right hand index and middle finger. There was so much blood I thought I had hit an artery. My wife, a RN, raced me to the ER of our small town hospital. The police were called and being a small town, I knew the police officer who responded who was also a customer at my gunshop. I was kept overnight and while resting in my patient room, two investigators from the Sheriff’s Department came to interview me. I knew both of them. Several people who knew I was a firearms Instructor advised me to not mention my unfortunate incident. My reply was I am going to take every opportunity to tell people what happened to me and make it a teachable point that no matter what your credentials are, there is no such thing as being a safe gun handler. You are safe while you practice and observe strict and safe gun handling BUT, the moment you let your guard down, you are NOT safe, no matter what your credentials. You are not safe just because you know the rules and think you are safe. You are only safe while you practice safe gun handling rules. The TAC light on my pistol is there to be used as a light in conjunction with the use of the pistol. Using the light as a flashlight while doing farm chores is a bad and dangerous idea as I have learned. In all my instructing I never came across such a scenario to be taught. I have now learned that police officers may be instructed to avoid doing what I had done…using the light for chores rather than its intended purpose, to light up a target in poor light. When teaching classes, I made it the responsibility of the class to watch each others actions and call out anyone violating the rules of safe gun handling. We should all be watching out for one another and point out any deviations from safe handling of our firearms. Distractions or slips can happen to any one of us. We should all practice strict safety rules without exception. As we help each other observe safety, it should be with the intent that we never suffer the devastating result of someone being injured or killed as a result of failure to observe and practice safe gun handling rules and procedures. A good instructor will make the person he is helping feel good about learning safety rather than making it a bad experience someone wants to forget. Lets make shooting a good time to remember and be proud in our diligent and professional practicing of safe gun handling.

  12. mark.leclair

    Shame on you! You write an article that reaches anyone that chooses to receive your writings. How many of these readers do you think practice safe gun handling? How many of your readers actually sought out adequate firearms instruction and then practice that newly learned education consistently at home and on the range? Yet you write this and those readers quickly read this and think “well I get to complain to the members about the RSO getting on my for “accidentally” sweeping the entire line” or “I knew it was unfair that the RSO yelled at me for shooting the ceiling, I only did it once” or even “the RSO was mean and told me that I was wrong for twirling my pistol/pointing an empty pistol at my friend/etc.”.

    How about this, how about writing a story, such as you did and YOU teach your readers something about safety? How about supporting those on the range that are out there to try and keep everyone safe? How about putting out the word that these RSO’s have to put up with the so-called “self-taught-snipers”, “rambo’s”, “backyard commando’s” and “video game special forces trigger pullers” that already think they know all about safety and yet are the first ones to come up with an excuse about the gun when things go bad? How about supporting those that aim to make sure everyone’s experience on the range is safe?

    Shame on you for getting your feelings hurt because you felt that he did not coddle you and sing to you about what you did wrong so you can make sure you learned your lesson! You knew you were wrong. You said you knew you were wrong and yet you still managed to waste the time of those of us that read the article that ended up saying “did this really get printed?”. I am saddened greatly at the fact that what you wrote will now give the “whiners” an opportunity to feel empowered enough to stomp their feet and want to take their ball and go home when they get corrected by the RSO that is running your their range. Congratulations.

    By the way, 16 Years naval special warfare, disabled veteran, professional firearms instructor and have trained over 96,000 to include military, civilian, law enforcement, federal agents and more. Thats a short snippet of me but my certs also include RSO/CRSO/Machine Gun RSO and RSOIC!

  13. Rightway1208

    Range Officer’s are not there to win a popularity contest, they are there to make sure everyone makes it home uninjured and safe. Since you had a pleasant conversation with the RO, I’m not sure why you blasted him with your “berserk” comment in the title of the article. My home range has a couple of range officers who have chastised me when I forgot the rules, and they still do, and I’m GLAD that they do. It shows me they care about my safety and the safety of others around me. One is a mild mannered guy and the other is a bellicose gentleman who is a little gruff at times. I’ve been in situation where shooters broke the rules and were asked to leave because they didn’t want to listen. They thought that the RO should have Powdered their behinds and told them what good little boys they were and he didn’t, do they got their little feelings hurt. Better their feelings hurt than someone shot. Geeze, get a pair and quit with all the whining. Had YOU followed the rules, we would not all be discussing this right now, would we.

  14. gundog1951

    I just can’t believe how many of you are whining about RSOs, calling them everything under the sun, for doing their jobs. Frankly, it’s a crappy job – sometimes without pay. Having to deal with the public hotshots who think they’re Dirty Harry or some kind of Special Forces Operative. When An RSO sees an infraction it is his job to put an end to it. All you complainers out there are usually the ones I’m talking about. Get over yourselves! If you screw up, it’s not the RSOs fault – it’s YOUR FAULT! Quit making excuses and blaming someone else. Take some responsibility for your actions. Admit you were wrong and shut up!

    1. odiesbsc

      You are right gundog, I remember when I first joined our local range, I was moving some of my guns from the car to the bench (outdoor range) when the RSO came over to me and told me not to trasfer weapons while someone is down range checking targets. I thanked him for the info and waited until everyone was back at the benches to finish the rest of my guns.

    2. rbrittne

      WOW you sound angry….I can just picture you…your prolly one of those wannabees, a cop that didn’t make it, or a military drop out….or just an old nobody wannabe that is on a power tyrip….let me guess…you volunteered to be a RO on some little dirt range and gives everyone a hard time just to exercise your “authority”. I cant stand RO’s that get into everyones business just because they can. If you see something unsafe….stop the range with a ceasefire…and POLITELY tell the person what needs to be corrected…that experience alone should make it a one time deal unless its a jerk…in which case you throw them out….But YOU come off like a big jerk! telling people on here to shut up…It’s easy to see how you are….I feel sorry for your kids.

    3. ScottS

      Get over yourself Gundog, this particular RSO was NOT doing his job id someone else was the one doing the observing and he in his own admission would have to roll back the security tapes to prove the infraction actually happened. Yes we need to take range safety seriously, but this is indicative of a bigger issue, poor range management can create bigger issues than the shooters can. This RSO’s failure at his job could have cost someone their life… HE WAS NOT DOING HIS JOB. And that is the bottom line that everyone here is missing. It’s time to grow up, drop the indignation and deal with the facts. If YOU can not do that, stay the hell off of any ranges where there are other people because YOU are a major problem beyond any other. YOU are standing up for those who are not doing their jobs.

  15. HenryGB

    I guess they would have gotten me as well…but then our club hasn’t got that rule posted.

    As a side note: A guy I worked with had a 12 gauge pump shotgun, he had ejected the shells & was then ready to clean the gun.
    After cleaning the gun he cycled the pump, and pulled the trigger, because he “KNEW” the gun was empty.
    But what he DIDN’T know was that the shells had ejected from gravity, because the last one had became jammed in the feeder tube, but after he cycled the pump it loaded the round in the chamber, so when he snapped off the trigger, he blew a hole through his wall 6 feet from his wife, and embedded pellets in a car outside.

    I have told my kids this story to make a point & I taught my kids to NEVER ask if a gun is loaded, you ALWAYS assume it is…even when you KNOW it isn’t…

  16. badmac

    I’ll make a follow-up comment: I would not want to be a RSO at a civilian range. Having been to a number of them, I have seen men and women with bad attitudes, slightly tipsy, overly disrespectful, range-regs be damned and just plain in the wrong place. I have even seen range staff screw up and have the holier-than-thou attitude.
    And some indoor ranges have many of the same problems.

    Good thing there are plenty of ranges to choose from.

    1. ScottS

      Badmac, you have hit it on the head. This isn’t a matter of JUST members, or range users, or JUST range staff, it is both sides. I’ve dealt with RSO’s who have had no business near a firearm nor a range, who are there simply for the self aggrandizement and power trip, just as I have been on ranges where the shooters should have their “trigger fingers removed” (proverbial statement). The biggest fact that needs to be dealt with is RSO’s NEED to be trained NOT to be Adam Henrys as all that does is creates animosity and removes the ability to teach range users to be safer on the range. Abuse of Power just creates more problems and encourages idiots to act up. On ranges where the RSO knows how to approach people when the situation is over, as in the example, without acting like a bully (as in the example) there are less issues with the idiots who are shooting. The ONLY time it is appropriate to act “hard” is during the violation, IF the RSO catches the violator IN the act.
      These folks commenting with flagrant indignation that we need to back off on the RSO’s need to open their eyes and realize these are NOT military ranges where the attitude is part of breaking the individual down to rebuild them as a tool of war.

  17. ShortRound45

    You said “We again spoke before I left and enjoyed a cordial conversation. He wasn’t a bad guy.”

    It doesn’t jibe with rest of your story. You should go back to range, show the RSO what you wrote and apologize for what you wrote about him on the spot.

    YOU made the mistake. Don’t divert attention to the RSO.

    You are in a position of import, no? That should not excuse you from expected behavior. The RSO was doing what he should have done. You should have been humble, contrite and accepted what he said. Perhaps you were. Clearly though, given your written piece, it didn’t sit well with you.

    A question as well: did you close the action on your pistol as you put it in the case? Yes? No? I can’t tell from your story. It would have made me nervous if I had been on the line next to you.

    Speaking of how people might react, you can rely on me to never buy another product from Gun Digest. That’s how you made me “feel”. Perhaps you ought to consider what you say and how you say it.

    1. rbrittne

      Hey shortie….Its jerks like YOU that make people not want to go to public ranges….You sound like a whining little crybaby…Waaaaaaaaaa.Awwwww did you get your little pathetic feelings hurt? Gundigest as well as us shooters don’t need your “purchases” Go cry in your chocolate milk!

    2. ScottS

      Again, I have to say, NO YOU are wrong. You also, as with almost everyone one here have missed one major point, THE RSO FAILED IN HIS DUTIES. He did not observe the violation. It was reported second hand, and he even admitted he would have had to roll security tape to see if it did happen. He let every member of the club down. This is a bigger issue than the mistake made by the shooter, who was trying to make a point that RSO’s have a crummy job to do. As for your question it was answered in the text. but you did not pay attention to that either. YOU owe the author the apology.

  18. PlantLady

    Never having been at a public shooting range…I’m not sure what is meant by “cased my gun inside the station.”? Can someone please explain?
    Thanks
    PlantLady

    1. Doug HowlettDoug Howlett Post author

      Hey PlantLady,

      That simply means where the line of fire is set or rather, where you will be standing when you are shooting. I should’ve probably wrote “at the line” as it is often worded in range rules. Correct me if I’m wrong on this RSOs out there.

      Hope that helps.

      1. HenryGB

        I don’t get it either…so the tables are a couple feet away in back, but they want you to case on the firing line!?!?
        Do they have tables on the firing line too?

  19. RobertR

    Having served as the Range officer in several police departments over a 35 year time span I’ve definitely seen my share of ‘mini-Gods’ or just plain jackazzes. These guys generally have never achieved anything in life and now they’ve got POWER! In the LE field these guys can cost someone their livelihood and they love it. They can destroy someone if they so much as feel like it. I enforced essential range rules and never cost anyone their career. Also NEVER had an accidental discharge. Had one older gentleman who was a bit sloppy and he came as close as anyone ever did of being sent home for the day.

    Agree that the liability and anti-gun attitude isn’t helping us but having jerks enforce rules that really aren’t necessary isn’t helping either. Common sense goes a long way and there isn’t much of it around these days.

    1. ScottS

      The rules like it or not must be enforced, and not ignored. BUT as you state many become mini-gods. They enforce the rules like a traffic cop giving a speeding ticket to a nun with his service piece drawn

  20. badmac

    I was an .50 cal. BMG instructor and range officer for same while in the military. Of course I used the outdoor range at FCTCL Dam Neck, VA. Being a usually busy range, I shared it with other RSO’s and their men using other weapons. Most days on the range were orderly and systematic, but then at times some RSO would get bent out of shape for something minor and completely disrupt the range. A short RSO meeting would set things straight again.
    On the other side of the coin, I have spent a lot of hours at outside ranges as a civilian. One unfortunate incident occurred at a range in Grand Prairie, TX. I won’t go into details here either, but the infraction was my fault. The RSO was all over my ass but I kept my mouth shut. I packed up and left. I suppose some prior experience helped me keep my cool. Besides, there were plenty of other ranges to get my business.

    1. ScottS

      fault or not, An RSO’s first responsibility is to safety, their second is to the users of the range and then the general membership. If the infraction is done and over with yes they need to EDUCATE, BUT not disrupt the operation of the range. Too many RSO’s forget this, and let their ego take over, be it due to the fact the user made them look bad or they get to dress someone down. The most effective RSO’s educate without public humiliation. In doing so they earn respect not spite.

  21. earlsworkshop

    You aren’t serious. Are you?
    You consider the Range Safety Officer as “Going Bezerk”?
    For what? Identifying himself, explaining his duties and informing you that video cameras are used to help enforce range safety? Sounds to me that you’re a little over sensitive.
    I’ve only been to an indoor range once and it was in the back of a gun store. No RSO there, just posted rules. Common sense required.
    I used to go to a very nice public outdoor range in the last town I lived in. There was no Range Safety Officer there either, except for when there were organized shooting events. Otherwise there was only a caretaker/groundskeeper that lived on the range. But there were gun safety rules posted everywhere. Problem is, no one seems to pay attention to the rules. And they get confrontational when you point out simple gun handling or range safety violations.
    Personally, I don’t belong to or frequent ranges anymore because of the unsafe practices of my fellow shooters.
    If a Range Safety Officer gets in your face, its because gun safety is an important issue. If the RSO sits around and waits until someone gets hurt or killed because of some stupid mistake, you’ll ask why the RSO didn’t do his job.

    1. ScottS

      You are obviously inexperienced with range safety officers then and are out of your element in this thread, In my 40 plus years of shooting, I’ve seen all kinds. the bottom line always comes out that an effective RSO is the person who KNOWS when to get hard and when not to. They do NOT create confrontations, they prevent them. They keep people safe by understanding embarrassed individuals tend to not concentrate on safety as they should, they understand that even the most safe shooters can be distracted by someone on another lane who is NOT breaking any rules, and creating a confrontational situation is bad for all involved, the Good RSO needs to have tact and strength of character, and be able to BE a hard ass when needed but not walk around intimidating shooters, making them nervous because that will cause mistakes to happen. Safety isn’t created by causing animosity, it is cultured by communications, and the wise use of authority when it is NEEDED

  22. ChuckM

    I am a local outdoor range RSO and see this type of infraction (and much worse) on a regular basis. As others have already stated, it could have been handled in a better, more friendly, manner, but lets not forget there was an undisputed infraction of the rules, that I am sure Doug agreed to abide by when he entered the range. That being said, I personally look at my job as an RSO as two-fold. One to insure safety of the range users, and second to promote member relations with the club. The two dont have to be mutually exclusive when an RSO is a mature, responsible adult, not a wanna-be on an ego trip. The same can be said for impolite police officers, public agency clerks, or anyone else who’s job it is to interact with the public. There are good and bad dimeanors displayed in any profession. The problem with it involving shooters is that there may only be one chance to correct it or the mistake could be easily fatal to someone or mean the end to an enjoyed pastime/range for many other users.

    1. ScottS

      ChuckM,
      Thank you! While I agree that the RSO in question needed to use more tact, I saw it as a bigger issue of failed safety. The RSO openly admitted that he did not personally observe the infraction. Where was he? what was he doing that could not wait until that round was over? The long and short is he was negligent in his duties if his wife had to be doing his observing for him… This matter really SHOULD be brought up to the board of the club for this reason alone. As you so aptly state a mistake can be fatal. I deal with life and death situations daily. If I make one wrong choice, someone can, or WILL die, it is black and white in my instance. This is why I take this situation to heart. There is no room for mistakes in safety with firearms

  23. Leftibug

    When my 11 year old son received the first rifle of his own, I took him to a local range. My father gave him a vintage Golden Boy 22. Since it was my son’s first time at this range they put us at the far end with a dozen benches between us and the nearest shooter. We were talking to the line officer at the range for a couple minutes after the cease fire. He was a fan of the Henry rifle. After he moved on we started toward the targets but went back after a couple steps when we noticed no one else had moved down range. The Range Master berated me on the loud speaker and told me I must leave the range. The Line Officer came to my defense, but I told him it was my fault and that the RM was right, we should leave. I appologized to my son for dissapointing him in front of both of them. He was already confused and upset to the point his eyes were tearing up. I did not want to make things worse by forcing a confrontation in front of him. (That happened later and is another story) I explained to my son that safety is too important to have any tolerence. My intent was to make this as positive a learning experience as I could, considering. Fortunately there was another range 45 minutes away where we had a good orientation with his new treasure.

  24. LoneStarTexian

    There needs to be a re-education program for RSOs. The demeanor of them can make or break public attitudes toward gun owners. To demean/harass a shooter in the name of safety is destructive. Private admonitions of safe gun handling improves range safety without embarrassment. I was once yelled at for reaching across the yellow line during a cease fire to pick up a target off the ground. I observed other abuse while I was there also. Maybe he thought was a TI with a bunch of Marine recruits. I’ll do business at another range thank you.

  25. bocam48

    While I think it is important to follow a range’s rules, I am constantly surprised by people in positions of authority who don’t really know how to use tact during teachable moments or during the enforcement of rules. When people are in danger, there is a need to act firmly and decisively. But in the cases cited above danger was not the primary issue.

    We’ve all run into police, security guards and other authority figures who do their best to make you feel small in any situation. And we’ve also run into those steady folk who quietly tell you what you did wrong, listen to your explanation/apology, and then take appropriate action. Dangerous situations, on or off the range, can be defused or de-escalated with thought and tact. The people who’d rather play the tough enforcer still need training IMHO.

    1. tomar8manT

      yes you are right ! I myself have bumped into these morons also.but it gives me great satisfaction and I’ve seen this in more than one way ,and that is:they know or makeout they know there job but other things in life that you are suppose to know ,these shitz especially range officers have limited intelligence in life!

    2. ScottS

      All too often these hard asses are the do as I say not as I do types. I’ve had the misfortune of having to escort more than a couple RSO’s off the premises due to their excessive abuse which had crossed the line, and lead to charges being filed. There is NO EXCUSE for such action.

  26. Attorney Paul

    RO was correct – muzzle down range only, empty and locked open or not. The alternative was to holster locked open then walk away from the line.

  27. Kenji Kingsford

    I had a similar incident at a range in San Bernardino California. I was an active member of a gun club as they had nice facilities for rifle as well as trap shooting.
    I was shooting a timed string with an FN FAL when the range master came over the loudspeaker and started screaming at me for rapid firing my weapon. I walked over to him and explained that it was not rapid fire to start with and if he had an issue he could have approached me in a civil manner rather than screaming over the loudspeaker system. He became extremely belligerent, so I informed him that I would be leaving and not ever return and they can be sure that when my membership expired it would not be renewed. Haven’t been back since.

    1. ScottS

      sorry to say this but you failed when you did NOT file a complaint against the RM. AND demand a prorated refund, thus forcing action on the part of the club. You can count on the fact that the RM did not tell anyone what you had said to him. We need to take charge of abusive situations and correct them. The unwillingness to do so and just let it pass is what has brought our nation to it’s knees. An injustice is an injustice no matter if it is on the range, in the media or in the courts. While the idiot was screaming on the PA someone else could have been pointing a loaded firearm cross range, and he would not have noticed. Thus correcting such issues become OUR responsibilities to correct in the name of everyone’s safety.

  28. gundog1951

    First of all you should have known better!

    Second, yeah, the guy might have handled it better. But as a RSO, I have seen stuff that would make you quit going to ANY range. Stuff that would scare the crap out of any sane person. So don’t get huffy because he was doing his job.

    How many shootings are caused by “unloaded” guns? Or by people who just had a small lapse in judgement? Even if you had been a regular at this particular range, he should have pointed out that you had been careless.

    And if you didn’t know the rules at this range, you should have. I’ll wager that they were posted right in the booth.

    1. tomar8manT

      you must be a low lime or you would take feedback in a more justing way as it was explained.Question:?Can you figure that one out doggun? Post that in your gunbooth!

    2. RHOlsonJr

      Seems like your making excuses for poor behavior. One common problem with some Range Safety Officers or Range Officers is their need to live off of the adrenalin of drama. We have a safe range and corrections are made the the negligent or wayward handler while leaving all the drama at the door. An RO or RSO who behaves in this manner is stripped of duties.

      To you I say, “Don’t get huffy” because you live off of drama.

    3. ScottS

      This is in no way an excuse for the RSO who had failed to do his job correctly. He was Not observing the shooters, his wife was, He wasn’t doing his job she was, He didn’t even know if the infraction even really happened and he openly admitted it. THAT is NOT a responsible RSO and he NEEDS to be replaced for the safety of all the range users

  29. MTO67

    I am a RSO at a busy public range. I am no stranger to this exchange. We as adults, hate when someone points out that we have some how broken the rules. It angers us and it makes us say and do silly things like write an article on how the RSO hurt our feelings. I get it. The RSO could have done things a little differently but put yourself in his shoes. Your incident may have been one of several rule violations that day that he responded to. His other interactions may not have been with persons as polite as you, Doug. Our range makes sure that you read the rules when you come in for the first time and posts them in several areas of the facility. We personally tell EVERY customer that all firearms must be cased and uncased at the firing line. I have told many patrons right on the range, only to have them violate that rule MINUTES later. I know that I, as well as the other shooters on the range do not appreciate being swept by any firearm loaded or unloaded. An RSO’s job is simple, yet complex…. Make certain that everyone on the range is safe and having fun as well as protecting the facility from unneeded liability. Membership comes second….way second. I would rather have 500 safe (live) members than 1000 dues paying cowboys. The media loves to report gun crimes and accidents. None of our ranges need the bad press!! I get it, this guy bent your nose out of shape. Learn from it. The next time I’m on the range I will try to be more “sensitive”.

    1. Ted

      “MTO67 says: July 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      I am a RSO at a busy public range. I am no stranger to this exchange. We as adults, hate when someone points out that we have some how broken the rules. It angers us and it makes us say and do silly things like write an article on how the RSO hurt our feelings. I get it. The RSO could have done things a little differently but put yourself in his shoes. Your incident may have been one of several rule violations that day that he responded to. His other interactions may not have been with persons as polite as you, Doug. Our range makes sure that you read the rules when you come in for the first time and posts them in several areas of the facility. We personally tell EVERY customer that all firearms must be cased and uncased at the firing line. I have told many patrons right on the range, only to have them violate that rule MINUTES later…”

      So, it is all right for RSO’s to go berserk because there have been other incidents earlier that day. Jump all over a person’s butt for not understanding the rules… For being the fifth person chewed out…

      Let’s review the rule you stated, “…firearms must be cased and uncased at the firing line…”. Is that rule absolutely clear to you? It sure isn’t to me.
      What do you consider is the firing line?
      Is the firing line clearly marked? And I mean Clearly?

      There is never a reason to become belligerent, abusive, disrespectful or overbearing! A rude abusive rant begs for a rude abusive return rant back and confrontations erupt further.

      An RSO who is verbally abusive should not be an RSO. Period! No thanks for the poor volunteer you say? How often have you thanked an RSO for their assistance? Yelling RSO’s are not likely to receive thanks, from anyone.

      No stranger to this exchange? Adults hate to have their errors pointed out? Angers us? Well yes, if the error is confrontational in front of an audience. Quietly, and I appreciate the education. Loudly and I don’t return and I sure don’t tell anyone what a great place to shoot it may be; or as I wrote earlier, I talk to the officers of the club about RSO manners. I’ve never met a club officers who support RSO’s abusing or embarrassing any member or guest.

      A first rule is that rules are easily understood! Just because YOU know where a firing line technically is does not mean anyone else understands. Are the chairs immediately behind the stall are part of the firing line. Oh sure, after the customer is chewed out by a RSO with hemorrhoids, that customer and everyone within bellowing distance will then know what the RSO considers the firing line.

      I also disagree with your perception that there is a choice between 1000 paying cowboys or 500 live members. What you’re telling us is that a shooter is either a cowboy or a safe live member and that there is a 50% chance a person is one or the other. I do not believe that 50% or even 15% of shooters are dangerous cowboys.

      Educate them if needed, do it as a fellow human, not as a licensed avenger.

    2. ScottS

      As an RSO YOU didn’t even get it… The RSO in question NEVER saw any infraction, threatened to rewind video to find any and threatened to write them all up… He was NOT doing his job. HE was negligent in his duties. And THAT is more dangerous than the rule infraction that happened since it left ALL the members of the club at risk, even those who were not present.

  30. TargetMaven

    I agree that Range Officer may have been slightly overbearing in asserting his authority at first, but overall it sounded like a helpful conversation and that your visit ended well.

    In contrast, my first visit to a private range here in Silicon Valley – with my young son in tow, no less – was so ruined by an RSO on the warpath that we will never be back, much less join. That guy seemed unhappy to have us there from the first minute. Not being members and not being escorted by a member, we were surprised to find that we were to check in at a window on one of the ranges, not in a separate room, and that we should have donned ear protection before approaching the range. Strike one with him, I guess.

    OK, fine. But he then proceeded to run at us and bellow loudly over every minor confusion over their rules and procedures, including once when I simply grabbed the only available stapler and went back out onto the range a second time during a ceasefire after a target flapped loose. Still not certain what that last one was all about, to be honest, but we were done talking to that guy, and done with that place. Maybe that was just him having a bad day, but the other guy in the office scowled at us later too, as if we were annoying him by asking for help disposing of a couple of misfired rounds as the rules require. Like I said, we’re done with that place.

    In contrast, the range officers at the public county range 20 miles down the highway have only gently chided us when we’ve gotten forgetful, and I recently saw one of them being clear but very very civil with guy who did exactly the same thing you did (but with a big AR).

    We now go to that public range exclusively, happily pitching in to clean up as needed, and glad to see our taxes and hunting license fees well spent. But to be honest, we prefer the controlled chaos of the local private indoor ranges when shooting handguns and lighter rifles, where there are no timed ceasefires unless there’s a match going on, and the safety officers are have a much lighter touch. But that’s another conversation.

    1. ScottS

      having been a partner in a private range that employed RSO’s and a life long range user. I find words such as your’s vital. The arrogance of some RSO’s has cost more ranges the ability to bring new shooters into the fold, caused more people to become anti firearms because the see an antisocial attitude prevail, and quite honestly caused more than one range to fail. You have done the right thing with your son, and have taught him that there IS a better way, AND there is no reason to stand for any unwarranted abuse in life.

  31. camaride

    OK so you are saying that what the way you conduct yourself at a private range is different and not as safe? You are doing a disservice to all shooters by scaring them off with your story. Take it like a man keep your mouth shut and don’t write up stories like this. There is no such thing as too safe. I am a RSO, pistol, NSCA shotgun instructor and I can tell you it is the older guys that reply “I’ve been shooting all my life so don’t tell me how to handle my firearms” We are not talking about jaywalking. This is serious safety protocol and there is no wiggle room. Everyone must follow the rules, no exceptions and just cause you have the ability to get on your soapbox doesn’t give you the right to dis. these RSOs.Obviously you resent being corrected. Very typical.BTW we do not need members at any club that are not safety oriented and write up disparaging stories in national media because they were called out on their unsafe practices.

    1. ScottS

      Have you ever taken a reading comprehension course? you definitely need one, along with an anger management course. First off he did not make any negative statements about the safety issue, quite the opposite, about how, where he normally shoots allows the development of bad habits, but you would rather be a horse’s ass than realize that. Secondly being an arrogant RSO, such as the several I have terminated and walked off MY range for being abusive and not doing the job they were supposed to do, since the abuse created greater safety issues, YOU missed the fact that the RSO in question was NOT doing his job, was not observing the shooters, but was told about it by a third party, went up to the shooter threatening to roll the security tale and nitpic out EVERY violation and write then up. You are no RSO YOU are a petty tyrant and are pissed because your type of behavior was called out. People that exhibit that type of behavior has a clinical name. It’s Sociopaths. And your rant fits the profile perfectly.

  32. Firearmslawyer

    A recent experience drove home why very little margin should be given for range-rule violations and that immediate and impressive responses should be made to those who violate the rules, even unintentionally. I was observing a tactical handgun course being conducted with 8 students and 2 instructors. All had been advised in writing and during classroom that the firearms were not to be manipulated behind the fire line. After no less than 10 iterations on the line and after 5 hours of fire time, one student, while at the loading bench, simply pulled his 9mm from the holster, stated that it was “unloaded”, pulled the trigger only to send a round through his hand, a steel mag on the loading bench and into a range bag.
    This interest of ours, as enjoyable and useful as it is, can be very dangerous to ourselves and others. This is not golf or fishing. The ramifications of anything but strict attention to detail can be horrific and long lasting.
    So, while someone might get their feelings hurt by being corrected, I am not so sure its not worthwhile in the end. IMHO

    1. ScottS

      You neglect one MAJOR FACT. where were the instructors at this time? one instructor per four students, why did they NOT require the handguns be inspected and locked open with magazines removed unless on the line? These INSTRUCTORS failed right from the start. these were not experienced Shooters if they were “students” Rule number one with every class I teach is instructor inspection of the firearms in use to ensure they are cleared. They are then locked open, wheel gun courses do not allow for holstering a piece unless it is cable tied after inspection. The situation you site is a different situation, BUT is very relevant as far as the need for absolute range safety. Where the biggest similarity comes in is that the parties responsible for safety in both instances failed. The RSO (and I can not hammer on this enough) had not been on his post and did not personally observe the infraction. Where was he? again he had to make threats to exert his authority because he did not see it himself, he was negligent in his duties, as were the instructors in your example.
      The issue isn’t about hurt feelings. it is about effective enforcement of range safety, alienate someone, ant there is zero effectiveness. Turn them into a hot head and you just escalate the situation and the RSO will be ignored by him and everyone he tells about the RSO’s abuses.

  33. Chick

    Yes, they carry it too far sometimes. One time after my son shot his 600yd leg, in across the course, one guy came loudly complaining to me that my son had not removed the magazine from his rifle. I looked toward my son’s rifle, laying on the open hard case and pointed out the empty chamber device protruding through the ejection port. He said the magazine still needed removed. I removed it and showed him it was empty. (at that time, there was not a magazine block device on the market). After I placed the rifle in the hardcase and closed it, I carried the rifle to the truck, then turned and found the loud mouth out by his truck. I walked over there and in no uncertain terms, I told him that his loud behavior was very inconsiderate, and he had done nothing but embarrass my son and myself. The rifle was unloaded and had an empty chamber device protruding through the ejection port. Furthermore, no one was even handling the firearm. I told him that he could have come to me as a gentleman, and spoke in a normal tone, and there would not have been a problem, but, if he ever pulled that crap on me or my son again, he would be in for a quick and thourough ass whipping, so he better put his brain in gear, before the next time he put his mouth in motion. There was not any unsafe acts taking place.

    1. tomar8manT

      They must know that Zimmerman character hmmmmm. A true wannabe like these guys? They(range officers are sometimes good but show there true self ,which isn’t much. The real good range officers can be watched on Terry Mcguile’s videos which he discusses on every subject of a true range watch! Google his name you’ll see, he applauds people like you!

  34. hardcase

    At the risk of sounding namby-pamby, this should have been handled as a learning experience.

    The RO should have explained what the rule was and why it was in place. Then, based on the violator’s response, gone from there – as in, if the response was, “Yep, you’re right, I should have cased it on the firing line. I’ll be sure that it doesn’t happen again,” then everything is cool.

    If the response is more along the lines of, “Hey, I think I know how to handle a gun and I don’t need you to tell me anything,” then an upgrade to “Here’s what happens if you do it again” is in order.

  35. malakisi

    While it may seem he was over doing it.. you’ve got to look at it like this. While you know what you’re doing, there are a lot who do not. And in these times an unintended discharge means the end of your club by the vicious media. They would LOVE to pour salt in any wound they can find to help fuel the anti-gun movement.

    1. RHOlsonJr

      STOP making excuses for character flaws. A substantial part of range safety supervision is temperamental suitability. I see a great many anecdotal examples here of extreme cases of negligence. This sort of stuff (accidental discharges and wanton waiving of muzzles) is rare and does not happen to this degree on our ranges. Perhaps something is lost in presentation during new member orientation/initiation? The leadership is FAILING to convey proactive range safety expectations?

    2. ScottS

      the term is NEGLEGENT Discharge. and the issue isn’t that the RSO was overdoing it (even though he was, the greater point is the RSO was negligent in that he didn’t even SEE the offense, and learned about it third party, and then threatened to roll security tape and write up Every infraction found. This is bullying, not doing his job, and not observing it himself was negligence. Was he too busy bulling someone else to see a real infraction? these are very real problems for EVERY member of the club. even those who were not present, since while he was playing god another person could have been shot due to improper safety practices.

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