by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

As we begin today’s report, remember that I’m doing this for a single mom with two young boys to teach. Everything I write is from that perspective.

Okay, you’ve had enough time to get everything together from the list I gave you in part 3. And I assume that you have chosen a safe place to shoot. That would be a place where the cat and dog cannot suddenly pop up downrange without your knowing about it, or a place that has no door downrange that can’t be locked so people don’t suddenly walk into the line of fire.

Your first session
Remember, this is supposed to be fun. So, enter it with that mindset. The first step is to get the pupils to pay attention. You talk to them about it and explain that on a firing range everyone listens to the rangemaster (range officer or whatever). Tell them you will be testing them on this from now on.

The line
Safety is the first briefing. No one touches a gun once it is on the line until the rangemaster instructs you to. Since these are children, “the line” is going to be special initially. Let me describe it now. The line is a table with rolled blankets (or whatever you can find) on which you can rest a single rifle. There’s a chair behind the table where the shooters are to sit.

No air pistols for initial training — they’re too dangerous for untrained people to handle. Since we’re teaching children and there’s only one of you, there will be only one rifle on the line at any time. That means one shooter, only, at any time. You can control the actions of one person, but not two. The rifle is oriented on its rest so that it is aimed downrange at a pellet trap.

There must be a command at which all students know to stop talking and start listening. In the Boy Scouts, the leader used to raise his hand with the three-fingered Boy Scout salute. The word quickly spread through the troop, “Sign’s up!” and everyone knew to go quiet and turn to watch the leader. You have to have the same control on your firing line because you’re teaching discipline. The rangemaster is important, the student is not. This is one of the hardest things to teach, and with some children it’s impossible. I have been involved with youth shooting programs. If we had a problem with certain children after working with them as long as we felt we could, they were discharged from the team for that year. They were welcome to return the next year to see if they had learned to calm down.

A single parent cannot discharge her children, but she certainly can stop a training session and explain the reason to both pupils. The next session she holds should (hopefully) show improvement. But do not proceed if you don’t have 100 percent control of all shooters. This is a sport with potential danger, and we’re working to cancel as much of it as possible.

Deputy rangemaster(s)
Since everyone learns the few simple rules, anyone can call a “cease fire” any time the range is hot and they see a safety violation. “Hot” means that active shooting is happening. A cold range is a safe range, and the rangemaster calls the range both hot and cold. I will tell you how to do that in the next installment. It’s important that the conduct of your home range follows an established pattern, because some day your children will be on other ranges and they need to learn the universal procedures of range conduct. But the point I’m making here is that everyone involved should feel bound by the same safety rules and know what to do when they’re violated. So, every shooter is a deputy rangemaster.

The rules

  • No one goes forward of the firing line when the range is hot.
  • When the range is cold, guns may be touched if the rangemaster allows it.
  • No one touches a gun when there are people downrange (on a cold range).
  • Guns on the line are opened with safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it), so the rangemaster can see they are not loaded (i.e., bolts open).
  • Shooters do not approach the firing line until told to do so by the rangemaster.
  • Guns are brought to the line and removed on the command of the rangemaster.
  • Behind the firing line there should be no handling of guns unless commanded by the rangemaster.
  • When off the line, guns are bolts open and safeties on (if possible — some guns won’t permit it).
  • During breaks, no one handles rifles unless accompanied by the rangemaster.
  • The muzzle of the rifle on line is always pointed downrange. No one ever gets any part of their body in front of the muzzle of the gun on line.

It’s impossible to write every rule for a firing line, so common sense must be employed. So, everyone needs to keep this in mind and act on it. Any unsafe act is a safety violation. If the range is hot, a cease fire must be called and the violation pointed out and corrected.

Rapid training
Mom teaches these rules and requires the shooters to memorize them. Hint: if you begin with the basic safety concept, the rules are easier to remember. A verbal test (for younger children) is given, to verify they understand the basic safety requirements.

Here’s the rapid training part: Mom intentionally violates a rule while instructing to encourage the shooters to draw her attention to it. Once they get the hang of doing this, you’ll have the safe range you desire. Keep this up occasionally to keep the shooters sharp.

Next time, I’ll cover the range commands and teaching the shooters how to sight a rifle.