How not to behave on the range

A few weeks ago at the local range, an elderly gentleman arrived with his pistol case and targets.

He then proceeded to walk forward of the firing line while the range was hot. After many screams of "Cease Fire!" and "Cold!" we allowed him to continue forward, since the range was now cold, and put his targets up.  He happened to use my target stand, but the other shooter to my left was kind enough to offer me one of his targets so that we could return to shooting as quickly as possible, and without argument.

Upon his return to the firing line, the elderly gentleman calmly loaded his magazines, made his weapon ready, put on his ear protection and shooting glasses, and began slow fire on a cold range.

After more shouting, there was a bit of a stand off as several hotheaded individuals wanted to eject him from the range, and others wanted to educate him.

We prevailed, and he was sent to read the range safety rules, then came back, fired a single magazine on the hot range, earning himself 1 hit on a 12inch square at 15yards with a compact XDm 45.

At that point, the obviously new-to-firearms old man packed up and left.

Now, no one was hurt that day.  Yet, there was much misbehavior.

I am not speaking of the elderly man, who obviously did not know range etiquette or safety.

The misbehavior belonged to those who ridiculed him, and did not try to help him.  I myself spent a few moments trying to help his marksmanship and weapons handling, but the constant commentary from those who had wanted him removed from the range embarrassed this gentleman.

Instead of jeering him, we should have helped him.  I think it unlikely that this man will ever come to our range again, and that is a horrid thing.  It seems obvious to me that he had never handled a gun in his life, yet something had happened that convinced him he needed a pistol.  Now, if he ever needs that pistol, he will not be confident in its use. He will be a tragedy, and the anti-gun rights extremists will try to use him as an example of why the rest of us don't need our guns either.

What should have happened?

After the first incident, someone, myself or anyone else, should have pulled this gentleman aside and asked if he needed help.  Asked if he knew the range rules, and if he wanted some instruction in the use of his weapon.

Instead, we treated him like a child.

That was my mistake, and the mistake of everyone there that day.

I hope never to make one like it again.

1 comment:

  1. Well said; I too have been guilty of missing opportunities to extend a hand to someone, in the past, but thankfully I seem to have done a bit better in more recent years.
    It is my observation that shame or embarrassment is harder on a man than a slap across the face. In fact, to the practitioners of bushido, as well as for those of your own Norse extraction, "losing face" was as bad, or worse, than death.

    This elderly man probably had never owned a firearm, felt the need for protecting his home and family and was too ashamed to admit that he didn't know what to do at a range where everyone else was happily popping away... and as you say, the irritability or hostility of others, ruined a chance to have another well informed, well educated senior to join our ranks against the crime and darkness of modern life. So instead, he has gone home with only a dim awareness of how to operate ( much less clean and maintain) his weapon, and a memory of how we, the gun community, had wounded him.
    I pray that someday he will try again, and meet someone who will see him as a blank slate on which to help craft the likeness of a good student of our art.
    Thanks for sharing this story, we all need to read it from time to time. How easily we see the faults in everyone else... except ourselves of course.