Although I am not about to give all the details of this story, such as the name of the range, when I was there, or a better description of the shooters or of the range, and despite the fact that I changed some of the details so the range and the shooters (other than me) cannot be identified, let me assure you the substance of this story and almost all the details given below (except for those I changed as just mentioned) are true. In other words, maybe I changed it to make it appear it was an indoor range instead of an outdoor range, maybe I changed it so that there were only 3 range officers working instead of 5, maybe I changed it so all the range officer were male instead of some or all being female, maybe I changed sexes of all the shooters or some of them, maybe I changed it to a semi-auto rifle when it fact it had been a bolt action, and maybe I didn't change those things but did change others - but I did not change the substance of what happened even one tiny bit.
I found myself at a rifle/pistol range sometime with the past few months; which one it was -and exactly when it was - doesn't matter all that much. It could have been any range at anytime. I was shooting, mindful of what I was doing, concentrating on getting my shots in as good a group as I could, while shooting at a good rate of fire, doing it safely, and I was doing pretty good at it too. I had 5 or 6 magazines fully loaded, two 10 round mags and three 15 round mags. Once I had fired all 65 rounds, I placed my pistol down on the bench and I started to reload the magazines.
As I was reloading, I noticed a young lad of about12 to 14 years of age standing just two points away from me. he was holding what looked to me like a .22 rifle. He had it in his right hand and was holding it muzzle up. I looked back at what I was doing, a few second later I looked up again and saw the young allowing the rifle to slip downward in the direction it was pointing and realized it had just covered me for a moment and had also covered several other folks on the firing line. He tried to hold it muzzle up again, using only his right hand and arm and surer that smelly stuff rolls downhill he was again pointing it at me and others. I gave him a quick upward movement of both of my hands, he immediately made an awkward face but got the idea and moved the muzzle up and then held it with two hands. I went back to reloading but moved away from the direction he was facing just in case he let that muzzle come down again.
As I was reloading, I realized he was alone, at least for the moment. There was no adult with him, no one to supervise him. He was standing just behind the firing line with a weapon in his hands and had just pointed that weapon at others a couple of times that I saw and who knows how many times when no one was watching him. Almost as soon as I had thought that, an adult walks in from the outer portion of the range, where you can buy ammo and targets and stuff like that, and walks over to a point 2 away from me. He fiddles for a few seconds and call the boy over to him and tells him to start shooting. He did not ask the boy if he had his ear protection in place (he did, I could see it after looking hard to see if he was wearing ear plugs), he did not give him any instruction except to say something like 'okay come on over and start shooting', he did not tell the boy to load the weapon, he did not tell him to check the safety, he did not tell him anything else. The kid raises the rifle to his shoulder, aims, tries to take a shot and squeezes the trigger several times to no avail. Okay, it is not loaded I thought but that is when I noticed the magazine was already in the rifle. I had not noticed before but was paying more attention to the muzzle than anything else when it had pointed at me. The adult then says, and I quote: "Take it off safest".
The boy then fiddles with the rifle, apparently looking for the safety or trying to remember where it is. He finds it, switches it into the off or fire position, looks at the adult who tells him to shoot, and then aims in and starts shooting. The light bulb comes on in my head. This kid was walking around, just behind the firing line, without adult supervision, pointing a loaded weapon at other shooters. Yikes! I immediately decide to finish up the rounds I have just loaded into my mags and then to get the hell out of Dodge.
I shoot up the 65 rounds I have just loaded pretty quickly. My group opens up a bit from the others I had just shot. I suppose my stress level is up a bit what with these jokers next to me, the pucker factor always has a way of opening group size. Still, it is a respectable group and I would be happy to get one that size under real stress. Once I finished shooting up my rounds, I start to police up my point and those around me to my right where my shell casings have landed. Lucky for me the 2 guys in question are to my left. I take a better look at them. One a somewhat pudgy kid, the other a pretty fit looking adult of about 35 years or so with a sort of muscle man shirt worn for the effect, no doubt, of showing off his tattoos of which he has many. One in particular is a word in large fairly bold fancy print, it is across his forehead, of all places. Ah, I think, that word explains it all. I will not write out the word but will spell out the meaning:
a state of utter confusion or disorder or a total lack of organization
No sooner had I seen that, the young fellow had a misfire. The adult says nothing, the kid starts to turn around, rifle in hands still at his shoulder, and the rifle starts to point diagonally across the range, it almost comes to a 90 degree angle away from the target and straight down the firing line at other points and shooters. He looks at the man, then looks at the rifle, then the man takes the rifle and fiddles with it clearing the unfired round and hands it back to the child. While he took the rifle, he was standing just behind the youngster's right shoulder so the rifle, with round in chamber, is now behind the line but he still has it pointed down range basically over the kids shoulder. He hands it back to the boy who finishes shooting what was in the magazine. The boy then heads outside the shooting range, to the other room, leaving the rifle on the bench pointed downrange but with the action closed and the magazine still in place. The adult never told him to unload it and to make it safe.
At that point the adult picks up the rifle, removes the magazine, does not clear the chamber, and reloads the rifle. I think the chamber was empty when he started this but how he could have been sure, without checking, is beyond me. Could have been another misfired round in there for all he knew. Then, another younger shooter comes in and takes the boy's place. This one is at least an older teen, maybe even in her twenties. The adult has her take up a position in the firing point, tells her to pick up the rifle and tells him to shoot. The gal picks it up and tries to shoot. The adult tells her to "...take it off safest". The youth does not know what the adult is talking about or at least does not know where the safety is located. I guess she must have forgotten what this adult most assuredly must have told her when he went over gun safety and how to operate this particular rifle with the youth before ever letting her handle it. What do you think?
Well, the adult points out the safety and says something about how to take it off of safe and place it into the fire mode. The youth then raises the rifle to her shoulder and starts to fire. She fires a full magazine, I think 10 rounds, then the adult brings the target back. There is a group of about 12 inches at its widest point with about 2 or 3 flyers far from the rest of the group with no particular grouping of their own. The adult asked: "didn't you use the scope". The young gal says 'not for the first few shots, then I started to use it'. She did not even know enough to use the scope, probably did not know how to set up her eye in relation to it, yet here she was blazing away with a semi-automatic rifle. The adult says she did just great. Once again, the rifle was put back on the bench with the action closed and the magazine remaining in it. This time though the adult took the rifle from the young shooter and placed it on the bench like that himself. Then he took out the magazine, with the action still closed and started to reload the mag. Me, I walked out the door.
Are you wondering where were the range personnel while all this was going on? I was wondering just that. One was seated in the other room with a thousand yard stare on his face, cup of coffee in his hands, another was flitting around doing this, that and everything but keeping an eye on the shooters, and I think yet another was on the range talking to a curvy female shooter. He seemingly had eyes pretty much only for her. I was about to say something to the guy who was flitting around and when I started to he just flitted right by without paying attention to me. So, I walked over to the other guy with the stare out into heaven knows where and talked to him a bit to see if he was with us. He wasn't interested in anything I had to say, so I decided to get out of there pronto before I could wind up either shot or as a witness to an accidental shooting caused by negligence.
Shame on me for not being more forceful with getting the attention of either of the range guys. I guess the reason was that I was in a hurry. Yep, that is a piss poor reason for not letting them know about what was going on safety violation wise on their range; not an excuse at all. I wonder though if either of them had even a piss poor excuse for not paying attention. If I ever shoot at this place again, I will be sure to be respectful when I advise the shooter, or in the case of a child shooter then his/her adult supervisor, or when I speak to the range personnel, about what most assuredly could have easily tuned into pandemonium and I will be sure to do it. That is usually what I do - I speak up - but I suppose I was off my mark that day. I have no excuse, none at all. I am happy to report I did not hear of any accidental shooting(s) in the area that day, so I guess things turned out okay despite the lack of firearms safety on the part of those shooters.
My biggest point, in this whole rant was not just that you need to be mindful of what you are doing nor that you also have to be mindful of what others are doing while at the range but you really have to be ready to point out safety violations because your life, or another shooter's, may depend on the safety violation being brought to light. So, the most important point I could make about the whole incident I just recounted above is that I should have made sure to say something to someone about the safety violations I saw taking place. Shame on me for not making sure I got that done. I usually do it, but just like with gun safety usually is not good enough, it is an every time kind of a thing. So if you see (a) blatant safety violation(s), you should let a range officer know immediately, that is once you have made your own firearm safe and you can safely tell them. You also can tell the shooter too but beware - sometimes the other shooter will just react as if some
asshole pushy person just tried to tell him, the expert of experts, how to shoot properly. Sometimes that gets the other shooter pretty mad and remember - he has a gun with him so be tactful if you do speak to the shooter himself. Maybe even wait for a cease fire, if they are called at the range where you are shooting, so he is not holding or near a loaded gun when you tell him. (If you are going to talk to a shooter and let him know about a potential safety violation or give any type of shooting hint, I do not recommend talking to young shooters directly, instead I would talk to the adult who should be supervising them.)
Again, for me not to have told the range officers, or the adult supervising these kids, about what I saw as safety violations, was inexcusable under the circumstances. I will not let it happen again, neither should you let it happen if you see a safety violation at the range.
All the best,