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4 rules of Gun Safety

  1. The gun is always LOADED.
  2. Never point the MUZZLE of your gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your FINGER off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  4. Know your TARGET and what lies beyond.

Gun Range Terms

An ongoing series of informational entries


March 15, 2018

If you are in the process of shooting a stage and you hear someone yell “Stop!” or “Whoa!” or “Hold it!” or “Cease fire!” or something similar, simply keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, take your finger out of the trigger guard, and wait for instructions. Some potentially unsafe condition may have arisen that needs to be resolved. Or it could be something as simple as a prop malfunction. Whatever it is, it will be straightened out and you can start over. Also, if you see some condition that could be unsafe, don’t hesitate to yell “Stop.” Even if it turns out to be nothing, we can always start over. Better safe than sorry.


March 15, 2018

You’ll hear this warning if you are not meeting IDPA’s definition of the proper use of cover, that is, if both feet and 50 percent of your upper body are not behind designated cover. If you don’t respond to the warning, you’ll be assessed a 3-second procedural penalty. Be aware, too, that you can be assessed a penalty without having been warned.


March 15, 2018

If you hear a safety officer or fellow competitor yell “Finger,” it’s because you have your finger inside the trigger guard when you are not actively engaging a target. Get it out and place it straight along the slide so the safety officer can see that it is clear of the trigger. The first finger warning will result in a 3-second procedural penalty. The second finger warning is an automatic match disqualification.

Warning Terms


March 15, 2018

If you hear “Muzzle,” you are close to pointing your muzzle in an unsafe direction. Immediately direct the muzzle downrange. If you don’t respond properly to the warning, or if you manage to “sweep” yourself or another competitor before a RSO can issue a warning, you will be disqualified from the match. You’re welcome at the next match, but you’re done for the day.

Range is clear

March 15, 2018

You made it! Now we can record your time for the stage and proceed downrange to score and paste the targets. What follows are some other commands or warnings you may hear as you progress through a course of fire.


March 15, 2018

Replace the empty gun in your holster. Don’t do anything else (such as pick up a dropped magazine or ejected live round) until the gun is holstered and the safety officer says...


March 15, 2018

When you hear this command, point the muzzle toward the rear berm and pull the trigger. NOTE: Don’t simply point the gun downrange and pull the trigger. Use this time to practice aiming and do a perfect trigger pull. If you have a decocker, don’t use it to drop the hammer. The RSO wants to hear the “click.” You will then be told to...

If clear, slide forward (or cylinder closed)

March 15, 2018

Let the slide go forward (or close the cylinder), after which the safety officer will say...

If you are finished, unload and show clear

March 15, 2018

When you hear this command (and you've taken all the shots you intend to take), unload (drop the magazine and put it in a pocket, on a prop, or on the ground--get it out of your hand), and show clear by retracting the slide, ejecting any round in the chamber. Hold the slide back so that you and the safety officer can visually verify that the gun is empty). NOTE: If I am the RSO inspecting your chamber, I will want the slide locked open if the gun is able to do so. Once the chamber is clear (or cylinder is empty), the RSO will say...


March 15, 2018

Once you hear “Standby,” you cannot change your position. You just wait for the buzzer to sound. When the buzzer goes off, safely draw or retrieve your gun and proceed to engage all the targets as specified in the stage description. When all the targets have been engaged, the safety officer will say...

Are you ready?

March 15, 2018

Once your gun is made ready in accordance with the stage description, get comfortably into the position you want to be in when the buzzer sounds. Take a deep breath. Relax and focus on what you are about to do. The safety officer will ask, "Are you ready?" If you are not ready, say "Not ready." You will be given a few seconds to get ready. If you do not respond to the command within about 3 seconds, the RSO will assume you are ready. After that, you’ll hear...

Load and make ready

March 15, 2018

OK, it’s your turn to shoot and you assume the start position for the stage as specified in the stage walkthrough. The safety officer will direct you to "Load and make ready.” Unless otherwise specified in the stage description, remove your gun from the holster, insert a magazine with the correct number of rounds for the division or for the particular course of fire, and chamber the first round. Reholster your weapon (unless otherwise specified in the course description). If the course of fire calls for the gun to start unloaded, the command will be "Make ready."

Do you understand the course of fire?

March 15, 2018

Before you load your gun, the instructor or safety officer will ask you if you understand what you’re supposed to do. This is the time to ask any last-minute questions. DO NOT touch your gun in any way until invited to do so by the RSO.

Range is hot--eyes and ears

March 15, 2018

This will likely be the first range command you hear at the match. “The range is hot” means we’re getting ready to shoot. Make sure your ear protection is in place (you should always be wearing eye protection) and pay attention to the RSO.

Range Commands

March 15, 2018

typically said in shooting matches and instructor courses.

If practicing in a lane and someone yells CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!

March 15, 2018

immediately remove your ammo and magazine from the gun, put your gun down (muzzle facing down range and ejector port facing up) and step away from the firing line. Do not have anything in your hands. After a ceasefire, be sure to stay away from your gun until the safety officer offers an instruction to resume shooting, either by shouting “hot” or “commence fire” or “resume fire”.

If shooting a course of fire and someone yells CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!

March 15, 2018

The Cease Fire command may be given by anyone on the range – ANYONE! Its purpose is to immediately stop all shooting on the range. There may be a person or child wandering around in front of the firing line, there may have been a shooting accident, or a profoundly unsafe act by a shooter on the line, or a medical emergency just behind the line (think heart attack or fainting spell). Something of significance has happened and all shooting needs to stop. The command CEASE FIRE! Is said three times, in a loud voice. If you as a shooter hear that command, stop firing IMMEDIATELY, put your weapon on safe, and stand at the low ready (weapon pointed down at a 45 degree angle, safety on, finger off the trigger) until someone tells you what to do.

Commence Fire

March 15, 2018


Safe Table or Safe Area

March 15, 2018

If a safe table is provided, you may “gun up” there but DO NOT handle ANY ammunition at the safe table. The safe table also exists if you have an issue with your gun during a match or range session that needs immediate attention. Again, make sure your gun is free of any ammunition at this table. This is the only place you should be handling your gun, unless it is your turn to shoot AND you are invited to do so by the instructor or RSO.

Gun Up

March 15, 2018

This means it’s time to find a safe table or berm to put your gear on. (DO NOT put your gun on at your car!) Take your entire range bag to the safe table or berm and at this time put on your belt, holster, and magazine pouches. Next, you will put your gun into your holster, always keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction. Visibly and physically inspect your gun to make sure there is no ammunition in the gun. Once your gun is safely holstered, DO NOT touch or handle your weapon in any way until invited to do so by the RSO or instructor.

HOT Range

March 15, 2018

A hot range or course means that you keep your weapon “topped off”. Load empty magazines when you have the opportunity. This is typical in more advanced “run and gun” course which are typically limited to more advanced shooters. Actually, this is “real life”, when you are carrying your weapon on a daily basis, your are “Range HOT”. Keep your head in the game during these courses, your life and those of your fellow students are dependent on you doing everything perfectly.

When entering a match or instructor course whether a hot or cold range, do NOT have a loaded weapon on your person or in your range bag. Your weapon should be unloaded with the slide locked open and any ammunition in a separate compartment. It’s best to keep your gun in a gun pouch within your range bag. At the start of the session, ask the instructor or RSO if you can “gun up.”

COLD Range

March 15, 2018

A cold range or course means that a weapon may only be loaded at the firing line and at the command of the range safety officer (RSO). You may load magazines but you may not “Load and Make Ready” until you are invited to the firing line and given the command. This may be the policy of the entire range or simply for the duration of the course you are taking.