Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When The Range Officer Threatens To Shoot You...

Last Sunday I went to the Wooster Mt. range, which is a fun little public outdoor range in CT.

The place was jammed and for the first time (since the Clinton Admin, anyway)  I had to wait for a spot on the firing line. After setting up my targets, I shot a few clips from my M1 Garand and was about to reload when the RO came up to me.

RO: You have a handgun in a holster. It needs to be on the bench in front of you. Now.

Me: Oh. Sorry. I didn't realize... I saw yours and thought it would be OK.  (Draws handgun, drops mag, racks slide, places cleared Para Companion and mag on bench)

RO: Range Officers are allowed to have holstered handguns.

(Brief interlude. I'm not really sure I understand the logic behind that rule. These guys are safety officers, not security guards.)

RO: Besides, you're printing pretty loudly, and we need to make sure everyone follows the rules cause its so crowded here today.

Me: OK, no problem at all. You're the boss.

RO: If people don't follow the rules, it makes me angry.

At this point, the RO reaches behind him and pulls out his spare mag and shows me the hollowpoint rounds

RO: You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Me: Self deprecating remark, to the effect that he's the boss and Im not going to argue.

Later on that day, when returning from the target change, I had to squeeze between two of the shooting benches, and realizing that the RO was watching me, I gave him a grin and held my hands up in the air as I passed by the benches to show him that I was going out of my way to follow the rules about not touching any guns during the cease fire.

Finally, I shot up all my ammo and packed up. On the way out, I waved and said thanks to the RO -- being a RO is a tough job.  You get none of the credit when things go right and all of the blame when they don't. So I try to let them know I appreciate their work.

Anyway, in response to my call of "Thanks! See you next time" he guy says "Holding your hands up in the air won't stop me from shooting you."

I was a little steamed and said something to the effect of "That's the second time today you've threatened to shoot me." He replied that it was all in good fun and I kept walking.

An annoying incident, and while I don't think he was actually planning to shoot me, I thought it was a rather tasteless joke, and the kind of thing that could have frightened a new shooter or unnerved someone.

Any thoughts on gun range etiquette, specifically the issue of death threats?


Psychlone Ranger said...

While I agree that being the RO is a thankless job sometimes, there is no excuse for that kind of rudeness. I'd have a word with this guys boss about attitude. Seems like he's got a case of the 'bully's.

Something I was taught when I was a bouncer: Be nice. Be the calmest guy in the room, right up until the point where you need to be the baddest guy in the room. Until that point though, smile and let it roll off you.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Absolutely inappropriate. Report him to the owner. By threatening to shoot a customer while acting as an agent of the owners, he placed them in a position of liability if you had been someone who would decide to press charges or sue (or both). With the attitude it seems that RO had, someone who reacts poorly to threats could have unintentionally escalated the situation, perhaps dangerously.

Even ignoring the threats, if he was as rude as he comes across in your recounting, that's inexcusable for any business. There are ways to be firm while still being polite - he needs to learn and use them. You don't demand "Do this. Now." for what may easily be an inadvertent and non-critical rule violation (critical being an immediate safety risk). A simple "Excuse me sir, I see you're wearing a handgun in a holster. Could you please put it on the bench in front of you? Our rules are that only Range officers can wear a holstered weapon." would probably have done the job, and left you without the bad impression you came away with.

I don't care how thankless the job is, his behaviour was inexcusable. And if he's threatening people like that, he needs to be fired, fast.

tanksoldier said...

I would have reported him long before it got to that point. The death threat merits a police report.

MeatAxe said...

Hey now, Tanksoldier
I'll admit I wasn't charmed to bits by his approach, but being abrasive isn't a crime. Yet. I'd bet everything I have that he thought he was being funny or cool, not that he was actually threatening me. He had no intent to harm, I'm sure of that.

Anonymous said...

He missed his calling...
he could have been Barney Fife.

John said...

Sounds like a wana-be-only-one to me...

Midwest Chick said...

Sounds like he was just starting a dick-measuring contest. Figured he'd try to out-Alpha you or something. Inappropriate, yes. If you go again and he does it again, then take it up his chain of command.

Atom Smasher said...

Like I said when you first told me, I think this was way over the line. Making jokes about shooting people when you aren't actually armed is kinda okay in the right company. Making direct threats-as-jokes when you *are* armed is not okay in my book.

Broken Gauge said...

This is why i don't go to actual ranges when i am home. i'm fortunate enough to know people who go shooting in their backyard (massive backyard, with berms and facing a slight angle).

we do our share of bullshitting...when we're inside...away from the guns.

once we start shooting, no jokes. not like that. that's not cool. weapons are loaded, and you never really completely know what can set someone else off.

if i had been in that position, i would have packed up my stuff, reported him, then gone home after he showed off what he was packing.

in my time in the army, i have noticed that the very same people who joke about guns, pointing them at people (presumed empty) are the very people who get negligent discharges. usually they're lucky and don't hit anyone...usually.

that kind of behavior is not just thuggish or unprofessional, it's disturbing. these are not toys, they are tools. someone who can't make the distinction shouldn't be near them, not until they understand. otherwise they would merely do more harm than good.

i wouldn't want someone like that watching my back downrange, and i certainly wouldn't want him around my family.

not to make an attack on the guys character or anything, since i don't know him. we've all done bonehead things when we knew better. i'm just assuming this is a recurring attitude for the sake of commenting.

Mopar said...

Everyone has pretty much nailed it already as to the RO's attitude. What I'd like to mention, since it isn't exactly clear from the post is the range is not a normal, commercial public range. As I understand it, it's state park lands, but operated by a private gun club. Since it's public land, they need to allow some public access. The RO is probably not paid, he's probably just a club member who is required to perform X days of public RO duty as part of his club membership.
That certainly doesn't excuse his attitude, but it probably explains a lot of it. He's better then you because he belongs to this exclusive 110yr old shooting club and you dont, and the only reason he's there is some stupid law that says they have to let common folk like you onto their sacred private range. He's also not getting paid, and would probably rather be on the line shooting himself, or just about anywhere but standing around watching the unwashed masses on his day off.

TOTWTYTR said...

First, I'm glad that I belong to a range where no one is a range officer. Well, actually, according to the rules everyone is a range officer. What that means is that we are all expected to follow the rules and if we see someone violating them explain the rule to them, nicely. Failing that, we can email or call someone on the board of directors to express our concerns.

You don't mention if it's a private or commercial range. In either case, I'd contact someone and mention it. His behavior is rude at the least. If nothing else, it gives a bad image of the range and those allegedly responsible for ensuring proper range etiquette and behavior.

You're paying for use of the range and having someone "in charge" being an ass isn't acceptable.

Robert Langham said...

If you don't report this guy someone else is going to have to suffer his actions. He doesn't have any business being in charge of folks while armed. There's a big difference between a joke and a threat.
I belong to a private range with no ROs. When folks don't know proper gun handling techniques, I help them in the most respectful and friendly way. This last trip the line was full of deer hunters who didn't think to open bolts and stand away when folks were down range. I really think most of them were happy to have a little clear, friendly helpful and respectful instructions. It's a relief to all when the line is working safely. Some of us might not think it's our job to school idiots and careless fools...but actually, it is. They aren't idiots, they are our friends and peers and they represent our sport just like we do.
Anyone who suggests that they are going to shoot you if they are unhappy needs to be called on explaining exactly what they mean on the spot. This guy is out of his league.
Thanks for posting this by the way. I knew Men weren't Potatoes....I just hadn't had anyone explain it clearly before!

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