Range is NOT Clear

Here is a video that has been going around recently on social media. It is a video of a pistol match stage. As the shooter, RSO, and camera man progress through the stage there is a person hidden down range due to the stage design.


There are a couple things going on here. On the surface this is a clear abandonment of safety procedures by the RSO. It is the Range Safety Officer’s duty to make sure the stage is clear of anybody down range. I have participated in many matches and sure some people get left behind cleaning up the stage with last minute pasting of targets or fixing something down range. But the RSO is the one in charge and should have done a thorough check that the range was clear.

From the single angle that the camera provides it is surprising that the shooter did not see the worker down range as he was shooting the stage. However we only see so much from the camera. A lot of the stage is obscured by the barricades. The guy down range can thank the stage designer for saving his life. A good stage design will be challenging and have many angles that obscure targets. Only making them available at certain positions of opportunity. If the stage designer did a great job, obscurred targets will not be in the path of another target. So as long as they are hidden, no bullet should hit them or the guy down range as long as the shooter is competent and adheres to the stage design. Now this does not let the RSO or the shooter off the hook. I can understand how competition can put you in tunnel vision mentally. All you are thinking and scanning for is your next target. If you are a well seasoned competitor, then you are going through your plan of attack in your head and trying to stick to that script you made just minutes before.

Another thing that worked against the worker down range is that it seems he left his ear-pro on. Normally when I help reset a stage, I will remove my ear protection. However not everyone does that. In this case, the worker did not hear the shooter engaging targets. I am surprised he didn’t see the dirt kick up around him when the shooter was shooting down range.

A lot went wrong here but thankfully no one got hurt.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • wolfgar

    This is my worst nightmare. There has been an argument in my gun club if we should dispose of the non see through solid plastic walls or go with the see through snow fence walls. The snow fence walls probably saved that man’s life. Thank you for posting this video as a perfect example of the benefits of using snow fence walls. This settles the argument.

  • anon

    anybody catch him go for cover behind the target? I realize that he was acting reflexively, but that was literally the worst cover (see concealment) possible.

    Glad he is okay though.

    • Andrew

      Crazy stuff happens in your brain when you realize you’re on the receiving end of bullets.

  • LCON

    Somewhere at the end of a long line at the unemployment office a man should be standing wearing a Range safety Officers Uniform

  • Mouldy Squid

    Wow. This is something that should never happen. The truth of the matter is, the RSO should have double checked that the range was clear and then checked again. It is hard to tell who stopped the match, but I don’t think it was the RSO.

    • Hudson

      It a good thing the shooter was keeping aware of his surroundings, it would have been real easy to have tunnel vision only for the targets.

  • Nicks87

    Was James Yeager the stage designer?

    • Patrick R.

    • HAHAH, very good.

    • RealitiCzech

      No, he was getting a shirt shrink-fitted, so Sonny Puzikas filled in.

    • Joshua

      Was their tactical ditch diving included in the course?

  • ShadowDog

    It seems like the having the buddy system would have helped here. So the RSO knows how many pairs there are and each pair has accountability of one another. If the RSO pair count is off or if a someone doesn’t have their accountability for their buddy, the range may not be clear and you’re not ready for the next shooter. Problem solved.

  • Crikey. The guy down range and the shooter are both damned lucky. The RO’s in a bucket of trouble if you ask me. Seems like somebody (ANYBODY) should have been shouting ceasefire at max volume before that 30 second mark.

    I shot the Crimson Trace midnight match last year, and in addition to everybody wearing glowsticks, there was a mega loud “RANGE IS CLEAR?” after everyone was done taping and resetting.

    • Bill

      I’ve done the glowstick thing. If it’s a small group, I duct-tape them to their back so I can count shootersand tell which wy they are facing, more or less, instructors get a different color. In daylight, if an instructor has to go downrange for any reason, like to fix a target, another goes with him and, um, keeps an eye on the firing line.

  • sianmink

    I don’t think the worker downrange had an option with his earpro. The stages to his left and right were active. I certainly wouldn’t take them off in those conditions.

    • Nicholas Chen

      The noise from neighboring ranges isn’t that loud nor uncomfortable to work without Earpro.

    • billyoblivion

      One can purchase electronic hearing protection starting at less than $50. Given what ammo costs these days…

      Seriously, 50 bucks is *cheap* compared to a lot of things in the gun world.

      I purchased 3 pairs (Howard Leight, Peltor 7s, Sordins) and tested them in both indoor ranges and outdoor ranges along with my wife. She actually found the HLs to be the most comfortable. I preferred the Sordins because they were lower profile for rifle work. As to noise reduction IIRC the Peltor was the best indoors *barely*, but not really sufficient unto itself for a busy range with larger calibers in evidence. So I double up with cheap foamies. Since I can just turn up the amplification this solved the problem (remember the electronic circuit clamps peaks). This means it allows you to adjust the volume of “normal speech” so if you’re a little hard of hearing you can fix that.

      Yes, the RO screwed up, but we’re all human and if we shot everyone who f*d up there’d be no one to pull the trigger.

      This is why we have 4 rules of firearm safety. Well, 3 rules and a principle. (Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded isn’t really a rule the way the other three are. It’s a principle. The other three rules tell us how to execute on that principle).

      We treat all firearms as if they are loaded by keeping the firearm pointed a safe direction, keeping our booger hook off the bang switch and knowing our target and what’s around/beyond it.

      If I screw up and put my finger on the trigger and the gun goes bang, as long as I’ve kept the gun in a safe direction the only damage is to my pride. If my muzzle wanders a bit (for example if I slip and fall) then as long as my finger is outside the trigger guard it’s ok.

      In the security world (and in the military) we call that defense in depth. It is often easier and more effective to stack two or three cheap security methods than to engineer one “fool proof” one that is expensive and intrusive.

  • Dave Parks

    Is it just me, or is the man down range dressed like a target (not that that makes the RSO less culpable)?

    There’s a joke in here somehwere about not wearing a white or brown shirt with brown shorts/pants to an IDPA match.

    • Zermoid

      Why don’t range officers and workers wear blaze orange as do hunters?
      Can’t miss seeing a guy in orange!

  • Ted Unlis

    “Is the line ready?”, “The line is ready”, “Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line”. Those words used for firing range safety protocol might seem dated, but they were used for a reason. Obviously the Range Officer was just going through the motions and not taking his job seriously enough to confirm no one was still down range before going hot.

    • Don

      From an IPSC forum, the video didn’t start at the beginning of the COF…

      “the poor patcher has quite server hearing problems, and before the video started recording (The COF had already started before the video started, as the shooter had his gun out and on the table for a tabletop start.) the RO had loudly asked “Range Clear?” and received no response from the patcher (because he couldn’t hear the RO), so the RO believed the range to be clear and started the next shooter.

    • raz-0

      I saw this elsewhere, and inquired about what actually happened as it made little sense as viewed. Turns out one of my suspicions was correct. The guy down range picking up brass has severe hearing loss. Your bullseye standard range commands would have done jack.

      The short answer is the RO should ALWAYS be the last man back to the line and start that trip form the back of the pit.

  • Cytoxan

    I bet the shooter was glad he had a “failure to neutralize the target penalty” on this stage. Safety should be everyones job at a match, hard to depend on luck alone…

    • Don

      I agree 100%. Complacency is what gets people hurt.

  • Mike Honcho

    If you watch carefully at :20 above the white sheet u can see the dust kick up way downrange in the area where the guy changing the target is standing

    • Nicholas Chen

      Yeah and that makes me wonder why the guy down range didn’t notice that and start yelling and waving hands.

      • Gidge

        He must be deaf or something. Note that he’s completely oblivious until he turns around and sees the shooter, then he drops his patches and freaks out.

      • Don

        From an IPSC website…

        “the poor patcher has quite server hearing problems, and before the video started recording (The COF had already started before the video started, as the shooter had his gun out and on the table for a tabletop start.) the RO had loudly asked “Range Clear?” and received no response from the patcher (because he couldn’t hear the RO), so the RO believed the range to be clear and started the next shooter.

        • Grindstone50k

          If you know one of your personnel has hearing problems, you probably shouldn’t rely on verbal commands. Still, failure on the RO to personally ensure the range was clear, especially with the visual and aural obstructions.

  • Goodness. Two-way shooting ranges are not a good idea.

    • Doc Rader

      I believe we call those “battlefields”.

      • Grindstone50k

        Still not a great idea.

  • Slobko

    Even though I was expecting it, it still made me gasped when I saw the man downrange resetting the target.

    • sam

      Yep, cringe worthy… bleh *shudder*.

  • Rob

    That guy is very lucky! Holy cow, the worst safety failure I’ve seen yet (at least in a competition).

  • flyingburgers

    I can’t place all the blame on the RSO because there’s no accountability procedure in use. Safety in most gun ranges is based on “I thought”. Industries use lockouts for this reason. Here’s what you should do: at the base of the range cold flag, have a bunch of padlock eyes. Every person entering the range must place a keyed padlock onto the flag. Range is cold until the flag is physically removed. Use of keys prevents other people from assuming you came back.

    • Grindstone50k

      The RSO should be the one calling the range “hot” and “cold” after 100% ENSURING it is clear. While safety is everyone’s responsibility, not everyone declares a range hot. That is the RSO.

      • flyingburgers

        And the RSO is a human and humans make mistakes. Many mistakes. Which is why you engineer a system that provides safety even in the face of human error.

        • Anonemouse

          Could not agree with you more. Also a key component of lockout is that you are responsible for your own safety, hence everyone having their own lock.

        • Grindstone50k

          You can engineer a system all you want, it still comes down to whoever is in charge of safety right then and right there.

          • Paladin

            This right here. Even a perfectly engineered safety system is only as good as the people who make it work. A lot of current safety practice is about trying to engineer solutions to people problems.

        • AR-15 Pistol

          Totally agree. A system to mitigate risks is a great idea. Obviously, the RSO is responsible for his range but the guy is human and made a mistake any one of us could have made.

          • Grindstone50k

            Seeing all these excuses for the RSO make me sad and a little scared of ranges I am not familiar with. Is it really too much to expect an RSO to actually do his job properly? Do you also excuse NDs? “A mistake any one of us could have made”? Seriously? This is how this kind of crap happens.

          • AR-15 Pistol

            I don’t hear any excuses. I hear you being combative because your ego can’t handle what’s being said. Why are you arguing against a system that promotes safety and could mitigate issues like this? If you want to put your life in the hands of the RSO every time you’re on the range, go ahead. It’s obvious that people make mistakes. If you need evidence watch the video again. The RSO failed to check his lane properly, the guy down range had his ear pro on, and the shooter failed to make sure what was beyond his target. That’s rule number 3 and 3 people making mistakes.

            The fact is you and people like you are the most dangerous people on the range.

        • 3d1911

          I say we go liberal on this and blame the gun!
          I’m glad no one was hurt.

    • ThomasD

      Not a bad system, but all you’ve done is changed the point of failure.

      Every person entering the range must place a keyed padlock onto the flag.

      Who enforces that?

      Who ensures that no one has violated the rule and is not, in fact, downrange?

      Ultimately it must be one person, and that person is the RSO, in name or otherwise.

      • flyingburgers

        This method requires two people to make a mistake or be negligent at the same time, the RSO and the person. If the RSO screws up 1 in 100 times, and the person is lazy 1 out of 100 times, the probability of a hazardous situation is now 1 in 10,000. You’ve increased the level of safety by 100x, or put in a different way, 100x less people get shot.
        The reason for the keyed padlock is so that your friend who swears you went back to the car can’t touch your lock. It removes that temptation.

  • Will

    That’s the stuff nightmares are made of and a couple safety guys in a tower or high platform who give the final go ahead, would be a good idea.
    But, hind sight is cheap and always 20/20.

    • Grindstone50k

      Hind sight almost got very, very expensive.

    • Roger V. Tranfaglia

      The above or 2 RSO’s, the 2nd one having a higher viewing angle of the range (match or not!)

  • Grindstone50k

    While safety should be everyone’s priority, the ultimate person in charge of calling the range hot is the RSO, which demonstrates a massive failure on his/her part. Still, the guy is clearly visible through the mesh construction fencing the whole time, not “hidden” unless you are blind as a bat. Poor SA on everyone’s part.

    • Tom Currie

      Those who place the blame squarely on ONE person are all assuming that the guy was _THE_ RSO. I strongly suspect that in this case he as _A_ RSO.

      Yes, there is supposed to be one RSO in overall charge or range safety, and yes, someone screwed up — in fact I would guess that at least three people being called “RSO”s all screwed up.

      Some ranges are operated in ways that everyone THINKS are safe, but have built-in opportunities for errors. When you have more than one person shooting from any arrangement other than a fixed stationary firing line, you have a recipe for these kinds of errors. We have all seen ranges that have multiple lanes separated by berms or walls where multiple lanes may be active simultaneously, hopefully each with its own RSO, such arrangements are “necessary” to handle enough shooters – but they also contribute to the situation we saw where the guy downrange didn’t realize the shooting he heard was in his own lane.

  • Tom Currie

    Either the guy downrange was profoundly deaf or he had better hearing protection than any I have ever seen — or MORE LIKELY the whole operation is a range where stages are run in lanes defined by those berms with the assumption that it is safe to be downrange in in one area while the adjacent area is firing. Note that in the video we hear rounds being fired by someone other than the shooter we are watching.

    This also seems to be the kind of range that as multiple RSO’s (one assigned to each area/shooter) — which undoubtedly contributed to the failure to properly clear the downrange area.

    There can be innocent mistakes that result in someone being downrange, but there is no excuse for the kind of multiple errors we see here.

  • Paul O.

    Anybody ever been the lone target paster down range? Been there, mostly because the other shooters get too busy yacking to be pasting. The other shooters need to be the eyes for the RO as a back up.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Complacency kills.
    Thanks for posting this. Safety reminders are always in order. Imagine if that man had been shot, what the anti’s would have made of this.

  • Bal256

    RO carelessness aside, I’m more interested in the supposedly deaf guy repairing targets downrange. If you’re deaf AND oblivious to your surroundings, who’s idea was it to have that guy’s job as repairing targets downrange?

    • CJS3

      In case you missed it, the popping noises in the background was shooting at other stages at the range. How do you differentiate when wearing hearing protection? Basic safety rules were being broken at so many levels, that the governing competition association should suspend all events at that location.

  • Zebra Dun

    Sign seen at the Rifle Range in Stone Bay, “Range rules are written in blood” enforce them.

  • Havasu Resident

    London Bridge Action Shooters in Lake Havasu City, AZ. USPSA event. The old guys call themselves the ” Putz” and like to be total know it all jerks and pretty much run new shooters off all the time. I expected something like this to happen there eventually. They are more worried about their social status and who doesn’t have to tape up targets than range safety. I am glad nobody was killed though. I am also glad I moved to shooting in Ft. Mohave and Kingman and have nothing to do with these guys anymore.

  • ThomasD

    “…from the single angle that the camera provides is is surprising that the shooter did not see the worker down range as he was shooting the stage.”

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. The sound of that timer sure has a way of narrowing one’s focus.

  • noob

    could automated targets be the way to go? something like those bus stop advertisements that have a scroll of posters and roll a new poster into position on command?

    That way the number of people on the range during the day is kept to a minimum. At night, all the guns are put away and you change out the scrolls.

    • Nicholas Chen

      Way too expensive. And people will find ways to shoot the scroll and the mechanism that feeds it.

      • noob

        ah that’s a shame