Shot Show 2014 - Media Day At The Range

media day

This might sound weird coming from a gun writer, but I didn’t go to a shooting range until I was about 25 years old. It’s not that I hadn’t been doing a lot of shooting in my youth -- there just aren’t many shooting ranges in Montana. To this day informal shooting “spots” on public land or the “back 40” are still where most of Montana’s target shooting takes place.

When I got older and traveled a little I had the opportunity to go to a few private shooting ranges of the indoor and outdoor variety.

Personally, I’ll always prefer a fallen tree for a bench rest but after I started writing gun articles I got the chance to go to a shooting range I really, really wanted to check out.

I got to go to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas where they have what is known as “Media Day at the Range.” Free ammo and all the brand new guns for that year: you’d have to be crazy to miss that.

The first thing that struck me when I made it to Media Day range was the veritable army of range officers. Sure, there were a lot of shooters out there, but in theory they were all professional gun cranks of one variety or another. Not only was there a boat load of range employees, but they walked around with their ears perked up and their eyes darting around. They seemed to be in constant communication with all the firearms reps that had brought their guns to show off and they were constantly checking in on their shooting lanes watching the shooters like hawks. I was a bit astonished at how often they felt the need to make safety suggestions and occasionally reprimand a shooter to get them to keep within the range rules. It took me a while to understand what the problem was.

You would think that a bunch of people who spend a lot of time shooting would be easy for range officers to babysit, but the opposite would seem to be true. The problem was that everyone down there was supposed to be a “gun expert”, which means it might be a bit embarrassing for them to admit they don’t know how something works.

That, combined with the fact that everything being shown off at the range is brand new equipment, makes for a bad recipe.

Attempting to avoid embarrassment leads to a good deal of frustration, which inevitably leads to muzzles being swung around to clear jams or to find magazine releases. To say the least, the range employees were busy bees.

As far as I could tell, the person who had the worst time of it down in Vegas was a very nice-looking young lady who was showing off a line of new firearms including a set of pistol caliber carbines. These carbines had a rather outside-the-box design and it was tough to locate the thumb safety, magazine release, palm safety and other items if they weren’t explained to you.

The predominantly male shooters who came by to try out the carbines had appeared to have a tough enough time admitting a hole in their knowledge to other guys and seemed completely incapable of admitting any shortcoming to a pretty woman. That gal had a rough day. She had to raise her voice frequently and the range officers were quick to jump in at that particular lane as well.

Thankfully, most of the bullets ended up where they were supposed to.

Personally, I had no trouble telling the lady I didn’t have a clue as the operation of her carbines, but that’s only because looking dumb in front of beautiful women actually is my area of expertise. It’s a gift.

The point of this little SHOT Show reminiscence is that range safety is the responsibility of everyone at the range. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Vegas with a bunch of gun writers or in Tampa with your buddies. If you don’t know what you’re doing you need to let somebody educate you.

If you see somebody acting in a dangerous manner you have to speak up before somebody gets hurt, whether that means doing it yourself or getting a range officer. We all need to check our egos and admit that nobody can possibly know everything about all guns. If we have a malfunction at the range we need to stop, think and ask for help if we need it.

We also have to be able to offer help and do it in such a way that doesn’t embarrass the shooter with the problem. A little enlightenment goes a lot further than an old fashioned butt-chewing. When it comes to gun safety there’s nothing wrong with looking dumb. In fact, sometimes it really pays off; that carbine lady wanted me to stay and hang out all day. I might have looked a little dumb when we first met but I was the only guy who didn’t try to shoot up her booth.

UPDATE: Shot show 2015 is upon us, take a look here:

1) Show show 2015 Anticipated Guns
2) Show show 2015 Pistol Upgrades

Bob Ryan  

About The Author


Bob Ryan is a native Montanan that has spent his life hunting, shooting and just generally being outdoors. When he’s not busy filling the freezer or playing with his nephew, he enjoys spending time at the range testing loads for his latest acquisitions. His wildcat, the .411 Ryan Express, has proven itself effective on big game throughout North America and Africa. He is currently working to harvest a big game animal with every caliber from .22 to .50 and is almost there, with only a few calibers remaining.