Ask Ian: My Most Unsafe Range Experience (Incoming Rounds!)

From Brian on Patreon:

“What’s the dumbest or most unsafe thing you’ve ever witnessed while out shooting in the desert or at a range / match?”

That would definitely be when a pair of totally movie shooters out at my desert shooting range spot decided to violate Rule 4 (Know your target and what is behind it) and ended up dropping rounds right into the place where my wife and I were shooting.

Second place is a match I attended that was designed as a simultaneous head-to-head competition between two shooters. One particular stage had both competitors advancing down a long bay, but if one was a lot faster than the other, they ended up downrange of the slow shooter, taking fire. Oops!


  1. Did the reverse of the second instance at a class, where we were shooting on line, about ten people, and as you got your hits, you would retreat and shoot again. The better shots went faster than the others, and you had instead of a steady line of shooters; an irregular line where the better shooters were starting to shoot past the others.

    Someone saw this and stopped the drill in time, and the teacher had the honesty to look chagrined, like he’d never thought of that happening. Didn’t take any further classes from him, and left a rather scathing note on the post class review…

  2. Ft.Irwin tank gunnery range.He didnt check the 105D(aligned with the bore)sight coming out of hull down.Used primary instead,shot the berm.

  3. I nearly accidentally shot one of my college professors at Case Western Reserve with a Nerf gun. He threatened to take his Remington 700 into the classroom if I was ever that careless again. I never disobeyed the rule about itchy trigger fingers after that.

  4. I did not enjoy getting seriously muzzle swept when a shooter hopped around because his hot brass had bounced and lodged between his bare foot and his trainer!

  5. Here comes my most unsafe range experience:
    Hunting course. We had a “running pig”, a life size Boar target mounted on a mechanical sleight.
    I was in a bunker with the boar’s engine and. my goal was to check where the shooter hit. I had a Walkie talkie to communicate with the shooting instructor.
    one time the pig started moving, and my shoelace was caught by the sleight. I was pulled off my feet, dragged over the concrete and towards the shooting range!
    the sleight track was protected by large wooden logs, but I had seen before how the bullet went through these logs. just enough to obscure me from the shooters view, but no protection.
    Just at the beginning of the range, I got my shoelace free, and half a second later I heard the shots hitting the target.
    Getting dragged over 5 meters of concrete messed me up badly, but at least I wasn’t shot that day.

  6. A battalion CAT III rifle qual, one company at the range each day for a week of fun and games. On the line for the stress test, the guy who’s shooting is a notorious goober. He’s off to a good start, but as he’s transitioning from the kneeling barricade to the prone barricade he sprints the gap and drops down into some kind of Steven Seagal tactical somersault thing. He pulls off a surprisingly clean shoulder roll and comes out right side up, but in the process he flags the entire line, the tower, and just about all 360 degrees of the compass. Whistle blown, cease fire cease fire, kicked off the line with much shouting and knife-handing and made to sit in the bleachers and watch for the rest of the day.

  7. You want “unsafe range experiences”, you really have to look to the military for them.

    Mine included being fired on (while supposedly well inside “no fire” blocks) by every type, variety, and caliber of US Army artillery while stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Everything from 75mm pack howitzers to MLRS. All due to the stellar incompetence of the people at Range Control, who seemed to think that a calendar-block “no fire zone” didn’t apply after a week or so…

    Y’all simply haven’t lived until you watch an 8″ gun battery roll up to do direct-fire practice shooting at things well within the surface danger zone for HE rounds with that weapon, and you realize that all your transportation is currently engaged in hauling gravel out to the bunker you’re trying to put back into operation. The same observation bunker that those artillery clowns done blown apart on some previous misadventure. Did I mention the fact that said bunker was now a rattlesnake den? Did I?

    Swear to God, I still start to twitch uncontrollably near artillery fire. Not the enemy’s fire, either–My own. Early 1980s were not times of really solid performance for the US Army Artillery branch. Shortly after I left Fort Sill, they dropped rounds off-post into the parking lot of a local shopping center, and blew away a good chunk of a Basic Training company that was out innocently marching along.

    The MLRS incident was… Interesting. We were out in the field way the hell and gone in the Western impact areas, and we suddenly noticed that rocket fire was being directed to our immediate north, about where we’d been planned to be, doing training that day. Due to some other coordination issues, we hadn’t gone there, but were watching when the nice people at Range Control decided to issue a wake-up call. Commander watched the first rounds go in, and decided that since they’d told him the entire impact area was supposedly “safe” for the week we were out there, he decided to unass the whole thing. When we got to the gate allowing us to leave the area, there were guards on it. Who were somewhat surprised to have an entire company show up coming out of the impact area they’d been told to secure…

    Turns out, the assholes at Range Control had forgotten we were out there, and when the MLRS guys wanted to put on a firepower demonstration for the visiting NATO officials, they just opened up the range we were on. Not a good day, for us or them. We lowly enlisted scum were ecstatic, ‘cos the exercise ended early.

    There were reasons that the Engineer battalion on Fort Sill had really bad relations with the Artillery assholes that ran the place. I was only there for about two years, and their cavalier attitude towards safety nearly got my ass killed about a dozen times. It’s one thing to casually sweep someone with a pistol muzzle; it’s entirely another to forget they’re downrange and open fire on targets within a couple of hundred meters of them with 8″ guns. Or, 155mm howitzers, rocket launchers, and anything else they hand off to those heathen bastards wearing crossed cannons.

    I have to say that I’ve never felt like I’d ever have much sympathy with Soviet/Russian soldiers, but watching all those HIMARS launches of late? I almost feel sorry for them. It was the earlier generation of rockets, for me, but… Jeez, those things are scary, even when the impacts are several hundred meters off.

    Other occasions where the Army nearly killed me…? Lessee… There was the time we were repairing target pits for the .50 cal range up at Yakima, and they opened the range for one of the Infantry outfits to fire on. While we were downrange. The ‘effing idiot in charge of the range thought we were new targets, or something. And, due to the wind that was blowing westwards, we never heard a damn thing when they announced the range being open. All we saw/heard were the gentle wheet, wheets and pitter-patter of impacting .50 projectiles hitting around our trucks in the dirt. Whole thing was super-surreal; one minute I’m standing there telling the heavy junk guys what I need done, and the next I’m all by myself and the entire platoon is taking cover behind whatever they can find. I was later told that I reacted about the same as everyone else, in terms of taking cover, but I remember it being forever as I tried to work out what the hell was going on and turned to see that the range and firing line about 1500m away was now occupied and in use.

    I’m sure you can probably imagine my profanity when talking to Range Control. Not a happy camper, that day. “Oh, are you guys working in the range fan, then?” Yeah, no sh*t, Sherlock… That’s why I specifically stopped there at Range Control to tell you what we were doing today, before heading out to work on your requested range improvements.

    Army Range Control seems to be infested with the incompetent and doltish, especially when you’re dealing with them as you’re taken under fire by someone they gave the OK to shoot at you…

    I cudgoonandonandon, but… I think you get the idea. Civilian ranges can be really, really dumb, but if you want real, true terror? The military is where it’s at. Navy friend of mine was (supposedly… I really hope this isn’t true) a P-3 crewman returning from a patrol when they got fired on by the US Navy that thought they were a target drone. Seems there was some confusion about NOTAMs and really poor dissemination practices in that command, and they got to enjoy the experience of being painted with fire-control radars and being fired on as though they were targets. I’m sure the tale grew in the telling, but… Man, I hope that wasn’t truth.

    • Stupid question: Do unintentional discharges for small arms happen during a reloading cycle? I mean, if you have some idiot stressed out in a pistol fight, he’s likely to keep pulling the trigger even when the magazine’s spent. And if he keeps twitching his trigger finger while changing magazines, he’s likely to put a few bullets into his friends by mistake.

    • “(…)Navy friend of mine was (supposedly… I really hope this isn’t true) a P-3 crewman returning from a patrol when they got fired on by the US Navy that thought they were a target drone. Seems there was some confusion about NOTAMs and really poor dissemination practices in that command, and they got to enjoy the experience of being painted with fire-control radars and being fired on as though they were targets. I’m sure the tale grew in the telling, but… Man, I hope that wasn’t truth.”
      Apparently even being few tens kilometers away is sometimes dangerous

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