I guess the range day is the gun folks' equivalent of a group field trip, except you get there (mostly) in separate vehicles and… well, there are guns involved. While gun ranges have designated home field Range Safety Officers (RSO’s) that keep an eye on the well-armed kittens out to pew pew, social group gatherings often have RSO’s from their own roster to help with the wrangling, kinda like the designated driver of a pub crawl, but… well, involving guns. Lame attempts at levity aside, the RSO is a cruicial part of the safety picture, and as I’ve started becoming more active in local group activities, I thought it’d be useful to get more upto speed on RSO-dom.
Multiple organizations offer RSO training and certification so that you can have a lovely piece of paper (or .pdf) that you can show for whatever learning you’ve completed. I ended up going with USCCA’s online course as it was not only virtual, but I also had a discount code.
The course itself is comprised of a series of lectures (and videos that narrate the text in case you weren’t in the mood to read), more videos of people (mis)behaving on the firing line, pop quiz questions to make sure you’re spotting the misbehavior, and a final exam which you have to score 80%+ in order to pass and get your certificate. I completed the whole thing in a bit under two hours (95% on the test, not because I want to brag, but just in case you were curious, which you probably aren’t).
The Danger Ranger
A good portion of the content is based on fundamental firearm safety, and if you’ve managed to internalize and practice safe behavior around firearms, this RSO course will seem rather familiar. Probably the most important takeaway from this learning experience was the definition of the RSO:
The RSO is required to monitor the range, watch and interact with guests, present a range orientation brief, and review and enforce the safety rules. The RSO also ensures that the shooters follow the range regulations, which helps prevent possible property damage or personal injury.
To borrow an analogy from the class, the RSO is a referee who spells out and enforces the rules. While there may be opportunities (and temptation) to play coach, that’s not why the RSO is there.
With Great Responsibility…
Another major takeaway from the course was the amount of attention required to keep an eye on a firing line full of shooters. While the USCCA’s RSO-to-
kittenshooter ratio is 1:6, the observation portion of the class where you review a video of a group of shooters at a gun range quickly illustrates the challenges of one set of eyeballs looking for safety issues over multiple subjects.
It’s one thing to be aware of one’s own activities in that personal space while handling firearms - that requires mindfulness and concentration, but it’s a whole different kettle of fish to
herd cats mind a half-dozen folks with guns, each doing their own thing. It would go without saying that RSOs should not be fiddling with smartphones while RSO’ing.
Anyway, I’ve yet to actually perform the role in a group outing, but I have started observing the goings-on at the range a bit more. This will undoubtedly take practice, and I think it’ll be a fantastic ongoing learning opportunity, not only for looking out for unsafe behavior, but also for working those interpersonal skills in addressing such behavior.
I’m probably being a doe-eyed idealist about the latter bit.