I spend a lot of time on the road going from shooting competition to concealed carry quite often. It’s very easy to become lackadaisical when it comes to carrying every day, but that is when the worst could very easily happen.
There are a variety of different shooting disciplines including the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF), Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA), United Multi-Gun League (UML), and many more. What do they all have in common? All of the rulesets state that the events are run on a cold range, even if the range allows for concealed or open carry. Essentially, if there’s a sanctioned shooting event held on a property, the competition rules trump any other rules in place. While respecting these rules, you should still always maintain a concealed carry mindset, situational awareness, and go straight from competition to concealed carry before ever leaving the range.
It may be surprising that a shooting range or shooting competition strips legal gun owners of their right to carry, but believe me, they’re in place for good reason. There are many new shooters that come out to ranges or competitions who may not know how to safely handle their firearms just yet. Negligent discharges do happen and the ones I’ve most often seen are people using their carry gun for a competition and forgetting to unload the chambered round. GSSF has a rule stating that competitors may holster their firearm, but the slide has to be locked to the rear at all times and the magazine out. This makes it easy to visually see that the pistol is unloaded. Lastly, in the competition world, heated arguments between shooters or shooters and range officers do occur, and it’s best that there aren’t loaded guns around.
While at the range or attending a shooting competition, there are a few tips that can still keep you protected and ready for anything.
Tips for a Cold Range
- Always have your gun holstered on your body and carry a loaded magazine in a magazine pouch (or pocket) if allowed. Multi-gun competitions and USPSA always have shooters unload, show clear, hammer down, and holster at the end of a stage to ensure the pistol is empty, but they do allow for loaded magazines to be on your belt.
- GSSF has a division called Pocket Glocks where you can shoot a Glock 42 or 43. I enjoy shooting my concealed carry Glock 43 in competition to improve my skills and competence with it. In my first GSSF match, I unloaded my carry magazine to use it on a stage and left the range completely defenseless. Always keep your hollow points loaded in a magazine for when you’re done shooting the match. Do not be the person who empties their magazines and leaves themselves unarmed after a competition. An unloaded gun is a useless gun.
- I always carry two knives on me, pepper spray, a tourniquet in its own pouch on my belt, and a medkit in my vehicle or range bag. Just like a firearm, a knife, pepper spray, or other non-lethal weapon are still tools that can protect you or be used in an emergency. Consider being the person who is always prepared to help others in case of injury.
Even unarmed, shooting competitions can be one of the safest places to be, but it’s important to stay vigilant. Immediately after leaving the range, I go from competition to concealed carry by switching out my competition belt for my carry belt, reload my handgun if I used it in the competition, holster it in my concealed carry holster, and clip it on my belt.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting, and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to concealed carry and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment.
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