Op-Ed: Gun Ranges Should Allow Shooters to Draw from the Holster

Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Ed Combs that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 12, Issue 7, October 2015 under the title, “Company Policy: Can’t You Read the Sign.” 

“What do you mean I can’t draw from a holster? Why do you think I’m here in the first place?”

I have heard that or something like it at almost every range I’ve visited over the last 20 years. Public or private, indoor or out, there always seems to be one individual who’s just discovered that, to his dismay, the founders of the feast believe the handling of sporting pieces is a gentleman’s endeavor and, as such, he is to revel in his “practical shooting” nonsense elsewhere.

As responsibly armed Americans, we understand that basic safety rules are important and need to be followed, but the words on the “Range Rules” sign sometimes progress from reasonable to borderline laughable. “No alcohol or drugs” is followed by “No human silhouette targets.” “No horseplay” is followed by “No holsters allowed on the firing line.” “Must wear eye and ear protection” is followed by “Must shoot no more than one round per second.” “No food or drink on the firing line” is followed by “Shooters must remain stationary while shooting.”

This can make it difficult to practice drawing from an IWB holster while getting off of the X and putting three rounds into the upper torso and head of a target in less than three seconds.


Stay with me here; I’m not talking about the basic rules of firearms safety or standard range protocol. I’m talking about the last few rules that sometimes creep into an otherwise reasonable set of policies, and I understand that almost every range rule exists for a reason. A “Paper Targets Only” policy comes from range volunteers tiring of paying to dispose of televisions and computers that inconsiderate louts have neglected to take back home with them (after depositing several pounds of broken glass over a 10-yard radius). “No Smoking on the Firing Line” signs pop up pretty quickly after the first time a shooter allows a cigarette, cigar or pipe ash to drop down into their shirt, causing them to sweep the entire room or, equally unacceptably, negligently discharge their firearm.

Those rules aside, I would submit to the governing members of shooting clubs across this country that it is time to re-assess a few of the policies governing our facilities. I understand that some safety rules are non-negotiable, but I’m willing to bet a milkshake that at least one of your current rules can be improved in order to increase your membership. In doing so, you will also increase the number of responsibly armed Americans and, in turn, Second Amendment advocates in this country.


The majority of shooting clubs and ranges in this country are “sportsman’s” or “conservation” clubs, and I love them for what they do and what they represent. I am a member of several (though maybe not after the publication of this column), and I will always be good for a raffle ticket, T-shirt or a few bratwursts whenever I see signage for a sportsman’s or conservation club’s fundraiser. Most of these organizations were founded anywhere from 40 to 130 years ago and are a wonderful combination of social organization and training facility. For the majority of their existence, they’ve been dedicated to trap and skeet shooting, teaching state-level hunter’s education and the Boy Scouts of America Rifle Shooting Merit Badge, the occasional pistol league and maybe even sighting in rifles and slug guns as a fundraiser the few weekends before opening day of gun deer season.

I love target shooting and heritage and hunting and game feeds more than most. I don’t say the following to condemn my sporting brethren or to belittle their contributions to Second Amendment preservation. They have fought for us in the sense that they toil to keep ranges open, yes, but there are a few topics upon which we’re passing each other in the dark.

Some of these organizations have policies on their ranges that make it basically impossible to train for concealed carry and armed self-defense in a realistic fashion. As mentioned earlier, no silhouette targets. No holsters. No more than one shot per second. Sometimes these rules come directly from the company that insures the range, and there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about them. However, it’s been more than once that I’ve poked around only to find that the reason I am not allowed to engage a man-sized photo target at 6 yards is due to a social decision rather than a fiscal or legal one.


Like any other, Gun Culture is not monolithic. There are gun owners who are hunters, clay-shooters and nothing else. There are self-defense-oriented sidearm owners who have exactly zero interest in ever hunting animals or shooting clays, and then there are those like me who love both disciplines — recreational and defensive shooting. There exist purists on these two ends of the spectrum. Both ends can sometimes be a bit of a hassle to others, but at least right now, there is a cultural rift between those who wish to use the range and those who control access to it.

Though millions of Americans understand that defensive use of arms is as important now as it’s ever been, certain individuals who are heavily involved with conservation and sportsman’s clubs are interested in the sporting use of arms to the exclusion of other disciplines… especially defensive handgunning.

This is usually out of instinctive self-preservation. These individuals understand that there are politicians who want to take their guns away, which is true. They also understand that there are other gun owners who do not share their interest in hunting and turkey shoots. Even worse, these other gun owners are interested in AR-15s and other modern semi-automatic firearms, firearms that accept what they’ve heard called “high-capacity magazines straight from the battlefield” and other such “unsavory” materiel in which they’ve never really been interested since their honorable discharge from the Army in 1965. Since they aren’t all that fond of such types anyway, these users and enjoyers of Modern Sporting Arms and defensive tools can be served up as sacrificial offerings in the name of “compromise,” thus giving the anti-gun politicians someone else to hassle. As long as the anti-gun politicians have someone else to go after, Hillary Clinton and her ilk will leave them, the self-declared “Honest Gun Owners,” alone.

At least that’s the theory.


What it is in practice is a willful and intentional selling-out of their fellow gun owners. These individuals have either fallen for the biggest lie ever told about the Second Amendment and really don’t know what they’re doing or they’re in on the lie and know exactly what they’re doing. Myself, I don’t know which is worse. If they’ve simply been lied to, they’re the individuals who refuse to call a defensive pistol a “weapon” and honestly believe that firearm ownership is all about heritage and sport and target shooting and quail over rice. These are the individuals who do not feel that an “honest man” has any business with a rifle magazine that holds more than five rounds and that if anyone’s after a pistol magazine that holds more than eight, he’s up to no good.

If this person hasn’t fallen for the ol’ sporting amendment lie — if they intentionally dangle their AR-pattern-shooting, sidearm-wearing compatriots out in front of anti-gun zealots to protect their own narrow reading of the Second Amendment — then I don’t know what else I could call them but anti-Second Amendment, anti-self-defense gun owners.

That last passage was rough, but I promise I am here to neither insult anyone’s intentions nor sound any more like Mark Walters than absolutely necessary. I’m writing this because I want those who support restrictive range policies to know that as I type, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who would be thrilled to join their organizations were it not for the policies I listed above. No holsters, no silhouette targets, no more than one shot per second and sometimes even no AR-pattern rifle policies are keeping legions of potential members away.


The first shooting club I ever joined — the Middleton Sportsman’s Club in Middleton, Wisconsin — was founded by my grandfather and some of his friends back in the days when they shot grouse where the University Hospital now stands. It was where my father learned to shoot and where I shot my qualification for hunter’s safety.

It is now a Lexus dealership.

That range is gone for lots of reasons — urban sprawl among them — but far too many ranges similar to it go under every year for another reason that dogged the MSC: There just weren’t enough members.

Like the American Legion and the VFW, the average age of an MSC member was over 65, and every time I attended a general member meeting, my brother and I would be the youngest individuals present by 30 years. Not only were there fewer and fewer members every year, there seemed no sense of urgency among existing members to expand membership. After all, the last thing they needed was a bunch of young weirdos lousing the place up … right?

Truly unsavory elements should, of course, be excluded from your private club. Be it the man who shows up intoxicated for pistol league or the man who wants to shoot at nothing but picture targets depicting World War II era caricatures of Jews, we as a shooting community simply cannot associate ourselves with those kinds of people.

For those who would lump individuals who wish to draw from a holster or train with their modern sporting rifle in with the riffraff I listed above, I would ask that they re-assess their take on the Second Amendment.

Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.

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  • Nick December 17, 2019, 11:34 am

    Range safety is usually unsafe. The only place a pistol belongs when not being cleaned or engaging a target is a holster. It’s why don’t go. The ones that go do not support the right to keep and bear arms.

  • alan keithley December 15, 2019, 2:47 am

    im an rso at our range and I dont want a barny phiff type showing off for his girl friend emmy lou practicing fast draw next to me or anyone else on my firing line. its a state park shooting range not aunt bee`s back yard. and as for rapid fire …well …our range structures will show that rapid fire is one bullet down range twenty bullets in our roof… rapid fire / fast draw / ( oh angeee I didn’t mean to shoot you in the foot ) thats why ole BARN was given only one round at a time… jeeeeze grow up…spraying my country side is NOT what shooting is all about….spray an pray….ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Mike December 14, 2019, 8:13 am

    I don’t believe this is a good idea. I’ve seen people at the outdoor range I’ve been to do not have a certain skill yet to be drawing from their holster. If you want to draw then maybe go to a shoot school and get some training and shooting time in.

  • Paul December 13, 2019, 6:59 pm

    I’m all for shooting from the holster. I was trained that way many years ago by another LEO agency that is known for their proficiency in handgun training. Although a good portion of our training was wadcutter .38, We also used “squib” loads at times; brass loaded with paraffin bullets powered only by primer fire( no powder in the cartridge). Anyone who handloads can make squib loads and practice in their basement. Hang up an old blanket as your berm, and it’s very much like firing under standard conditions for combat(7 yards, dimly lit). It’s an alternative to real ammo, and for lack of a draw and shoot venue, it’s not a bad compromise.

  • David Kent December 13, 2019, 6:41 pm

    You mean gun range liability insurance underwriters should allow shooters to draw from the holster.

  • Jamie December 13, 2019, 3:55 pm

    Some do, some don’t for liability. An advance class usually incorporates drawing. Not really worth writing an article about

  • TJMatthews December 13, 2019, 3:35 pm

    Ranges should offer booths for practice of self-defense methods with simunitons. Can’t even hurt yourself.

  • Jimbo December 13, 2019, 11:12 am

    I’ve been a Range Safety Officer for 11 years at a public range. It is strictly a SAFETY issue to not allow drawing from a holster. One dropped handgun and unintentional shooting of another person would probably close down our range for good. If you want to practice drawing from a holster, practice safely at home with an empty firearm and dry fire. Yes, 99% of people at our range use safe firearms handling, but we are dealing with the general public. That other 1% who are unsafe are the reason we have to be vigilant and have rules.

  • Wyu December 13, 2019, 10:40 am

    My range does not allow any target represent animal, but human silhouette targets are ok.

  • Kelly December 13, 2019, 10:25 am

    We have range out here that WILL allow rapid fire and shooting from the holster, but before they let you even shoot there, they have you pay a range orientation fee, followed by a demonstration that you can safely load four rounds into a pistol, fire two, drop the magazine, and then clear the chamber, all while keeping your trigger finger properly indexed, and the weapon safely oriented down-range.

    Before you can shoot from the holster, the RSOs also have you do an unloaded demonstration of your technique.

    The system keeps out the ones who have no inclination to be safe and demonstrates some modicum of due diligence to offset liability if something unfortunate were to happen. There is no reason other ranges can’t do the same thing. It’s a great place to shoot. In fact, it’s the best place I’ve been in several states across the country, from Hawaii to the East Coast.

    • walt December 14, 2019, 6:37 am

      You can join an IPSC club or see if a group of people can rent the range for a few hours and practice draw and fire. Range might allow that with proper release forms signed by everyone and probably a deposit.

  • Starley L McGuyre December 13, 2019, 9:51 am

    Join the USPSA if you want to draw, shoot, run and compete in simulated combat scenarios.

    “Shooter ready.” “Standby.” BEEEEP

    Of course there were no innocent civilians standing around. The range was closed except for the USPSA event.

    One range of which I was a member had a stall on the firing line built from railroad ties for drawing and shooting so bullets couldn’t get loose if things went awry.

    • MadDog Mike December 13, 2019, 3:30 pm

      Good point. I can see your reasoning. You don’t go to a Sporting Clays facility to shoot a bolt gun. Even if a facility doesn’t allow drawing from a holster though, they should at least allow a pistol/revolver shooter to rapid fire. This teaches target re-acquirement and familiarity with your chosen weapon. Not everyone want to shoot in the Bullseye Style.

  • MadDog Mike December 13, 2019, 9:38 am

    Wow Walt, I bet that if you did carry for defense you’d be the type to carry an empty chamber under the hammer or in your semi-auto. You know, like not wearing your seat-belt, figuring you’ll just put it on right before the accident!!

    • walt December 14, 2019, 6:26 am

      You must be a moron to conclude that from my post or lack any common sense regarding firearms.

    • walt December 14, 2019, 8:33 am

      Your writing style suggests you are around 13 years of age. When you graduate high school and actually own a handgun ( a real one) hopefully you will understand

  • Jeff December 13, 2019, 8:45 am

    I totally agree, they should allow it. Once you’ve been trained to draw from the holster, it actually feels unsafe not to (all the handling and loading on the bench). However, I understand why they don’t allow it; most aren’t that well trained, and, like stated above, accidents still happen.

  • walt December 12, 2019, 8:11 am

    I have seen many people over the years who shot themselves in the leg or foot while drawing. This includes genius fast draw artists and even a couple of cops I worked with. I would not go to a public range that allowed that.

  • LampofDiogenes December 10, 2019, 1:19 pm

    Being a [*choke . . . spit*] lawyer, I can tell you that they do it, mostly, for liability/insurance purposes.

    A range that won’t let you practice ACTUAL combat techniques is . . . useless. I found one range (which shall remain nameless) that literally WOULDN’T LET ME practice Mozambique drills, because it was “rapid fire”.

    Yeah, that’s kinda the POINT, dipshit. A “slow fire” Mozambique drill is . . . normal shooting, at a PAPER target.

    Not what’s going to be happening in my living room, if two or three tweakers break in to steal my stuff to buy their next high.

    The military learned, and have adopted, a “practice at least as hard as you expect on the battlefield” standard, to their credit. Why are we denied the same ability to develop ‘real world’ competence???

    • walt December 12, 2019, 8:16 am

      Military wont get sued is the big difference. You arent denied the ability to practice any kind or drawing/shooting you just cant do that on the vast majority of ranges. Go find an open area where it OK to shoot and do it to your hears content.

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