What Club Rules Do You Hate?

I feel like I’m at the point where I’m doing rule revisions for the club all the time. The new Board members have different ideas. This is good, because stagnation is usually a bad thing. I’m open to debating new ideas. I’ve said previously, keeping thieves away from money should be a top priority for any non-profit, and I think we’re pretty safe in that regards now. I wish NRA could say the same, but they can’t.

So in thinking about rules, it always helps to start with first principles. So what are they? This is what I’ve come up with:

  • Rules should be based on safety, not shooting preferences. A lot of club rules enforce the shooting preferences of the ruling cadre. This promotes stagnation, which is the point in many cases.
  • Short and simple to understand rules will be better adhered to than lengthy rules that read like tax code.
  • When someone does something wrong, and you can throw a list of charges at them, your rules are redundant, and probably overly long and complex.
  • Subjectivity can’t be avoided, but should be to the greatest extent possible. However bright line rules will tend to be complex. Simple rules will be open to interpretation. The important thing is everyone agree on a consistent set of interpretations, and that those are communicated.
  • Avoid rules that enable rules nazis. My club has a rule about targets needing to be placed six inches from the target frame, which is meant to prevent the target frame from being shot up. But there was once an RSO who carried a ruler, and I’m sure you can imagine what he did with it.
  • Rules should not disable the advanced shooter because some people are idiots. A useful exercise is to outline the rules, and then pick which of the “four rules” the club rule maps to. You’ll necessarily have some that are procedural, like what you must do if someone yells “cease fire.” But it’s useful to see how many rules either don’t map at all, or map so far downstream that it would just be better to state the actual safety principle directly.

The main thing to remember is that all this is supposed to be fun! Even with very well done rules, having rules nazis can ruin a good time. Much like thieves will be attracted to the temptation of money, rules nazis are attracted to the prospect of lording over people with rule minutia. So keep minutia to a minimum.

43 thoughts on “What Club Rules Do You Hate?”

  1. “When someone does something wrong, and you can throw a list of charges at them, your rules are redundant, and probably overly long and complex.”

    Yes, but it is also very useful for someone to have to break multiple rules before someone gets hurt. Obviously there is sweet spot here.

  2. One that depends on Safety Officers’ training, but I hate the NO FAST FIRE rule. I want to practice double taps and even failure drills, but I get the stink eye and a finger-wave regardless if I place all shots in a 4 inch circle at 7 yards, and the guy with the $10K scoped rifle can keep his shots in the berm.

    1. Yeah, that’s a common shooting preference rule. Can’t have people annoyed by the sound of gunfire at the gun range!

    2. Yup that is the worst rule.

      I get it – you don’t want people firing without aiming and just to mag dump. But that should be the rule! You can rapid fire while still being safe.

    3. Agree. Not sure what the point is but for those who carry defensive weapons (instead of the Fudds), followup shots are important.

      After all, you will fight the way you train.

    4. Most of the time it is an old FUDD rule. Exceptions exist: Wicen’s in Bucks Co. is limited by an agreement with the township, other public ranges might have it to limit damage to from a lower skill set clientele, I know of one range that is terrified of attracting attention from the local .gov bodies – the point is that some circumstances make it a logical or necessary rule.

      In a properly designed range, at a private club, and given the want of the modern shooting public – that rule is silly.

      I would add that magazine capacity restrictions are even more stupid. I was a guest at a club that limited you to 5 rounds in a hand gun (very bulls-eye focused club of FUDDS) and I was yelled at for loading 6 rounds in a .22 revolver by a range Karen. WTF.

        1. The round limit? Homesberg. It was a few years ago and, from what I understand they have improved a bit out of necessity.

          To be fair, on of the club officers talked to the guy after than and nothing came of it. It should have never happened. People who are that anal just rub me the wrong way.

            1. Doesn’t Holmesburg exist pretty much at the pleasure of the City of Philadelphia? That could influence their attitudes and caution quite a bit.

  3. “Rules should be based on safety. . .”

    I have observed over the years that “safety” is often defined by two very subjective things; it often becomes a medium for virtue signaling, and also is subject to paranoia, as in “if a bullet were ever to get out of the range, the club could be done for. . .” It becomes very hard to pooh-pooh virtue, or the survival of the club, so a diode is built into every club’s rule-making system; things will always become more and more restrictive over the years, and I have encountered examples where clubs practiced “gun control” on their grounds that they would be up in arms (pun not intended) over if a legislator proposed it for public places.

    Probably closely related to the subject of “virtue signaling” is the subject of alcohol use. First I should stipulate that I still have beers from Thanksgiving in my refrigerator, so drinking isn’t a compelling issue with me anymore. But I watched my club go from offering free beer after general members meetings (to get people to attend), and often cracking kegs after rifle matches, to a general ban on alcohol on the club grounds. That took decades to evolve, but given that I can’t recall any dangerous incidents to explain it, I think it’s a useful example of “safety virtue signaling.”

    1. I was never able to find anything that explained the history of the alcohol rule, other than someone complaining that a certain individual with a last name of a street in New York with a lot of theaters, always had a beer in his hands.

      But I hear you about “If X ever happens here, we’re done for!” In most cases no. Clubs in the area have had rounds get out and people get shot and have survived. Not that we _want_ that to happen, but they are survivable.

      But what’s safe has changed over the years, and will probably continue to evolve. You can tell that just from looking at pictures from the old club, when it was across the street at the waterworks.

      1. “I was never able to find anything that explained the history of the alcohol rule. . .”

        I have always supported a general rule of, no drinking while you are still shooting, don’t start shooting if you’ve already been drinking, and no shooting if you are obviously impaired — with a nod toward “impairment begins with the first drink.” I.e., if people can tell you’ve been drinking.

        Just to ramble a bit (for a change) I have had a couple memorable experiences over the years involving hunting with guys who were falling down drunk. Most rational people frown on that for obvious, self-preserving reasons. But rambling further afield, I can also remember a time when most working class men (in cities, anyway) went around drunk all the time. Early on I realized my father was somewhat eccentric, in not doing that. But, it is not surprising that before 60 – 70 years ago, that behavior was carried over to recreation, including shooting ranges.

        I am told (and it is recorded) that beer would actively be consumed at Scheutzen matches, though I doubt real competitors would have been willing to impair their own performance. I attended one such informal match on private property, put on by a group of single-shot rifle shooters, and they conformed to that beer-drinking convention, but I didn’t detect a lot of enthusiasm for the actual drinking, other than as it was “tradition.” One beer, then let’s get to shooting.

        Back to club affairs: A lot has gone down over the years, that was “enacted” at members meetings, but was never memorialized in any way, including in the minutes. Things that had some foundation might stick, other enthusiasms-of-the-moment wouldn’t. I suspect in some cases Recording Secretaries played a role in that, by not recording things they disagreed with, or that they sensed were silly-business.

        1. Yeah. Bylaw changes are not difficult to track. Because there was a vote required. Rule changes are a lost cause, tracking wise. They don’t show in the minutes. But I’ve heard it said that just about every rule has a name attached to it.

  4. You’ve hit on a really sound list of things gun clubs should avoid as well as ranges open to the public. Basically, if your club or range deters me from good practice I will avoid it and counsel others to do the same.

    The bullet points for ‘enabling rule nazis’ and ‘list of charges’ encapsulate a mentality I like to call the “Range Puritan”. RP wants the the range used solely for scoped, bolt action rifles and nothing more. Rules are configured around this mindset even for dedicated pistol bays and there is no deviation. Some IWL ranges are like this.

    No machine guns is a good example of driving a rather well to do contingent away from your range or club. NRA prohibits MG during public range hours but will permit you to come in off hours to run a MG subject to the RSO and range rules. Other places also have a fine medium line – automatics only after demonstrated competence. It’s obviously RSO discretionary but probably a good compromise to ensure the operator can control the gun.

    Magazine changes only from the bench: This was an IWL rule that was to discourage any IDPA like behavior.

    Only 1 shot per nn seconds. I’ve seen 300 yard ranges with this rule, which I could somewhat understand in context, and I’ve also seen this on a 10 yard pistol bay with a 40 foot high back stop… come on, man.

    1. Almost all clubs have some kind of mechanism for punishing members for breaking the rules. So that in itself isn’t a red flag.

    2. “‘Range Puritan’. RP wants the the range used solely for scoped, bolt action rifles and nothing more.”

      Historically I’ll point out that no one was bigger on “virtue signaling” (the term I used above) than the Puritans, so your metaphor is apt.

      However, from experience I’ll differ with you on the “bolt action” part. We had at least one Hi-Power shooter in our club who had a quiver of custom-barreled AR-15s, but would argue for preservation of our 5-round limit rule, because “no one needs more than that for competition. He would also argue that we should support high-cap mag ban legislation for the same reason. His sport was what defined “legitimacy.”

      I like to avoid club rule complexity, but sometimes I think there should be “sentencing guidelines” for rule violations. Back in our 5-round-limit days, a promising young guy got thrown out of the club for loading 6 rounds, so he could practice firing three double-taps. He got caught, and before his hearing I counseled him to be contrite and enter a “the devil made me do it” plea. Instead, he couldn’t resist arguing with the club president, and so got thrown out of the club. It was clearly out of proportion to the violation, though the prevailing mood was that defiance could not be tolerated.

      1. I’ve been actively trying to rewrite the rules to make them read less like tax code. Also to get back to fundamentals. But there’s a lot of opinions. Simple rules are hard.

        1. “I’ve been actively trying to rewrite the rules to make them read less like tax code.”

          I have mixed emotions about that. I would say a lot of our “constitutional” questions/problems result from the Founders being too economical with words, the classic example being the 2A. Almost all 2A questions boil down to “What did they mean by that?” Things then reduce to debates of the quality of, “what did ‘is’ mean, in 1791?”, against claims that “the Founders were such skilled wordsmiths that they (and we) know precisely what they meant.”

          I once wrote part of the initial “Rules of Competition” for another organization, and for the section I wrote, I crafted a long dissertation on what the “spirit” of those rules were. I don’t know whether that ever actually contributed to later interpretations, but I tried, and it was based on my observations of how many time constitutional debates reduced to interpretations of what the Founders had intended to accomplish.

          1. Whether it helps or not, I’ve lately been thinking that adding some sort of “spirit” description — a reason for the law’s creation — as a part of the law.

            This “spirit” (a term I’m borrowing directly from you; I probably would have called it “purpose” or maybe something else) would aid in both determining whether the law should be applied to a particular person, and in determining whether a law should be continued at all. In a certain “Don’t talk to the police” video, the lawyer gives the example of shipping a lobster in cardboard vs plastic — an easy violation for someone ignorant of the law to commit, and a very easy law for most people to be ignorant of — and can’t help but think that the law should have a preamble that says “To ensure that lobster fishermen and merchants do X and Y to preserve lobsters, and Z to preserve the environment, we require W”, so that if a customer purchases a lobster and takes it home with them, unintentionally violating the law, the Prosecutor, Judge, and Jury could then say, “Sure, the law was violated, but prosecuting this case won’t matter one whit in this case”, and furthermore, if the law can be shown later to be irrelevant to X, Y, and Z, W could be thrown out altogether.

            I’m sure there’s some way this could be abused (there’s always ways to abuse things), and it would require Prosecutors, Judges, and Juries to actually respect the purpose as much, if not more than, the law itself, but it’s nonetheless something that I think ought to be tried.

            1. “This “spirit” (a term I’m borrowing directly from you; I probably would have called it “purpose” or maybe something else…”

              Just FYI, I was inventing a “Production Class” for our particular specialized shooting activity, and the “spirit” was to encourage people to get into competition with the rifles they already had or could acquire inexpensively. It also was to discourage “trickery” to defeat that purpose. That was at a time when not many shooting sports had adopted Production Classes, so it was a substantially original effort.

              Slowly, over several years, that was subverted by shooters with special abilities or resources who wanted to exploit their own advantages. Usually their argument was “Aw, shucks, we ain’t learnin’ nuthin’ except which factory rifles lend themselves to our sport, so let’s allow shooters (like me!) with special access to custom throating reamers, tweak their chambers. . .” (Etc., etc., etc.)

              Around that time I was lured away by things like making a living and paying for my kids’ college, so I lost track of how that evolved, but I have a general impression my “Spirit of Production Class” quickly became irrelevant to what was actually going on.

            2. In theory, juries are supposed to serve that purpose, but the powers that be have arranged it such that juries cannot be informed of that power.

              1. The last I knew, Maryland (I think it was) had Fully Informed Juries, and I am not aware it has ever made any measurable difference in trial outcomes. As always, I would be very happy to be proven wrong.

                Jury nullification is very much a two-edged sword. It would probably be impossible to quantify, but it seems to have been used as often to (for example) let KKK murderers walk, as it has been used by thoughtful juries to apply true justice to a defendant wrongly persecuted.

  5. One rule that a couple ranges around here have that gives me the red-ass is “no magazines / ammo in the safe area”.

    Both clubs/ranges have very active practical shooting communities, so they have designated safe areas on most of the bays. And, both have a club rule that supersedes any shooting discipline that no magazines or ammo are allowed in the safe area. I don’t mean “not allowed to be handled” as is specifically enumerated in almost all competitive rule books, not allowed to be on the body at all. Or in a zipped compartment of a range bag set on the safe area table while gunning up. Or a shrink wrapped box of factory ammo prior to being loaded into magazines/speedloaders, zipped in the bottom compartment of a locked range bag, slung over the shoulder of a safety conscious shooter. To follow local procedure, they must have already secured their firearm in a separate container, and leave the range bag with any ammo some distance away while they gear up.

    Never been able to find out why they feel it necessary to push safety procedures this far, but it doesn’t appreciably increase safety (if some idiot is going to load live rounds into his heater at a safe area, he’s already ignored plenty of rules, including Col. Coopers), but it does slow matches down and, more distressingly, offers up the opportunity for visiting shooters to DQ before they’ve even gotten on the line, all while practicing safety procedures followed at 90+% of ranges out there.

    I know it sounds like I’m venting after getting DQ’d at one of these place, but it’s not. I actually got the heads up so I follow their extra procedure. It’s just that one of my triggers is capricious safety rules that, at best, show a fundamental lack of understanding of the underlying principles, and, at worst, actually create less safe conditions when followed. Invariably, these types of safety procedures are written by people who think safety is a destination, not a journey.

    TLDR: safety procedures that are similar to what everyone is already used to but, inexplicably, just one notch more draconian to trap the unwary.

    1. Different clubs have different standards for what is safe. I know one where you can move a firearm on a cold range as long as you keep the action open and the muzzle pointed up. At my club that would be a grave sin.

      I’ve heard of classrooms because designated areas where no ammo or magazines were permitted, but never an area on a range. What’s the purpose of the safe area?

      1. Safe areas are designed to be the one place on the range where you may handle a firearm without needing to be under the supervision of an RO. Need to clean or fix a gun? Change a battery in a red dot? Want to take the gun off your belt on the way to the loo? Show the gun to a friend? That’s what the safe area is for.

        USPSA has a rule that ammo handling in a safe area needs to be two steps removed from insertion into the gun. In other words, you can’t handle a loaded magazine or loose round, but you could remove a pouch containing six loaded mags from your bag, in order to reach the tools underneath. You can’t handle a loose round, but could move a closed box of ammunition. You could remove your gun belt, with mags in pouches and set it on the table. (Note – you’d have to unholster first, ad place the gun on the table; you may not remove a belt with a holstered gun.)

        If you’re not in the safe area, you can handle ammo to your heart’s desire, loading and unloading mags anywhere, but your gun needs to remain unloaded in the holster, or gun rug, or range bag, and not get touched.

        1. Oh, OK. I am not far enough along on that path to have worked with safe areas. We came up with a solution that we’d have a trusted member take you to another active range to help you with your malfunction. So they are supervised. But our ranges are near each other.

  6. You know what rules are deserving of hatred?……The Stasi Wannabes at ATF doing this. Worse than what you thought.


    This new rule proposal does the folliwing:
    1). Requires Serial Numbers on all firearm parts.
    2). Completes the Microstamping Agenda.
    3). Will drive up attorney fees for all of the Gun Industry (Put them all out of business).
    4). Creates a National Gun Registry in violation of FOPA.

    1. TTAG are not reliable. I’ll wait for actual experts to analyze. I read it, but not carefully. But in my reading it requires serial numbers when an FFL encounters a personally manufactured firearm (PMF).

      I didn’t see anything about microstamping

      1. The rule proposal is open ended enough to require all firearm parts to be serialized.

        Read through the full thing Sebastion. It’s bad.

      2. You generally need to take anything Joe!!! posts with a grain of salt as he may be a plant to incite someone to… something ghastly… as they face a demoralized future full of piss and vinegar. Ignore and don’t waste the brain energy.

        Oh yea as for the actual TOPIC at hand… my least favorite club rule is limits on number of guests. I get not bringing a Mennonite van full of guests to the range, but our club has specific pronouncements on number of family members allowed and number of non-family at any given time. It really should be a max of five, not having to spell out who counts as allowable family members.

        1. “our club has specific pronouncements on number of family members allowed and number of non-family at any given time.”

          You’ll usually find that complex rules are tailored to some specific incident that has been encountered, and someone who wants to prevent that precise thing from happening again.

        2. We are very narrowly avoided guess limits, when somebody brought the proverbial Mennonite.bus full of people and it quickly got out of hand. Even I was watching thr video, not believing no one got shot in that fiasco. We kicked him out, which I did not feel to be an overreaction. But it started or debate that lasted several meetings about limiting guests, with some of them proposing not allowing guests at all. But ultimately we could come to no agreement so the status quo prevailed.

  7. No working from the holster. If you are going to practice self-defense, you have to work from the holster. I get that there are liability issues and that there are potential Rule Two and Three violations here. So I would propose a Show Training exemption. If the club doesn’t wish or isn’t able to have its own training, a certificate from a known training school or traveling trainer would have to be presented to the RSO. The basic classes have a heavy emphasis on safe gun handling. The advanced classes assume this level of skill. Speaking for myself, I can’t draw my cell phone without moving the weak hand to my chest or pick up an electric drill without making my finger straight.

  8. Our club has magnificent facilities, but all this talk about Club Rules makes me seriously nostalgic for the days when I used the hood of a 1950 Henry J, sunk axle-deep in mud, as my benchrest, and my range was an old sunken farm lane whose banks shielded the wind a bit. And, no “company” while I was shooting at all, most of the time.

    “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what ya got ’til it’s gone. . .”

  9. Its usually the stuff like mag limits, ROF rules, and no drawing from holsters that gets on my nerves. Go to the state game land ranges if all you want to do is sight in your turkey gun and then complain to your fellow shooters about politics or the young folks.

    1. “Go to the state game land ranges. . .”

      Often that will make you appreciate the Rules and Regulations back at your club range. You can be taking your life in your hands.

      Some years before my club had a 200 yard range, another guy and I went to the 200 yard public range on State Game Lands in the county, to test some loads at that longer range. Fortunately our wives went with us, which was unusual.

      There was a large group of what would have passed for ARVN on the range that day, and while my friend and I were still down at the 200 yard target frames, they loaded up and were about to commence firing. Our wives screamed at them to stop, and they did, though probably more out of confusion than anything, because it wasn’t clear whether they understood English.

      That was probably more than 35 years ago, but I haven’t been back to a State Game Lands range since.

      1. State game land ranges are bad news. You have to get their super early before the idiots wake up, always go with a friend or two to stay with your gear (to RO and prevent theft, and pack up when the drunks, and newly arrived Asians and Russians show up.

    2. We’ve managed to avoid rate of fire rules. Really what most of those are based on anxiety among the leadership about people just blasting up the place. So we have rules about rounds they need to safely impact the backstop, and there’s been some proposals about needing to use your sights. If someone is shooting fast and they’re hitting what they’re aiming at, why should I care?

      1. I agree that that is a much of it. I can see the sense of a “no mag dump”, but a blanket not rapid-fire rule is silly.

        People want to practice drills, etc. and they will go places where they can.

        1. I don’t care if you dump a mag if you put them all into the backstop. It might not be anything other than enjoying turning money into noise, but who am I to judge?

          But there are people who will complain about too much noise at the gun club.

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