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Range Commands


  • Stop!

Stop is issued to immediately stop all activity on the range.  It is issued only when there is a safety violation or potential safety violation.  Everyone simply freezes in place until the problem is resolved.  Anyone can issue the “Stop” command, including students.  Example:  “I yelled ‘Stop!’ before he could turn around with the weapon in his hand.”


  • Range is Clear

This means the range is physically clear of any potential safety issues.  No one is down range.  Example:  “We waited until the range was clear before we went forward to look at the targets.”


  • Firing Drill

This command means the upcoming drill will be a live-fire exercise.  Firing Drill means protect your eyes, protect your ears, and load your weapon.  Example:  “The range in clear, Firing Drill.”


  • Dry Practice Drill

This command means the upcoming drill will be conducted without ammunition.  Dry Practice Drill means protect your eyes and unload your weapon.  Example:  “The range is clear, Dry Practice Drill.”


  • Set Up for a…(example “Type 1 Malfunction”)

This command is specific to performing malfunction and reload drills.  These drills are a hybrid as they involve live ammunition but they do not involve shooting.  This command means protect your ears, protect your eyes, and set up for the prescribed activity.  Example:  “Range is clear, set up for an Emergency Reload.”


  • The Line is Set…Ready…Go

Sequence of commands for Dry Practice.  Example:  “On the Go command, you will perform a tactical reload.  Line is set, ready, go.”


  • The Line is Set…Ready…Fire

Sequence of commands for a Firing Drill.  Example:  “On the Fire command, you will fire a controlled pair from the holster.  Line is set, ready, fire.”


  • Turn and Face Us (or “Me”, or “the Staff”)

After all weapons are safe, the Range Master delivers this command so he can see everyone’s hands and weapons.  Example:  “Once you have holstered, please put your hands at your side and then turn and face us.”


  • Go Forward, Check and Tape Your Targets

This command dismisses the student from the firing line to inspect and repair (tape) their targets.  Example:  “Okay we are done shooting.  Range is clear.  Go forward, check and tape your targets.”


Terminology - The Basics


  • Gun

A general term applied to a firearm.  It is not specific as to handgun, shotgun, rifle, etc.  Example:  “Beware of the man who owns just one gun because he probably knows how to use it.”


  • Weapon

A mechanical device which can be used to cause harm, or stop someone else from harming you.  A gun is a weapon and we commonly interchange the two terms in our firearms courses.  Example:  “Load your weapon.”


  • Ammunition/Ammo/Rounds

These are all terms applied to cartridges which supply the gun and allow it to fire.  Example:  “I only have 10 rounds left” or “The malfunction was caused by bad ammunition.”


  • Bullet

The portion of the ammunition which leaves the muzzle of the gun and travels downrange.  Example:  “The bullet hit the target in the perfect spot.”


  • Brass/Empty Brass/Spent Shells/Empty Cartridges/Empties

These are all terms applied to the leftover portion of the ammunition after it has been fired.  Example:  “We shot so much ammo that it took an hour just to pick up the brass.”


  • Magazine/Mag

The spring-loaded device resembling a box which holds ammunition.  Example:  “This .45 magazine holds 10 rounds while this 9mm magazine holds 15 rounds.”


  • Clip

A metal device which has no spring and holds ammunition.  Example:  “I purchased a bunch of full-moon clips for my revolver.”


  • Semi-Automatic/Semi-Auto/Semi

A weapon which fires one round with each press of the trigger and the loading process is completed by the weapon itself.  Example:  “I like my Glock and AR-15 because they are semi-autos.”


  • Revolver/Wheel Gun/6-Shooter

A handgun which contains the ammunition in a revolving cylinder.  Generally holds six rounds.  Example:  “I carry a .44 Magnum revolver in Alaska as bear protection.”


  • Holster

The pouch-like device which holds the handgun securely and covers the trigger.  Example:  “When I was done shooting, I put my 1911 back in the holster.”


  • Long Gun

General term applied to shotguns and rifles.  Example:  “I have shot numerous long guns but I have never fired a handgun.”


  • Sling

The carry strap on a shotgun or rifle.  Example:  “I need to get a sling for my AR from the Pro Shop.”  May also be used as a verb with long guns.  Example:  “Once you have unloaded, please sling your weapon.”


  • Red Gun

An inert piece of plastic in the shape of a gun and used as a training aid.  The color is often red resulting in the name.  Example:  “We did a tactical exercise where we used only red guns and our brains!”


  • Eyes and Ears

Industry slang for eye protection (safety glasses) and hearing protection (plugs, muffs, etc.).  Example:  “Come down to the 7-yard line with eyes, ears, and ammo.”


  • Square Range/Range

The training area where live fire is conducted with a group of students.  Generally in a square or rectangular shape.  Example:  “I was on Range 6 for my 4-Day Defensive Handgun course.”


  • Firing Line

The designated distance from which a group of student will fire.  Usually in yards or meters.  Often designated with rope, survey “whiskers”, or paint.  Example:  “All the joking stopped as we stepped up to the firing line.”


  • Target

The item to be shot at.  Generally a sheet of paper or a steel plate in the shape of a human.  Example:  “With my rounds all over the target, it’s clear that I need more training.”


  • Simulator

A training area used to simulate a real-life situation, such as a home, office, or parking lot.  Example:  “I was shooting so well on the range, but I think the stress got to me in the simulator.”


  • Firing Side

The hand or side of the shooter that grips and fires the weapon.  Example:  “Use your firing side thumb to press the magazine release.”


  • Support Side

The hand or side of the shooter opposite the firing hand or firing side.  Example:  “Remember to close your support side eye when you are focused on the front sight.”


  • Relay/Relays

The group of shooters which are up on the firing line at any one time.  Generally, there are two relays on each range.  Example:  “First relay, step up the 5-yard line.  Second relay, fill your magazines.”


  • Shooter-Coach/Student-Coach

The system of training in groups of two: one student or shooter, and one coach.  This system improves safety because there is always a 1:1 ratio on the firing line.  The knowledge and abilities gained from functioning as a “coach” greatly augment one’s understanding of the subject matter.  Example:  “I was a little nervous about the student-coach program until I gave it a try and realized I was learning twice as fast.”


  • Negligent Discharge/ND

The act of firing a round you didn’t mean to.  This results only from the violation of the Four Safety Rules.  Example:  “I read in the paper where a man had an ND and shot his television.”


  • Range Master

The staff member who is responsible for running the course.  Example:  “Our Range Master did a great job of keeping us on track.”


  • Malfunction

A temporary stoppage in the functioning of a weapon.  Example:  “I bought the cheapest ammo I could find and almost every shot resulted in a malfunction.”


  • Thoracic Cavity

The area of the human body roughly defined as the chest.  This is the primary target when shooting in a defensive situation.  Example:  “The thoracic cavity is the primary target because it contains the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels.”


  • Controlled Pair

Two, well-placed shots to the center of the thoracic cavity.  Example:  “This exercise will be a controlled pair from the holster in 1.5 seconds.”


  • Cranio-Occular Cavity/Head Shot

The area of the human head roughly defined as the eye sockets and the sinuses.  This is the area from the eyebrows to the bottom of the nose.  This area of the skull is relatively soft and easily penetrated by a bullet.  Example:  “If two rounds to the thoracic cavity didn’t stop your adversary, switch to the cranio-occular cavity.”


The photographs and figures below offer additional guidance on specifics weapons, accessories, and nomenclature.  For the most detailed description of your particular weapon, consult the owner’s manual.  If you do not have an owner’s manual, you can often find copies on the web at the manufacturers’ website or various other websites using a search engine such as Google, etc.


Weapons and Ammunition - An Overview









1911 Style .45 caliber Semi-Automatic


Double Action   




Double Action Revolver and Controls




Schematic of Handgun Ammunition Components


  • How ammunition works

Pressing the trigger of the weapon releases the firing pin and allows it to strike the primer of the cartridge.  The primer ignites sending sparks into the case containing the gun powder.  The powder rapidly burns, turning from a solid to a gas.  The expanding gas increases the pressure inside the cartridge to the point where it overcomes the press fit of the bullet in the cartridge.  The bullet begins to travel down the barrel of the weapon.  As the powder continues to burn at a rapid rate, creating more pressure, the bullet is pushed faster, increasing its velocity until it leaves the barrel of the weapon.





Common Semi-Automatic Handgun Calibers 




Common Revolver Handgun Calibers




Remington 870 Shotgun and Nomenclature




Schematic of Shotgun Ammunition Components


20g vs 12g


Common Home Defense Shotgun Gauges


For Home Defense, 12 gauge shotguns should use 00 Buckshot. (Low Recoil or Tactical Loads are fine.) 20 gauge shotguns should use #2 or #3 Buckshot, as anything larger is difficult to find.




Relative Comparison of Shotgun Buckshot Size (not to scale)




AR-15 Rifle Nomenclature and Controls, Left Side




AR-15 Rifle Nomenclature and Controls, Right Side




AR-15 Rifle Basic Components




Schematic of Rifle Ammunition Components


Rifle Cartridges


Common Practical Rifle Calibers

Left to Right:  .308 (7.62mm X 51 NATO), .223 (5.56mm NATO), 5.45mm X 39, 7.62mm X 39


clip vs magazine


Clips vs. Magazines

An example of a clip (left) and a magazine (right)