Fiddling Before Firing

Here’s something I’ve noticed recently during my ahem occasional visits to the range.

A guy will come in with a gun bag containing an AR-15, take the gun out and then spend a few minutes fiddling with the thing — adjusting the scope (most commonly), tightening screws and so on, all before getting down to business.  I’m not talking about loading up, although it’s beyond me why someone would arrive at the range with unloaded mags and then spend a few precious (and expensive) minutes pushing cartridges into the mag when he should be shooting.

I don’t know if I’ve ever taken more than a minute, tops, between arrival at the bay and the first shot sent on its way.

I’m also not talking about guys who have arrived specifically to zero in a scope, or test something, by the way.  I know the difference between that and a shooting session.

But one of the things I want to practice most is how long (or little time) it takes me to get going.  And if I’m practicing with my carry gun, that first round is on its way in seconds, not minutes.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy showed up with a pistol bag.  He sent his target out to 10 yards, opened the bag, took out his gun (Glock) and started shooting.  No buggering around at all.  He fired off four mags, checked his (very acceptable) grouping, put his gun away and left.  Total time taken:  about 20 minutes.  Perfect.

My sessions take a tad longer, but that’s only because I typically shoot off more than sixty rounds, and have to change mags more often.

One other thing I’ve become aware of is how often people’s guns seem to be breaking down — once again, I’m not talking about a simple failure-to-feed, but something that requires getting the screwdriver out.  (Nobody is immune to a breakdown, of course;  I documented my own experience with my S&W Mod 65 a little while ago.)  But other than that occasion, I would have to really search my memory to remember when last something like that happened to me at the range.

Nowadays?  Guys let three or four rounds go, then down goes the gun and out come the tools.

This is one of the reasons why I like my guns simple:  they have to work without any fuss or tinkering, right out of the bag or holster.  Anything less, and I lose confidence in the thing and start thinking about a replacement.

So I’m seeing people coming to the range, but very little actual shooting practice seems to be taking place.

Has anyone else noticed this?


  1. Yes, I’ve noticed this, esp with the AR-15 crowd. Kim, I think there are two kinds of shooters at the range. Those, like you and I, who go there to, well, SHOOT. Or competitors who shoot at least weekly to keep their game up. I’m not one of the latter, but I’m at the range typically twice a month most months.

    I am more of a fiddler than you are, I believe, but my fiddling goes on at HOME, not the range. I tend to keep my guns simple, too. While I have the expensive 1911 disease (acquired years ago, there’s no hope for me there) my 1911s are not blinged out, they RUN. If I build an AR-15 (I never buy entire guns), I have a pre-built upper by BCM because they RUN. I build my lowers to suit. I would never spend $2,800 on a Daniel Defense, I mean what’s the point? If you have an AR-15 that runs like a scalded dog, that’s all you need for the intended purpose. But, like you, guns are meant to be reliable, and to be used. Unless sighting in, I never bring any tools with me to the range. I’m there to turn money into noise.

    The other type of shooter, probably is less of a shooter, per se, than a collector and tinkerer. You know the type, they like traditional mechanical watches, typically self-winders, spend too much on them, fiddle around with changing out the hands or crystal, and playing with them. I did that for about a year and got tired of the inaccuracy and now I have but one watch. A Casio battery operated diver that cost $50 and keeps to +0.2 seconds per day. I only look at it when I want to know the time.

    That type of shooter is more interested in the guns themselves than shooting them. They likely don’t shoot IDPA matches, and other than sighting in some new optic, probably don’t shoot much at at, much less take defensive firearms classes.

    I’ve noticed an uptick in #2 since the Obama years, and that’s OK by me. At least they got some guns. The fact that they’re fiddlers rather than shooters bothers me not at all. As long as they have guns and are willing to shoot them when the Stasi comes knocking. The amount of gun sales during the ascendancy of the Prognazis truly warms the cockles of my little mercenary heart. ♥️

  2. Just a guess but, these “fiddlers” don’t shoot frequently. They are unfamiliar with everything to do with guns and shooting.

    Your home workbench is where the “fiddling” takes place.

    Having said that. In the past 6 years I have built 5 guns from scratch and did quite a bit of fiddling at the bench. Even so, once I got to the range a bit more fiddling was required. That however is mostly a one-time thing because once I get the bugs worked out, and I maintain my guns as I should, no more fiddling is necessary.

    As a rule I do no gun disassembly at the range. That’s not the place for it, for numerous reasons. If there is a major problem with a gun I put it in its case and grab another one and get back to firing. Personally, I don’t want people in adjacent lanes “fiddling” with their guns. It seems unsafe. I’m there to shoot, not babysit other participants.

  3. Just because the activities take place at the same venue doesn’t mean they are the same activities.

    See also: some folks like to tinker with their cars while others like to drive; some folks like to improve their swings and others like to drink while on a walk; some like to have tea parties with their Barbies and others like to have them dress up and go on dates with GI Joe.

    To answer your “has anyone else noticed this” question, I have to say not so much. What I see is a split between teaching newbies (often wives or girlfriends), serious shooters with fancy guns you would never carry, and guys with box-stock guns (like me) that get in and get out. Maybe it’s the place I go, but I have never seen anyone get out tools. Or maybe I’m not there long enough …

    Also, with regard to mags, I’ll often shoot up all my (now stale) carry ammo mags then reload them with range ammo and continue with those mags before dipping into the other mags I loaded at home. Obviously, it’s too damn expensive to shoot only carry ammo at the range, but it’s essential to know that stuff I have been carrying around does, in fact, work as expected. I won’t put a magazine into the carry rotation unless it works at the range with both carry and range ammo. It’s not unheard of for a mag to be retired in a range session and get the dreaded yellow paint pen X.

  4. I’m a weekly shooter at the range, and I’m in and out in less than an hour.

    I always load my magazines at the range. Not on purpose, mind you, but because I don’t get around to it at home, and I have plenty of time at the range for it.

    I do some fiddling when the gun is new, but these days it’s mostly load the mags, do my shooting, and go home.

    As far as my fellow range monkeys go, it’s a mix. Lots of novices, some blind leading the blind, some target shooters. Mostly, though, it’s people with AR’s and Glocks, and they’re practicing for self-defense.

    Less than half of them look like me. That gives me pause for thought.

  5. I once watched a guy burn through 6 mags trying to zero the scope on his new AR-15. At 25 yards, he never even got on the paper and wouldn’t listen to advice from me and a couple other guys there. He kept on insisting he was almost there. I tried to explain bore sighting to get close, but he would have none of that.
    Move the reticle up, move the reticle down, move the reticle right, move the reticle left, without having any idea how much one click was. Guys like him should stick to throwing rocks.

  6. I joined a private club years ago because it is far more cost effective than going to a public range where any jamoke with money can rent a lane. I went to one public range almost two decades ago and heard a boom from the lane next to me. I poked my head around the divider and a guy was doubled over laughing at his furious girlfriend/wife/baby mama because the guy had set out an exploding target of some sort in the indoor range. I packed up and left. the folks who operated the range kind of knew me and commented that I didn’t stay very long. I told them of my neighbor upstairs at the range and never went back. the place has since changed hands.

    Getting back to the club, I tend to be on the range alone. there were a couple of people shooting skeet and I think one guy on the rifle range. The last time I saw people on the pistol range they wanted me and my nephew to finish up so they could practice their run and gun techniques.

    At public range I find quite a few fiddlers and gabbers. I try to avoid being either

  7. Kim when your revolver was giving you agita, was the gunsmith able to reshape the extractor rod or did you need a replacement?


      1. Ty for replying. I like my revolvers and someday I just might need the extractor rod repaired, reshaped or replaced despite not flicking my wrist to close the cylinder as encouraged by Hollyweird folks

  8. At the local indoor range, I don’t notice much about other folks from my stall. I have noticed a time or two (much) younger males with an AR burning through multiple mags. Not rapid but sustained fire–bam, bam, bam,…, at a full size B 27 set out about 30 ft. Not chewing a hole at their point of aim, just blasting away turning money into noise and confetti.

    Only fiddling I do at an indoor range is the occasional sight adjustment. My routine is pretty set. Hang target (I bring my own cardboard backer) lay out first gun to shoot, mags, ammo. Load a mag (or cylinder) and let fly. I shoot three, maybe four guns, about 20 rounds per, and I’m done.

    For a gonzo all day on the range, I head to my buddy’s place outside of Hillsboro–

  9. I’m a member at the local indoor range which gives me unlimited range time. I’m in no hurry when I go there. As a retiree I can pick my times so I usually have the place to myself, or nearly so. I tried out my new suppressor (my first) today. Hope I didn’t bugger it up, although if I did the design is such that it’ll be easy if not inexpensive to fix.

  10. I figure that if you have to fiddle with the gun before you start shooting at the range, it’s been unfit for use in self-defense ever since the last time you took it out – and that’s probably been a long time.

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