The COSSA Safety Manual is provided to all new and current COSSA members. The purpose of the COSSA Safety Manual is two-fold:

To help ensure a safe and enjoyable sport shooting experience for all members and guests, and

To meet safety education standards required by COSSA’s liability insurance provider.

Please take a few minutes to read this manual. The rules and procedures have expanded to address subjects and situations that were not covered in previous safety rules. It is the responsibility of every COSSA member to read the Safety Manual and to know and observe these rules.

The first section covers The Fundamental Rules of Firearms Safety and Other Important Safety Rules. A thorough knowledge of these basic safety rules and practices is critical to the safe and competent handling of firearms in all situations, whether on the range, in the field or at home.

The second section is titled Standard Procedures for All Ranges. This section explains in detail COSSA Board-adopted rules and range procedures that will support a safe shooting environment and an enjoyable time at the range. These rules and procedures apply to all members and guests at all times.

The COSSA Board encourages members to keep this manual as a handy reference when visiting the range or instructing new shooters.

The COSSA Safety Manual may also be accessed on the COSSA website at


March 2010


COSSA Safety Manual

March 2010

Section 1 - Rules for Safe Gun Handling

The Fundamental Rules of Firearms Safety

1. Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Whenever you see, touch or are handed a firearm, assume that it is loaded. If you pick up a firearm, always open the action and check its loaded or unloaded condition. Even if you have just seen it cleared by another person, do not accept it until you check and verify that it is unloaded. If you do not know how to unload and clear a firearm, do not touch it and get help from a person who does know.

2. ALWAYS keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.

A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense and good judgment dictate the safest direction, depending on different circumstances. For instance, a wall in a house is usually not a safe direction because a bullet can penetrate several walls. Pointing at the ground may be best, but a hard surface could result in a ricochet. It is up to the shooter to pick the direction with the least potential for human harm.

3. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

When holding or handling a gun, make your finger straight and consciously place it along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger. When you are finished shooting, immediately place your finger outside the trigger guard.




4. ALWAYS be sure of your target and what is beyond.

Be absolutely sure you have identified your target beyond any doubt. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot. If your shot misses, where will the bullet go? A high-power rifle has a range of three miles, and a .22 rim-fire rifle can shoot up to one and a half miles. Never fire in a direction where there are people or any potential for mishap. If you shoot over a hill, who is on the other side? Think first, shoot second.

Other Important Safety Rules

In addition to the following rules certain firearms and many shooting activities and disciplines require additional safety rules.

1. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Never transport a loaded firearm. You may have a loaded firearm for self-defense purposes. In that case you must take special precautions to ensure safe carry and to restrict access by unauthorized persons.

2. Know how to operate and use the gun safely.

Before handling a firearm learn its mechanical and handling characteristics. Know how to safely load and unload it.

3. Do not rely on the gun's safety.

A safety is a mechanical device that can and does fail. Keeping the safety engaged until you are ready to fire is a safe gun handling practice, but it does not relieve you from following the Fundamental Rules of Firearms Safety (See above.)

4. Be sure the gun is safe to operate.

Unload the gun and visually check the interior of the barrel (bore) for obstructions like cleaning patches, mud/snow or insects. An obstructed bore may cause the gun to explode when fired and cause serious injury. If you are not sure if the gun is in safe condition, have it checked by a knowledgeable gunsmith.

5. Use only the correct ammunition for the gun.

Do not shoot the gun unless you have the proper ammunition. Incorrect ammunition may cause the gun to malfunction or explode. Most guns have the proper ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on its box and sometimes stamped on the base of the cartridge.

6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care.

Keep the muzzle pointed down-range (at the targets). Take your finger out of the trigger guard. The cartridge may be a "hang-fire" (delayed ignition). Wait at least 30 seconds before opening the action. Ask for help if you do not know what to do.

7. Wear eye and ear protection.

All persons on or near a firing line, shooters, guests and spectators, must wear shooting glasses and hearing protection. Eye and ear protection is NOT OPTIONAL. The noise generated by all firearms, large and small, can cause irreversible hearing damage. Bullets fragments, hot gases, ejected cartridge casings and other debris can cause serious eye injury.


a. Climb a tree, jump a ditch or log, cross a fence, or do anything physically awkward with a loaded firearm.

b. Pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.

c. Shoot over water (ricochet hazard) or over a hill (who is on the other side?)

d. Accept a firearm from another person without personally checking that it is unloaded.

9. Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while handling firearms or shooting.

Alcohol and many other drugs/medications impair physical coordination and good judgment, which are critically important to safe gun handling and use.

10. Before cleaning and maintaining your firearm, be sure that it is unloaded.

Unload your gun and check it to be absolutely sure that it is unloaded. It is a good idea to look directly into the chamber and magazine, and then probe them with a finger to ensure they are unloaded.

11. Store guns and ammunition so that they are not accessible to unauthorized persons, both adults and children.

It is your personal responsibility to ensure that only trained, responsible persons have access to your firearms and ammunition. Access can be controlled by storing your arms in a locked container, secure closet/room or safe, and then restricting the keys or combination to trusted, responsible persons. "Trigger locks" and other devices that attach to the gun may fail and should never take the place of safe gun handling and observance of all safety rules.


Section 2 - Standard Procedures for All Ranges

The following range rules apply to all COSSA ranges and property. Failure to comply with all rules and the lawful commands of club officials, range officers and activity or match directors may result in immediate expulsion from the range.

Rules Observation - All persons, both members and guests, must observe all laws, range rules and safety rules governing firearms ownership and proper usage. Each person must accept his or her personal responsibility for acting in a safe and responsible manner.

Range Official Authority - All persons must obey the lawful orders and commands of club officers, range officials, range officers and match/activity directors.

Sign-In - All members and guests must sign in when entering the range. Guests are required to pay a user fee if they are shooting. Exception: Non-members who are participating in a scheduled shooting event/competition are not subject to the fee.

Responsibility of Guests - Guests shall be aware of and observe the rules, safety procedures and range protocols.

Responsibility for Minor Children - Minor children (17 years of age or under) shall be under the direct supervision and control of an adult at least 21 years of age. The supervising adult may not shoot while the child is shooting.

Eye and Ear Protection - Eye and ear protection are required for all persons, shooters, guests and spectators on or near the firing line.

Lead Hazard Control - All shooters, especially children, shall observe lead health hazard control by not eating or drinking on the firing line, and thoroughly washing the hands and face around the mouth before eating or drinking. Each discipline is responsible for providing hand wipes.

Alcohol - Consumption of alcoholic beverages or other substances on the COSSA facility that may impair physical coordination and/or judgment is strictly prohibited. An exception is made for consumption of alcohol after all shooting events and activities are closed for the day.

Use of Explosives Prohibited – The detonation of explosive substances, including Tannerite-type explosives, is prohibited, except for special events with prior Board approval.

Cold Range - COSSA is a COLD range. COLD Range means that firearms must be unloaded, the action or cylinder open, and the magazine removed (if applicable) at all times except when on designated firing lines and ready to fire.

The following exceptions apply:

a. Law enforcement officers training at COSSA facilities may carry loaded firearms to the extent required by their employing agency's written procedures. Such firearms must be properly holstered or otherwise secured and may not be handled except in accordance with written agency procedures.

b. Properly licensed or authorized persons may carry concealed firearms, but the firearm shall not be visible or visually detectable. Firearms carried under this exception may not be handled, except for a shooting activity, and then must be handled in compliance with COSSA range safety rules.

c. Loaded handguns may be carried holstered in order to practice organized disciplines such as IPSC, IDPA, Speed Steel, Cowboy, Lady Hawks, and COSSA-approved training classes or shooting events.

Loaded Firearm - A firearm shall be loaded ONLY on the firing line, pointing down range (at the targets), and the firing line has been declared HOT or open for firing. Firearms shall not be loaded or unloaded at the shooter's vehicle or any other place other than a HOT firing line.

Unloaded Firearm – Unloaded firearm means action or cylinder open, chamber(s) empty, magazine removed (if applicable), and muzzle pointed in a safe direction, or stored in a case.

Specifically: Bolt action = Bolt back and open

Pump action = Bolt back; ejection port open

Semi-auto = Bolt back; ejection port open

Lever action = Bolt back; breech open

Single shot = Breech block open

DA revolver = Cylinder open

SA revolver = Loading gate open

Semi-auto pistol = Slide back; ejection port open

Muzzle-Loader = No load; no cap


Unattended Firearm - No firearm shall be left unattended unless it is unloaded and cased, or unloaded with the action or cylinder open and the magazine removed (if applicable).

Safe Direction - Every shooter is responsible for ensuring that muzzle of the firearm does NOT point at or sweep any person at any time. Uncased firearms carried behind the firing line shall be carried with the muzzle up.

Hot Firing Line - A HOT firing line means that no persons are forward of the firing line, and the range is clear for handling of firearms and shooting. While the range is HOT, all persons must remain behind the firing line whether others are shooting or not. Spectators must remain behind the shooters.

Cold Firing Line - A COLD firing line means that a cease-fire has been called and persons are allowed forward of the firing line for the purpose of scoring, posting or removing targets, recovering fired brass, setting up, taking down or repairing targets or chronograph equipment, or other related activities.

Handling of Firearms on a Cold Firing Line Prohibited - During a COLD firing line all handling of firearms (including casing, uncasing, set-up and removal) is prohibited, except at a designated Safe Gun Handling Area.

No person shall be at or near a shooting bench or firing line during a COLD firing line. All persons not moving down-range shall remain behind the firing line and all firing points or benches.

Safe Gun Handling Area –Some COSSA ranges (typically the Practical and Cowboy bays), may have a specially designated location where UNLOADED firearms may be safely handled for the purpose of inspecting, adjusting, repairing or placing the firearm in a secure container. Ammunition and/or loaded magazines or speed-loaders may NOT be handled. The Safe Gun Handling Area may be used when the firing line is HOT or COLD, or gun handling is otherwise prohibited.


Declaring the Firing Line Hot or Cold - During open range firing in the absence of a Range Safety Officer, it is every shooter's responsibility to communicate and cooperate on HOT and COLD firing line requirements. Shooters must work together to designate one person to declare the firing line HOT or COLD.

Bringing Rifles and Shotguns to the Firing Line – Rifles and shotguns shall be brought to or removed from the firing line only during times that the firing line is in HOT condition. Rifles and shotguns brought to or removed from the firing line shall be in unloaded condition (see Unloaded Firearm). The firearm shall be immediately benched (muzzle pointed down-range) or placed in a rack.

Bringing Handguns to the Firing Line - Handguns shall be carried to the firing line in unloaded condition and cased in a soft or hard pistol case/bag, holster or other appropriate container. The cylinder or loading gate of a revolver and the slide of a semi-auto pistol may be closed while cased. Handguns may not be carried to the firing line in the hand.

NOTE: Various disciplines or activities (Cowboy Action, IDPA, IPSC, Lady Hawks) may require that handguns be transferred from the case to a holster, or the reverse ONLY at a designated Safe Gun Handling Area. No ammunition, magazines or speed-loaders may be handled at a Safe Gun Handling Area.

Posting the Red Flag - On the 200 yard range a red flag shall be posted before any person moves down range during a COLD firing line. The red flag shall be taken down when all persons have returned from down range to the firing line and a hot range is in effect. This rule may also be extended to other ranges, so please be aware.

Cease-Fire - Cease-fire means that all shooters shall immediately open actions, unload and step back from their firearms. Anyone may call a cease-fire if that person perceives an unsafe condition or if it is necessary to service the targets. All shooters are required to abide by the cease-fire without delay.

Ammunition Restrictions - Tracer, incendiary and steel core ammunition is not allowed on any COSSA range without prior BOARD approval. This restriction is due to potential wildfire hazard.

Fully Automatic/Suppressed Weapons – Fully automatic firearms including sub-machine guns, machine guns, automatic rifles, selective fire weapons, and suppressed firearms (silencer-equipped) maybe fired on COSSA ranges if:

1. The shooter alerts other shooters on the range that fully automatic firing will commence.

2. The shooter maintains continuous supervision of any other persons firing the weapon.

3. The shooter is in immediate, personal possession of documentation showing that the automatic weapon or suppressor is registered as required under federal law (ORS 166.272(3)).

Approved Targets - Paper, cardboard, frangible clay targets, metal targets specifically designed for shooting and positioned at least 26 feet from the shooter, and other COSSA-approved targets are approved for use on COSSA ranges. Each shooter is responsible for properly policing and disposing of his or her targets in the proper receptacle.

Prohibited Targets - Trash, fruit/vegetables, glass, boxes, cans, exploding targets, discarded electronic equipment or appliances, propane tanks, or other materials are NOT allowed as targets on COSSA ranges.

Fired Rounds Must Impact Berms - All rounds fired must hit the impact berms, the range surface area surrounded by the berms, or the designated backstop area (i.e. long range rifle). Intentionally shooting over the berm or shooting in the air at thrown targets is prohibited. Shotgun shooting is excepted. Metal targets must be positioned and/or angled to minimize the risk of bullet or fragment escape from the range.


Defective or DUD Ammunition – Place defective ammunition in the receptacles provided for that purpose. Do NOT put defective rounds in the trash containers.


Clean-Up Responsibility – Each shooter shall properly police and dispose of his or her targets and expended brass in the proper receptacle.

Wildlife Is Protected - All wild animals on COSSA ranges are protected. It is absolutely forbidden to shoot at, hunt, trap, take or harass any wild animal on the COSSA facility.

Smoking – In accordance with BLM regulations, smoking is restricted to cleared areas only or while inside a vehicle. All smoking must be in compliance with the current BLM fire alert level, which may at times completely prohibit smoking.

Responsibility for Pets - Pets must remain under physical control during firing activities. Owners are responsible for picking up after their pets.