Put it into context....
Every range is different in how it's set up and run (operated). So, you kind of have to understand what the terms are in how they are applied to that specific range..... but in general.
Let's say you go to an indoor range with some sort of automatic target system - the firing line is all established and you go through the doors and into the range. The range is almost always "hot" as people are shooting at their own pace. All gun handling is done on the bench of the firing line and you can start shooting whenever you are ready.
Same scenario but the range is indoor or outdoor but they don't have an automatic target placement system. Meaning you have to go post your targets out in the bay. So, in order to keep everyone safe to do this the range goes "cold" meaning typically all firearms are unloaded and placed on the bench with the action open (no magazine in the gun either) and everyone steps away from their firearm. Once it's established everyone is "cold" everyone goes and places their targets out and once everyone returns the range returns to a "hot" condition (meaning you can commence shooting).
Another way this is used is for the shooting sports competition of IDPA or USPSA or any other practical pistol competition (e.g. steel plates or cowboy shooting). All ranges are cold. In this sense everyone has a holstered firearm (per their rules). The firearm has been cleared (meaning nothing in the chamber) and it has no magazine in the gun. The only time you are allowed to touch your firearm is on the firingline and only when you are up to shoot. So, there is only one person that is "hot" and shooting at a time.
So, apply the ideas of hot and cold in terms of what the specific range and purpose you are looking at doing.
It's all about safety - when someone feels they are safe it's time to go back to basics. Safety is everyones business, regardless of your status.
So, if you find yourself handling your firearm and someone is in front of you... you are not obeying a basic gun safety principal. I am a member of a local range that has two benches (one is the firingline and the second is for a safety area). You would be amazed how many people will start handling their firearms on the second bench behind people shooting.
If you have any question on safety - do a youtube search on "DEA gun safety". He shot himself in front of a whole classroom of kids and co-workers.
Be SAFE and have FUN!
"Shoot Safetly, Shoot Often and Share Your Sport." Jim Scoutten, Shooting USA
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