Shooting at a "cold range" means that firearms are always unloaded except when at the firing line, and that weapons must remain holstered, and not handled at all, unless at the firing line.
--By Chad Hiatt, ADTA Instructor
ADTA live-fire events typically have five to twenty participants. That's a lot of people to coordinate, and safety is everyone's primary concern.
You can help by knowing what to expect when you participate, how to arrive with your firearm, when you should have your firearm unloaded, and when you can load your firearm.
It is every participant's responsibility to know these cold-range rules, follow them, and when necessary help other participants observe them.
The first rule: Don't touch your gun
Arrive with your gun unloaded and cased, or holstered. Leave it that way. The only time you can touch your gun during an ADTA event is when you are specifically instructed to do so by either the event instructor or an ADTA Range Safety Officer, under their attention. Here are the seven times you'll be instructed to actually handle your gun:
(1) At the start of the event, if you are carrying your gun concealed, holstered, and loaded. An event official will ask if anyone is carrying a loaded firearm, and will conduct a safe and supervised unload with you.
(2) At the start of the event, if you arrived with your gun cased. An event official will give you supervised direction where and when you may transfer your cased gun to your holster.
(3) During the event, if you wish to change the gun you're using, return the present gun to its case, and holster a new gun. Ask for the assistance of an event official, who will supervise and direct you when it is safe to do so.
(4) During the event, when you are at the designated firing position, and have been instructed to "load and make ready," by an event official.
(5) During the event, if you need to leave the range area for the restroom or other business. Ask for the assistance of an event official, who will supervise and direct you in casing your gun when it is safe to do so. Rules for whether you may exit the range area with a holstered firearm vary with the venue -- ask for assistance.
(6) At the conclusion of the event, where an event official will give you supervised direction where and when you may transfer your unloaded, holstered gun back to your case.
(7) At the conclusion of the event, if you intend to leave with a concealed and loaded gun. An event official will give you the supervised opportunity at the conclusion of the event to load and holster prior to leaving the event.
The second rule: Keep it empty
All guns are to be left unloaded at all times until you are on the designated firing line and are instructed to "load and make ready."
When you're not on the firing line, your gun should be in your holster.
If it's a pistol, it should have no magazine inserted, the chamber should have been verified clear before it was holstered, the hammer should be down or the action released, and the safety (if your gun has one) engaged.
If it's a revolver, the cylinder must be emptied before it was holstered. If it's a shotgun or rifle, the magazine or magazine tube must be empty and the action open.
The third rule: Completely unload before holstering
Before you leave the firing line, you'll be instructed to "unload and show clear" before you reholster.
With your gun pointing in a safe direction and your trigger finger safely indexed, remove the magazine from your gun, pocket the magazine, cycle your gun's action vigorously to confirm it is clear, and lock or hold your slide back.
Wait for an event official to step to you and to confirm that your gun is clear. You will then be instructed to "close your action, point downrange, and trip your trigger." Release your slide, point your gun downrange at the backstop (and don't waste it; get a good sight picture!), and operate your gun's trigger (again, don't waste it! make it a great dry practice press!).
Once your gun's action discharges, set your gun's safety (if it has one), return your gun to your holster, and hold for further instructions.
What about loading magazines?
You can; and should; be loading magazines for your semiautomatic pistol (or speed-loaders for your revolver, but never the revolver itself) whenever you're not on the firing line. It helps keep the event pace running smoothly, and ensures you're ready to participate once it's your turn.
Remember, keep your gun in your holster, completely unloaded, with no magazine inserted, and don't touch it. But you're welcome to handle and load magazines and speed-loaders at any time -- just don't put them in your gun.
Transferring guns, and laying guns on the bench
If your gun is not in your hand and it's not holstered or cased; such as when you already have it in hand but need to leave it resting on the bench, or you're handing it to another person, follow these simple steps:
(1) If it's already in a case or in your holster, leave it there -- don't touch -- until you're instructed to do so.
(2) Completely unload your gun; magazine out, chamber clear, action tripped, safety on.
(3) Lock your gun's slide open (for semiautomatic pistols) or leave the cylinder open (for revolvers). If your semiautomatic pistol does not have a slide lock, insert a spent brass casing in the ejection port (a "stovepipe") to hold the action partially and clearly open.
(4) If you are setting your gun down on the bench, lay it on the bench with the barrel pointing in the safest direction (usually downrange, at the backstop).
(5) If you are handing the gun to another participant, the other person must step alongside you -- at the same bench -- and accept the gun (people move, not the gun). Observe safe muzzle direction the entire time. The recipient should immediately once again confirm no magazine is inserted, the chamber is empty, and the safety is on.