Cease Fire!

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Everyone on a live-fire range knows what “cease fire!” means. You may have other code words or special safety words to stop drills. Rob Pincus uses “stop!” when he wants everyone to freeze in the middle of whatever drill they are doing. But “cease fire!” specifically means “stop shooting.”

When you have multiple people on the firing line, especially people who aren’t part of your firearms training group (if you are at a public range), and you need everyone to stop shooting, “Cease fire!” is the universal command. Call it out loud and clear and repeat it until everyone has stopped shooting.

When To Use “Cease Fire!”

One circumstance no one can afford to let go is when a negligent discharge occurs during firearms training or practice. A cease fire should immediately be called, first to confirm everyone is safe and uninjured; second, to make sure everyone understands what has happened so it won’t happen again; and third, to have everyone take a deep breath and calm down, especially the student who had the ND.

Breaking It Down

The first reason to call “cease fire!” is to make sure everyone is safe. The student who had the ND may be uninjured but the gun perhaps was pointed in an unsafe direction. Carrying on with a drill when someone is bleeding out is not the position anyone wants to be in.

The second reason is to immediately go back and reconstruct the situation so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again. Was it a gear issue, a misunderstanding of technique, a careless mistake by the student, or something else?

The third reason is to give everyone on the line time to calm down. The ND may cause distraction, insecurity, fear, and other problematic reactions in students and this may lead to unsafe behavior.

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2 Responses to “Cease Fire!”

  1. Robert Paolucci

    I am an RSO at my local outdoor range. An unfortunate incident occurred about a minute after I called a cease fire, checked clear with about 40 people downrange changing targets. A shooter approached his bench, picked up his single shot 22 rifle, loaded a round and shot it downrange, apparently thinking the line was hot. I was standing only five feet away with my back to him observing others on the line which highlights how fast a situation can change. Fortunately no one was hurt and have a few questions:

    * Within a second I realized what happened, secured his gun, shut down the line, watched for other danger signs and ejected him. What else should I have done?
    * Did his firing during a cease fire constitute a crime?
    * Although I immediately ejected him for life, should I have taken other action (i.e. call police?)
    * If someone had gotten injured/killed, what exactly is the liability of the RSO, the range, etc.?
    * What can I do to make sure this never happens again?

    • Customer Service

      Hi Robert. What you describe is a hazardous situation, and luckily, no one was injured or worse. Not knowing the exact setup of the range or specific requirements for someone to be eligible to shoot at the range, it is hard to give specifics. However, here are some general principals that will go a long way to mitigating the risk of something like this (or worse) happening again.

      All shooters should receive a safety brief before going on the line to shoot. The brief needs to be concise and easy to remember for the average person on the line.

      A line on the ground a significant distance behind the firing line (benches, tables, etc.) that everyone must remain behind while others are downrange. This line allows for a visible cue to the RSO(s) that someone is where they shouldn’t be. Also, those returning from downrange should proceed directly behind the safety line without stopping at their bench/table/firing position.

      A visual reference showing the range is hot or cold. These visual references could be a light tree (repurposed traffic signals work great) or colored paddles at both ends of the firing line or carried by the RSO.

      When the range is cold, all guns unloaded and chamber flags inserted.
      Deryck-Personal Defense Network

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