What information is on a range card?

A range card is a document that provides detailed information about a specific firing range. It is an essential tool used by military personnel to ensure safe and effective training when conducting live-fire exercises. Range cards contain various types of data that help guide the user on how to engage targets on the range and avoid hazards. The information found on a range card generally falls into three main categories: terrain features, target reference points, and firing data. Let’s take a closer look at the key information contained in a typical range card.

Terrain Features

The first section of a range card focuses on documenting the terrain and geographical features of the firing range. This allows the user to become familiar with the lay of the land and identify any areas of concern. Key terrain information included on a range card includes:

  • Slope and elevation – Notes on the inclination and height of the terrain, which affects ballistics.
  • Vegetation – Descriptions of the plants, trees, and foliage on and around the range.
  • Bodies of water – Any rivers, lakes, or ponds that border the range.
  • Structures – Both natural and man-made structures are marked, such as boulders, walls, buildings.
  • Roads and trails – Routes of ingress and egress to and from the range.
  • Obstacles – Any barriers, ditches, fences, etc. that block lines of fire.

Properly documenting the terrain allows range users to capitalize on features that provide cover and concealment, while also knowing which areas to avoid due to limited visibility or obstructions. This promotes safety by reducing the chances of unintentional discharges or bullets traveling beyond the confines of the range perimeter.

Target Reference Points

The next key section of a range card specifies known distance targets and reference points. First, the precise locations of designated targets on the range are marked, typically with small circles. These are numbered or named for easy identification. Targets are usually steel plates or paper targets on berms at various set distances from the firing line.

In addition to the targets themselves, easily recognizable reference points are also noted. These are fixed objects near the targets that serve as intermediate aiming points when firing. For example, a reference point could be a large boulder 20 meters to the right of Target 1. Rather than try to hit Target 1 directly from the firing line 300 meters away, the shooter would use the closer reference point on the range card to adjust aim and walk rounds onto the target. Reference points help guide accurate fire.

Firing Data

The most detailed section of a range card contains precise firing information for engaging each target from the shooting position. Firing data provided often includes:

  • Elevation – The vertical adjustment, in clicks or mils, needed for the weapon sight or scope to hit the target at range.
  • Windage – The horizontal adjustment, in clicks or mils, to compensate for wind conditions.
  • Lead – The distance, in mils, to aim ahead of moving targets.
  • Trajectory – Data on the arc the bullet will travel based on the distance.
  • Danger areas – Sectors where bullets could strike if firing erratically.
  • Dead space – Areas that can’t be engaged directly in front of the firing line.

This firing data is determined ahead of time through careful range estimation and ballistics calculations. The shooter can then quickly reference the range card when firing to dial in adjustments with greater accuracy. All weapons and ammunition combinations will produce different trajectories, so it’s critical to develop range cards using the exact equipment in service.

Additional Items

Depending on the specific needs of the range, additional information can also be included on the range card. Examples include:

  • Magnetic azimuth – The compass bearing to the targets.
  • Converge/spatter points – Where rounds from adjacent firing positions meet.
  • Weather effects – Such as prevailing winds at different times.
  • Illumination data – Notes on how sunlight or shadows impact visibility.
  • coordinating instructions – Usage rules and safety procedures.

The key is to provide all data that is operationally relevant and useful for the range location. More complex firing scenarios, longer distances, and environmental factors will require more supplemental data.

Format of a Range Card

The format and visual layout of range cards can vary greatly. From a basic perspective, a range card just needs to relay the key information listed above in an organized, readable manner. However, there are some best practices that aide usability:

  • Large, legible text – Information needs to be clear from a distance.
  • Graphic depictions – Drawings or satellite photos of the range layout and terrain.
  • Target reference circles – Circles denoting target locations.
  • Firing position arrow – An arrow indicating direction of fire.
  • Compact size – Fitting on one sheet of paper for ease of use.
  • Durable material – Withstand field conditions; laminated or engraved on metal plates.

More elaborate range cards may include perspective drawings of the range, detailed topographic map overlays, or even 3D contour models. Specialized software and apps exist now to generate high-tech virtual range cards. However, the most critical aspect is that the information is presented efficiently and remains readable after extensive handling. Range cards do no good tucked away in a pocket or lying on the ground.

Benefits of Using Range Cards

There are many advantages to utilizing range cards as part of a comprehensive live-fire training program. Some key benefits include:

  • Safety – Range cards reinforce safe firing zones, prohibited areas, and hazard warnings.
  • Accuracy – Quick reference for precise aiming adjustments and target leads.
  • Consistency – Standardizes procedures across all range users.
  • Efficiency – Less time spent adjusting sights means more time developing skills.
  • Communication – Common frame of reference for all shooters and range staff.
  • Accountability – Can identify firing positions after-action if needed.
  • Environmental Protection – Mitigates terrain damage by controlling firing zones.

Range cards are indispensable tools for military units conducting marksmanship training. They provide immediate access to data that would be difficult to memorize or expend time calculating in the midst of live-fire. This allows shooters to concentrate on proper shooting fundamentals and enhancing skills.


In summary, range cards are comprehensive references that provide essential details about a specific firing range. They document terrain features, targets, reference points, ballistic data, and supplemental information tailored to the range. Well-designed range cards utilize efficient formats with readable text, drawings, and visual aids. Military range cards enhance safety, accuracy, and lethality during live-fire exercises when users have quick access to the key data needed for precise employment of weapons.