7 Tips for Your First Time at the Shooting Range

Man shooting handgun at target.

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No matter how much time you spend playing first-person shooters, those video game skills won’t translate to the real world. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live far enough away from our nearest neighbor that we can practice our shooting skills in the backyard, which is where shooting ranges come in. Heading to the range for the first time can be intimidating, so here are some tips for your first time at the shooting range.

Transport Your Weapons Safely

Before enjoying an afternoon at the range, you have to transport your weapons and ammo there. Take some time to research the laws concerning transporting a firearm in your state.

You will need to ensure the gun is unloaded, but some states allow you to transport your weapons and ammunition in the same trunk, while others require that it is kept separate.

Depending on the state regulations, you may also need to invest in a locking case.

Know Your Weapon

The range officer or range master may be able to answer a few of your questions, but they won’t be privy to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of your weapon. Before you head to the range, make sure you understand your gun, including how to use it, make it safe, and store it at the end of your session.

If this is your first time shooting, consider signing up for a gun safety class or instructional class before you take a trip to the range on your own.

Man shooting handgun.

Understand Weapon Safety

There are four immutable rules of gun safety that you should always follow:

  • Always treat a weapon like it’s loaded.
  • Don’t point your gun at anything you’re not ready to kill.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  • Be aware of what’s behind your target.

When you’re going to the range, these are your Commandments. Understand these four rules and imprint them on your brain. Consider them before each pull of the trigger to ensure you’re keeping yourself and everyone else on the range safe while you’re shooting.

Check Weapon and Ammo Restrictions

Some ranges are open to any weapon you’re legally allowed to own. Others may have weapon or ammo restrictions or may only be equipped for handguns and other short-range weaponry.

Call the range and check what their regulations are before you arrive. And don’t argue with whoever answers the phone or try to negotiate a rule change just for you. That’s the quickest way to get yourself banned from the range.

The Range Master Is God

Some facilities call them the range master and others call them the range officer. Regardless of their title, this person is in charge of split-second decisions on the range. If someone is being unsafe or breaking range rules, they have the option to deliver warnings or even kick the offender out.

When you’re shooting, the range master is God. Period, full stop. Obey their orders without question or risk getting yourself banned from the range.

Make Sure You Have the Right Gear

Shooting is just like any other hobby: if you don’t have the right supplies, you will struggle. Guns and ammo aren’t the only things you need when heading out for a day at the range.

Double-check with the range to figure out what rules they have in place regarding safety gear and apparel. In most cases, you’ll need ear and eye protection and appropriate clothing like closed-toed shoes. If you don’t have ear or eye protection, chances are good the range will have them available for purchase. But if you’re not wearing appropriate clothing, you will have to go home and change.

Police Your Brass

You hopefully wouldn’t throw your trash out the window on your way to the range, so why should the range officer have to clean up after you when you’re done shooting? Pick up your spent brass when you’re done shooting. A ground littered with empty brass can create a tripping hazard, which is something you want to avoid when people are wielding firearms.

If you like to reload your rounds, you have the opportunity to use them again. If you don’t plan to use them again, the range will likely have a place for you to discard them. From there, they may decide to sell the spent brass to reloaders or simply recycle it.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Taking a trip to the range is a great way to improve your shooting skills and have a bit of fun without putting your neighbors at risk. Don’t let heading to the range intimidate you if you’ve never visited one before. Do your research, understand the rules, and remember that the range master is God. If you listen to them and follow the rules, you can enjoy a fun trip to the range.

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