How to Prepare for the Shooting Range
Even if you don’t plan to shoot competitively or hunt regularly, and even though an afternoon at the shooting range is going to be a ton of fun, it’s important to take the responsibility of handling a gun seriously. Spending time at a shooting range shouldn’t be a decision you make on a whim or because you’re bored and there’s nothing else to do. Having a fun, exciting, and successful shooting range experience is going to be directly related to how serious you are about learning about guns.
Of course, it’s possible to be totally willing to put in work while still feeling nervous. It’s okay if you feel some performance anxiety or just a bit of nervousness about being around guns. Shooting instructors know that many people are drawn to shooting ranges because they want to protect themselves and are unsure how, so it’s perfectly natural to feel uncomfortable at first. Here are some tips put together by various shooting range experts to ensure that you have the best experience possible. Read on to learn more about how you can best prepare yourself for your time at the shooting range.
First, it’s a good idea to identify why you’re feeling nervous or apprehensive about shooting. Is it simply because you don’t know what to expect and don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of more experienced people? Is it because you have a natural competitive streak but are afraid shooting isn’t a skill you can pick up quickly? Have you had some personal negative experience around guns in the past? Whatever the reason, just remember that shooting ranges are designed for people to learn. There are levels of practices for more experienced shooters to use, but on the whole, it’s expected that people will be coming into the range will minimal experience or knowledge about guns. In fact, there really is no specific range that a shooting range is supposed to be intimidating.
A good way to feel more prepared for the shooting range is to look up what kind of facility you will be shooting at – we don’t suggest picking a random name out of a hat and showing up to shoot without having done any research about the range. For example, indoor shooting facilities will likely have a gun shop of some size right in the facility so that visitors can rent or even purchase their own firearms, ammo, targets, hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, and other accessories. The good thing about renting ammunition and firearms from an indoor facility is that the staff are all experts, and you can get professional advice that is also personalized to your needs. Most of these indoor shooting ranges are open to the public, though you might come across some private clubs if you do some research online.
The point is, most facilities don’t require you to provide your own gear and equipment. If you have your own equipment, most ranges will require you to check it with the staff before you shoot. It’s nothing to worry about, but they need to make sure you’re using the right ammo with the right type of gun, and that the models you’re using are safe for the particular type of target. The benefit to renting equipment and attending multiple sessions is that not only will your aim improve but you get to experience different models of guns before you decide to buy one for yourself. You can expect, in addition to a rental fee, to pay an hourly flat fee for your shooting time, though many shooting ranges offer packages for monthly or annual memberships that offer reduced rates.
If you’re planning to go with a group or you’re just worried about feeling a little awkward or out of place, worry not. Many ranges have a sound-proof viewing area so you can watch other shooters before you give it a try yourself. Plus, many facilities have on-site lounges or cafes to socialize in before or after shooting, where you can meet other shooters, get some advice, or make friends. After spending some time at the range, you’ll notice it’s all about safety. Safety precautions is about more than following signs and rules – a large part of it is making sure that everybody feels comfortable in the shooting range environment.
Before you go to the shooting range, it’s important to understand that each facility will have a similar set of rules, but some of the language they use might be different. A great you can be prepared to shoot at a certain range is simply to realize that just because you might have shot elsewhere doesn’t mean it will be exactly the same experience at a different range. Many ranges use signs or short videos to communicate the safety procedures to visitors, and you definitely can expect to sign some waivers saying that you will follow all of the safety policies and that the range is not responsible if you injure yourself or somebody else. That might sound scary, but you’ll be firing guns. You have to get used to talking about how dangerous guns are. It’s okay to be intimidated! Just remember that ranges are places to learn, and even the best shooters were once beginners.
Be sure to pay careful attention to the rules of the specific ranges, and be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand something or, for example, if you want to try something new but have only done it at a range you visited previously. You can expect lots of signs to be posted about the shooting range, so be sure to double-check if you’re ever in any doubt. From range to range, the details will vary, but you can expect most if not all of the following rules to remain constant between different ranges:
- The gun must be kept in a case at all times, until you are ready to shoot.
- When you’re standing at the firing line, the gun must only be pointed straight down the range, never at the ceiling, walls, ground, or across lanes.
- The gun must not be loaded until you’re standing at the firing line and are preparing to shoot.
- Stay close to the firing line and never ever shoot from behind the line. This could risk somebody being partially in the range of your aim, even if they’re not aware of it.
- Eye protection must be worn at all times in case there are any ricocheting target fragments.
- Ear protection must be worn at all times to prevent hearing loss. You might not realize it because in the movies, people shoot guns all the time without hearing protection. The fact is, however, the walls of an indoor range will amplify the sound and give rise to loud echoes.
- When you’re not shooting, make sure that you’re staying in a designated safe area.
With these rules in mind, an important step to prepare yourself for the shooting range includes internalizing the fact that you might not be any good at shooting at first! This might be embarrassing, but it is what it is. Don’t act like you know better than the staff, and don’t get upset if your technique or safety procedures have to be corrected. The staff is there to teach you and keep everyone safe, so they have to be extremely diligent about every little detail. It’s normal to make some mistakes at first, and what really matters is that you apply the corrections.
Shooting at an outdoor range will be a bit different, and many people prefer it to indoor ranges. Outdoor facilities often use different materials for targets and allow you to shoot much longer distances. Additionally, the wide open spaces allow more diffusion of sound, so you don’t have to worry so much about hearing damage, and the natural light is often believed to allow visitors to see the targets better. That being said, most of the safety procedures are exactly the same as indoor shooting ranges, with one major difference.
The greatest difference between indoor and outdoor shooting ranges will be that most indoor ranges have mechanisms that bring the target to you and allow you to change it from the firing line, where the outdoor ranges usually require you to walk down range to set up your new target and also pick up any brass cartridges that have been spent. For this reason, you can expect stricter safety policies. Most outdoor facilities with have verbal commands such as “Cold range” and “Hot range,” which respectively mean that nobody is allowed to touch a gun and it is safe to walk down range and that visitors may fire so everyone has to stay where they are. Different ranges have varying policies around “cold ranges.” For example, most ranges require that all firearms are left at the firing line as people walk down range, while others require a chamber flag to be inserted so that it can be seen that the gun is not loaded.
It’s also important to point out that some shooting rookies often think shooting outside is safer because the natural earth is softer than hard indoor flooring, but you have to remember that there will be plenty of rocks, hard tree roots, and other variables that might cause misfired bullets to fly in unpredictable directions. So remember to keep your gun pointed down range or in a case at all times, even if you’re outdoors.
If you’re really enthusiastic about shooting, you can always take some time to look online for the most popularly used guns for beginners. Read up on what makes different models of guns feel different in your hands, what the different sizes of cartridges mean, and other details like that so you have an idea of what you can expect handling a gun – not just holding it and squeezing the trigger, but loading and unloading funs – to actually feel like.
A common misconception that people have about guns is that it’s smartest to always keep your finger on the trigger. It might seem like this way you’re just being prepared to shoot, but in fact, this is a dangerous habit to get into. If you keep your finger on a trigger even when you’re not intending to shoot, you put yourself in a position where you might accidentally fire. People don’t realize how much they move their hands without thinking about. If a loud noise startles you and your finger is already on the trigger, it only takes a tiny bit of pressure to set that gun off. So you really need to have it hammered into your head that you should keep your fingers off the trigger until you’re ready to squeeze it before you get into the range.
Probably the best way to prepare for the shooting range is to simply ask people around you who have visited shooting ranges what they thought of the experience. If you don’t have friends or family members close to you that you can discuss shooting with, read the Yelp reviews and online testimonials from that past patrons have left. It’s always a good idea to see what people think about a shooting range experience, particularly if that person was something of a rookie beforehand. Hearing about other people’s experiences is a great way to piece together a general picture of what you can expect to happen at the range.