Going to the Gun Range for the First Time? Check out what our research shows are some efficient tips for starting out at the range.
Why are These Tips are a Benefit to You?
It is estimated that 72% of American adults have fired a gun (come on, America, we got to pump those numbers up). For most people discharging a firearm creates a mental and emotional rush. Unfortunately, these first-time experiences can trigger fight-or-flight responses.
While it may seem intimidating at first, these tips will allow you to feel comfortable and enjoy the rush you get from shooting your weapon.
Tips for Going to the Gun Range for the First Time
Get Mentally Prepared
Athletes understand that to get proficient in any skill set, you need the proper mental preparation. Learning to shoot a gun is no exception.
Police One explains that mental preparation is essential for the safe operation of a firearm. Training your brain and visualization is vital for success.
What does this involve? Ideally, a novice shooter should begin by working with an expert firearm instructor. This instructor will be able to provide homework that can be done when not engaging in live-fire.
Spending some time at the range with a qualified instructor will help develop confidence skills and make your time at the range a better experience.
If you cannot get a qualified teacher, then we recommend you go with an experienced and (very important) responsible friend. We also recommend getting prepared mentally by reviewing the basics below:
Start with the Fundamentals
It is indeed harder to undo bad habits than to learn the right way. Many novice shooters make a mistake because they don’t take the time to learn to shoot correctly at the range the first time. Mastering the basics is key to shooting well.
Here are our crucial fundamentals that should be practiced at the range.
Safety at the Range
Safety is paramount when working with firearms. The experts at US Glock explain that training, comfort, and experience are the bare essentials in learning to use your gun safely. To help jumpstart your safety training, here are the 6 safety foundational rules when going to the gun range for the first time.
The 6 Safety Foundational Rules at the Range
- Always treat your firearm as if it is loaded.
- Point the muzzle in a safe direction at all times. This means typically downrange.
- Don’t put your finger on the trigger until your sight is aligned to your target and you are ready to fire.
- Make sure downrange is clear before shooting and that nothing is behind your target you do not want to hit.
- Your gun always needs to be in the open position when your weapon is on the bench. Your weapon should also be unloaded when not in use. When loading your gun, always have the gun pointed downrange and stay in your lane until ready to shoot.
- Find out who the Range Officer is and let them know this is your first time. Find out the rules for that range.
Additional Safety Considerations
Additional rules you should always follow for those around you and yourself to have a safe time at the range are:
- Know your gun’s features and make sure you are familiar with how they all work.
- You should practice at a range regularly to build muscle memory and gain confidence with your weapon. This will allow you to fire your gun naturally and comfortably.
- Store your gun safely and correctly when at the range. Always use a gun lock if possible.
- Educate those with you about the safety guidelines regarding your firearm. Education will help prevent accidents.
- Proper maintenance includes cleaning, service, and lubrication. This will keep your firearm functioning properly at the range.
Not having the proper grip on your weapon will result in poor shooting on your part. Trust us, it is not fun. Take the time to find an appropriate gun you can grip. Next, research the different types of grips and practice with each grip type to see which one is best for you.
Many first-time shooters don’t think about their stance. Where you place your feet and how you position your body are essential. Review this stance guide to learn about some of the most popular stances out there.
Trigger Control and Trigger Discipline
Another mistake made by novice shooters is the lack of trigger control and trigger discipline. Instead of jerking the trigger, there needs to be a smooth drawing action until the trigger releases. Depending on the type of gun you are firing, your instructor can give you tips to squeeze the trigger of your firearm most effectively. Remember, it is also vital not to put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. This is called trigger discipline and is critical when drawing a firearm from a holster like an appendix carry holsters.
Gun Range Etiquette Guide
Before your first visit to a firing range, understand the important terminology you need to understand to follow proper etiquette. NRA Family explains the terms you will need to know.
Shooting Range Terms
Ceasefire or Stop Shooting – these terms are used when all shooting must stop because time is up, targets are retrieved, or there is a problem. During this time, there should be no handling of any firearms.
Clear or Is Everyone Clear? – All shooters have removed their ammunition, the action is open, hands are off the weapons, and everyone has stepped away from the firing line.
The range is going hot – This is an alert that there is a shift from the ceasefire, but it does not mean you can start firing. A “hot” range means firing will commence, a “cold” range means unloaded weapons.
Commence Firing – This is the command that alerts everyone that it’s now safe to resume firing.
Backstop – the material behind the targets designed to stop bullets.
Range Safety Officer (RSO) – the person in charge at the range
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – must be worn at a range.
Rules of Etiquette
Following proper etiquette is imperative to safety at a range. Know, understand, and follow these rules before going to the gun range for the first time.
- Follow the 6 Safety Rules
- Never handle your weapon behind the firing line. Your firearm should only be loaded when at the firing line and when the range is hot.
- Know the range rules about when you can load your firearm.
- PPE must be worn when the range is hot.
- Only shoot at the target in front of you, never across lanes. Only shoot into a backstop.
- Don’t interfere with an active shooter unless there is an unsafe situation.
- When a ceasefire is called, stop what your doing immediately and unload your weapon.
- Don’t handle any firearm or cross the firing line during a ceasefire.
- Clean up your brass and remove targets and debris when finished shooting.
- Wash your hands to remove any lead after shooting.
For more information, watch this YouTube video
Prepare Your Personal Protective Equipment
Safety glasses should be worn at all times due to bullet casings being ejected and bouncing off walls and other objects. If you are outdoors, consider eye protection that offers protection from glare and UV rays.
Glasses are vital when there are multiple shooters. This will mean that more hot casings are being released, and there is a more significant potential to be struck by a hot, stray casing.
Any noise of more than 140 dB can cause permanent hearing damage. Most guns fire at a decibel over 140 dB. The sound is increased indoors when they bounce off walls which add to the risk of hearing loss. Muzzles can also make firearms louder.
Everyone who fires a weapon, indoors or outdoors, should wear quality ear protection to prevent hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur with a single shot if the conditions are right. Remember this when going to the gun range for the first time.
Clothes and Apparel
Hot bullet casings pose a danger if proper apparel is not worn. PPE can prevent burns or shock from sudden impact with a hot casing against the skin. A reaction from encountering a hot casing can cause a reflexive jerk from a shooter that might cause an accidental discharge. Proper protective clothing can prevent a hot casing from touching a body part and causing an accident. Many people are not aware of this when going to the gun range for the first time.
What to Expect When Going to the Gun Range for the First Time
Triggers and Bows give these tips for your first time at the shooting range. You may be a little nervous, but most people feel the same way. Here’s what to expect and what to do to feel more comfortable.
- There will be other beginners. Try not to feel out of place going to the gun range for the first time. You are there to gain skills and comfort with handling a weapon. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- You will be asked questions like what is your experience level. Your ammo will most likely be inspected, and you will be asked if you brought your PPE. You may be asked if you need to purchase ammo or targets or if you got your own.
Have everything organized before you go to the range to be ready when shooting commences. Your lane will be assigned upon your arrival. You can then hang your target and unpack your weapon.
Firing a weapon can be an exciting experience when going to the gun range for the first time. You may feel anxious about your first visit to a shooting range. This is normal, but if you follow the fundamentals we have laid out here, you will see progress in no time. You will also have a better experience. Develop good habits from the beginning and proper shooting techniques and discover the thrill of the shooting range.