Hitting the gun range for the first time can be exciting, but you’ll want to make sure that you’re at least somewhat familiar with how everything works before you get there. You don’t want to be unsafe in any way, or at the very least you don’t want to be that doofus newbie that everyone rolls their eyes at. There are also some basic rules that apply to even the most seasoned of shooters.
Professionally run ranges, both indoors and out, are absolutely necessary for the average gun owner. Since most folks don’t have the luxury of wide-open rural spaces of their own to practice, you have to be able to go somewhere to get qualified instruction, hone your skills or try out new weapons.
A lot of newcomers to shooting will have misconceptions as to how guns operate and what it feels like to actually fire a weapon. Ultimately, you don’t want to pose a risk to yourself or others, and will want the insight provided and the confidence to be able to shoot accurately and safely, no matter what your needs may be.
For first-timers, it helps if you’re going with an experienced shooter that can show you the ropes, but don’t let it stop you if you’re going solo. Reputable gun ranges are normally very good at walking people through the process, providing expert supervision and making them feel comfortable.
The rules may vary from range-to-range, but here are a few things to consider when heading out. Some are just common sense and others a little more specific to the activity.
Familiarize yourself with the facility before you arrive and read through the range rules if available. A lot of this type of thing would be online.
Always heed the Range Safety Officers (RSO) and follow their direction precisely. It’s their job to ensure procedural compliance, proper firearm operation and that everyone remains safe.
Never feel embarrassed or self-conscious when it comes to asking questions about the procedures or the weapons you’ll be using. Don’t make assumptions or simply take a guess when it comes to shooting. Better safe than sorry.
Use industry-approved eye and hearing protection while actively shooting or if you are in the range area.
Pay attention to your surroundings and the other shooters so that you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Be sure to dress appropriately for the activity. There are no hard-&-fast rules, but just use your head. Looking like you’re headed to the beach maybe not the right fashion choice.
Don’t use a firearm or ammo type/caliber that is not suitable for the range or distance that you’re firing at.
Do not engage in any shooting activities if you are impaired by alcohol, drugs, medications or are fatigued or injured to the point where it may affect your judgment or ability to operate your firearm safely.
When it comes time to shoot, there are a few critical rules to follow:
- Safety check any weapon that is handed to you
- Always treat your firearms as if they are loaded at all times
- Always point your weapon in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
- Heed the RSO’s instructions for a ‘Hot’ or ‘Cold’ range so that you know when it’s time to begin firing
- Shoot directly at the target only – avoid shots at the target frames or anything into the ground or up high
- When laying a weapon down on the bench, ensure that it is pointed downrange
- Never assume that the range is clear – always scan visually before firing
- Stay at the firing line at all times while engaging with your weapon – keep weapons unloaded with magazines removed and actions open when entering or exiting the range
- As a general rule, you should only have one gun with you at a time at the firing line
Never touch another shooter’s weapon without specific permission from them.
Ensure that you follow the outlined procedures once a cease-fire is called. Immediately stop firing, unload your weapon and open the action, step back from the firing line and do not touch your weapon again unless given the all-clear to do so.
Some final thoughts on appropriate range behavior: (to avoid aggravating fellow shooters)
- Don’t be loud or disruptive
- Don’t interrupt others while they are shooting
- Don’t hover over another shooter
- Don’t coach or criticize others at the range
- Leave your assigned shooting area as soon as your time limit is up
Always clean up your brass and take your used targets and any other trash with you when you leave.
Hit the range often – and remember to always be safe, be respectful and have fun!
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