WARNING: Shooting sports is very addictive and will likely result in many visits to the range. Now note there is nothing to be nervous about, we will help you get ready for your first dose, and we will cover some helpful tips, supplies you will need, and what to expect for your first time visiting the shooting range to keep you safe and of course having fun.
The range is filled with experienced shooters, beginners, families, off duty officers and a lot of normal people believe it or not, and usually everyone is pretty nice, making the saying ”an armed society is a polite society” pretty accurate. The range has Range Officers, who overlook the shooters making sure everyone is following the rules and of course staying safe. When walking into the range floor the officers will make sure you have eyes and ears on meaning you are required to have hearing protection and eye protection, we will talk more about this later.
There are a few different types of shooting ranges, one being an outdoor range, and the other an indoor range and both of them usually have a different feel and atmosphere. I usually prefer outdoor ranges because you can enjoy the fresh air and it doesn’t feel as cramped compared to some indoor ranges I've been to. The indoor ranges usually have a target retrieval system that you have probably seen in the movies, if not there is a little button that moves your target towards and away from you on tracks, so you can replace your target after shooting it, also adjust how far you want to shoot. Indoor ranges often don’t allow long guns, and have a maximum caliber you can shoot. When it comes to outdoor shooting, the restrictions are pretty much removed, allowing you to shoot any caliber and have options to shoot a lot further than 25-30 yards that you tend to see at indoor ranges. Outdoor ranges typically have a rifle/shotgun range and a separate pistol range where you can also shoot .22s. The only con of an outdoor range is sometimes there are no lanes so people can get a little cramped if it is busy, where as most indoor ranges you will have designated lane.
When it comes to range etiquette, most ranges will have very similar rules, directions and notices but some may have minor differences, for example where to point the muzzle, either up or down when transitioning from bench to table etc. The range rules usually consist of, common sense gun rules, what calibers are aloud, and sometimes what ammunition is aloud. For your first visit to the shooting range you should learn common firearm rules, below we have some of the more common ones, these are by no means exhaustive and you should read all the rules the range provides. All firearms are considered loaded at all times Always point firearms in a safe direction (downrange, the ground, etc.), until on target and ready to fire Always keep your trigger finger straight along the frame until on target and ready to fire Always know your target and what is behind it
For indoor ranges there are usually not any ceasefires, since you can change your target right from the stand you are at. With outdoor ranges you will probably have ceasefires to change your targets you place down range. ceasefires are times the range officers declare everyone to stop shooting and step behind a designated line away from the table you are shooting from. You will have to leave your firearm at the table, unloaded, either with the action open or with a chamber flag inserted. A chamber flag is a little plastic plug that goes into the chamber to indicate to the range officers the chamber is free of bullets. Once you everyone steps behind the line the range is considered “cold”. At this time you will have the opportunity to walk downrange to get/replace your target or fetch them to take home. Take note the shooting tables are completely off limits during the ceasefires, you are not aloud to touch the tables, touch any firearm or do ANYTHING while the range is cold, and you can only walk past the line IF you are going to change your target. Once everyone is back behind the line, the range officer will announce that the range is hot and you can continue shooting.
Okay now we will finally get to what you will need to bring to the shooting range and you just may have some of them lying around the house. Up first is pair of protective glasses, when shooting semi-auto firearms the brass casing gets ejected out of the gun and sometimes can hit you. The ejector is pretty good at keeping the brass away from you, but sometimes people next to you that are shooting, their brass can make way in your direction. There are so many different safety glasses you can get, but no need to go overboard, the simple ones will do. If you are going to an outdoor shooting range, most of the time the range will have an overhang to keep the sun off of you, but if you are use to having sunglasses while being outdoors they do make safety glasses with a tint for the sun(note: some allow any type of glasses including your sunglasses or prescription glasses).
In the movies it might seem like gunshots are not very loud and you don’t need hearing protection, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Gun shots are extremely loud and its mandatory to have hearing protection when you are at the shooting range. Sometimes at shooting ranges they have hearing protection to rent, but not always, so you may be forced to purchase overpriced hearing protection they offer. If they do not offer any hearing protection you will need to bring your own. There are a few different types of hearing protection you can use, there are ear muffs, foam earplugs, and variations of them. If you have sensitive hearing it is best to go with ear muffs, ear muff have a wide range of prices, but for your first time visiting the range you don’t need an expensive pair of shooting ear muffs. The Mpow Safety Ear Muffs are a great choice, since they offer 34dB Noise Reduction Rating, which pretty good, and all you really need for the shooting range, they also have an adjustable headband to accommodate most people.
Other things you will need to bring, is a photo ID (some ranges don’t require it but still good to bring), ammunition because sometimes the ammunition is marked up at the range, so if you know what you are going to shoot its always good to bring your own ammo.
There you have it, this should be enough to get you through your first time at the shooting range.