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First Time at a Gun Range? No Worries

So you’ve bought your gun. You feel good about how the gun works and how it works with you handling it.

The only thing left to do go to the range to practice shooting for real and get better.

Dry Fire Practice

To be content with you handling your weapon, dry firing is the first tip. Practice holding the gun pulling the trigger letting the hammer or striker go with no bullets in the chamber. You can do this at home in preparation. This will not harm most guns since the firing pin is not actually hitting anything. Guns shooting bigger than .22 caliber rounds are usually best for this.

Why?

The main purpose is to develop a routine that becomes second nature to you. By consistently practicing holding your gun and pulling the trigger it becomes something you eventually won’t think about. So when time comes for real shooting, the comfort of this action is built in. Let the hand and the grip become one and the trigger pull a part of a routine. Practice. I’ve read that some say it’s a skill so it needs daily practice.

 

 

Always check for an empty gun between practice sessions. See targets around the house to dry fire at like doorknobs or light switches. Focus on the front sight of the gun and pull the trigger slowly. You’re pulling slowly so that the sight doesn’t move when shooting your weapon. A tip is to put a small coin on the front sight when initially practicing. If you don’t have to pick it up after pulling the trigger, that’s what you want.

Walking Through the Door

In general the following will give you some idea of what will happen when walking through the door at the gun range.

Be sure to have your unloaded gun in a case before walking in.

At the front counter, pay for the range fee, paper targets and ammo (if needed). Liability waivers will have to be signed.

Head to the range after putting on your eye and ear protection. If you wear glasses that should be fine and you should probably purchase your own ear protection for health reasons. You may get escorted in or you may get pointed in the direction of the range.

Find an empty bay and unpack your stuff. Keep the gun pointed down range.

Most places will have cardboard sheets to which you can affix your targets to.

Indoor ranges will have an electric clothesline type of gadget with a switch inside your bay. A clip will be on the line so flipping the switch one way or another will bring the clip towards you. Clip your target and flip the switch the opposite way to send the target down range. Look on the side walls for distance indicators. Put your ego aside and go short distances at first. You’ll probably have to walk you targets out during specific times at outdoor ranges.

Now the fun part: Load your magazines, load your gun, and shoot.

When the thrill is gone, remove your target from the cardboard backing and replace if shooting at another. Don’t forget to return the cardboard where you got it from. Yes, save your targets so that you have proof of you getting better.

Clean up the bay. Sweep any empty bullet shells away from the walking area.

The Range Officer is All Powerful

A range will have someone in charge called the range officer. This person controls of the range and what goes on there. So for everyone’s safety, what this person says and tells you is the law of the range and has no room for debate.

They are very serious about their jobs so and questioning or debating them can be grounds for dismissal from the range. They are not the enemy. Safety for all is their focus. Basically they are your friend at the range. So listen when they speak and ask them your questions should you have any.

General Range Tips

To each his own as far as rules go at the shooting range. General tips follow.

  • Listen to the Range Officer (RO).
  • Follow the 4 Firearm Safety Rules:
    • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded
    • Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
    • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
    • Be sure of your target and what is behind it
  • Have your own ear and eye protection
  • Check at the counter but most allow your own ammunition for your guns. If renting (which some people do before deciding which gun to purchase for themselves), you’ll have to purchase their ammo.
  • Stand 3-6 feet behind the shooter when you’re not shooting.
  • Do not cross the bright red/yellow line in front of the shooting table in the bay unless the RO says it is ok.
  • A “hot” range means that it’s OK to shoot. A “cold” range means it’s not OK to shoot.
  • Check the costs as each place can vary. Some places may charge one price for all day while others it could be hourly.

Indoor Range Tips

An indoor shooting range. General really caters towards handguns. Some allow for shotguns and rifles but probably have restrictions on what rounds you can fire. In most the maximum distance is about 20 to 50 yards.

The shooting area is separated by bays or shooting stations. Try to operate within the walls of your selected bay so as to not interfere with the shooter next to you.

Be aware, bays are usually first come first serve and nobody can tell you to leave or move unless it’s an employee of the range. So be courteous, considerate of others and responsible.

Select a bay, set up your target, load and fire. When done, pack up clean up and move away so that others can have their turn.

Outdoor Range Tips

An outdoor shooting range. General caters towards rifles and shotguns. Most of the same indoor range rules apply.

Stopping the bullets will be a backstop, usually a huge pile of dirt down range. When shooting, shoot into the backstop. Bullets will travel for miles if not stopped by anything.

Don’t shoot at the ground. The bullet path becomes unpredictable as they can skip upon impact.

Don’t shoot across the range or at other targets.

Shoot from the firing line and not where other shooters are in front of you.

Just as important as indoor ranges is hearing and eye protection.

Clean up behind yourselves when finished. On a cold range retrieve your targets and casings.

In Summary

Going the gun range for the first time doesn’t have to be stressful. Reading this post will give you an idea of things to be aware of and in this world of gun owners, most are happy to share. It’s a community. So grab your case with your unloaded gun. Go up to the counter at the range. Pay for ammo and targets. Put on your eye and ear protection. Head to the range and find a bay. Unpack your weapon. Put your target on the cardboard. Clothesline it to the desired distance. Load your gun and shoot. When done, clean up and always be courteous. Have Fun!

16 Comments

  1. Okay I thibk it is a very good thing to learn from someone who is good at something like this. You seem to have a very broad knowledge of the subject matter and that’s awesome. I am looking to go to a gun range to do some practicing this vacation but it’ll be indoors. Having read your post, it looks like there is so much one needs to know before going. Thank you very much for sharing, I will put these in mind.

    • Henderson, I hope to have shorten the list of things to be aware of when going to the range or purchasing a gun. Thanks for you comments.Enjoy your vacation and time a the range.

  2. Great article. There is a gun range here in my town and I have been wondering what it’s like in there and how to act in a safe and proper manner. I’ve been thinking about getting a rifle like an AR fifteen or the more expensive SCAR. My question is would you recommend I buy the rifle or buy individual parts and assemble it myself at home?

    • Riverdogg, if you’re new to the game buying the rifle whole would be suggested as there is a lot to learn getting started. Assembling a weapon would be advanced. IMO

  3. I have not been to any gun range as yet but have been thinking of getting a gun lately and thought I should look this up. Many robbery cases are on the rise in my hood and I think this will really help me just in case someone breaks in and I may be forced to use the gun. I hear that whilst shooting the gun shakes a lot and you will miss the target and I’m sure I’ll need lots of practice. Thanks for these tip, very helpful.

    • Donny, one never knows what the world will bring to us good or bad. Hopefully the robberies around your area slow and none come your way. Home defense is a primary reason for most to purchase a weapon. My articles should help your decision making and outline steps to take in getting a gun and practicing using it. 

  4. I have been thinking of getting a gun and I so enjoyed this article. I understand exactly why you would want to practice dry fire until you are steady and straight shot. I also appreciate what would the range be like when I would finally go. Great information for anyone that has a gun and needs to practice. Thank you 

    Melissa

    • Lisa, these articles are for those such as yourself, thinking of getting a gun but not sure of the process and the steps to take surrounding the purchasing and practicing to get better. Thanks for your comment.

  5. I have never gone for an outdoor range before, but from friends who have, they always talk about how cool it is. Going to a shooting range happens to be something so many people do but do not check out some safety tips before and during the drills. Learning about these safety measures should be a priority to all of us. I hope to someday go for my first drill. Best regards.

  6. WOW, great article

    I love to read this kind of stuff…I must tell this you explain everything perfectly.it’s realy easy to understand. I learn a lot of things about dry fire practice and how to walking through the door the gun range and a lot of stuff about safety.

    Great stuff for a beginner who likes to the weapon. I highly recommend this article for anyone who plans to go the first time to a gun range.

    Thank you for sharing valuable content. Keep it up!!

    • Gihan, I’m glad I peeked your interest. When you decide to try it you’ll have a blueprint of steps to take. Thanks.

  7. Great lesson in safety, anytime firearms are being handled, safety should always be first and foremost. Quite often people don’t like to follow by rules and regulations, they figure that they know it all and can make up the rules as they go along, but you have precise rules to follow and it shouldn’t take anything away from participants having a good time.

    Firearms can be a lot of fun and it’s a shame if one person could ruin a great experience for others, thanks.

    • Neil, I agree firearms can be a lot of fun but along with that fun you have to consider others looking for that fun too. Outlining expectations when going to the range for the first time helps things go smoothly. Thanks.

  8. Hello there, firing a gun have been childhood dream for me. It got to a point i wanted to join the military as a girl, but that never came to pass. My dad goes to the firing range at least twice a month , but he would never allow me to try giving a gun. I am pleased to learn tips on how to start firing a gun with one without a bullet, and now that I have come of age, i guess its to start.

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