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.
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.
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!