Monday, May 25, 2009

10 Range Tips for New Shooters

This long three day weekend is turning out perfect. Perfect weather and a perfect opportunity to enjoy some of the first fun activities of the summer including camping, fishing, and my favorite, shooting. Here's some tips for those who are new to shooting and using a shooting range. I always recommend shooting at a range if possible; it's safer since ranges are engineered to contain projectiles and it's often supervised which increases safety for everyone. Decades ago many people could shoot out their back door but with growth taking over nearly everywhere, this is no longer possible in many areas.
  1. Let people know you have arrived at the range. Usually you need to register or sign in, but even if it is a gravel pit with a padlock on the gate and you have the combo to get in, let others know you are there--at least when you go down range to change targets, they will keep an eye out for you.

  2. If you are new to shooting, bring someone with you who is an experienced shooter. If you don't know anyone, arrange for shooting lessons (local shooting ranges and firearms dealers should be able to provide you this information). Even though people with zero shooting experience can go out and buy a gun, it is not as simple as it looks on TV--you need some safety tips and supervision when you get started so you don't hurt yourself or others.

  3. Come by yourself first. I cringe when I see a father who has never handled a firearm before bring out his three kids and an armload of new weapons he has just purchased. Much like you wouldn't want your kids in the car when you are learning to drive, you don't want any distractions when you are learning to shoot. After you get some experience then bring out one kid at a time until each of your kids gets some experience. Again, it is hard enough to supervise one new shooter let alone three or four.

  4. If you don't know something, ask. Yes it is the fate of men to enjoy figuring things out for themselves--and not wanting to look like a dork by asking dumb questions--but in this case, the information you glean could save your life. Where's the brass bucket is a common question to start out with. What are these lights for? switch them on before you go down range so people won't start shooting in your direction before you get back. You get the idea.

  5. When the range is cold, keep your paws off of your firearms. At most ranges you will be shooting with others. When it is mutually agreed that all fire will cease so people can go down range and change their targets, unload your firearm, open the action, lay it down on the bench, and don't touch it until the range is hot again. This is a good time to reload your magazines.

  6. NEVER sweep anyone with your firearm. If I had a nickel for every time I've seen this done over the decades... It's a wonder I haven't gone into cardiac arrest because my heart about stops when I see this happen. Mostly this is a mistake new shooters make--they get excited or nervous, or just plain forget they have a deadly weapon in their hand and when they turn around, so does their firearm and it usually ends up pointing or sweeping past other people and it is very disconcerting to be on either end of this transaction. The only direction your firearms should ever point is straight down, straight up, or straight at your target. No where else.

  7. Safety should always be paramount. You can tell who the really old shooters are--they can't hardly hear anything which means they started shooting before basic shooter safety precautions were common. Always wear hearing and eye protection anytime you are near the line. Never drink alcohol before or during shooting activity. Don't act like a fool--if it's something you've seen in a shoot 'em up action movie, it probably isn't something you want to do at the range.

  8. Be social. Shooters are an overall great bunch of people. Most can provide lots of tips tricks, and helpful information if you pay attention. After you get to know them, they may even provide some reloaded ammo and the opportunity to use their cool firearms. Like any social group, people develop a reputation based on their actions and attitude--you want to be known as the good guy who is respectful, responsible, and helpful, not the "idiot guy who thinks he's Rambo".

  9. Bring your own targets. You may want to call ahead first and ask about targets. Many ranges offer target stands but require shooters to bring (or buy at the range) their own targets. The range may also have requirements about what targets can be used. Paper--good. Glass--bad. Beer cans--well we used to shoot at them in the old days but at most ranges these don't qualify as targets anymore. Exotic targets can also be used at some ranges (these are the fun ones that move, jump, etc) but you usually need to get permission from the rangemaster first.

  10. Clean up after yourself. It's a pet peeve of many shooters when other shooters leave their brass all over the ground for others to sweep up or they destroy targets and targetstands and leave them in the middle of the range. Gee thanks.


  1. Maybe you will want to get a facebook button to your blog. I just marked down the article, although I must make it by hand. Just my $.02 :)

  2. Great set of guides for new range shooters. You've pointed many important tips. Keep it up!