Visiting the Shooting Range for the First Time
This is a quick list and guide for a newcomer. I mentioned in an earlier post that my first time post-lesson was sheer comedy. I was excited to go shoot some more but was clueless on what to do once I got there. The staff at On Target Indoor Shooting Range figured that out in about 10 seconds. Fortunately, they were professional, thoughtful and very kind. Honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I would never have returned.
Not surprisingly, On Target is home to a swiftly-growing ladies gun club (approximately 150 and counting) whose ages range from 20’s to 90’s. Their collective shooting experience spans from novice to impressive; and their backgrounds include working professionals, stay at home moms, and retirees.
It was a perfect range to call home and grow as a shooter, even though it’s about 30 miles from my house. I wish everyone had a range staff like mine. Recently, my dear old college roommate who now lives in Boston working full time as an optometrist with two young children heard about my blog and told me she always wanted to learn to shoot. I can’t bring my OnTarget experience to her, so I drummed up this 6- step setup instead for her based on that experience.
Coincidentally, there’s a military expression to “watch your six” (referring to six o’clock or the area behind you) which means to watch your back. To have someone to “watch your six” means someone is looking out for you. I hope this list of six helps someone else out there like my old roommate. I certainly wish someone told me what’s on this list before my first attempt.
Before you go the range….
1. Secure your own ear protection and eye protection.
Together these are referred to as “eyes and ears” on the range. You can rent either or both at the range. You will not be allowed among the shooting bays without them, even if you’re just watching and not shooting. Whether you rent or buy depends on your tolerance for sharing equipment with unknown strangers. You can also buy a pair of foam ear plugs.
- Whatever you do, don’t take either protection lightly. Hearing loss is irreversible. The empty brass casings ejecting from your gun as you fire are HOT and can land in unexpected places. They will burn your skin and leave a mark.
- If your ears are not properly protected, you will feel pain inside your ear and hear a ringing. The packaging on the ear protection will tell you its particular decibel protection level, like different strengths of SPF.
- In an upcoming post, I’ll review several different models of ear and eye protection. I was pleasantly surprised at what I learned. Meanwhile, you can find very affordable pairs of both on good ol’ Amazon, Walmart, or Home Depot. Yes, Home Depot. It’s for people who need protection while operating heavy machinery.
2. Look up their range rules on the website.
Familiarize yourself with the house rules beforehand. Give yourself one less thing to figure out while you’re there. Ranges are active and distracting. I have inadvertently violated range rules and been chastised. Yes, they will generally be centered on safety but each range has its particular quirks and requirements.
At the range….
3. Tell them you need to rent a handgun.
Don’t be afraid to tell them it’s your first time. They would much rather know. Or, if you have one already, show them what you have. Ranges have a display behind the counter with their rental guns, labeled and within easy view.
- If you don’t know, ask them to make a recommendation or ask them which is one of their newer guns. The older ones tend to have more worn out ammunition magazines, which means the ammunition may not feed as well and/or the gun has a higher chance of malfunctioning on recoil.
- If they say all their guns are about the same, and you have no preference, start with a Glock 17 or 19. It’s easy to use.
**Note: Certain states, like California, prohibit you from renting guns as a solo individual. You need at least one other person with you. One way California ranges got around this was with organizations like my gun club. The club organizers were my partners for the day so I could rent a gun(s) for the day. Other ranges will publicize specific dates and times for an organization (usually affiliated with the range) or some of its employees to partner with or supervise solo individuals who walk in the door and wish to rent guns.
4. Buy ammunition that matches your rental gun.
If you don’t know what caliber of ammunition your rental gun takes, just ask!
- Or, put on your best air of confidence after you select your weapon of choice, and state that you wish to also buy ___ rounds of ammo. They implicitly know the ammunition should match your rental.
- Ammo is typically sold in increments of fifty (50). Fifty rounds disappear very fast. You may want to buy at least 100. Start slow and warm up with those first 50. You can always leave your gun at your shooting bay and return to the counter to purchase more ammunition.
- Do NOT refer to them as “bullets.” The “bullet” is actually a smaller portion of the entire piece of ammunition. It is a common misnomer.
5. Buy targets.
You need to aim and shoot at something other than the back wall. There are a variety of targets that will also be displayed behind the counter.
- You can also bring your own. I bought a stack of thick paper plates from Costco and Styrofoam plates from Target. You see your holes easily with those white plates. You'll know rather quickly how your aim is going. I attach one plate on each clip.
6. Tell them you need “a lane.”
- Depending on how many people you have in your group, you may want more than one lane. If the range is particularly flooded with customers, they will ask that you and your friend(s) share a lane.
If I could walk my dear old college roommate over the phone, this would be my script.
Let me know about your memorable firsts at the range! Are there any tips you could pass to a first-timer?