Your First Time at the Shooting Range: What to Expect

a blurry image down the barrel of a gun looking at a shooting range - bellevue gun club

Your First Time at the Shooting Range: What to Expect

Interested in going to the indoor shooting range? For first timers, it can be an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Arm yourself with knowledge beforehand, and your initial experience at the range will become that much more enjoyable. In fact, if you talk to most firearms enthusiasts about their introduction to the shooting range, you’ll find a pattern repeated among their stories — that it was a great time, and getting familiarized with the basics beforehand helped them to ease into the environment. With that being said, we’d like to offer up info on what you can expect when you head to the target range for the first time, along with some tips that will help you feel right at home when you do.

First Things First: Let’s Talk Safety and General Tips

Paramount to any situation where you’re handling a firearm is safety. If you haven’t already, get to know the ten most important rules that apply when you plan on firing a gun, engrain them into your mind, and prepare to follow them while you’re at the range.

In addition to the general rules on gun safety, individual ranges might have their own rules they want you to observe. Follow all the instructions you’re given carefully to avoid confusion (taking a class on firearms safety beforehand might also be a good idea). Once you’ve got those safety guidelines committed to memory, you want to be abreast of a few broad tips that will make your entire range experience go a bit smoother.

The first of those tips is the fact that you’ll need protection for both your eyes and ears. Guns are loud, and there’s the potential for you to catch some debris to the eyes, so having something to guard your hearing and vision is a vital part of having an enjoyable time at the range.

When it comes to the specific guns you’ll be firing, know that you’re often welcome to bring your own, but that’s not necessarily a requirement. Many shooting ranges allow patrons to rent a firearm to use during their visit, which can serve as great way to familiarize yourself with a gun before you ever decide to purchase it. A note on bringing your own guns and ammo, though; in some cases, the range will want to give your ammo the once over before you start shooting as a safety precaution (they want to ensure you’re firing safe rounds, and that they won’t cause any problems with whatever backstops they’re using to stop projectiles).

Finally, be sure to stay cool and friendly with the other patrons of the range while you’re there. We mentioned before that there’s no need to be intimidated, and that is, in large part, due to the fact that most shooting range members and employees are friendly people who are willing to show you the ropes. Speaking of which…

The Right Mindset and Attitude Will Work Wonders

By and large, people at the gun range are cool, and if you go with the flow, all should be copacetic; just remember to pay attention to some of the proper etiquette when it comes to dealing with others at the range, however, to ensure your first time goes off without a hitch.

There’s a range officer at most establishments, and it’s their job to inform patrons of when it is (and is not) safe to fire. Listen to them carefully and make sure you follow their instructions closely. When others are shooting, don’t do anything to disrupt their concentration. That means no touching, no small talk, and no entering their personal space in a way that would be distracting. There’s an exception if you see a potential for immediate danger and want to alert them to that fact, but for the most part, you should “stay in your lane,” so to speak, and avoid being obnoxious.

Furthermore, you should refrain from picking up other shooters’ guns. You can ask, and if they agree to show you/allow you to fire, then that would be acceptable, but guns are personal property and should be treated as such — if it isn’t yours, don’t touch it. Additionally, if someone does hand you their gun, be sure to perform a safety check to avoid potential mishaps.

One last note here. You should not attempt to coach, correct, or offer up advice on another’s shooting technique (unless they are engaging in behavior that presents a risk to others at the range). Leave the instruction up to the professionals, and everyone should be able to have themselves a grand time at the range.

A Quick Walkthrough on Your First Range Visit

Alright, with all that out the way, what might a step-by-step on your first range visit look like? While some ranges might vary on the specifics, there are some broad elements you can likely expect when you head out to shoot.

If you’re bringing your own gun, you’ll want to ensure it is unloaded and inside of its case before you bring it into the range. When you arrive, you’ll pay your fee to use the range, purchase ammo/targets to shoot at, and may have to sign a waiver in order to use the range as well.

Before going to the actual range, you’ll don your protective gear. Once you’re at the range, you’ll find an empty bay and unpack your stuff (keeping your guns pointed downrange to minimize hazards. After affixing your targets to the target holders, you’ll pull that switch to send them downrange, after which you’ll load your firearm and begin practicing.

Once you’re finished, you’ll take down your targets, and get to cleaning up. You might be instructed to sweep up your spent brass and take care of some other tidying duties, and while the finer points might vary from range to range, the general rule of thumb to follow is to leave things cleaner than they were when you arrived.

In Conclusion

As you can see, heading to the target range is a straightforward process, and nothing to wind your nerves up over if you know what to expect. Depending on what range you head to, there might be some additional details to take note of (commands, terminology, etc.), but again, the folks at the range are usually quite helpful and ready to help you acclimate to all the minutiae and help you fit in. With that, all that’s left is to schedule your visit, and take those first steps into the wonderful hobby that is target shooting. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any further questions, and we hope to see you learning the ropes soon!

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