First visit to a gun range? 8 things to know before you go

Gun range class

When you’re thinking of buying your first gun, it makes sense to learn how to shoot. The best way to do that is at a shooting range, where you can also learn the basics of responsible firearm ownership. What all you need to know to prepare for your first session? The points below will help you get it right.

The right package

At most shooting ranges, you’ll need to book before you go. Typically, they offer a selection of packages, so you can choose how long you want to be on the range, what type of weapon you want to use, and any extras, such as equipment rental (including guns if you don’t have your own) and additional waivers. At most ranges, it’s possible to book classes to get you off to the right start or to help you improve your technique. In some ranges, such as the ShootPointBlank Blue Ash range, it’s also possible to book two shooters in the same lane for a small additional fee, so you can bring a friend along to share the experience.

The right gear

There’s no need to invest in special clothing for the range, but sturdy clothes, which cover the shoulders and chest will provide protection. Open-toes shoes aren’t suitable.

You’ll need a valid ID

You’ll need to bring an I.D. or driver’s license if you’re resident in the US. Non-residents will require a government-issued I.D. or a current passport. The minimum age for using a shooting range without the permission and supervision of an adult is 18. You’ll also need to read and sign waivers and agree to abide by the range’s safety rules before entering.

What to bring

You’re firearm if you own one. If you don’t, you’ll be able to rent from the range. If you don’t have ammunition, you’ll be able to purchase it on the day. Likewise, if you don’t have ear and eye protection, the range will supply them.

Basic safety rules

Although every range will have its own rules and etiquette, some basic safety regulations will be common to all. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you arrive – in most cases, they’ll be explained online.

Ranges are supervised by a range officer, and it’s essential that you follow any instructions given, immediately. Only load your gun when you’re ready to use it, but always assume that all weapons are loaded.

As soon as you’ve finished shooting, move your finger away from the trigger to avoid accidental firing. Always leave the safety catch on when the gun isn’t being used.

For obvious reasons, you’re not permitted to point a gun at anything other than a target. Always take care that the muzzle of your gun doesn’t inadvertently cross anyone you could injure or anything that you could damage.

Out of respect for other range users, don’t touch any of their equipment without their express permission.

Alcohol and drugs don’t mix with guns. So if you’re under the influence of either, stay away from the range.

While you’re there, feel free to take photos – just obey all the rules while you’re on the range, don’t compromise your safety or that of others, and respect the privacy of your fellow range users.

Don’t behave in a way that could distract or annoy others. Save conversations until you’ve left the lanes.

At the end of your session, leave the area tidy for the next users. Take all your trash with you when you go.

Before you leave at the end of your session, take time to wash any residue off your hands and face, using cold water.

Range commands

There are certain commands used in all ranges. Familiarizing yourself with them before you go will mean you can follow them without hesitating, for your safety and that of others. Among the most common commands that you’ll hear range officers using are:

Range going hot: live firing is about to start. You can load your firearm on the firing line.

The range is cold: firing has stopped, but wait until the range officer tells you it’s clear to check your target

Commence fire: never fire until you’ve heard this command.

Ceasefire: this command means that everyone must stop shooting, immediately.

Make safe: apply the safety catch, take your finger off the trigger, place the gun in its holster. The range officer used this command to make sure the whole area is safe.

Eye and ear protection

Most people understand the need to wear ear protectors as the high volumes can permanently damage your hearing. If you don’t have your own, the range will supply them. Even if you think you’d feel more comfortable without them, don’t be tempted to remove them as you could cause serious ear injuries.

Eye protection is also essential to avoid your eyes being damaged due to ricochets or other accidents. You’ll be able to hire some at the range, but if you prefer to bring your own, it’s important to realize that normal sunglasses are not just not adequate for the job they’ll need to do. In fact, they’re actually dangerous and increase the likelihood of serious injury: normal strength glass can shatter and penetrate the eye with extreme force. Keep your eyes safe. Make sure that you invest in good-quality wrap-around shooting glasses that offer impact resistance and shatter-proof lenses.

Beginners are welcome

The final thing to know before you go is that it’s OK to be a total beginner. All those experts were beginners once. Never hesitate to ask the range officers for help and advice. They’re pleased to answer questions and help you get the most from your time on the range.

The first time you visit a shooting range is always exciting and maybe a little daunting. Just keep in mind that safety is all-important. Every rule is there for a reason, and you’ll soon get familiar with the way things work. You’ll also benefit from the advice of the range officers as you develop your shooting skills. So just relax and enjoy yourself!


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Franck Wang
Franck Wang

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