Gun How To
A Few Tips for Beginner Shooters
When You are at the Range
Things To Consider Before You Go
If you have recently begun learning to shoot, or want to go to a shooting range for the first time, all of the rules you must follow can be intimidating and overwhelming. Below are some basic instructions to make it easier for you on your first trip to the range. For further information, you can also read the article “Surviving At The Gun Range”, by Walt Rauch, in Guns & Ammo: Handguns online magazine, which can be viewed by clicking on this link http://www.handgunsmag.com/2010/09/24/tactics_training_gunrange_092407/.
- Do your homework. If the range you plan to attend has a website, visit it. Make sure you know what types of weapons and ammunition are allowed at the range. Not all ranges are created equal. Some indoor ranges may have a better ventilation system than others. If you own appropriate eye and ear protection, bring it with you. If you do not have much experience, then arrange to go with a friend who is more seasoned. Do not expect range personnel to provide you with instruction unless you are willing to pay for it. Make sure that you know your state's rules regarding the transportation of firearms and ammunition in your vehicle.
- Most public indoor ranges have an outer office or gun shop connected to them. Before entering the building, you will probably see a sign posted that reads something like "no loaded firearms or magazines allowed in the showroom." Take this sign VERY seriously. Before leaving home, or at least before leaving your vehicle, make sure your weapon is unloaded. Also, ensure that any magazines you bring are unloaded. If you are bringing your own ammunition, then carry it in its original retail box, if possible.
- If you are bringing your own weapon, do not be surprised if the clerk wants to inspect it before allowing it on the range. He or she has the right to do so. The clerk will also want to see your driver's license, to verify your identity for the range liability waiver. In addition, there will usually be a form you must fill out and sign. You will usually be asked if you are an "experienced shooter." This does not mean that you must be an expert. They simply want to know that you know the basics of firearm safety and understand the function of the weapon(s) you intend to shoot. If you are not an experienced shooter, then you should go with someone who is, until you feel comfortable with your own knowledge.
- The fees at most ranges are typically broken down as follows: There is a basic hourly fee for use of the range, charged per lane used. If there are two shooters, you may typically share a lane if desired. Otherwise you will be charged for the use of an additional lane. There is another fee for targets. Generally, there is a selection of targets available at various prices, if you do not bring your own. If you do not own eye and ear protection, these may also be rented for an additional fee. Finally, ammunition is usually available for sale if you do not bring any with you. Some ranges may even require you to use their ammo for safety purposes.
- Whenever you present a weapon to anyone for any reason, always do so with the action open and the barrel pointed in a safe direction. This is the standard way of demonstrating that the weapon is unloaded and safe to handle. Failure to do so is extremely unsafe and will be interpreted as incompetence, disrespect, or both.
- Always keep the barrel of your weapon pointed away from people at all times, even if it is unloaded. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard except when you are actually ready to shoot (even if the weapon is unloaded).
- Many ranges offer weapons for rent. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with a variety of firearms, or to try out weapons that you are considering for purchase. There will be a fee for renting the gun, as well as for the cost of ammunition. Typically the range will require that you purchase their ammunition if you are renting their guns. If you are unfamiliar with the gun you are renting, the range personnel will usually be happy to go over some of its basic features. Also, some ranges offer firearms training classes and/or CWP (Concealed Weapons Permit) classes. If you are inexperienced with shooting a firearm these classes are a good starting point from which to learn the basics.
At any range, there are written rules that must be followed. Along with those rules are certain standards of etiquette that are expected from everyone. By observing these behaviors, it makes everyone’s range experience more pleasant and contributes to the safe and smooth operation of the range. Below are some suggestions of basic range etiquette. Some may even be part of the written range rules as well.
- The Range Master is in charge. The Range Master bears the responsibility for keeping you and all others at the range safe. You should do exactly what the Range Master tells you to do, when you’re told to do it. If you have questions, COMPLY FIRST, then ask about the rule or range command.
- You are required to know and follow the range rules. The range rules are typically posted in a variety of forms on signs around the range. Also you may receive a printed copy on your first visit. And in some cases, the Range Master will verbally tell you the rules before you’re allowed on the range.
- Clean up after yourself. Clean up after you are done shooting by picking up your brass (spent casings) and taking down your target. Leave the range as clean, or cleaner than you found it. If you use range equipment (such as sandbags, etc.), put them back when you are finished. There usually will be trash cans that are labeled for spent cartridges. In some cases, such as at outdoor ranges, you can sweep some of the casings from your lane into the dirt/grass in front of you. (Check with your specific range‘s rules). NEVER leave live rounds or duds lying around or throw them away in the wrong receptacle.
- Read the labels on the different receptacles around the range. They usually will be labeled to make it really simple for everyone to use. Here are some examples of what you might find:
- “TRASH”- for garbage only. No live rounds ever.
- “PAPER & CARDBOARD”- for targets, cardboard, clean paper wrappers. No live rounds ever.
- “DUDS”- for live rounds that didn’t fire and any other live rounds that you do not want to keep or fire
- Ask the owner's or shooter's permission before handling that person's firearm or equipment. Most of the time people who are regulars at a range are friendly and willing to lend a helping hand or share knowledge with anyone else. If another shooter lets you know you’re doing something unsafe or against range rules—for example: turning your pistol sideways for any reason, or crossing other people with your muzzle for any reason—you should listen to them. You can be thrown out of a range for unsafe behavior. All firearms should always to be treated as if they are loaded.
- Only shoot your own targets & only shoot at the targets. You do not want to shoot at any target that is not in your lane. The bullet could potentially glance off that other target because of the angle that you are shooting it from. You also do not want to shoot at things that are not a target, such as, rocks on the ground, the target frames, the support posts, trees, baffles, animals or anything else that is not the targets. You can be thrown out of the range if you do, and you are also putting other people in danger.
- If an animal is on the range, yell "cease-fire," then get the Range Master. Sometimes animals may wander across the range during live fire. Yell "cease fire" if you see any of them, then tell the Range Master. In most ranges it is against the rules to shoot the animals. It is also usually against the law.
- When shooting black powder firearms, shoot from a location downwind of other shooters on the firing line. Black powder firearms emit a cloud of smoke. You do not want to cloud another shooter’s vision and nobody wants to be covered in smoke every time you fire.
- Avoid interrupting or distracting others while they are shooting. Some people are not at the range just for fun; they can be there practicing or training. They need to be able to concentrate on what they are doing without being interrupted. Also, for safety purposes you do not want to distract someone while they are in the midst of shooting. They could misfire as a result.
- Be aware of where your brass is ejecting, especially while using a semi-automatic firearm. A considerate shooter will move his or her shooting position on the firing line or install a barrier (if there is none there) between themselves and the next shooting bays. This will help prevent the shooter beside you from being hit with your spent brass.
- Never eat or drink while shooting. After shooting always wash your hands and face before you eat or drink. It is also a good idea to change your clothes as soon as possible and put them in the wash to avoid spreading powder residue.
Range rules and commands may vary from range to range. When you go to a new range, take the time to read the range rules and learn the commands used at that range.
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