Let’s face it, going to the shooting range is a great time, and there are plenty of reasons to go! Whatever your reason for going to the Shooting Range, your trip MUST be SAFE, and it should be FUN! Here’s how to make it so, assuming your going to a formal, private range, as opposed to just moseyin’-on-out to the back forty.
- Go with a friend or family member who already belongs to the range, or at least to a Shooting Range. Yeah, this seems obvious, and at some shooting ranges it’s absolutely required, but you can’t go wrong with someone who already knows the ropes and is comfortable in the scene.
- Always know and follow the rules of the Shooting Range: Regardless of whether you’re shooting at an indoor or outdoor range, there’s always a formal set of rules, policies and procedures that must be followed, at all times. Safety First, Safety Always… If you don’t know the rules, or if there is anything you’re unsure about, just ask. We firearms enthusiasts are generally a welcoming, friendly and helpful group. Even if you’re intimidated to ask someone else on the firing line, per my next tip, there’s always someone formally working the range. While there are differences between indoor and outdoor ranges, guests generally have to formally check-in or register before they can start shooting. One thing true of all shooting ranges is that you must always ensure the muzzle of your gun is pointed downrange, even when un-casing your gun(s). Don’t open your gun case until you are at your designated shooting port, or bench. When you do open the case, check which way the muzzle of your gun is pointing. If the muzzle isn’t pointed downrange DON’T TOUCH THE GUN. Instead, close the case, slowly spin the case around until the muzzle is pointed downrange. Then open the case and check again. Only remove the gun from the case when the muzzle is pointed downrange.
- Know and Respect the Key Players. The Range Safety Officer (RSO) is in charge of the Shooting Range. You may notice him, or her right away, or it may take you a while, but the RSO is there – and he, or she, is watching you, along with everyone else on the range. This is a good thing. It’s their job to watch the range, and everyone on the range, to ensure all safety protocols are being followed. They have the power to call cease-fire and i you’re shooting at an outdoor range, they generally decide when to make the range safe for target changes, and when to make the range hot. The RSO may strike up conversation, or they may hover in the background. Either way, if they tell you something, you’re well advised to listen. Else you might be going home early, and you might not be welcomed back. Have a question on range protocol, policies, procedures, the RSO is a great resource and there to help you out. Likewise, if you have an issue while firing, like a misfire,the RSO will likely help you out if you aren’t sure how to handle it – just keep it pointed downrange at all times.
- Prepare for your trip to the Shooting Range: Take your trip to the range seriously. Take the time, before you leave, to make sure you are mentally and physically prepared. Check the range schedule before you go. Know the laws in your home state for traveling with a firearm and ammunition. Know that when you arrive at the range, it’s going to be LOUD. It may be crowded. Prepare your guests, especially if they are newer shooters. You and/or your guests are likely to be any combination of excited, pumped, nervous, anxious, etc. etc. The better prepared you are, the smoother things will go, and the more enjoyable the experience will be. Make sure have your essentials: Range Bag. Eyes (protection). Ears (protection). 9mm casings make decent earplugs in a pinch. Gun(s) – you cleaned & lubed em’ after your last trip to the range, so they are ready to go, right?? Ammo for what you are shooting. Targets. Target frame, if needed. Staple gun. Spotting Scope. Shooting rest, or bags. Pen and Paper. Cleaning and/or gunsmithing equipment. Membership card and/or keys. Money. Etc. etc. If you’re shooting at an outdoor range, check the weather, and dress appropriately. Water and snacks are never bad ideas either.
- Range Etiquette. Common courtesy goes a long way. This is another obvious one, and it’s like anything, or anywhere else. The best and most important thing you can do to make friends on the shooting range is to always stay safe. Additionally, and always with safety in mind, help keep the range clean; pickup your trash, sweep up your brass. Be mindful of time limits, whether it’s for target changes or port usage; try not to make everyone else on the firing line wait on you – at least please don’t make a habit of it. Beyond that, try to check out the scene before diving right in and if space allows, leave a port, a bench or two, between you and the next shooter. I try to never crowd other shooters, especially if I can tell they are new, or possibly in a training session. Likewise, if I can help it, I won’t setup with my AR, which BARKS, right next to someone shooting rimfire. Think about it, for the newbie, the trip to the range can be overwhelming and intimidating enough, they don’t necessarily want Rambo setting up right next to them if other ports or benches are open. You get the idea.
- Never lose your focus on safety, but keep it light and have fun. It should be a great time, and a great experience.
Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!
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