What to Expect on Your First Day at the Gun Range

You won’t need everything in this photo, we just thought it looked cool.

Your first trip to the gun range can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking time. To help you make the most of your time (and ammo), we put together an introductory article that will help you shed some of those fears and walk in the shooting range more confidently.

The Golden Rules of Gun Safety

When handling a firearm there are four fundamental rules to always follow.

  1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
  4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it

There are many variants of these four rules and Wikipedia has a wonderful resource article that lists them and gives credit to the origins.  Practicing a strict discipline with these four rules (not just at the gun range but every time you handle a firearm) will help prevent many firearm accidents.  

There will be some paperwork for your first visit to the range that generally goes over guidelines, restrictions, and safety practices for that particular range.[This will set the expectations the range officers will hold you to.

What to Bring to the Gun Range

A Gun Case

  • A gun case is the best way to transport a firearm and will offer peace of mind to you and those working at the range. Use your case as much as possible once at the range, opening the case only at the table at your firing lane or if the range officer would like to inspect your firearm.

Safety Glasses and Hearing Protection

  • The gun range is an exciting and busy place. It is also a very loud place once inside the firing area. Proper hearing protection cuts down the noise immensely and is a preventive measure from any hearing damage. Your second pivotal piece of protection are safety glasses that fit snugly against your face. While firing your firearm the spent casing will be eject and are nice and hot upon contact. Safety glasses will prevent any spent casings from making contact with your eyes. Academy Sports has great selections on shooting glasses and hearing protection.

Proper Clothing

  • Your eyes are not the only thing that needs protection from those pesky hot casings. Closed-toed shoes are highly recommended (if not required by the range) and consider wearing a tight collar shirt. As entertaining as it is to watch someone dance as a hot casing slides down there shirt it does open the opportunity for a firing accident as your focus is pulled away from your firearm. A quick tip for women: V cut shirts can be risky to wear as the exposed cleavage is the perfect place for a spent casing to call home!

Firearm

  • This one might seem pretty obvious but one important to consider is what types of firearms are allowed to be fired at the range. If looking to shoot your new Glock an indoor range will be perfect whereas the AR-15 owner will likely need to find an outdoor range.
  • It isn’t required to bring your own firearm when visiting the gun range. Most ranges will let you rent a firearm to try at their range. This is a perfect opportunity to speak with an expert about a firearm. It’s also the perfect time to try a few different firearms out if considering purchasing and not sure which one is the right one for you.

Ammunition

  • Gun ranges do offer ammunition but purchasing ahead of time can make your trip to the range much easier on the wallet. One catch is some ranges require you to get your ammo through them if renting one of their firearms to try out.
  • Again, check ahead of time if you bring your own ammo to the range to make sure they have any restrictions on what can be fired. We recommend American Eagle 9mm for your trip to an indoor range and Federal Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing for those outdoor ranges.

Indoor Gun Range Vs. Outdoor Gun Range

Indoor Range

  • The indoor range is the perfect place for those wanting to try smaller firearms such as 9mm pistols and snub noses.
    • Some indoor ranges allow for larger firearms but due to the shorter distance for firing some restrictions are set in place on higher caliber rifles and a select few shotguns.
  • There will be targets that can be purchased 

Outdoor  Range

  • Outdoor ranges follow the same outline of the indoor range however it has some advantages. 
  • Shooting at an outdoor range allows for longer firing distances allowing for high caliber rifles.
  • Another advantage with outdoors is due to the open space there are fewer restrictions on the type of ammo allowed to be fired at the range
  • One drawback is targets must be set up manual instead of having the pulley system that moves your target down range
    • Since shooters have to walk down to reset or set up targets be very mindful of other shooters and never fire if a “cease-fire is called”

Gun Range Pro-Tip

If your weapon ever jams at the range or you have a question about your firearm be very mindful of where you’re pointing your muzzle when asking for assistance. Range officers really don’t like loaded weapons being aimed in their direction. Honestly, can you blame them?

Oh, and don’t forget to bring some free shooting targets!