Know Before You Shoot: Tips for Your First Trip to the Shooting Range

Did you know that there are about 16,000 to 18,000 firing ranges in the US alone? That translates to about 320 to 360 firing ranges per state!

All that implies just how booming the shooting range market is. More will likely open, considering how gun sales in the nation continue to skyrocket. In fact, US consumers have purchased almost 17 million new guns in 2020 alone.

If you’re a first-time gun owner yourself, it’s smart to practice at a local firing range. These are heavily-regulated facilities, so there are fewer risks of accidents. Licensed ranges also have expert marksmen and veteran instructors you can rely on.

Still, it pays to know what you should and shouldn’t do at a range even before you step foot in one.

To that end, we came up with this guide covering beginner gun use tips. Read on so you can stay safe while having a blast at a local range.

Master the Five Golden Rules of Handling Firearms

A gun instructor at a shooting range will go through these five rules with you. However, you should memorize them even before you visit the range. They’re for everyone’s safety, and implementing them at all times can keep accidents at bay.

  1. Assume that all guns have a loaded magazine.
  2. Never touch the trigger until you’re 100% ready to shoot.
  3. Always check the area surrounding your target.
  4. Keep the firearm pointed downward until you’re ready to aim at a target.
  5. Never leave a firearm loaded when not in use.

It’s vital to note that the first golden rule applies to all guns you haven’t loaded yourself. So, always treat all firearms as loaded, and never point it at anything else aside from your target.

Get a Load of Basic Gun Part Knowledge

Learn the basic anatomy of firearms before you go for the first time to a shooting range. This is especially true for the moving parts, which include the action and the barrel. The “action” is the section that loads and fires ammo, while the barrel is where a fired bullet comes from.

It’s also best to know the location of safety switches, such as the slide stop and grip safety.

You’ll find the slide stop at the center of the left side of the barrel in most pistols. Keep in mind that this safety mechanism only unlocks once the gun no longer has ammunition. Even if you think the cartridge is empty, it’s not so long as the slide stop remains locked.

As for the grip safety, it’s a lever usually found at the back of a gun’s grip. When depressed, this switch makes the firearm “active.” So, make sure you don’t engage this unless you’re ready to shoot.

Be Smart When Choosing a Shooting Range

According to, shooting ranges can have air contaminated with lead. This is a consequence of all the propellant powder discharged when firing a gun.

Keep in mind that lead is a toxicant, and exposure to it can cause anemia and weakness at the very least. Long-term exposure, on the other hand, can result in kidney and even brain damage.

As such, two of the first things to look for in a range are certificates of OSHA and RCRA compliance. These certify that a range has passed tests regarding toxic wastes such as lead.

As an added precaution, bring an extra facial mask. This way, you can wear the fresh one after your session and discard the one that you used while at the range.

Eye and Ear Protection Are a Must at All Times

Speaking of facial masks, consider bringing your own eye and ear protective gear, too. Do note that most firing ranges rent these out or include them as part of a package. They also get disinfected after and before every use.

However, it’s more hygienic if you use your own. These two, after all, are forms of “personal” protective equipment.

Shooting glasses protect your eyes from dust, debris, gases, and other air contaminants. They also safeguard your peepers from stray shards or other tiny objects. High-quality shooting glasses also help prevent glare when shooting outdoors.

As for earplugs and earmuffs, be sure to choose a pair with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of between 28 and 31. It’s best to wear both when you shoot, as they’re more effective in dampening gun noises when worn together. With these, you can better protect yourself from hearing loss.

Keep in mind that gunshot noises can cause permanent ear damage. At the very least, their loud sounds can disorient you and make you feel wobbly. That’s why you should always have your ear protection on, especially if other people are at the range.

Dress the Part

There’s always a risk of burn injuries when you shoot a gun, as hot brass may come into contact with your skin. Hot brass can come from discharged bullet shells or shards of ammunition cases.

You can minimize your risks by donning closed-toed shoes whenever you shoot. Long-sleeved shirts with high necklines are also a smart outfit choice. It’s also best to wear comfortable pants that cover your entire legs.

There’s Always a Line You Should Never Cross

Indoor and outdoor shooting ranges have set firing lines that are either red or orange. In indoor facilities, you’ll see these lines running along the booths’ downrange edge. These are the areas where you’ll shoot from, and you should never walk past them.

Prepare for the Recoil With These Smart Gun Use Tips

Always remember that incorrect use of guns can result in life-threatening situations. That’s why you should prepare as much as you can before you head to a shooting range for the first time. An instructor will always be with you, but it doesn’t hurt to have prior knowledge to keep accidents at bay.

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