If you’ve made the decision to learn how to properly shoot a gun — congratulations! Learning how to defend yourself and protect others is extremely rewarding. However, going to the range as a first-time shooter can be extremely nerve wracking and may give you some anxiety.
Here are some tips for first-time shooters to help you be prepared and feel comfortable to step inside the range and shoot a gun for the first time.
Go to the range with someone who knows what they’re doing
Whether it’s your dad, your boyfriend, your mom, or best friend — if there’s someone in your life who is a regular at the shooting range, ask them to take you. They can show you the ins-and-outs of shooting, and you’ll most likely feel more comfortable being there with someone who has experience.
Added bonus: if they are a member at the range you’re going to, there’s a good chance that they get to bring a free or discounted guest.
Take a firearms safety class
This is especially important if you don’t have a relationship with anyone who shoots regularly. Consider doing this before even picking up a gun for the first time. You’ll get a hands-on look at gun safety and the functionality of firearms, preparing for when you step inside the range for the first time.
Many ranges offer these classes, so contact your local one to see what they have to offer! If not, there are probably local organizations in your town that offer them from time to time. Just do a quick Google search for firearms safety classes in your area!
Develop a firm and steady grip on the gun
This is something that you’ll learn either in a firearms safety course or from an experienced shooter. Basically, you’ll need a firm, steady, and stable grip on the gun that you can easily repeat every single time you shoot.
Speak with the range officer
You should always speak with a range officer when you are in a new range for the first time. Every range has different rules and regulations, so it’s important to know theirs before shooting.
Make sure you have proper eye and ear protection
This isn’t just a suggestion… eye and ear protection are 100% necessary. Most of the time, you won’t even be allowed on the range without proper protection. You will need a pair of shooting/safety glasses.
Ear protection is always necessary — even if you’re shooting by yourself with a silencer. There are numerous options, from ear muffs (my personal favorite) to earplugs. They come in so many different colors and designs, so this is a chance to have some fun and add a little personality to your shooting experience.
Be prepared for it to be loud
Even with ear protection (which is necessary), a gunshot is not even close to quiet, especially when there are multiple shots going off inside of a range. Having that expectation that it will be loud helps prepare you for being on the line.
Check out the rules for the range before going
As I said before, every range has different rules and regulations. Make sure to check them out online before going. Certain ranges have restrictions on the type of firearms and ammunition that you’re allowed to bring and shoot.
Always, always, always make sure that you bring your gun(s) unloaded with the magazine out and the chamber empty.
Learn how to control the trigger
Dry fire the gun a few times before actually shooting it to get used to the trigger control. This will help you be prepared for how to squeeze the trigger when the gun is loaded, and can help prepare you for the blast that comes along with actually firing a gun.
Wear proper clothing
Make sure to wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty. Don’t wear a low-cut shirt — hot brass going down your shirt would not be a fun time! I personally suggest wearing close-toed shoes and pants whenever possible, just because the hot brass shell could potentially hit anywhere on you, and it isn’t the most pleasant feeling.
Don’t pretend that you’ve shot before
Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to tell anyone that you’re new to shooting. Every single shooter has started out with no experience. Tell the employees and range officers that it’s your first time shooting — they’ll be able to teach you the ropes.
Get an empty chamber indicator
This is a brightly colored rod that is inserted through the barrel or action. It lets others know that your firearm is empty. When you set down your weapon, lock the slide open or have the cylinder empty and open, and insert the empty chamber indicator. This will let others know that your firearm is not loaded, and allows people to feel safe if anyone needs to go down range.
Also, NEVER point your gun anywhere other than downrange! This isn’t only unsafe, but is a surefire way to get kicked out of the range.
Purchase a range bag
This is necessary if you’re planning on going shooting on a regular basis. It’s super useful for holding everything you need neatly — your firearms, targets, ammo, eye and ear protection, sanitary wipes, and more! Here are a few great options here and here.