Your first visit to a Washington shooting range can be downright intimidating, especially if you have never shot a gun or aren’t already familiar with handling a firearm. Whereas the need to observe caution when wielding a gun cannot be overemphasized, there’s no reason to be fearful or apprehensive about it if you go to a range that’s managed by experienced firearms instructors.
Still, your experience is more likely to be a pleasant, rewarding and fun one if you apply the following set of practical tips.
Use a Gun Case
A gun case, whether soft or hard, is a good thing for you and those around you at the shooting range. As a newbie, you’ll feel less nervous walking into a place you’ve never been to before. It also puts the gun range staff at ease even though they are used to seeing guns every other minute. Remember that when you walk through the door as an unfamiliar face, the staff cannot tell whether you are a person with good intent or are looking to rob them.
Even when you eventually move into the shooting area, make the most of the gun case as much as you can up until the moment you are standing at the firing line. As a first-timer, it’s best to set your encased gun on the table before you remove the weapon in order to ensure it’s already pointing downrange.
Unsure? Ask for Help
When you go to a shooting range, you can expect to come across numerous people who have been handling guns for decades. In this environment, you may feel a little embarrassed to ask questions that would come across as shockingly obvious to seasoned hands. Nevertheless, we are talking guns here, so you cannot afford to take any chances.
In fact, you should take advantage of your first few days to shoot a flurry of questions on anything and everything guns (without being obnoxious, of course). Shooting range staff are famously friendly, so you can expect many to be more than willing to show you the way whenever you need help. That will guarantee your safety and that of the people around you.
Wear a Tight-Collared Top or Shirt
Semi-automatic pistols and rifles eject spent cases each time a shot is fired. Having borne the brunt of the thousands pounds-strong force of a shot, the brass cases are hot—very hot. This can be a hazard, especially at indoor ranges. The cartridge may bounce off walls and ceilings with no certainty of where it will end up.
There’s a good chance that one of these cases may land right inside a shirt’s neck opening. Given the incredible heat, the cartridge may inflict a severe burning sensation immediately, thus triggering a reflex reaction in the affected person. If you have a gun in hand, this is a dangerous scenario as you could accidentally pull the trigger in a random direction during the confusion.
You can easily prevent this risk by wearing a tightly collared shirt or top, as well as safety goggles and additional gear that is offered at any gun range.
Sandals or flip-flops are an absolute no-no at the shooting range for the same reasons as an open-collared shirt. Your exposed feet could be seared by the falling casings that get trapped in the gaps, thus momentarily drawing your concentration from the deadly weapon in your hand.
Wear well-fitting shoes and socks. At outdoor ranges, shoes serve other positive uses as well and will protect you from tripping and falling easily, as well as keeping you firm in your posture.
Strictly Adhere to Muzzle Discipline
You are likely to make plenty of friends and enjoy widespread support from the get-go if you demonstrate a rigorous adherence to muzzle discipline. You may feel a little silly, especially if you look around and notice some of the range veterans casually breaking this sacred rule. Even in the unlikely event that you are the only one on the range who appears fixated with making sure their gun muzzle is pointing straight downrange at all times, do not lower your guard.
Granted, muzzle discipline can be quite difficult and you could easily get caught up in other aspects of gun handling to the extent that you forget this basic principle. Inculcate a muzzle check into your routine each time you reach for the gun, whether loading, unloading, racking the slide, and removing and returning it from the case.
Follow the Trigger Finger Rule
Muzzle discipline is crucial on the shooting range, but trigger finger control is arguably even more critical. Keep your finger away from the trigger at all times, except when you are actually firing. As soon as you finish taking your shots, remove the finger from the trigger.
Pay attention to situations where you may unintentionally (or ‘harmlessly’) place your finger on the trigger, such as when discussing a previous shot with a friend or when loading and unloading the gun.
Your activity at the shooting range doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you would exactly consider strenuous. Still, staying hydrated on the range is less about compensating for physical exertion and more about making sure you are in optimal health at all times. When dehydration occurs, the first thing to go is your concentration and focus and this can spell disaster on the range.
Develop a hydration routine that doesn’t depend on your feeling thirsty (by the time you are thirsty, you’re already in a state you shouldn’t be). Take breaks between sessions to sip a bottle of water. You will probably experience faster dehydration in the heat of the outdoor range than in the more air-controlled environment of an indoor gun range, so your outdoor water intake must be calibrated accordingly. Click here if you’re interested in looking at the conditions in an indoor shooting range in Washington.
Wash Your Hands
The shooting range is a public space and you can never really know the general state of hygiene of every person walking in. More importantly, the range (and your body thereafter) is teeming with lead residue from bullet dust. This may be hazardous to your health if ingested with food or drink.
Therefore, wash your hands with water and soap before leaving the range or when taking longer breaks between shooting. Some ranges provide special lead-cleaning wipes that are designed to get rid of lead particles and you should take advantage of these when they are available.
Different people will have different experiences in different shooting ranges. Some incidents will be outside your control. Nevertheless, by taking charge of the things you can control, such as the ones listed above, you are more likely to have a smooth and memorable landing on your first visit.