6 Tips for Your First Time at the Gun Range
Unlike many firearm owners, I did not really grow up around guns.
When I became interested in guns, I was on my own to figure everything out... or at least on my own to find people and resources that could help me.
In this article, I'll give you 6 tips to make your first trip to the gun range is safe and enjoyable. These tips are a mix of things I did right when starting myself, as well as advice I'd give myself if I could go back in time.
1) Safety is Paramount
Practicing proper gun safety should always be your primary focus! Failing to do so puts not only you at risk but also everyone else at the range.
To start, be sure to carefully listen to or read all the rules at your range. Take your time and remain thoughtful of these rules at all times.
It's also a great idea to take a safety course before shooting by yourself for the first time.
If you don't opt to take a safety course, I'd strongly recommend at least familiarizing yourself with the universal gun safety rules and additional tips.
Last to note, if you think anyone else is doing something unsafe, call a ceasefire or notify the range safety officer (RSO).
2) Ask Questions
When entering a gun range for the first time, leave your ego at the door.
If you don't know something, ask a staff member. You might feel silly asking it, but don't worry! Range workers are used to it, and you're probably the 1000th person to ask that question.
Employees and range owners would rather answer even the most obvious question than risk you doing anything unsafe. You'll also find that "gun people" are a friendly bunch and we love to see new people getting into firearms!
Asking questions is particularly important when on the range. If you have a gun malfunction or aren't sure how to use a firearm, keep it pointed downrange and flag down the RSO for help.
3) Ask a Friend for Help
If you know someone knowledgeable about guns, ask them to join you to the range.
Admittedly, I didn't follow this tip myself, but I've seen firsthand how helpful it can be.
Now being the "gun guy" among my friends and family, I've taken many people to shoot for their first time. Not only can I help them stay safe, but I can also help them learn and perform competently faster than I did teaching myself.
4) Do Your Research
Taking firearms training courses or learning from a friend are the quickest ways to get comfortable and competent with firearms. With that said, you can learn a lot by yourself if you put in the time.
There's a ton of excellent gun content on blogs, websites, and YouTube. You can find an answer to just about any gun question you have with a search. Just be sure that your sources are credible!
5) Limit Your Expectations
Limit your expectations. Not about how fun shooting is going to be, because that will be awesome, but about your abilities.
Most people can manage to be reasonably accurate their first time out using a rifle or shotgun, but handguns can be more challenging.
Regardless of what firearm your using, don't be discouraged if your accuracy needs some work. Over time, you'll continue to improve.
6) Choose Your First Guns Wisely
Though you may be tempted to try that 50 AE Desert Eagle you saw in a video game or movie, that's a bad idea if shooting for your first time.
In fact, I'd recommend starting with firearms chambered in .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR). Among popular calibers, .22 LR generates the least recoil. You can find both pistols and rifles chambered in this caliber. The last reason to love .22 LR is that it's the cheapest ammo around by a large margin!
To give you an idea of what to expect, I'd say it feels slightly more powerful than shooting a paintball gun. Of all the people I've witnessed shoot a .22 LR firearm as their first shooting experience, I've never seen anyone have issues handling it.
How I Start New Shooters
When I bring someone to shoot for the first time, I start them out with a rifle chambered in .22 LR. I choose a rifle, rather than a pistol because rifles are easier to shoot and more difficult to make safety mistakes with. Once they're comfortable with that, I move them onto a .22 LR pistol.
Using these easily manageable guns, you can:
- Overcome any nervousness, anxiety, or fear that you have about shooting.
- Start building good shooting habits, while avoiding bad habits like flinching in anticipation of recoil.
- Begin learning how to operate firearms.
After a bit of time on these firearms, you can move up to larger caliber firearms like 9mm pistols and AR-15 rifles (chambered in .223/5.56).
Have Fun and Be Safe!
That wraps up my list of tips to know before your first time going to the gun range.
Don't stress too much trying to be perfectly accurate your first time shooting. Instead, focus on staying safe and having fun!
Over time, you'll continuously improve as you work on your skill and enjoy this great hobby.