We’ve all been itching to get back to the range, but whether you’re an experienced shooter, or brand new to firearms, it pays to be prepared when you’re heading to the shooting range. Here are some helpful tips to staying everyday ready on your next range day.
You know how they say there’s an exception to every rule? Well, the exceptions to that rule are the four rules of firearm safety. These rules must always be observed, and there are absolutely no exceptions when it comes to gun safety. New shooters, take the time to learn these forward and backward by heart, and experienced shooters should always take the time to walk through them with new shooters prior to taking them to the range:
- Treat guns as if they are always loaded: Countless people have been injured or worse because they assumed that a gun was unloaded and that it was therefore okay to handle it carelessly. If you’re new to shooting, just remember, there is no such thing as an unloaded gun.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire: The best place to rest your index finger when handling a firearm is right above the trigger in-line with the barrel and along the side of the firearm. Keep it completely outside of the trigger guard until the gun is levelled with the ground, aimed at your target, and you are certain of your target and what is behind it.
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction: This almost always means straight up, straight down, or directly downrange. Never “sweep” or allow the muzzle to point at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
- Be sure of your target and what is behind it: Always remember that shots carry and can ricochet in unpredictable and potentially dangerous directions. When shooting outdoors, make sure that your target has an adequate backstop like a berm or hillside so you know exactly where every shot will end up and never shoot at rocks, water, or pavement.
Experienced shooters should make sure that newer shooters are following all of the rules of firearm safety at all times. Also, keep in mind that just because you’re following the rules doesn’t mean that everyone around you is following them. Keep your eyes open while at the range and watch out for shooters who are not following all of the rules. If you see someone handling firearms unsafely, report them to range staff immediately.
Whether you’re shooting on private land or a public range, you should always take some time to plan for the worst-case scenario. In the event that you or a member of your group suffers an injury, know where the nearest hospital is and be sure to designate a vehicle ahead of time. If worst comes to worst, these are not things you’ll want to be figuring out when the clock is ticking.
If you’re shooting at a public range, consider how you would make the call to emergency services in the event of a worst-case scenario: “There has been a shooting” elicits a very different response from “There has been a firearms related accident”. Keep the location name and address handy in-case you need to provide it to emergency services.
Lastly, you should always include basic medical supplies in your range setup. At a minimum, your first aid supplies should include PPE, a tourniquet, and basic bandaging, but you may also want to include wound packing and medical shears in your range setup. Remember that the best medical equipment in the world is useless if you do not know how and when to properly apply it. Seek out medical training from credible instructors and encourage your fellow shooters to do the same. Your knowledge and the supplies you have with you could potentially save lives.
Eyes and Ears
Every range bag should always include quality hearing and eye protection, and both should be worn at all times while shooting. When shooting outdoors, take a second to makes sure that everyone around you has their “eyes and ears” on before shooting, and get in the habit of announcing clearly when you’re about to go hot.
Ballistic-rated eyewear offers the best protection from any harmful debris or shrapnel that may be directed toward the shooter. Electronic hearing protection is also ideal for newer shooters as it will allow them to hear instructions/voices more clearly. Whenever possible, shooters should “double up” on hearing protection meaning wearing both in-ear plugs and over earmuffs for two reasons: One, extra protection never hurts especially if you shoot often. Two, there are some who believe that new shooters flinch more from the sound of the shot than they do from the recoil.
Open toed shoes and low-cut tops for women are never suitable range attire. Keep in mind that a hot brass case is ejected from the firearm with each and every shot. All guns are designed to direct these empty cases away from the shooter, but sometimes they have a way of working themselves into the unlikeliest of places, and so extra care should be taken to minimize the risk of these getting stuck against your skin.
Tips for First-Time Shooters
Experienced shooters should take the time to walk through exactly what new shooters should expect from each gun they will be shooting including how the safety mechanisms work and whether or not they can expect brass ejection. If you’re shooting multiple firearms of varying caliber, start small and work your way up. If you’re a first-time shooter or shooting a new caliber for the first time, a good practice is to load only a single round into the first magazine for semi-automatic firearms so that you can get a feel for the recoil prior to shooting with a fully loaded magazine.
Take a minute to walk through proper form, grip, and stance for each platform: rifles and shotguns should be braced firmly into the shoulder pocket and handguns should be gripped with the strength of a firm handshake. When shooting handguns, never cross your thumbs and be sure to keep your hands and fingers clear of moving parts including rearward path of the slide to prevent slide bite or the cylinder of a revolver. When shooting revolvers, keep your hands and fingers behind the front of the cylinder to avoid spalling.
Remember that hot brass happens. In most cases, the burn is very momentary, but the most important thing to remember is that when it does happen, you are still holding onto a loaded firearm and mustn’t panic. In the unlikely event that a stray piece of hot brass should find its way down your shirt, remain calm, keep the gun pointed downrange, remove your finger from the trigger, and set the gun down before removing the case.
In the unlikely event that you’re shooting a handgun and it slips from your grip, let it fall. The natural human reflex is to try to catch it before it hits the ground, but you should never do this. Modern handguns are “drop safe” meaning they are designed not to discharge even when dropped on hard surfaces with a loaded chamber. Fumbling for a loaded gun mid-air, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous. Just remember, if it slips, let it drop.
Whether you’re getting ready for your first or your 1,000th trip to the shooting range, preparing ahead of time can help to ensure it won’t be your last. If you’re new to shooting, don’t be afraid to ask for help and if you’re an experienced shooter, do your part to help newer shooters learn the ropes—we were all there once.
For more tips on how you can always be ready, be sure to check out our Everyday Ready series with Tim Kennedy on YouTube.