Be prepared before you go
1. Gather Supplies
Check your stash of safety equipment, ammunition, gun cleaning supplies and targets you’ll need for a successful day at the range. If you’re short on anything, some ranges have their own supply for sale, so check with them and you may be able to pick it up on site.
2. Check Weapon and Ammo Restrictions
Check the range rules for any restrictions on the types of weapons you’re allowed to bring to the range. Depending on local ordinances and barrier restrictions, many prohibit shotguns and/or certain caliber rifles. Additionally, steel cased ammunition (vs brass cased) is typically not allowed in most indoor ranges because of its potential to spark and the possible damage the round can cause to range equipment.
3. Know What to Wear
Similar to the military saying “train as you fight” you should train in attire that you might be wearing when you use your handgun (this includes your holster) or rifle. Dress appropriately by first checking if the range has a dress code.
If they don’t, then appropriate gear includes:
- Personal Protective Equipment. PPE is the starting point of proper attire for all range visits. This includes eye and hearing protection.
- Comfortable pants. If you’re shooting in the prone position, wear pants.
- Many shooters prefer tactical or cargo pants with lots of pockets for additional magazines, phones, wallet, etc.
- A short or long sleeve shirt. It’s also recommended to wear a top with a high neck or collar. Hot brass can easily fall inside a shirt with an open collar or v-neck and could cause a shooter to react and make unsafe movements, endangering themselves or fellow shooters.
- Comfortable shoes that offer a sturdy stance. Do not wear open-toed shoes.
- Your LTC holster so you can practice drawing your gun.
When you get there
4. Ask Questions
This one is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I used to shoot competitively so I feel pretty comfortable on a range, but it’s important to swallow that pride every time I shoot at a new range and take some time to acquaint myself with the layout and policies.
If you are relatively new to shooting or haven’t done it in a while, bring a friend who is experienced in the handling and shooting of the weapons you plan to use.
5. Check in with the range officer
Don’t be offended or taken aback if the range officer inspects your weapon(s) and/or ammunition or observes your weapon handling/proficiency during your first few shots. It’s as imperative that he/she is comfortable with you being on the range as you are!
6. Know and Respect the rules
Find out what the rules are and read them. Some ranges have a video for first time visitors or a sheet they must read, agree to and sign. Some ranges just post the rules near the entrance. There’s no excuse for not knowing the rules on a range. Not following the rules can get you kicked off the range or worse: endanger you and your fellow shooters. Respect the rules and your fellow shooting sport enthusiasts.
Some common safety rules apply to all ranges. Always follow these when at the range.
- Carry your weapon in a case
- This may or may not be a law where you live, but it’s always safer to transport your weapon in a case
- Don’t bring loaded weapons
- Carrying loaded weapons to and from the range may be prohibited. For those who conceal carry, it’s important to remember this.
- Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
- Point your handgun down range. Most ranges have tables in your lane for you to set your case on and unload your weapon. From the moment you take the weapon out of the case, ensure it’s pointed down range at all times.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
- Understand range commands
- Occasionally you may hear “cease fire” or “weapons down” when an incident causes all shooters to have to stop. Don’t panic but calmly put your weapon on safe, place your weapon on the bench/rest and await further commands or instructions. Review common range commands before you go.
- Be aware of your target and your lane limits
- Understand that automatic or rapid-fire semi automatic may not be permitted. Squeezing off multiple rounds in succession is distracting to other firers and doing so can cause the shooter to lose control of the weapon’s muzzle
7. Pick up your brass
Periodically picking or sweeping up your brass keeps your shooting lane tidy and less susceptible to someone slipping or misstepping on a pile of shell casings. Once you are done with shooting, clean up your space.
After you leave
Congratulations, you have had a safe and fun day at the range. However, it doesn’t end here. We recommend the following:
- Ensure you unload your weapons and separate guns/ammo during transport as prescribed by law
- Clean your weapons (familiarize yourself with safe disassembly and assembly) to prevent issues the next time you are at the range
- Store your weapons and ammunition in a safe that is not accessible to children