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Most Important Tips for Starting Out at the Range

Firing a gun creates a mental and emotional rush. However, first time experiences can trigger fight-or-flight responses as the body responds to the feeling of danger. The best way to begin is at a shooting range. Learn to shoot in a safe and controlled environment. While it may seem intimidating, as you become more comfortable, you’ll enjoy the rush of serotonin and the positive physical responses. Overcome your fear and enjoy the benefits of shooting with these tips for shooting out at the range. 


Get Mentally Prepared

Athletes understand that to get proficient in any physical skill, you also need the right mental preparation. Learning to shoot a gun is no exception. Police One explains that mentally preparing is essential for the safe operation of a firearm. Training your brain and visualisation is essential for success.

What does this involve? Novice shooters should begin by working with an expert firearm instructor. This instructor will be able to provide homework that can be done when not engaging in live-fire.

Beginning your time at a firing range with a qualified instructor will help develop confidence and skills and make your time at the range a better experience. Mental preparation and mindset are critical components of firearm training. 


Start with the Fundamentals

The saying is true that it’s harder to undo bad habits than it is to learn the right way. A mistake many novice shooters make is that they don't take the time to learn how to shoot properly at the range the first time. Mastering the basics is key to shooting well.

Here are the critical fundamentals that should be practiced at the range.


guidance at the range



If you don't have the proper grip on your weapon, your shooting will be poor. A solid grip is the most important fundamental skill. To have a good grip, you must first have a gun that fits your hand. 



Many first-time shooters don't think about stance. Where you place your feet and how you position your body is vital for firing correctly. Weapons should be held at shoulder level. Shoulders should roll forward slightly while the body slightly tilts forward. This gives the shooter a stable position for firing. 


Trigger Control

Another mistake made by novice shooters is the lack of trigger control. Instead of slapping the trigger, there needs to be a smooth drawing action until the trigger releases. Depending on the type of gun you are firing, there are tips your instructor can give you to pull the trigger of your firearm most effectively. 


Safety at the Range

Safety is paramount when working with firearms. The experts at US Glock explain that training, comfort, and experience are the basic essentials in learning to use your firearm safely. They outline the most essential rules.


paper targets and a pistol


4 Primary Rules


1. Always treat your firearm as if it is loaded.


2. Point the muzzle in a safe direction at all times.


3. Don't put your finger on the trigger until your sight is aligned, and you are ready to fire.


4. Make sure the area beyond your target is clear.


There are additional safety considerations. These rules should always be followed to ensure your time at the range is safe for you and those around you.


• Know your gun's features and make sure you’re familiar with how they all work.

• You should practice at a range regularly to build muscle memory and gain confidence with your weapon. This will allow you to fire your gun naturally and comfortably. 

• Store your gun safely and correctly. Always use a safe and gun lock if possible.

• Educate those around you about the safety guidelines regarding your firearm. Education will help prevent accidents. 

• Proper maintenance includes cleaning, service, and lubrication. This will keep your firearm functioning properly.


Gun Range Etiquette Guide


Before your first visit to a firing range, understand the critical terminology to follow proper etiquette. NRA Family explains the terms you will need to know. 




‘Ceasefire’ or ‘Stop Shooting’ – these terms are used when all shooting must stop because time is up, targets are retrieved, or there’s a problem. During this time, there should be no handling of any firearms.


‘Clear’ or ‘Is Everyone Clear?’ – All shooters have removed their ammunition, the action is open, hands are off the weapons, and everyone has stepped away from the firing line. 


‘The range is going hot’ – This is an alert that there is a shift from the ceasefire, but it does not mean you can start firing. A "hot" range means firing will commence, a "cold" range means weapons are unloaded.


‘Commence Firing’ – This is the command that alerts everyone that it's now safe to resume firing. 


Backstop – the material behind the targets designed to stop bullets.


Range Safety Officer (RSO) – the person in charge at the range.


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – must be worn at a range.


Rules of Etiquette


target practice


Following proper etiquette is imperative to safety at a shooting range. Know, understand, and follow these rules.


• Follow the 4 Safety Rules

• Know who the RSO is and follow all his/her instructions.

• Never handle your weapon behind the firing line. Your firearm should only be loaded when at the firing line and when the range is hot.

• Know the range rules about when you can load your gun. 

• PPE must be worn when the range is hot.

• Only shoot at the target in front of you, never across lanes. Only shoot into a backstop.

• Don't interfere with an active shooter unless there’s an unsafe situation.

• When a ceasefire is called, stop what you’re doing immediately and unload your weapon. 

• Don't handle any firearm or cross the firing line during a ceasefire.

• Clean up your brass and remove targets and debris when finished shooting.

• Wash your hands to remove any lead after shooting. 


For more information, watch this YouTube video Introduction to Shooting Range Safety and Etiquette.


Prepare Your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


Whether you are at an indoor or outdoor shooting range, PPE is a necessity. Family Armory breaks down why this equipment is essential.


Eye Protection

Safety glasses should be worn at all times due to bullet casings being ejected and bouncing off walls and other objects. If you’re outdoors, consider eye protection that offers protection from glare and UV rays. 


Glasses are especially important when there are multiple shooters. This will mean that more hot casings are being released, and there’s a greater potential to be struck by a hot, stray casing. 


Hearing Protection

Any noise of more than 140 dB can cause permanent hearing damage. Most guns fire at a decibel over 140 dB. The sound is increased indoors when they bounce off walls, which adds to the risk of hearing loss. Muzzles can also make firearms louder.


Everyone who fires a weapon, indoors or outdoors, should wear quality ear protection to prevent hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur with a single shot if the conditions are right. 


Clothes and Apparel

Hot bullet casings pose a danger if proper apparel isn’t worn. PPE can prevent burns or shock from sudden impact with a hot casing against the skin. A reaction from encountering a hot casing can cause a reflexive jerk from a shooter that might cause an accidental discharge. The right protective clothing can prevent a hot casing from encountering a body part and causing a serious accident. 




What to Expect on Your First Visit to the Range


Triggers and Bows give these tips for your first time at the shooting range. You may be a little nervous, but most people feel the same way. Here's what to expect and what to do to feel more comfortable.


1. There will be other beginners. Try not to feel out of place. You’re there to gain skills and comfort with handling a weapon. Don't be afraid to ask questions.


2. You’ll be asked questions like ‘what is your experience level?’. Your ammo will most likely be inspected, and you’ll be asked if you brought your PPE. You may be asked if you need to purchase ammo or targets or if you brought your own.


3. Find out who the Range Officer is and let him or her know this is your first time. Find out the rules for that range.


4. Have everything organised before you go to the range so you will be ready when shooting commences. Your lane will be assigned upon your arrival. You can then hang your target and unpack your weapon.


5. Your gun's slide will always need to be in the open position when your weapon is on the bench. Your gun should also be unloaded. When loading your gun, still have the gun pointed downrange and stay in your lane until ready to shoot.


Firing a weapon at a shooting range is an exciting and exhilarating experience. You may feel anxious about your first visit to a shooting range. This is normal. If you know the terminology, have the proper equipment, get a good instructor, and follow proper etiquette, you will have a better experience. Develop good habits from the beginning and proper shooting techniques and discover the thrill of the shooting range.