Getting to the range for the first time is a rite of passage for anyone just getting into shooting. I knew many people who owned guns long before they actually shot this. I did this myself when I first got into the sport.

If you don’t have someone to go with, your first time can be intimidating. The fear of judgement and ridicule is real, and the knowledge that guns are weapons doesn’t help alleviate any of that stress.

However, there are a few things you can be aware of beforehand that can make the whole experience easier.

The first is this: everyone at the range will be kind and respectful. Or, at least, a vast majority of them will be. Many will be more than happy to show you anything you need help with. This is for two reasons:

  • Everyone there respects the power of the weapon.
  • No one wants to get shot by an idiot who doesn’t.

If you need help, you can always ask.

Now, there are a few other things you can do that will make your first trip go as smoothly as possible.

Brush up on Range Etiquette

There are a number of solid rules to know before you shoot a gun anywhere. Most are meant to keep you safe.

  • Always keep the muzzle pointed downrange.
  • Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
  • Never shoot at anything except your target.

These are some of the most basic rules. Generally, being mindful of others and treating your weapon with an overabundance of caution will always keep your fellow shooters happy.

Know Your Local Range Rules

A lot of local ranges have rules that are specific to each range, or each region of your state. The Markham Park shooting range rules are posted on the range page.

Bans on modified, automatic, or high-caliber weapons aren’t uncommon, but also aren’t uniform. You really don’t want the highlight of your first trip being told to leave because your 12-gauge has a pistol grip on it. Check online to see if your local range has the rules posted, or call ahead. The instructors will be happy to give you a detailed account of exactly what you need to know.

If all else fails, there should be a sign at your range telling you exactly what you can and can’t do.

Know Your Range’s Commands

The two most understood commands on any firing range are “ceasefire” and “commence firing.” They’re pretty self-explanatory.

However there could very well be other commands designed to keep everyone safe. If you’re range’s website doesn’t have these list of commands available, call or ask the range safety officer. Failing to know these commands could make you an actual liability in the event of an emergency.

Wear Protection

I know. I know. I’m not your mother. You can decide how much safety equipment you want to wear (although some ranges absolutely do not let you decide).

If you’re at a more lax range, still wear ear and eye protection. Gunpowder residue will get in your eyes if you don’t, and I can tell you from experience, it’s no fun.

Even if you’re just plinking with a measly .22, put in your earplugs. You never know when the guy three bays down from you will pull out his AR and leave even the neighbor’s ears ringing.

Anything else you can think to be prepared for? Leave your tips in the comments down below!