First Time at the Shooting Range? Read These Tips for Beginners

BY: Editors |Aug 31, 2022

shooting range

If you've never been to a shooting range, it might be confusing, even downright intimidating. We talked to an expert—Peter Roberts, assistant manager of Atlanta's Range, Guns & Safes—to get a few shooting range tips every beginner should know before walking through the front door and trying to figure out how to shoot a gun.

Click here to find deals on shooting ranges near you.


Learn the basic principles of safe gun handling.

Many of Range, Guns & Safes' visitors are first-timers, for whom the activity is "just a recreational thing," according to Roberts. With that in mind, Roberts stresses the importance of learning safe gun handling's four basic principles:

  • Consider the weapon always to be loaded.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger.
  • Point the firearm in the safe direction. In other words, only aim it at the target if you're on the range's firing line, and keep it holstered everywhere else.
  • Always know what your target is and what's behind it (also referred to as the "backstop").



shooting range

Bring along an experienced friend

One of the main requirements before learning how to shoot a gun is for first-timers to take a fundamentals course. Even so, Roberts stresses the importance of attending with at least one experienced shooter—especially if you're going with a larger group. "It's hard to teach four, five, six, seven people about firearm safety, and then keep them safe when they're [on their own]."


Choose a larger version of a smaller pistol.

According to Roberts, any first-time shooter should start off with a smaller-sized pistol, such as a .22 caliber, .38 caliber, or a 9mm. However, it shouldn't be too small.

"The biggest misconception is that little guns don't kick," he says. "Little guns actually kick way more than big guns. We always have to go through the spiel of 'Don't get the itty bitty 9mm, because it'll hurt to shoot it. It kicks real hard. Get the medium or the large 9mm, and it'll kick much less.' It's much easier to handle."



shooting range

Don't put your thumb on the pistol slide.

When you learn to shoot a gun —specifically semi-automatic weapons— beginners "always put their thumb on the top of the rear of the slide," Roberts says, referring to the top part of the gun that moves backwards when fired. "They could get injured that way. We caution them to make sure they put their thumbs on top of thumbs instead of the slide."


Never wear a V-neck.

One overlooked aspect of gun range etiquette is the attire. Some fashion choices are more obvious: not wearing open-toed shoes, for instance, goes without saying. But visitors should also think twice about donning any kind of V-neck shirt. "It creates a funnel effect," cautions Roberts. "And if they hold the gun loosely, then the round will go backwards and go down their shirt. Kind of embarrassing."


Searching for "Shooting ranges near me"?

Click here to find deals on shooting ranges near me, or look for your city below to find the featured deal in your area.

Metro Area Featured Deal
Dallas $39 for shooting-range outing for two at Shoot Smart ($63.73 value)
New York $99 for 1-year membership at Pioneer Shooting Center in Mount Vernon ($210 value)
Detroit $19.50 for shooting-range package for two at Double Action Indoor Shooting Center in Madison Heights ($50 value)
Seattle $55 for two hours of shooting sporting clay at Red’s Fly Shop ($79 value)
San Diego $38 for one-hour shooting-range package for two at P2K Range in El Cajon ($65 value)
Atlanta $30 for shooting-range package for two at Range, Guns & Safes ($55.99 value)
Orlando $24 for shooting-range package for two at Rieg's Gun Shop ($55 value)
Houston $20.50 for shooting-range package for one at Spring Guns and Ammo in Spring ($54.50 value)
Nashville $19 for range pass and gun rental for two at Top Gun Arms in Ethridge ($32.95 value)
Phoenix $50 for handgun shooting-range package for two at Ted's Shooting Range in Queen Creek ($86.14 value)
Denver $46.50 for shooting-range package for two at The Shootist in Englewood ($60.50 value)
Philadelphia $35 for one pistol- or rifle-shooting package for two at Delaware Valley Sport Center ($72 value)