Shooting Range Tips for Beginners
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.
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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").
Bring along an experienced friend.
One of the main requirements to go to a shooting range is for first-timers to take a fundamentals course before getting started. 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."
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."
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