Woman takes lessons in shooting with a handgun on the shooting range

Range Etiquette 

If you are new to shooting, you are also new to gun ranges. If you’re looking to purchase a gun – whether it’s for protection or you’d just like to get into shooting – it’s a great idea to hit the range first. Shooting at a gun range, particularly one at a gun shop where you can also purchase your new firearm, will allow you to get some practice while trying out a few different guns before deciding on what to purchase. You’ll get a better feel for what fits your hand and therefore what size of gun you’d like. You’ll also experience the way each gun handles – the way each kicks and your comfort level operating it.

Outdoor ranges differ from indoor ranges, but here are a few general rules to keep in mind when heading to the range.

Gun Safety

Check the chamber when you first pick up any gun to make sure it doesn’t have a loaded bullet. Always point the gun in a safe direction, assuming the gun is loaded and the safety is off always – even after checking the chamber. Keep your finger off the trigger until you plan to fire the gun.

Wear eye and ear protection – these are usually made available to you at staffed gun ranges. The last thing you want is a hot shell casing flying in your eye after firing the gun. Be aware of your target and what’s behind it. This won’t be an issue if you’re at a typical indoor range, but make sure the area is banked if you’re at an outdoor range.

Size and Kick Correlation 

You may want to choose a larger size gun, regardless of the caliber, especially if this is your very first range trip. Smaller guns will have more kick, as they are funneling the same-sized bullet through a smaller frame. Choosing a gun with a longer barrel will help you aim better, as well.

Shoot with Someone Experienced

Having someone there to show you the ropes will make you – and everyone else around you – a lot more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t try to be a showoff. This is meant to be a learning experience for you.

Handle the Gun Properly

You may have to ask your range buddy for help on this one, as it is easier shown than explained. Both of your thumbs should line up under the slide, stacking one on top of the other – but without wrapping around each other. If the web of your hand is too high on the grip, the slide could injure you when the gun recoils and the slide comes back.

Know When to Stop Shooting

If someone requests a ceasefire at an outdoor range, they likely want to go down range and collect their target. Only when everyone has stopped shooting and safely put their guns down should anyone go down range.

Face Forward When Holding the Gun

This one is simple, if you are always pointing your gun down range, in a safe direction, as you should be. Simply said, you will frighten everyone else at the range if you turn around with a gun in your hand.

Step Up to the Shooting Line

For safety reasons, always step up to the shooting line when firing your gun so that you are beside – rather than laterally behind or in front of – anyone else who is shooting.


This is a learning experience, but keep in mind that you will only become proficient shooter if you can become comfortable shooting.

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