Here's What To Expect At The Range
April 1, 2020
If you are new to shooting, going to the range may be a bit intimidating. I know my girls were nervous the first time, and they wanted to know all about it before they went. Just knowing what to expect and how to act takes a lot of the apprehension out of things, so here's what you need to know about going to the shooting range.
I usually visit Ben Avery Shooting Range on the Carefree Highway, but shooting ranges will all have very similar rules. Safety, obviously, is the number-one priority at the range, and most of the rules are made to keep everyone safe. Here are the rules:
1. All firearms must be in a case or worn holstered on strong side to enter the main range. You can't use scabbards or gun socks instead. Why? Because the trigger can still be pulled through a sock, that's why. Or the gun could fall out of a scabbard.
2. Firearms must be cased and uncased only at the shooting tables, and only with the muzzles pointed downrange.
3. Firearms must be pointed down range at all times and transported muzzle up.
4. Hearing and eye protection is required. I recommend good quality ear muffs like Peltors because some of the guns around you may be very loud. Those little sponge things won't cut it.
5. When cease fire is called, all firearms must be completely unloaded and all magazines removed. The range personnel will walk down the tables and inspect all firearms that are on the tables. Before you go to the range, make sure you know how to unload your gun and lock the action open so it can be inspected without having to be touched.
6. Kids under sixteen must be supervised at all times and can't be left alone at the shooting table.
7. No kids under five are allowed on the range.
8. All muzzles must be over the red firing line when being discharged. No shooting from behind the table.
9. All rounds must impact the berm. If you accidentally hit the mountain, you have to stop shooting immediately.
10. Fully automatic weapons are allowed, but you have to shot them prone or from a benchrest. Same with bump-stock guns.
11. You have to aim. No shooting from the hip or anything like that.
12. Don't shoot the wooden target frames or you'll be charged for it.
13. Don't shoot wildlife.
14. You can draw and fire from the holster but you have to stand next to the table and keep your finger off the trigger until the gun is pointed downrange.
15. Humanoid and zombie targets with human features are not allowed, but training silhouettes are okay. The Range Master has the final word on targets.
16. Traces, incendiary, explosive, specialty shot shells and the like are not allowed.
17. Shotguns can be used on the main range, but with special target frames and at a minimum of 15 yards. No steel shot. Ask the Range Master about this when you get there.
18. All firearms chambered in .50 BMG or any round derived from .50 BMGare prohibited.
19. You can collect your own brass only – not other peoples' brass.
20. Black powder is allowed. They have to be loaded at the back bench and be primed or have the frizzen loaded at the table. When the line is being cleared, all powder must be removed.
21. Obey all commands issued by the range personnel. If you don't, you may be asked to leave.
When You Arrive
When you first get to the range, head into the office to pay for a table. You can buy targets there as well. Take your receipt to the entrance and they will give you a table number. Go down to your table. If people are shooting at the time, you can take your gun to the table, pointed downrange, and uncase it. You'll have to wait until a cease fire to set up your targets. If you get to your table during cease fire, put your guns on the back table and don't uncase them until the range master announces that you can approach the tables. During cease fire, stay behind the yellow line painted on the concrete unless you are out on the range setting up or checking your targets.
Tape Your Targets
There are wooden target stands and rolls of painters' tape available so you can tape your targets to the stands. When you take your targets out to place them, it's easy to get off track, so look for the number near the sockets where the target stands go. Put the target stand in the sockets with your table number on them. The distance for each set of sockets is also marked. Once you're done setting up your target, go back to your table but stand behind the yellow line. You can sweep brass out onto the dirt, but you aren't allowed to touch the table or a gun at all during cease fire.
When You Leave
When it's time to leave, you have to unload and case your weapons at the table during a firing time. Don't be too intimidated by all this – the range personnel announce everything over a loud speaker at every break and give explicit instructions. If you have any questions at all about procedure or you are having trouble with a weapon, don't hesitate to ask them for help. All the people I've met there have been great.
We go to Shooters World because we have a membership. The first time you go there, you'll be asked to fill out a fairly lengthy questionnaire on a tablet, but you only have to do that once a year. Pay, get a tag with your bay number on it, then put your hearing and eye protection on before entering the shooting area. Again, I highly recommend really good electronic ear muffs. It can be even louder at an inside range. There are double doors here. Press the button and the first set of doors slides open. The second set won't open until the first set is closed. Once inside, go to your bay.
Keep Your Weapon Cased
Don't uncase your weapon until you are in the bay with the weapon pointed down range. There are usually no cease fires called at indoor ranges – you can start shooting whenever you are ready. The targets are hung from clips on a wire that moves back and forth with a switch so you can position your target at any distance. Try to tape your target onto the cardboard so you don't have to destroy the cardboard when you shoot.
Most Important Rule
Again, the most important rule is to keep the gun pointed down range at all times. It may not look like it, but you are being watched and if you are unsafe, you will hear about it. If you have a new shooter with you, help them. Make sure their finger stays off the trigger until they are pointed downrange, on target, and ready to shoot. Case and uncase firearms on the table inside your bay. Never take one to the chairs in the back unless it is already unloaded and cased.
Basically, ranges are fun places to practice shooting because there are rules for your safety and everyone obeys those rules. If you're at all nervous about going, ask a buddy who shoots to take you there. You can also take courses at Ben Avery and at Shooters World, and that is an ideal way to get comfortable with the whole range experience. I highly recommend shooting ranges – they're convenient and fun. See you there!