First Time Range Visit
In an effort to find a hobby or activity that my wife and I could enjoy, I recalled that she had indicated that she had experience with shooting firearms. Since I had never shot a firearm, I thought it would be cool to go to the range for a date night activity. Not growing up around guns and not knowing a revolver from a semi-automatic, a magazine from a clip, or knowing the difference between a hammer fired or a striker fired firearm, I felt less than adequate to even suggest going to the range on a date night let alone, by myself. I mean seriously, a gun is a gun right? … Wrong!
I’m the type of individual who wants to know as much as I can about something before I embark on it. Being that shooting a firearm can be and is potentially dangerous, I wanted to begin with safety. The reason is pretty simple: I was about to embark upon a potentially deadly activity and I did not want to put my wife or myself in harm’s way simply because I failed to investigate, learn and burn into my mind the safety requirements necessary for handling a firearm. I take firearms safety very seriously.
I ended up putting several months into researching the different types of pistols and reviewing the firearm safety rules. At the time when I first became interested in learning how to shoot a pistol, the internet was still in its infancy. There wasn’t as near as much information online as there is now. As a matter of fact, being able to order items online was still in development, let alone finding anything of value concerning safe firearms handling. Most of the information was found in various gun and hunting magazines. Even then, most of the articles were written by experienced shooters and hunters who were writing on how to improve their hunting skills or long distance shooting. There just wasn’t much in the way of information from a new shooter perspective. But that is not the case any longer. There is a TON of information on the internet for the new shooter and firearms enthusiast. So much so, that the problem is now determining what information is GOOD information and what isn’t.
Going to an indoor shooting range can be an enjoyable experience. It can also be somewhat intimidating for the first time shooter. If you know someone who visits the range regularly, going with them can help alleviate anxiety or it may actually make things worse. Sometimes, asking others about their personal experiences can actually increase apprehension about engaging in a new activity. However, that is to be expected when soliciting personal experiences from others.
Long story short, we had our first ‘range date’. I was less than impressed with the ‘counter help’ once we arrived at the range. Their lack of interest in my safety or making sure that I knew what I was doing before they allowed me to rent the firearm was probably the most sobering thing I remember about that first trip. I think the guys behind the counter assumed that I knew what I was doing, which was NOT a very comfortable feeling. I know that I was probably more nervous than my wife because again, up to that point I hadn’t shot a firearm. Come to find out, the last time my wife shot a pistol was probably about ten years prior to our going to that range that evening. I seriously was trying to grab onto something to help me remove the anxiety that I was going through. So I relied on her recall to help me feel more confident. I may write more about that first experience in a later blog, but suffice it to say, that ever since that first moment of shooting the firearm, I was HOOKED!
Learning how to safely handle a firearm has been a great experience for me and I greatly enjoy the time I have when visiting the range. For me, going to the range is fun, exciting, exhilarating and relaxing all at the same time. Going to the range for me is more than just shooting a paper target. It’s about getting into ‘the target zone’. (Hmmm… sounds like another blog write-up!)
Assuming that you’ve taken an interest in learning more about shooting, here is a starting point for new shooters to help you overcome some of the ‘new shooter anxiety’ and making that first trip to the range:
- Get personalized or live classroom instruction
- Go with another person
- Inform the person behind the counter that it’s your first time and that you have questions. If they don’t seem to be very helpful, LEAVE! Find another range, or go another time after you’ve gotten your questions answered.
- Pay attention to the range rules
- Be familiar with the firearm you intend to shoot. Good counter help will provide basic operating instructions prior to going onto the range. Again, if they seem less than helpful, get another person or just LEAVE!
- OBEY THE FIREARM SAFETY RULES AT ALL TIMES
Firearms safety is YOUR responsibility. I cannot stress this enough. Spend the time and money to locate an instructor who is willing to spend one-on-one time with you. There’s nothing like getting your questions answered in real-time with someone qualified to instruct. If you’re not able to find an instructor, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Safe firearms handling is FIRST and FOREMOST and is YOUR responsibility.
You MUST know what you’re getting into with shooting firearms in order to mitigate seriously hurting yourself or someone else. Your life and/or the life of someone else may depend on your ability to safely handle a firearm. The following link discusses what I would consider the top four firearm safety rules, but by is no means all-inclusive and it is just the start.
QUALIFIED INSTRUCTION AND TRAINING:
If you’re interested in learning more about safe firearms handling and ownership, there are many NRA Instructors that are qualified to provide training in Basic Pistol, Shotgun or Rifle. The NRA First Steps Program is a great way to get introduced to safe firearms handling and training. To see where there might be a course or instructor near you, click the following link.
The Well Armed Woman: http://www.thewellarmedwoman.com
National Shooting Sports Foundation: http://nssf.org/