Part three of our trilogy!  Return of the Jedi!  Or rather, A Trip to the Gun Range.  No fear; it will be just as epic.

Previously, we’ve covered basic gun anatomy and gun safety.  Now it’s time to discuss what to expect when you’re expecting a trip to the range.  I have not been to many ranges, but I go to the one nearest my house often.  Also, my SigO used to work there, and since he is a technical consultant on this blog, I think we have come up with some good tips for you:

1.  Bring a photo ID.  This is especially true if you want to rent a gun, but even if you have your own it’s likely that the range employees are going to want to see some identification and possibly photocopy it for their records.  They’re not trying to infringe on your privacy.  They’re trying to cover all their bases, should something go awry while you are at their facility.

2.  Bring a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.  This ensures that, in addition to trying something new and cool, you have a solid chance of having a good time too.

3.  Take a lesson, even if you are with a friend who has shot before.  If the range doesn’t require you to take a lesson before you shoot, do it anyway.  More knowledge is more better.  You can always glean something from watching someone else shoot.  Taking a lesson will also set you up to be in good standing at the range, if you decide you want to return. You can demonstrate that you’re safe and positive, as well as get to know some of the employees. It’s a good way to build relationships at a place you may want to visit very frequently.

4. Read, understand, and obey all of the range safety rules and procedures. And expect that several attentive people will remind you of these rules frequently. Typically, you’ll get an overview of the range rules and policies when you sign in and at least one range safety officer (RSO) will remind you again during an interaction with them. Don’t worry, though. This attention doesn’t indicate that you’re in a world of immediate danger or that they think YOU are mentally deficient in any way. Just be aware that the RSO spends most of his days watching oblivious people ignore the rules and policies and has learned to expect that most people will ignore these rules, often to their detriment or the detriment of important structural parts of the building (ie, floor, ceiling, walls, etc.)

5. Expect a rush of adrenaline.  I have been shooting regularly for about a year, and firing a gun still gets my heart beating fast.  I imagine this never really goes away, because it’s part of what makes guns rad (duh).  It’s not scary fight-or-flight adrenaline.  It’s more like roller coaster adrenaline.  Like in a Busch Gardens meets Call of Duty kind of way.

6. Don’t let anyone talk you into shooting a tiny gun just because you’re a girl and they think you can’t handle something larger. If your choice is to shoot either a Ruger LC9 or a Beretta 92Fs, choose the heavier and larger Beretta. Small guns can be very awkward to grip and their light weight won’t absorb very much recoil. Both of those guns mentioned are 9mm, which is a reasonably mild caliber for beginners to shoot. By the same token, don’t shoot something huge and unmanageable out of the gate, just to prove a point.  I very much like the Ruger Mark III.  It’s a .22 caliber target pistol that is made of metal, and has practically zero recoil.  It’s a very good way to get used to shooting a gun or to work on your fundamentals as you progress.  Here’s a good analogy for picking out a gun: if you’re riding your bike, and you hit a pot-hole the size of a fist, it will probably jostle you pretty bad. But if you hit that same pot-hole in a Cadillac, you won’t even notice it. The size of the pot-hole is the caliber of the cartridge and your vehicle is what you choose to shoot it out of. For your first time out, pick a full sized gun, with a full sized grip. There’ll be more real-estate for you to get some solid contact on the gun, and the mass of the full sized gun will mellow out much of the recoil. This will contribute significantly to a more enjoyable first-time shooting experience.

7.  Try to focus on the experience.  You’re going to have do some things before you can fire the gun, like fill out paper work and sit through a lesson.  You might interact with some people who aren’t to your liking.  Or the actual physical  environment might make you uncomfortable.  It’s very loud, a little smoky, a little dirty, either way to hot or way too cold… ok, so it’s like a night club, but with significantly fewer hot jams and scantily-clad ladies.  The point is, it’s not really about any of those things.  Its about the moment when you are in front of your target, in your stance, squeezing back the trigger.  That’s what you’ll remember and why you’ll keep going back.  So just focus on that, and let that other stuff be the funny little background details that round out your story.

So, I hope you guys have enjoyed these last three posts, and that they’ve given you some insight into the world of guns and shooting.  If anyone wants to learn more, go shooting sometime, or has tips or tricks I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment!

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