One of my hobbies is firearms. This information is intended to help inexperienced people have a fun and safe time while shooting.

General tips for newbies

If it’s your first time shooting, try not to expect too much. Think of your first time driving a car. Remember how many little things you had to learn before getting on the road: This is the brake. This is the gas pedal. Here’s how you grip the steering wheel. Here’s how you use the turn signal. Here’s how you adjust your mirrors. Here’s how the shifter works. And so on. Before shooting, you’ll have to spend time familiarizing yourself with the rules of gun safety, the operation of the specific firearms you’ll be shooting, and the rules of whatever gun range you’re going to. Just remember: it gets better.

If you’re not sure about something, ask. Experienced people are cursed with knowledge. They learned the basics so long ago that they forget to mention crucial information to beginners. Even professional teachers make this mistake, so don’t be afraid to ask!

If you are holding a gun and you’re not sure what to do:

  • Keep your finger off the trigger.
  • Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction (almost certainly downrange).
  • Set the gun down (while still keeping it pointed downrange) and step back from it. Then let your instructor or shooting buddy deal with it.

If you want to try shooting but you don’t know a friend who is into guns, check your local gun ranges for introductory courses.

Most people who work at gun ranges aren’t there because of the pay or benefits. They’re enthusiasts of one kind or another, and they’re usually happy to help. That said, many of them do have jobs that involve monitoring customers for safety violations, so they might not be able to give their undivided attention.

Wear proper attire. As part of their normal operation, most guns eject hot brass casings. If a casing falls inside your clothing, it can be very painful. It can even burn you enough to make a small scar. To prevent this you’ll want to wear a shirt with a high neckline. V-necks are a bad idea. I also recommend wearing closed-toed shoes (many ranges require them), socks that cover your ankles, pants, and (weather permitting) a long sleeved shirt. If you’re shooting rifles or shotguns, a jacket can help absorb recoil. You might also be surprised by how dirty guns are. Gunpowder does not burn perfectly clean. Expect your hands and clothes to get dirty with residue. Pistols (especially revolvers) tend to be dirtier than rifles.

Indoor gun ranges tend to have powerful ventilation fans to reduce exposure to gunpowder fumes. Because of this, they can be cold. If you’re not familiar with the place, bring a jacket or sweater just in case.

Guns are loud. I cannot overstate this. Guns are painfully, ear-ringingly loud. Wear quality ear protection. This will reduce fatigue from shooting and help you avoid permanent hearing damage. It’s probably worth trying your hearing protection at home. You might be surprised at how difficult it is to get a good seal with certain earplugs or headphones.

Handling guns will tear up your skin. Guns aren’t optimized for comfort. Surfaces tend to be aggressively textured or serrated to maximize grip. If you have soft hands, you might want to bring some thin gloves.