Gun Shop

14 Essential Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Shooting Range

June 17, 2021

Besides the COVID disruption, the 2021 ammo shortage is another real headache we’ve experienced as shooters. Nobody would have imagined that the “new normal” will come with a widespread shortage of ammunition. Gone are the days when you could drive by the range and pick a couple boxes of your favorite 9mm ammo. Below are some tips to keep in mind before visiting the nearby shooting range.

Shooting Range

14 Tips for Making the Most of Your Shooting Range Time

1. Have a Plan for Your Range Time 

While the shooting time may have increased, the scarcity of ammunition is negating the otherwise great experience. To counter this, head to the shooting range prepared to learn something before the end of the session. In other words, try to maximize the few rounds you have and have a plan developed.

For instance, are you going to concentrate on achieving the perfect grip or the trigger squeeze? Don’t mess around and waste the invaluable rounds with poor shooting stances or practices. Instead, have a goal for your session and stick to it.

2. Prepare Ahead of Time by Dry Firing

To have a better perspective on this, let me share a short story:

When I was shooting service rifle, I shot 20 rounds with my National Match AR15 the other night. Yes, I used snap caps instead of actual ammunition, and I shot every night. I set up as I would on a range, with my shooting coat, gloves, etc. I had a 3×5 index card with a small black circle on it.

I would set up and shoot 20 times, each time working my breathing, grips, trigger squeeze, and sight picture. No muss, no fuss, no noise, and no cleaning the rifle. I did this on days I did not shoot on the range.

Besides dealing with recoil and noise, you are working the same basic skills you would on an outdoor range. Practice your dry firing before you hit the range.

3. Wear Appropriate Gear

Wearing eye protective gear is a safety rule at a shooting range. It helps protect you from brass which could harm your eyes. Not only is it a rule for shooting, but it can also protect your eyes while cleaning your firearm afterward. Some revolvers “spit” lead and your lenses can keep this out of your eyes.

It’s a critical practice to keep your eye protection gear on when cleaning your gun in case the cleaning chemicals start spraying out while cleaning. Some protective eyeglasses can also help sharpen your aiming skills enabling you to learn how to target fast.

Ear protection is another necessary accessory since shooting without ear protection will cause irreversible hearing damage. Using ear protection gear while shooting reduces the noise t an acceptable level, which is safer for the ears.

Proper clothing, i.e., closed toed shoes, high-necked shirts, are also recommended to prevent falling hot brass from burning your skin.

4. Prepare your Gun Before Arriving at the Range

Once you have the right outfit, ear, and eye protection, you need to prepare your firearm. Make sure your firearm is ready to shoot before going off to the range. The last thing you want to experience is erratic cycling or a jam. Reduce the risks of this occurring by lubricating and cleaning before arriving at the range.

We recommend lubricating the slides with high-quality gun grease and everything else with gun oil. Put the dabs of grease along with the slide then cycle it back and forth to ensure a good spread. Wipe away any of the excess greases and you will be ready to shoot.

5. Keep your sights darkened

If you’re an avid shooter, then you know the reflection of the sun or bright lights could impact your sight picture. Keep your sights darkened in an outside range or an indoor range with bright lights. If not, then you could develop a false sense of your sight position and miss your targets.

We recommend using either a spray sight blackener or using a carbide lamp. The idea is to cover up any shiny surfaces on your sights so you can have the most accurate target shooting experience possible. We at Bill Jacksons can assist you with finding sights that work for your needs and darkening the sights you already have.

6. Use your sights properly

When using your sights at the range, be sure to set them up properly. Most range sights were installed by a factory and your sight picture must be consistent every time to strike the same point repeatedly. When setting up, make sure your sights are aligned horizontally and they are even on each side.

Remember, when you aim for a spot on your sight, your firearm doesn’t “lock on” like a missile. A common error amongst new shooters is failing to keep their sights aligned through the trigger squeeze. You must keep your positioning steady while you are squeezing the trigger. With enough practice and patience, it will become easier with time.

7. Keep a good steady grip

When target shooting, it’s important to use a good steady grip. Using a good grip will allow you to not only control the recoil but also keeps the pistol stationary as you squeeze the trigger. Like human hands, gun grips come in many different sizes and configurations. While some firearms offer accuracy and reliability, not all will fit in your hands.

A common saying among expert shooters when explaining gun grips is “the more skin you put on the grip, the more control you have”. Fingers that can’t fit on the grip or are sticking outwards will give you poor support and control. When searching for the perfect grip that fits like a glove, stop in our shop, and feel some in your hand before purchasing. Finding a great grip is one of the many fundamentals to becoming a great shooter.

8. Know your dominant eye and use it to your advantage

Every shooter knows how difficult it can be to get a bullseye. By knowing which eye is dominant, you can help your accuracy. If you are unsure which eye is your dominant eye, follow these steps:

  • Find a specific item somewhere in the distance – be sure it’s at least 10 feet away.
  • Take your hands and form a circle around the item.
  • Move your hands closer to your face and naturally, it will be clear which eye is your dominant eye.
  • If unsure, keep your hands in the circle position and close one eye at a time. You will see the specific item with your dominant eye.

Try shooting with your dominant eye and if you aren’t getting your desired accuracy, consider shooting with both eyes open. Whichever method you choose, be sure it works to your advantage.

9. Use the correct trigger positioning

According to the experts at Bill Jackson’s, this is another common error for new shooters. Let me share with you a short story:

When learning how to shoot, I had always been taught to put the first pad of my finger on the trigger, and I did so for years. Performing quite well for years, I was consistently scoring expert level in the Army during qualification.

Yet once I tried out for the USAR Reserve shooting team, and was accepted, I was handed a copy of the 1935 US Marine Manual of Gunnery. That is when I began learning how to shoot. One of the pages showed the correct place to put your finger on the trigger, and it was on the crease between the first and second pad on your finger trigger.

This correct trigger position tends to make the trigger come straight back during the squeeze. Keep in mind that putting the pad of either finger on the trigger tends to make the firearm move towards one side or another when you squeeze. In other words, left-handed shooters tend to push the gun to the right, right-handed shooters tend to push it to the left.

Be sure to use the correct trigger positioning when practicing. When searching for a firearm, keep trigger positioning in mind. Firearm frames come in all different sizes, but you will know a good fit by the way it feels in your hand. Make sure all your fingers fit on the grip. If you have smaller than average hands, a good firearm to consider is a 1911 pistol.

10. Decide on target shooting range or combat shooting

In target shooting, the goal is to form small groups at the exact point of aim on the sight. You concentrate on the front sight and the rear sight while the target is blurred. The tighter your groups are, the better accuracy and control you have on your weapon. If your groups are wide apart, consider adjusting your technique.

During combat shooting, the target is in focus, but the rear and front sights are out of focus. For this practice, small groups are not the goal but rather trying to hit your target rapidly with many hits, spread around the torso area. Shooting first and quickly is the most important thing. By doing so, you shoot before your target shoots, avoiding the shaking and unsteadiness accompanied by taking excess time to shoot.

11. Avoid jams by not “Limp Wristing”

If you experience frequent jamming, you will probably need to take a hard look at your wrist positioning. When we are at our gun shop at Bill Jacksons and customers come in informing us their pistol is jamming, our first step is checking to ensure it’s properly lubricated. We then fire a couple of rounds and ask the customer to fire a couple as well.

Often, the shooter is not locking their wrist and elbow, and not extending both arms. When you are in this position, your wrist comes back with the recoil of the pistol, and the slide is not allowed to come back all the way, thus creating a jam. Be sure to lock your wrists, elbow, and your limp wristing jams will usually disappear.

12. “Aim Small, Miss Small”

If you have ever watched “Patriot”,the Revolutionary War starring Mel Gibson, then you have heard him give this advice to his two young sons who are getting ready to ambush a British unit. This is true today. In other words, if you have a large point of aim, you will also have a large margin of error.

We suggest aiming small by concentrating on a small dot in the center of your bullseye. During my shooting sessions, I put a small market dot on a red bullseye and aim for that small dot. This helps shrink your groupings and will lead you to become a more accurate shooter.

13. Clean Your Hands and Shower

When done shooting or when taking a break, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water to remove any lead residue you might have caught from the primers or the dust from the bullet. Cleaning your hands will help you avoid ingesting lead residue or bullet dust and prevent you from spreading them to your facial region.

Some shooting ranges also have lead cleaning wipes designed for removing lead particles. So, if you come across them, make sure to use them. Be sure to thoroughly shower when your back home from the range so gunpowder and residue don’t get on any furniture or items in your home.

14. Know the Gun Safety Rules

No matter how professional or amateur you are in handling firearms, knowing the fundamentals of gun safety is crucial. While different shooting ranges have their own rules, some apply to all. Keeping all the rules in mind and following them promotes your well-being and those around you.

Some of the most important rules to keep in mind may include treating all guns as if they are loaded. Know your target and the area past it. Keep your finger off the trigger till you’re ready to fire. Never point your firearm at anything you don’t want to shoot.


Closing Comments 

Now that you’re ready to hit the range, probably with less ammunition than you would wish to have, preparing ahead of time and knowing what skills to focus on before loading the gun will make your time at the shooting range more productive. Similarly, remember to have your full gear on, observe the gun safety rules and keep your hands clean once you are off the range.

Remember, there are no absolutes in shooting (except for the safety rules and protections). If it works for you and you consistently hit the bullseye, go with it. You may try other techniques to see if these improve your scores, and if they work, so much the better.

Shoot safely with us at our Bill Jacksons Shooting Range. You can browse through our firearm collection; practice shooting and even buy a firearm when you stop by our store. Contact us if you have any questions about shooting or about this article.