I love taking new shooters to the range. Every year, a friend and I hold a New Shooter Range Day where we take about a dozen new shooters and a few experienced shooters to a range operated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (1608 Headquarters Road). It’s always a lot of fun, but as a new shooter there are some things you need to know.
First, everyone should know what we call “The Four Rules.” These rules keep everyone safe, and are universal. Don’t merely follow these rules at the range–you must follow them any time you handle a firearm.
1. All guns are always loaded all the time.
If you treat every gun as if it will kill someone, you are less likely to “play around” or “joke” with them. These are not toys.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Because that is exactly what will happen if you fire the weapon.
3. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
Put your finger on the frame of the gun instead. Basically, take your index finger and point it parallel to the barrel of the gun while the rest of your hand has a firing grip.
4. Always be sure of your target and what is behind it!
Make sure what you are shooting at doesn’t have a bus full of nuns and orphans behind it.
There is also a fifth rule that is fairly recent:
5. NEVER try to catch a dropped gun.
Modern guns have so many safeties on them, it is impossible for them to fire by dropping them. You are much more likely to cause the weapon to fire by trying to catch it (thus inadvertently inserting a finger in the trigger guard and depressing the trigger).
So those are the general rules. I will probably ask you to recite them, or at least demonstrate that you are aware of all of them.
When going to any range (including shooting in your cousin’s back yard), there are some basic safety things you need to know:
1. Eye protection is required. Giant Safety Glasses are not. If you eyeglasses, you’re covered. If you are at an outdoor range and wear sunglasses, you’re covered.
2. Ear protection is required. I will bring earplugs for you, but if you want to make a habit of this, you should go get your own. When buying ear protection, you should look for the NRR rating. The higher the number, the better. Anything below 22 (or doesn’t have a rating listed) is not acceptable.
3. Expended shell casings (also called “brass”) are HOT. You do not want to get one down your shirt, in between your eye protection and your face, or in your shoes. So wear a shirt with a high neck line, a ball cap, and actual shoes. Sandals and low cut shirts are bad because they are magnets for hot brass.
4. If you have a malfunction (gun doesn’t go bang, magazine falls out), take your finger out of the trigger guard and then set the gun down with the muzzle facing towards your target. Then ask for help.
When going to this particular range, these are the things you need to keep in mind:
1. The range is not what we call “controlled.” There are no employees or safety officers to watch for safety violations. You have to make sure you are following the four rules, but you also have to watch other people to make sure they are being safe as well.
2. The cost is $5.50 for two hours. Range tickets are purchased at a gas station a little ways down the road (2901 Petway Road, Ashland City, TN). You’ll need to show a driver’s license. Go to the bathroom while you are there, because…
3. There are no bathrooms at this range. Or any buildings of any kind. The 100 yd range has a roof over it for shade. There are several concrete shooting platforms, which are basically just tables.
4. The shortest distance you can shoot at this range is 25 yards. That’s a really, really long distance for pistols, especially first time pistol shooters. Don’t worry too much about not being able to hit the bullseye at that distance.
5. There is a TWRA facility a little bit further down Headquarters Rd. If there is an accident, then best thing to do is to send someone down there for help.