Beginners Guides

First Time Shooting Range Guide

Whether it’s a casual trip to a local shooting range or a fun event as part of a vacation, a day at the range can be fun, exciting, and for many, an eye-opening experience into the world of shooting sports. This guide discusses typical services, rules, and costs for a trip to the shooting range.

Find a Shooting Range

Most locales support multiple shooting ranges, providing people with different options, rates, and services. Some gun shops even have their own shooting ranges as part of their facility to draw potential customers to sample and “test drive” firearms for purchase.

Some ranges offer certain services and rentals while others do not. Some are open to the public and accept walk-in patrons, some require a nominal sign-up and membership, and some are private clubs open only to vetted long-term members.

Here’s a quick rundown of a common categories of shooting ranges:

Indoor Range

  • Great for all-weather conditions year-round.
  • Typically offer a wide selection of rentals, products, and services (firearms, targets, etc.).
  • Open to the public, easy to find.
  • Max range distance of 25-50 meters.
  • Busy days can be a little cramped (in the waiting area) and smokey on the firing line.

Outdoor Range

  • Lots of space with multiple types of range areas (shorter distance pistol range, longer distance rifle range, tactical courses, etc.).
  • Shooting outdoors is often preferable to shooting indoors, especially with good weather.
  • Max range distance can extend to 100 meters and farther.
  • Bad weather might not make for an ideal first-time range trip.
  • Not every outdoor range will have rentals.

Rod & Gun Club

  • Social club centered on shooting sports.
  • Often provides a country club setting on a large plot of privately owned land.
  • More than just shooting: Meeting, events, restaurant & clubhouse.
  • Normally closed to the public: Members only.

Public Shooting Range

  • Usually outdoor on public land.
  • Minimal fees and bare bones upkeep facilities.
  • No rentals.
  • Range master is not always present.

How Much Will a Range Trip Cost?

In my experience, a range trip can cost anywhere from $60 – 80 for an hour of range time, gun rentals, ammunition, and targets.

Here is a quick breakdown of typical rates and services at an indoor range:

  • Lanes (1 hour per lane/guests): $15-20.
  • Firearm Rental: $10-15.
  • Ammunition: $15 per box.
  • Targets: $3 per target.

Keep in mind that range fees and service structure will vary from establishment to establishment. Here are rates listed for the Los Angeles Gun Club in downtown Los Angeles; these rates and prices represent above-average rates and fees:

  • Lanes (2 hour for 2 guests): $60 ($54 for first guest, $6 for additional).
  • Firearm Rental: $5 – 25.
  • Ammunition: $15 – 20 (handgun) or $10 – 40 (rifles and shotguns).

Do a little bit of research to determine whether or not a prospective shooting range will offer rentals, ammunition, safety gear, and targets.

Different shooting ranges will offer different services and rates for a variety of preferences and budgets. Some are nothing more than a humble set of lanes and tables with others cater to luxury-minded clients with lounges, repair shop, and on-site gun store.

Contact Your Shooting Range

Staff at a shooting range will be more than happy to answer any questions when you arrive in person, but it would benefit first time visitors to call ahead and clear up ask any questions in advance.

Explain to the range staff that you are a new to the range, and some might even offer deals and discounts to draw you in for a visit.

  1. Find out whether or not the range requires a first-time signup or membership fee; also ask if any safety tests or forms needs to be submitted at the range.
  2. Inquire about rental pricing and rates (lane fee, gun rental, ammunition, targets, safety gear).
  3. Find out if the range rents firearms, and if so, get details about any specific firearms you plan on renting.
  4. Ask about any required dress codes; a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy is usually standard.
  5. Ask about discounts (military, weekdays, senior citizens, youths, etc.).
  6. Find out if a range has a minimum persons policy; some ranges will require two or more persons to rent firearms and will not rent firearms to lone visitors. This policy usually doesn’t apply to visitors who bring their own firearms.
  7. Ask about any first-time shooter and/or basic safety classes.
  8. If you plan on attending with a large group, be sure to ask about discounts and lane-sharing policies.

This information will help guarantee a fun range experience while getting the most for your money. Create a wealth of options by doing a little research.

Take The Class!

Many shooting ranges will offer a safety course or first-time shooter class to familiarize visitors with the basics of gun safety and the operation of a autoloading firearm. Some ranges will not rent semiautomatic firearms persons who cannot show proficiency and safe handling with a semiautomatic pistol and will only rent revolvers and bolt-action rifles to these visitors.

Often the extra cost of an introductory range course will be negligible when compared to the cost of a standard range visit with rentals and purchases. By taking the introductory class, guests receive useful training on the operation, safety, and handling of an autoloading pistol with additional rentals and ammunition included as part of the fee.

These courses will include firearm rental and ammunition for a .22 caliber training pistol and an additional rental of the attendee’s choice along with 50-100 rounds of ammunition. For most people, this will be a win-win in value and experience when compared to a similarly-priced trip to the range without taking the class.

Observe All Range Rules

When visiting a gun range for the first time, it’s fairly easy to become overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline, and it can be natural to lose track of basic common sense and awareness.

  • Be sure to observe the 4 Rules of Gun Safety at all times when firearms are present, and this applies to both the firing line and the reception area.
  • When returning a firearm to a staff member, always perform a safety check to visually confirm the firearm is completely unloaded.
  • If you are unfamiliar with a specific firearm or feature, be sure to ask the staff for a demonstration.
  • Be mindful of the 4 Rules of Gun Safety even if you are not handling a firearm; gun ranges can become crowded on busy days so be aware of other people, tripping hazards, etc.
  • Take note of any rules or notices posted in the reception area, and be sure to remember your lane assignment before entering the range area.
  • Be sure to don your eye and ear protection before leaving the reception area, and be sure both fit comfortably.
  • Do not remove or adjust your eye and ear protection while on in the range area; leave the range area if they need to be adjusted.
  • Be mindful of any photography and/or phone policies. Some ranges do not allow photography of any sort for safety and to preserve the privacy of its patrons.

Ultimately, use common sense and understand the rules so you can operate freely (and safely) within those boundaries.

On the Firing Line

Always obey the Range Master, especially when told to cease fire and step back form the firing line.

The Range Master might put out a general command or direct specific instructions to you. These commands might be addressing unsafe behavior, breaking the rules, or they might call a general cease fire for everyone on the firing line.

Never cross the firing line, ever. If something drops or falls in front of the firing line, notify the Range Master.

If you are experiencing an issue or have a question about your firearm, feel free to seek the Range Master, but do not walk away from the firing line with your weapon in hand.

Always keep the firearm pointed downrange in a safe direction, place it onto table unloaded and magazine removed, seek the range master by raising your hand. Be patient, and let the Range Master come to you.

Don’t cheese for your friends or the camera, and do not fiddle with your phone while on the firing line. Even if you are not handling or firing a gun, avoid distracting yourself with your phone.

When shooting your firearm, stay focused on the target. Keep your eyes directed downrange, and keep your finger off the trigger until you see the target through the sights. Unless the range master is addressing you, just stay focused.

Always stay calm and don’t panic. Normal occurrences on the range include:

  • Weapons malfunction or jam.
  • Hot brass casing might eject themselves down your shirt.
  • The target carrier might stop working or fall off its rail.

Whatever happens, keep your firearm pointed downrange and finger off the trigger, and seek assistance from the Range Master.

In the end, keep it simple. Don’t rush yourself, don’t disassemble or troubleshoot your firearm, and keep all firearms and ammunition at the firing line. If your firearm stops functioning, unload, place it on the table facing a safe direction downrange, and notify the Range Master.

Leaving the Firing Line

If you need to leave the firing line for any reason (bathroom, buy more ammunition, rent another firearm), be sure to notify the Range Master, and be sure your firearm is unloaded and pointing in a safe direction downrange; the magazine should be removed and the chamber locked back.

When leaving the firing line for the day, continue to observe the 4 Rules of gun Safety when packing up your firearm and gathering your belongings. Ensure your firearm is totally unloaded, leave the slide locked back or cylinder swung out before placing it into your range basket.

Once everything is safely packed and secured, grab a push broom and sweep your brass casing through your lane and onto the firing range.

If you plan to take home any brass as souvenirs, be sure it’s allowed. Some ranges collect brass for recycle, and these ranges enforce rules against brass collection. 9 out of 10 times, it’s perfectly fine, but it’s always good to check.

Make a safe exit from the range area, and return your firearm at the reception area and cash out.

Wash your hands and face with soap and cold water to ensure dirt, fouling, and lead doesn’t make its way into anything else you touch.

Be Safe and Come Back Any Time!

If you plan on visiting your local shooting range or visiting one while on vacation, this guide should help you maximize your time and money.

Knowing a little bit about the range experience beforehand will help a first-time shooter at the range be safe, prepared, and have a good time instead of running into disappointment with a potentially fun and exciting first-time experience.

Related Topics
The 4 Fundamentals of Marksmanship
The Value of Firearms Training

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