First Time Back at the Shooting Range

I finally stepped back into the range after almost 2 years. I realize that by making that statement it makes it sound like I was this avid range-goer that just stopped. Actually, far from it but you can read about that here.

On my way to the range I didn’t feel nervous. However, as soon as I walked into the range a twinge of nervousness hit me especially since I could hear shooting in the back.  And seriously what’s with the range workers looking all mean and seemingly making everyone or at least me feel intimidated? From what I’ve read, the gun community loves welcoming new shooters. So where are the open arms?

My instructor, Will, filled out the necessary lane reservation card, the guy behind the desk checked my ID, we paid, and we were good to go.  I put on my eye and ear protection (commonly referred to as just eyes & ears) and we proceeded to the back. We entered into the actual shooting lane part of the range where one of the Range Security Officers collected our tickets and assigned us a lane.

And now it begins…this is where all that anxiety from the first time started coming back. Heart pounding, clammy palms, all around nervousness, and the flinching/squinting of my eyes every time someone’s gun went off. Seriously, what are these people shooting? The bangs are body-shaking loud. Is it just me or does this not scare the hell out of people? It’s completely unsettling. While Will was getting set up, I took a quick glance around to see who was shooting.  It was a good mix of what looked like average people, possibly some military, and definitely some FBI agents (they were in uniform).  I’m pretty certain I was the only rookie. And again, I’m sure everyone knew that & was staring. Ugh.  The thoughts running through my head were “I hate this” and “Why did I decide to come here again?” Oh right, something about being self-reliant. It’s kind of dark, super loud, and seriously I’m hoping this is not how I die. #WorryMuch

Let me just go back for a quick minute.  I’m loosely familiar with setting up my lane & what I need. However, Will took care of all that. There is something called “range etiquette” that I plan on covering after I get a little more comfortable.

Okay, back on track. Will begins by reviewing the basics with me. Mind you I’m flinching every other second because of everyone else’s shooting. We walked through the main three safety rules, talked about stance, form, and grip. All of that came back to me pretty quickly.

The first gun I started with was a Smith & Wesson .22 caliber.  Just to get me started and familiarized back with the basics we used snap caps.  Snap caps are essentially plastic bullets that don’t get eject from the gun but allow you to pull the trigger of the gun safely without real ammo.  It’s referred to as dry firing.  This was great because it allowed me to comfortably get into position, figure out my grip, and familiarize myself with the pistol. 

After that it was time for real ammunition. We started slow and worked with one round loaded into the magazine. Again, another step to get me more comfortable and familiar. I pulled the trigger and off went the gun and the bullet. I hit the target around the lower 6th ring.  Not too bad. At least I hit the target.  The recoil on the .22 was basically non-existent but that didn’t stop me from anticipating it. I repeated this drill for a few more rounds.  Then we moved into loading five rounds at a time.  Will offered up adjustments on my form and provided guidance on how he wanted me to shoot.  Align the sites; pull the trigger slowly and steadily trying not to compensate for any recoil. Ha! Easier said than done.

I stayed with the .22 for about an hour. We practiced some different drills such as unloading multiple rounds with the gun extended out in shooting position versus bring it back to my body and pausing.  We worked on aligning my sites quickly and not trying to take so long to pull the trigger as this only made my shots worse. By this time, I was trying to shoot through the range noise. Instead of pausing when I knew someone else’s gun was going to go off, I tried to focus and not let it distract me. It wasn’t easy.

The second and last gun I shot was a Glock 19, which is a 9mm handgun.  The 9mm guns scare me because the recoil is so much more powerful. At first contact with the Glock, it was noticeably heavier and felt bigger in my hands. I was intimidated. We followed the same method with the 9mm as we did with the .22.  Skipping the snap caps, I went straight to shooting one round at a time and then moved on to five. I shot the first round and I did feel the gun shift a little in my hand. So I readjusted my grip. Once I got used to it, it wasn’t bad but still not great. The 9mm just feels crazy powerful and that sort of freaks me out. By the end, I unloaded probably 10 rounds at a time. My groupings on the target were pretty consistent. I did hit the bullseye with both guns. So high five to me!

Looking back and recalling my thoughts during my way home…I need more practice (like lots), I still don’t love it and I’m not sure if I like it. The range atmosphere might be one the hardest things for me to get over. Will did mention that even he gets a little shaken by the loudness in the range. So I take a little comfort in that. I mean this guy is 6’5” and probably 200 lbs so maybe he was just saying that to me.

But I’ll be back.  I haven’t scheduled my next lesson with him but it will probably be in the next two or three weeks. So stay tuned for day two. 

I Instagram'd this photo before heading out to the range. I wanted to snap a quick OOTD (outfit of the day) so you could see what I chose to wear to range.  Taking styling tips from my What To Wear To Shooting Range post, I opted for Converse, Gap Girlfriend Jeans, and a super old t-shirt. I'm glad I went with short sleeves because I definitely was running warmer then normal while I was there. 

Because I used Will's eyes & ears, I didn't bring a bag or anything with me into the actual range. I know at some point, I'll need my own range bag & I've got my eye on a couple options but I don't think I'm there yet.  When I am, I'll definitely post some options.

Also, I would love to know if you have any tips & tricks that you use to help put you at ease at the range.