Going to the shooting range for the first time can be somewhat intimidating. Among ensuring that you are being safe and that you, the person you are going with, or the range has the proper gear to rent, you also need to put a little thought into what you plan on wearing. While I've seen everything from high heels to shorts to combat boots to sweats, I've realized that you can (but you shouldn't) really just come as you are. If you plan on hitting the range as an on-going thing, then having a separate set of range clothes (if feasible) is a good idea especially if you have any concern of lead contamination (you can read more about that below). However, if this is a one-time visit, then lead may not be your concern but you do want to be sure that you keep certain things in mind when it comes to choosing your outfit.
You don't need to be worried that “range clothes” might sound very boring and drab, I've got plenty of tips below so you can hit the range in style while also being safe whether it's your first time or you're a veteran.
Shirt: It's really up to you regarding whether you prefer short or long sleeves. I'm all for short sleeves because I tend to get a little overheated from the stress/pressure of being at the range. However, a lot of people will recommend long sleeves so it can be a barrier between your arms and the lead particles or hot brass. Whether you select short or long sleeve, you'll want to wear a shirt that covers your décolleté area. That means nothing low-cut or v-neck. Basically you want to roll in sans cleavage. And the reason for this is that when the brass is ejected, there is no way to determine it's trajectory and it's been known to find it's way right down the front of a shirt. The 'girls' are no place for hot brass. If you're wearing short sleeves, any hot brass that hits you will bounce right off so it's less jarring than it landing down your shirt between the 'girls'. But in the end it's really what you’re comfortable with. A great option is to layer a long sleeve button down over your short sleeve. You can opt to wear it buttoned (to the top) and when you're done at the range you can throw in your range bag. Alternatively, wear it open and you can take it off mid-way and tie it around your waist if you get warm. And if you must wear a lower cut shirt think about wearing a scarf around your neck to protect your décolleté area. It's a great option especially for those who are stopping into the range on the way to/from work or a social gathering.
Pants: I mean does this really need to be explained? Again personal preference here prevails. Some like shorts while others like pants. I prefer jeans in my daily life so that's what I'm comfortable wearing to the range. You'll want something you can easily move in whether you choose to shoot seated, standing, or laying on the ground. Additionally, if you are practicing drawing from a holster, then you'll want to wear the pants and holster that meet this need.
Hat (optional): Personally I'm not really a hat person. So for me I can take it or leave it. Some people think a hat is mandatory because it helps to keep any ejected brass from landing in between your eye protection and face. However, my stance on this is that the eye protection you're wearing should fit snug against your face with minimal gaps.
Shoes: You can't go wrong with any closed toe shoe option. Hot brass is going to land on the ground so you'll want to protect your feet. Since you'll most likely be standing you'll want to opt for something you are comfortable standing in. For me, I'm all about the ankle boot. Of all the items listed here if any one of these need to be labeled 'range only' it would be the shoes. Keep in mind that you are using these to walk through the range where 90% of the lead particles will eventually land. It's safe to say that your range shoes will pick up a decent amount of debris during your visits. You absolutely don't want to wear these same shoes in your car and eventually in your house. You'll be leaving traces of lead all over so keep that in mind when picking your range shoes. It's good to have options when it comes to range shoes as well. If you are doing some concealed carry training or training for every day life, then you'll want to practice with the type of shoe you typically wear. If it's a high heel shoe then find a closed toe pair you can designate as range pair. Range shoes don't need to be bulky or ugly as there are plenty of cute stylish options - check out my 'what shoes to wear to the shooting range' post for more ideas.
Having a set outfit and taking your attire into consideration isn't just about being stylish, you can see it's also about ensuring a certain level of safety.
Additional Things To Consider
Unless you are planning on shooting in open land, take a moment to check the ranges website or call them to see if they have specific dress code. Some ranges and shooting clubs have specific policies regarding dress code. Some ranges don't allow open-toe shoes of any kind and may make you wear little cloth booties if you want to shoot.
While these are all great outfit examples of what to wear to the shooting range, do a little research and take your climate and city into consideration. Being covered head-to-toe probably doesn't make sense if you live in Texas or plan on shooting outside.
If it's not your first time shooting and you plan on running through some different training drills for sport or concealed carry, then adjust your outfit as needed.
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A Note About Lead Contamination
Many of the newer luxury ranges are being built with high-tech air filtration systems to help reduce the amount of lead in the air. While some people may not think twice about the dangers of lead contamination from the shooting range others take it very seriously. The lead contamination stems from the empty shell casings & the associated fragments that get ejected from the gun as you fire a shot. The shell casing, commonly referred to as 'brass' is extremely hot and contains lead & gun powder particles from the bullet. So as you proceed to shoot, the bullet leaves the gun and the brass is ejected in order to clear room for the next bullet/round. As you are standing in your range lane, the ejected brass is basically flying at/or around you. All of those lead particles end up on your person & clothing, which is why having a separate set of range clothes is good practice. It's also good practice to wash your hands, face, and blow your nose immediately after. You might not think you are inhaling much lead but if you blow your nose after a range session, you'll see black particles - that's lead that you've been inhaling.
You might think that that having a separate set of range clothes is not needed because you can just wash them afterwards. Well you can & you should but they need to be washed separately from the rest of your laundry so you reduce the risk of any lead cross contamination. If you want to know more about lead dangers at the range then take to google. There is tons of info out there. In the end, your range clothes should make you feel comfortable when you're shooting. Don't let the lead exposure be too much of a concern either, as you should take your own precaution but in the end it really all depends how often you're going to the range.
Also be sure to follow my ‘Range Wear' Pinterest board for more range outfit inspo.
Taking these guidelines into consideration will ensure that you have a safe and comfortable time at the range, which will allow you to focus on shooting rather than your attire.