First-Time Target Shooting Tips

Visiting a shooting range for the first time can feel intimidating—but it can feel exhilarating, too. And once you hit your first shooting target, you'll want to hit it again and again, until you improve your score and move up to a more advanced level.

Whether you are target shooting for qualification, as a recreational hobby, or to learn how to arm and protect yourself, remember that every skilled shooter first stood exactly where you are. So, don't worry about this being your first time.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and there's no safer way to learn how to shoot then at a professional range.

Tips for the Shooting Range

Before you arrive at your local shooting range, here is a quick guide to help you prepare.

Don't Go Alone

If this really is your first time at a shooting range, you'll want to have an experienced shooter nearby. Therefore, we recommend doing one of the following:

  • Bring an Experienced Friend - Invite a trusted friend who knows how to shoot and is already seasoned with shooting range rules and etiquette. 
  • Sign Up for a Handgun Course - Most shooting ranges offer courses for beginners. These classes are designed to get you more comfortable and familiar with the range, learn which firearm is best suited for you, and help you practice techniques with other shooters.
  • Schedule a Private Lesson - In addition to group courses, you may also have the option of scheduling a private lesson with a shooting instruction. This will allow you to work at your own pace and tailor each practice to your needs.

Whichever option you choose, it's important to understand the basics of gun safety and get familiar with the shooting range before it's time to practice on your first target. Having the ability to ask questions and get pointers from a professional will allow you to feel more informed and confident.  

Get the Gear

While at the range, you'll be required to suit up in your safety gear, which may include:

  • Eye and ear protection
  • Your handgun
  • Appropriate ammunition for your handgun
  • A holster (may or may not be required)

Most shooting ranges offer the option to rent firearms if you don't have one already. Note that certain rifles may not be allowed in the shooting range, so make sure to call ahead, or check their website for gun limitations, if you are bringing your own handgun.

You can find all the safety equipment you need online at Qualification Targets, Inc.

Understand The Range's Rules

We live in a world where information is literally at our fingertips. So, it's safe to assume that you'll be Googling "best shooting range near you" and reading reviews before deciding which range is right for you. When you finally land on the right range, make sure to browse the website for its rules and requirements.

This may include:

  • Types of firearms you can (and cannot) bring
  • Types of ammunitions you can (and cannot) bring
  • Rental options available
  • How to check in/check out
  • What type of identification you'll need
  • What to wear inside the range (this goes beyond safety gear, as your attire is just as important to your safety!)
  • How to ask for help if you're experiencing a gun malfunction or stoppage
  • Which commands you need to be aware of while in the range
  • What type of waiver you'll need to sign
  • How to approach/leave your station
  • & Much More!

Get familiar with the rules before you even step foot inside the range, and don't be afraid to call ahead to ask questions. The more you know, the less room there is for confusion and error.

Target Shooting Tips for Beginners

As with anything in life, target shooting takes focus, practice, and patience. Though you're going to learn a lot of the basic gun rules and techniques when you attend a course or private lesson, here are three tried-and-true shooting tips that you'll want to remember.

Your Gun Is Always Loaded

Get this message in your head. Even if your firearm is empty, assume that it is loaded. Remember, at the range, you're responsible for protecting your safety, as well as those around you. 

Only Aim at the Shooting Target

The only time you will aim your gun (loaded or empty) is when you're directly facing the target. This also means that your finger should never touch the trigger until you are positioned correctly on the firing line and aiming your gun at the target. 

"Cease Fire!" Is a Command, Not a Recommendation

It's important to remember that you are not the only active shooter at the range—which means everyone (whether you're a member or a first-time visitor) must follow every command given.

If you hear "cease fire", you must immediately stop firing, remove your finger from the trigger, position your gun in a safe position, and slowly back away from the firing line. This also means that you are not to approach that line until an "all clear" type of command is given.

There are many reasons for why this command might be given, including a gun malfunction, someone dropping a piece of equipment (e.g., a paper target), someone breaking a rule, etc.

Best Beginner Targets

A while back we posted our top 5 best shooting targets for beginners. These options ranged from the B-27 Silhouette Target to the TRNG-8A paper target. Check out our article to learn more about these and other options, as well as how to choose the right paper target based on your skill level.

You can also browse our online collection of paper shooting targets for all your training and qualification needs. Our targets are American-made and available in bulk—with the option of customization.

We hope you found these first-time target shooting tips helpful, and we also hope you enjoy your experience at the range. Always remember that owning a firearm is your right as an American, but it's also a responsibility you need to take seriously. Remember to follow the rules, ask questions, and always be respectful at the range!