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  • Writer's pictureHootey Cline

A Practical Guide for New Shooters/Gun Owners

Firearms have been a well-integrated part of American life ever since the British military tried to disarm the citizens of Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. This day spurred what would become the birth of a new nation as common citizens banded together to defeat the largest empire that the world had ever seen and claim the independence of the United States of America. Due to this pivotal time in our nation’s history, firearms and self-preservation have become revered as “unalienable rights”.

If you are like millions of present-day Americans you may have recently purchased your first firearm, or are seriously considering it for a multitude of reasons. Having someone that you can trust will not only help ensure your personal safety as you begin acquiring the knowledge to be a responsible gun owner, but it can also help you properly develop your skills. Education is part of our core mission here at Blue Coat Arms Company. We take pride in making sure that you get quick and accurate information from our experienced staff. To help you begin that journey we have compiled a short guide for new shooters.

What to Expect at a Gun Range

Some gun ranges will be busy all the time, while others may be empty and it will just be you along with a range officer or mentor. The one thing that every gun range has in common though is SAFETY! Firearms are dangerous, plain and simple. One of the benefits to a gun range is that some will allow you to rent firearms. This is beneficial, especially if you are looking to purchase a firearm, because it will allow you to try a specific brand or model out first. This allows for you to make sure that that particular gun is comfortable while actively firing the weapon, a feature that gun stores often lack.

Range Safety Officer (RSO)

A Range Safety Officer is an employee of the gun range and it is their job to supervise shooters, enforce the rules of the range, and to handle any problems that may occur. It is important to remember that the RSO has the ultimate authority of the range. We highly recommend that if it is your first time at a particular range, or you are a new shooter, to introduce yourself to the RSO and find out exactly what they expect of you. Many RSOs may seem ill-tempered but they are usually nice and just want to make sure that everyone stays safe.

Range Commands

The two most common, and important, range commands, which a RSO will use are Commence Firing and Cease Firing. Commence Firing is the command given to let everyone know that it is safe to shoot. Cease firing alerts shooters that you must stop firing immediately. It is very important to remember that under a Cease Fire there should be absolutely no handling of firearms. Some key things to remember are:

- Remove your magazine and make sure that all ammunition is removed from the weapon

- Make sure that your action is locked in the open position.

- Set the weapon down and do not touch it until instructed otherwise.

- Step away from the firing line until instructed otherwise.

Other Things to Consider at the Range

You may not always go to a range. Just about everyone knows someone that has a farm or a wide open area where people go plinking (shooting at targets for fun). No matter where you are it is important to remember:

- You should never fire at posts, supports, or target frames.

- You should only fire at range-approved targets.

- If you set out frames to support the targets, you should always return them to the storage area once you are done. However, NEVER go past the firing line (down range) until a RSO says it is safe to do so.

- You should always leave a range better than you found it, so that you will be welcomed back.

Things That You Will Need at The Range

We have all seen videos on Facebook and YouTube of the guys who take every firearm they own to the range. In reality, going shooting is far less intensive; however there are some things that you should always take with you.

Gun Case

Unless you are shooting on your own property, that you live on, you will need some type of case to transport your firearm. Not only is this the law for transporting firearms but it will also help protect it from damage. Gun cases are available just about anywhere, in a wide array of sizes, and made at just about every price range, so there really is no reason not to have one.

Ear and Eye Protection

By many standards the .22-caliber round is considered to be the smallest and quietest firearm. However, it is still capable of emitting a sound of 140 decibels (dB) which is enough to cause hearing loss to occur. Hearing protection is a MUST! Eye protection is also important, especially if you are using a Semi-Automatic firearm. This is due to the cartridge casings being ejected from the firearm. Eye protection will also help protect your eyes from unburnt powder in the air. You should look for glasses that are impact-resistant and specifically labeled for “shooting sport use”.

Correct Ammunition

You should always check your owner’s manual to make sure that you are purchasing the ammunition that is recommended by the manufacturer. This will not only help to ensure your safety but also the longevity of your firearm.


You can’t really go shooting if you don’t have something to shoot at. Many beginners like to use reactive targets, which do a variety of things such as explode or change color where the bullet strikes it. You should be aware that some ranges will only allow paper targets. Note that not all gun ranges sell targets so you should always call ahead and check with the range on what they recommend you bring.

Gun Safety

So you have done all this reading about how gun safety is so important but you’re not entirely sure how to be safe. First, you need to learn that gun safety is EVERYONE’S responsibility. Second, you need to memorize the three basic rules of gun safety:

1) ALWAYS keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.

2) ALWAYS keep you finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

3) ALWAYS keep the firearm unloaded until you are ready to use it.

Following these rules at ALL TIMES will help to keep you and everyone around you safe. Here are a few other things that you should always keep in mind:

Know your target and what lies beyond it.

You must always be sure of what you are hitting and that there is something behind your target that can serve as a backstop, which will catch any bullets that miss or pass through the target. You are ultimately responsible for every round that passes through your firearm!

Know how to use your firearm safely.

Before you pick up any weapon you should first know how to operate it. Read the owner’s manual, find some reputable knowledge online, or find someone who knows about that particular firearm. Not knowing how a firearm operates is one of the most common and yet avoidable safety mistakes that are often made.

Only use the correct ammunition for your firearm.

Each firearm is engineered and manufactured to work properly with a specific caliber and/or cartridge. Only ammunition that is designed for that particular firearm may be safely fired. The owner’s manual will always list the cartridges (ammunition) that is appropriate for that particular firearm. There are a variety of choices in after-market ammunition. If you want to try something and you are not sure if it is correct always ask a reputable gunsmith, like us, or a firearm dealer.

Be sure that your firearm is safe to operate.

A firearm is a tool. A firearm is a tool. A firearm is a tool. Because a firearm is a tool it needs to be regularly serviced and maintained. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of a firearm’s general maintenance. If you are not sure how to properly maintain your firearm give us a call! We service firearms daily and would be more than happy to help you come up with a plan.

NEVER use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting!

This includes all forms! Even if you don’t drink or partake in recreational drugs, you need to be aware that there are some prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medication that will impair your ability to shoot safely. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns. If you are ever in any doubt DO NOT pick up a firearm. Remember that firearm safety is EVERYONE’S responsibility.

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future blogs and podcasts please leave them below. We always love hearing from you! And be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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