FIRST TRIP TO THE RANGE
Is this going to be your first trip to the range? What do you need to bring? What is it going to be like? We know you have questions so I'll try to answer a few of the most common ones here...
I just read that there are 7 million new gun owners in our country today. Many of the people we see coming to the range have never been to a "real" range before. Most have only shot informally in the woods if at all. This is gonna be different from anything you have ever seen before. There is something called Range Etiquette. This just means that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Chances are, when you get here, you won't be the only one here and will be sharing the range with sometimes over 20 shooters (happens like that sometimes, like on a nice Saturday afternoon). Most of the time, expect to have at least 5 or 6 shooters using the range at any given time. That doesn't mean they are all piled up on one range here. There are 7 ranges here in all and our range traffic is usually spread out over them. Many days you may find you are the only range user at the time and have the whole place to yourself. Its like that here during the week. Weekends are busier. As a Trial member, you will have access to our Main Range by the office. People with Annual Membership have use of the whole facility. They go through a Range Safety Orientation before getting use of the ranges away from the office.
1.) When you get here, make your way to the gray brick building with the "Main Office" sign on it. Any guns you bring to the range to shoot should be unloaded and either cased or in a holster. If you don't have a holster or box for your guns, that is not a problem. Just don't bring it into the range office. Leave it in your car until you get signed into a range. All guns should be transported with the magazine out, in an empty condition. The range is always staffed. There will be someone inside the office wearing an "FOP Range" shirt to help you get started. There are two forms everyone using the range has to fill out. First is the Non-Member Info Sheet. It asks you for some basic information. Who are you, where are you from, how do we contact you later should we need to. Who do we call should you injure yourself here, and which hospital do you prefer we have you hauled to. If you have anything you would want medics to know about you such as allergies, there is a space for that as well. Then there is a section used to evaluate the legality of your using the range... Staff may ask to see your pistol permit and identification to verify your answers to this section. The bottom part of the form is the "Waiver". It is a hold harmless agreement that everyone using the range must execute before getting access to the facility. The other form is on the back of the same sheet of paper and is the Main Range Safety Rules.
2.) You will need both eye protection and hearing protection. You will have to use both while on any of the ranges here. They are your eyes and God only gave you two of them. We want to see something between your eyes and the rest of the world. What you use is up to you. I wear and sell ANSI rated wrap around style safety glasses. I know guys who wear over-sized safety glasses over their seeing glasses. Again, what you use is up to you. The glasses we have here are cheap but provide a good level of protection. We sell them for as little as $3.00. Try to find any for less. They start at about $14.00 at Home Depot or Lowes. As for hearing protection, we have both plugs and muffs for sale at the range office. Plugs are $1.00 and the muffs are $6.00. Using both plugs and muffs gives you the highest level of protection available. Hearing damage is permanent. Always wear something so you can hear your grand kids later.
3.) Ammo. You can shoot ammo from anywhere. There is no requirement to use range ammo. Reloads are allowed here. For most of us, we couldn't get much shooting done without reloading because of the cost of factory ammo. We sell factory name brand ammo here at the lowest prices in the area. If you found it anywhere else for less, someone is running a loss-leader sale to get you in their store. Buy their ammo, stock up. I tell guys, if you have money for a new gun, buy ammo with it instead. Read up on reloading. You can reload your brass for 1/4 to 1/2 what you would spend for the same ammo new. Plus its a lot of fun making your own and you have total control of what you produce, such as making a batch of lighter recoiling loads.
4.) Targets. You can bring your own paper targets or get them here. The targets here are only $.94. We also have some very cool things to shoot here other than paper targets. The rifle side of the Main Range has a couple of rifle plates at 100 yards. They are reactive targets... that means they do something when hit by a bullet. They fall over, swing from side to side or ring loudly when hit. Shooting the plates is a challenge and reactive targets are the most fun targets that anyone can use. Check out the 2 ranges here with hundreds of reactive steel plate targets for our members to use with handguns and 22 rimfires. One or two boxes of ammo ain't enough. It takes about 200 rounds for most guys to feel satisfied that they have had enough shooting. For a serious challenge, try hitting the 12 inch rifle plates out there at 100 yards with your handgun. If you do everything right, you'll be rewarded with a cool "DING".
5.) What guns can you shoot? You can shoot pretty much anything you legally own here with two exceptions. Class 3 full auto (machine guns) are not allowed on the Main range because they throw a bunch of brass on the guys to your right. They usually don't appreciate it... no matter how cool your gun is. The other is the 50 BMG guns. Again, due to the considerations of those around you. Yeah, they are cool to shoot... but they aren't cool to shoot next to. They are just too dang loud but are allowed on the member's rifle range.
6.) Be aware that the Main Range is run by a traffic light on a timer. When the light is green, shooters may chamber ammo and shoot. When the light is yellow, shooters should be taking their last shots, making the gun safe, action open, no ammo in the gun, gun benched. Benched means it is laid down on the bench so it won't get knocked off the rifle rest by anyone walking by. When the light goes red, everyone is to have have their gun safe and can proceed downrange to staple up new targets, mark or evaluate holes in targets, or take old targets down before leaving. The light will stay green for 9 minutes, yellow for 1 minute, and red for 10 minutes giving you 10 minutes to shoot, 10 minutes to fix targets. No one has control of the light to extend or shorten the times. The timer is inside the light fixture.
7.) You will see and hear the terms "hot" and "cold" around the range. Hot means that fire can commence, you can shoot. Cold means the shooting on the range has ceased and all firearms have been "made safe".
8.) "Made safe" means that your gun is put into a condition where the action is open, all ammunition has been taken out of the gun, any magazine has been removed, and any safety engaged. Anyone can take a glance at your gun and tell it is in a safe condition.
9.) No one may handle their gun while the range is cold, the light is red. Don't load your gun, put clips or magazines in it. Don't allow it to point at anyone downrange while they are out there fixing targets. This refers to looking through the scope on your gun while shooters are downrange. Put them down and give those out there time to get back behind the firing line.
10.) You will hear the terms up-range and downrange used. Up-range refers to the area where the shooters are. Downrange refers to the area where the targets are. You wouldn't want to be downrange while guys are shooting.
11.) Once the range goes hot, the light is green, you may handle your firearms. Never allow the muzzle of your firearm to sweep or point at anyone on the range. Either lift it upwards so it points at the sky or depress the muzzle so it point at the ground. This is called "muzzle discipline". All safe gun handlers exercise muzzle discipline at all times. The NRA has boiled gun safety down to 4 very basic rules.
1. Always be certain of your gun's condition, loaded or unloaded. Treat every gun as if it were loaded and could fire.
2. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
3. Never place your finger on the trigger until your sights are on your intended target.
4. Never point your firearm at anything you don't want to kill or destroy.
Rule number 4 is what we are talking about when we talk about muzzle discipline.
12.) While the range is cold and the light is red, there is no handling of guns allowed. People will probably be downrange and won't appreciate you getting your gun out and unloading it while they are in front of the firing line, downrange. You wouldn't want anyone doing the same behind you when you are downrange. If you get to the range and the light is red, take the opportunity to set up your targets and get your ear plugs in. Wait until everyone is back uprange and the light goes green making the range hot before getting your gun out or fiddling with it.
13.)Don't be in a hurry. Murphy hangs out here too. Take your time. Plan on a couple of hours to get anything done. If sighting in your rifle, plan on cooling down periods for it to cool off. You want a cold first shot zero anyway. If you fire more than 5 shots in a row, your group will start to string and you will waste ammo and time chasing the holes with the scope. We see guys get here about half an hour before closing time all the time. They rarely accomplish what they came here to do.
14.) How old do you have to be to use the range? The minimum age for range use is 21 years old. If you are under 21, we require you to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. This is for a couple of reasons. First, the Federal Government has a law that says we can't sell or deliver ammunition that will chamber in a handgun to a minor (defined by them as anyone under 21). Second, there is a world of difference in the level of maturity between a 18 year old and a 21 year old. It simply makes for a safer shooting environment for everyone on the range. Third, minors can not enter into any legally binding contract... such as the Liability Waiver. I hate it for those wanting to come out and burn ammo at ages under 21. We really would like to take your money and let you shoot but this policy is for the best. With that said, there is no minimum age requirement either... so long as a parent or guardian is present to supervise the child while at the range. We get them here at 6 or 7 all the time, shooting 22's or a hunting rifle with Dad or Grandpa. Our policy about kids is you must supervise them while here. You must have them within arms reach and under 100% of your undivided attention while they are shooting.
15.) Problems. The range is always staffed by experienced, knowledgeable people who are happy to help you with any questions you may have or problems you encounter while here. If you have a problem with a gun and are unsure about what to do, leave it at your shooting position and go over to the range office and grab a range officer to give you a hand clearing the jam. If you see any unsafe action by another shooter, do the same. Range staff will address it.
That about covers it.