Beginning Women Shooters, Don’t Go To The Range Without These Helpful Tips!
When you walk into a shooting range you are confronted with a ton of sensory information. The hustle and bustle of people signing in, renting guns, and talking to one another, as well as the cracking, popping, and booming coming from the firing lanes. It can be a little much for the novice shooter, especially since everybody else seems to know exactly what to do, where to get in line, and a lot of the specs for myriad of firearms behind the counter. These things are easy enough to figure out or ask someone about; however, there are some things every woman should keep in mind before going through the doors. With these seven helpful tips I will tell you what you should expect, and hopefully assist you in getting the most out of your shooting experience.
All ranges will have rules and safety protocols posted. Make sure to read them carefully and follow them at ALL TIMES. If you have any questions about them, ask one of the staff. Remember, NEVER point a gun at something you don’t intend to shoot, and ALWAYS keep a loaded firearm pointed in a safe direction. Keep your finger OFF of the trigger and your safety ON until you are ready to fire.
Try It On
When choosing a firearm to rent make sure it’s a good fit. Hold it in your hands. Pretend to shoot it. (Without pointing it at anyone of course!) And make sure your finger can comfortably reach the trigger. The first gun I rented had a very comfortable grip. When I got into the lane and tried to shoot it I found that I couldn’t pull the trigger because I couldn’t place my hand correctly on the grip and reach the trigger at the same time. I had to take it back out and exchange it for a different gun. A beginning shooter’s mistake that’s east to avoid if you know what to look for. Also, watch out for Double Action Only (DAO) semi-automatics. Unlike Double Action revolvers, semi-automatics don’t have a hammer you can cock back. (in other words you can’t cheat). You MUST make sure that you can grip the gun, correctly place you finger on the trigger, and pull the trigger. Depending on the gun, this can be a challenge for women with small hands, like me.
Only rent one or two guns. More than that, and it’ll be too overwhelming. Besides, you want to have some time on each gun you shoot. A couple of guns and one bag of ammo for each should be good for several hours of fun on the range. It’s a lot to take in, especially if you are inexperienced. You might not believe it, but shooting is quite a work out. You’ll be using different muscles than you normally do, so a couple hours of shooting is PLENTY of time. Also there is the cost. Most ranges will require you to buy their ammo to use in their rental guns. This is for your safety and to make sure that the range’s firearms are not damaged. Still, it can get pretty pricey.
Set Yourself Up to Win
Don’t start with the highest caliber gun available, and when you get into your lane don’t put the target out on the 25 yard line. Start easy. Five yards will do. It’s a lot more fun to hit the target than it is to miss it, even if it is an “easy shot.” Once you’ve gotten a little more used to your weapon, you can always move the target back further. Nobody will laugh, and there’ll probably be at least one other beginner there.
Technique, Technique, Technique
Stance is important. You’ll find that when you use proper handgun form you have much more control and shooting is much easier. I prefer The Weaver stance. You should keep your arms and knees bent slightly and your feet shoulder width apart, with your right foot back. (Assuming you’re right handed. This would be opposite for people who shoot with their left on the trigger.) Bend your body forward a little, but don’t hunch. As for gripping the gun, I recommend the fist grip. Hold the gun with your dominant hand like you would when shooting. Then place the thumb of your opposite hand below the thumb on your dominant hand and put your “secondary” hand’s fingers around the primary’s. Use your secondary hand to support the weight of the gun and the primary to steady, control, and pull the trigger. Comfort is important too. Your stance and grip should feel comfortable to your body. If not, you should readjust your position and/or grasp. Starting right is important for the novice woman shooter because it’s very easy to form a habit or two. And, believe me, you don’t want to be trying to learn how your gun works, how to shoot, and breaking a bad habit at the same time.
Stick With It
Shooting may seem difficult and even a little scary at first. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get used to it, especially if you have a good teacher with you. The more rounds you fire the better you get. Don’t give up if you don’t do perfectly the first time. Shooting is a skill, and like any other skill, it takes practice to build up muscle memory and to become really great at it. However, you don’t need to be an athlete, or be able to snatch a fly out of the air with a pair of chopsticks to be a successful shooter. You just need some discipline and some experience. As with anything else, we all start somewhere.
Take your time between shots, breathe, and try to loosen up. It’s not a race, and it’s not a competition. Don’t concern yourself with the skill levels of your fellow shooters, and don’t worry about being outdone or looking like a noob. Please try not to clutch the gun too tightly and relax your muscles. This was hard for me at first because I worried about the recoil; a very common concern for beginning women shooters. You just have to unwind. When you do, you’ll find that the firearm is actually easier to handle when you are calm. And last-but-not-least…