Learn to Shoot – My First Time at the Rifle Range
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Growing up I had plenty of experience with BB guns, air rifles, and bows, but barely any experience with actual firearms. Fast forward to 2010 and I was graduating anesthesia school, and excited to branch out into the outdoors. I slowly fished my way through various different species and in 2017 I began to have a desire to harvest my own meat. It started with a traditional bow, which inevitably progressed to rifles and shotguns. In 2019 I shot my first rifle at the range and got proficient enough to harvest two deer that fall with a Ruger American Predator rifle chambered in 350 legend. However the first weapon I shot on my own at the range was a Mossberg 500 with a slug barrel. And despite ending that season with a yearning for more adventure, my start on the range was anything but “gung ho”.
For as long as I can remember I have always hated loud abrupt noises. Balloons are a great example. Well, not that shockingly my first time at the range was full of apprehension. I would have worn three pairs of hearing protection if they would have fit on my head, and I was very uncomfortable even looking at my own gun let alone shooting it because I was too busy starring at everyone else wondering when they were going to shoot. When I finally took a shot I realized I was fine when I was the one shooting. I was able to settle enough to get some practice with my gun but was eager to be done. I enjoyed shooting the gun and working on accuracy with targets, but I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the range during my first experience.
Safety, as it should be, was constantly at the forefront of my mind and it was probably overly evident to the range officer on duty because I had about 5,000 questions and only fired about 5 shots. The best part about going to a shooting club or hunting club with a good reputation is that these people are on duty to help. He helped me sight my scope, gave me some hold pointers, operated a spotting scope for me, gave me some tips on racking my shotgun, and countless other beginner type lessons.
I learned several very valuable lessons that first day:
Wear foam earplugs under your over-the-ear protection muffs.
Inline (in your ear) hearing protection is typically better for any gun you use a cheek rest
If you can afford them, use electronic over-ear hearing protection (These allow you to talk at a normal level but block out sound when it goes above a certain decibel.)
Shotgun slugs are extremely accurate inside 50 yards
Shotgun slug barrels will donkey thunder punch the crap out of you if you are not properly positioned
It is possible to “blow” your hearing muffs off with a shot from a gun with a raised check comb
An unprotected ear placed on or very near to the stock of a shotgun deer slug when discharged will produce ringing in the ear close to a high E pitch. Don’t worry you will have plenty of time to determine the note if you are unlucky enough to experience it.
Despite the shaky start, I did get my gun sighted and I left feeling good that I challenged myself by learning something new and putting myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable. I had great help from the staff, and I have been back numerous times since with different firearms and now thoroughly enjoy the experience. Safety is still extremely important along with situational awareness, but I have fun and learn something new every time I hit the range.