Ever feel like they should toss in a gun owners etiquette guide when purchasing your first firearm?
Well, don't stress, we're here to help answer the questions every new gun owner could ask.
Today we're covering how to handle taking your gun to the shooting range and the gun shop. In a few minutes, you'll know how to handle both experiences like a pro.
What to Take to the Gun Range
Before we begin, if you're looking for general shooting range procedures and etiquette, we have a guide just for that.
The focus of this guide is what to take with you and how to transport your gun, ammo, and safety gear.
Shooting Range Bag vs Gun Case
There are several options to carry your gun and gear. Some are definitely more suitable than others. Let's take a closer look at the most popular options.
On the plus side, everyone has a backpack - you may as well use it for heading to the range, right? Well, you could, but you're definitely going to want a backpack with padding to prevent scratches to your firearm.
You also need to weigh the pros of having a bag that doesn't scream "gun owner" with the cons of how easy a backpack is to snatch and how insecure it is.
Convenient but risky.
The Laptop Bag
A laptop bag provides similar benefits to the backpack; i.e. not announcing to your neighbour that you have a gun, easy to carry, multipurpose. But it also has the same downsides -if anything it’s even easier to snatch (with the added incentive for criminals that the case should have a laptop in it). It's also not secure at all.
The only real upside to the backpack is that it will have padding to protect your gun from scratches, although certainly not enough to protect against anything serious.
The Range Bag
A popular choice these days - this over-the-shoulder bag doesn't give away what's inside, but within the bag are all the compartments you'd want for your gun and safety equipment.
But once again, while convenient, this is still not a very secure option.
The Specialist Gun Case
Gun owners who are serious about their firearms are increasingly heading to shooting ranges with specialist gun cases. The benefits of a (good) gun case over the alternatives are significant.
A quality gun case will provide:
- A hard outer shell to protect against knocks and crushing.
- Custom foam inserts to keep the contents in place and absorb shock.
- Security so strangers cannot open the case - not even if they try and pry it open.
- Complete protection from the elements - dust, moisture, and water.
- Extra compartments for ammo, magazine clips, eye protection, ear protection, etc.
- Gun storage for years, at home and when traveling.
If you want to learn more about gun cases, our guide to the best multiple pistol cases goes into greater detail.
What to Pack
Now that you have the bag or case - you're probably wondering what to pack in it before you head to the gun range. Here are a few items we recommend - ignoring the gun and ammo, which should be self-evident unless you're planning to just stare down your target.
- Eye and ear protection (you may be able to rent these at the range, call in advance to check)
- Targets (if the range doesn't provide them or it's cheaper to buy your own)
- A cloth to wipe down your gun
- A plastic bag to collect target pieces and cartridge shells
- An Emergency Personal Injury Kit (not necessary but highly recommended)
- Masking tape to tape up targets
- Notebook and pen (if you want to track your progress)
- Gloves if the weather is cold and you're going to an outdoor range
Call ahead to see what amenities the range provides. Most indoor ranges have a greater range of offerings, but you won't know until you ask.
Gun Safety Rules for Bringing Your Gun Into a Range
First things first, we recommend contacting your local range in advance to ask about their policies. Some ranges prefer you to visit without your gun case or bag first. Others allow you to enter as long as:
- Your gun is not loaded, including a clear barrel.
- Your gun is in your case or bag and is only taken out when you are at the shooting stall.
How to Bring Your Gun to the Gun Shop
We've covered the shooting range, but what about entering a gun shop with a firearm?
Some people think that if anyone will be okay with you open carrying a gun on the premises it would be a gun store, right? Wrong.
As a U.S. citizen or resident over the age of 18 with a gun license, or in a state where a permit isn't necessary, you may carry in public. However, most gun stores strongly discourage entering with a loaded gun. If you are carrying, many gun stores request that you remove the magazine clip and clear the chamber before entering.
Please remember this: even if you think your gun is not loaded (and people are mistaken all the time) there is no reason for you to take the gun out. You may not have dangerous intent, but accidental discharges happen and the people in the store will not appreciate you taking out your gun lightly.
This is without doubt one of the most important rules of gun safety: don't draw your gun unless you intend to use it. Assume your gun is always loaded and you'll be just fine.
But What If I Need to Show My Gun
If you really need an employee or gunsmith to examine your firearm (to ask a question, get it serviced, try out an accessory) then clear your gun (check it three times) and place it into a gun case. Make sure the action is open and a chamber flag or similar is clearly running through. If the magazine clip can be removed, do so.
Now you can place the case on the counter and open it for the clerk to check. Doing so will be appreciated, and save you the embarrassment of a bullet being emptied out of a chamber you thought was empty.
It happens ALL THE TIME.
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a gun owner - the fact that you're here speaks to your commitment. If all new gun owners were willing to do the work to understand the rules of gun safety - maybe it wouldn't be such an urgent topic.
We encourage you to keep learning and enjoying your firearm. Rest assured: your first visit to the gun range will likely just be the start of a lifelong activity.