Note: This article was originally posted over at GunUp, but now I’m reposing it here to keep my articles together and organized.
You’ve decided to go to the shooting range for the first time! How cool is that. I am happy for you. Weather you’ve decided to go as part of a class, with someone you already knew or with a mentor from the gun blogger community, I hope your first time will be safe, fun and educational.
Have you decided what you’re going to wear on your first trip to the shooting range? If not, I’m going to try to be of some help for you as you decide. If so, be sure your outfit doesn’t make any of the silly mistakes I’ve mentioned below.
First up: Head
- Hair- Shooting a firearm is a process that gives off gasses which settle on your clothes, hair and skin. Plus, shooting requires your full attention, and that may be hard to give if you hair keeps falling in your face. It is a good idea to wear your hair in a ponytail, braid, bun or twist at the shooting range. Be sure to chose a hairstyle that not only protects your hair from the elements, but also keeps your hair out of your face and can accommodate wearing a hat and hearing protection.
- Hat- Wearing a hat at the shooting range has several advantages. First, it will help prevent any flying hot brass from falling down between your shooting range classes and your eyes. It sounds like a strange occurrence, but it does happen and it is not comfortable. Wearing a hat can prevent this. If you’re at an outdoor range, the hat will protect you from sunburn. It can also keep your hair neat on a windy day. At either indoor or outdoor ranges, a hat can keep some of those gasses we were talking about off of your hair.
- Eye Protection- Eye protection is a MANDATORY accessory when firing a firearm. Rifle, shotgun, pistol, .22 caliber or .45 caliber; it does not matter. Shooting causes hot gasses and hot casings to fly through the air. Our eyes are important to us and we must protect them. Appropriate eye protection for shooting has been rated as a safety eye-wear item. It does not comprise of regular or prescription sun glasses, reading glasses or eye glasses. If you do not have a pair, don’t worry they are not expensive, some ranges loan them out (call ahead) and your instructor or shooting range buddy may have an extra pair you can wear (call ahead).
- Ear Protection- “Ears,” as many shooters refer to them, are also MANDATORY safety items. They come in many styles such as ear plugs, which are squished up and inserted into the ear; over the ear hearing protection which are worn across the head and nestled onto the ears like winter weather ear muffs or a headband; custom made molded ear plugs which fit in and sometimes in and around the ear; and more! The right ears for you are ones you can afford, ones which fit you well and which protect your hearing. Some shooters wear both ear plugs and an over the ear protection simultaneously. This is especially helpful if you are shooting, or are next to someone who is shooting a gun or rifle of a larger caliber.
- Makeup- Thick, creamy foundations can trap gasses and particles which are expressed into the air at a shooting range each time a firearm fires a shot. If your skin is delicate, break-out prone or if you simply would rather skip experiencing the sensation of gasses in your makeup, skip the foundation on the day you attend the range. A mineral foundation, blush and mascara should all be okay for you to wear however.
- Sunscreen- Be sure to apply sunscreen before heading out to an outdoor shooting range. Many ranges have covered shooting benches, but you can still get a little color to you and you will probably not be in the shade when you go out to change or check your targets.
- Jewelery- Personally, I see no problem wearing jewelery to the range, with a few exceptions. One exception is if the piece is a sensitive or exceptionally sentimental one. Opals, for example, are very delicate stones and may be harmed by the activities and gasses found in a shooting range environment. Your grandmother’s wedding ring is precious and while nothing should happen to it, I’d rather you leave it at home where it will be safe. Another exception is if wearing the item of jewelery will make you uncomfortable or compromise your safety. Items such as earrings or eyebrow rings should only be worn if your piercings will not be irritated by the wearing of eye and ear protection and will not compromise the effectiveness of your eye and ear protection.
- Shirt- The top you choose to wear to the range must be a high-necked top. No, higher than that. You want something that is as close to a turtle-neck or mock turtle neck as you are willing to go. Hopefully it will cover your collar bones. It should also not be a button up top. At the shooting range, hot brass flies through the air. It’s apart of the process and the excitement. You may get hit by your own brass and by the brass of the shooter on the right or left of you if you’re not in a private shooting bay. These little pieces of hot brass have excellent cleavage aim. They will find the tiniest gap between chest and shirt and make a dive for it, causing you to do the “hot-brass-stuck-down-my-shirt-and-maybe-even-in-my-bra” dance in front of a range full of old white guys. Your shirt can be a short sleeved shirt if it is hot out. Hot brass hitting the arm isn’t as painful as hot brass down your top. If it is cold out however, or if you’re going to be shooting a right-handed rifle left-handed, try to wear a long sleeved top. Your shirt should be machine washable and not dry-clean only. It should also be a top that doesn’t dirty easily and will come clean easily.
- Some optional “shoulders” items (If you don’t know what they are or why you would need them this first range trip, you probably won’t need them and will be okay without them.): Elbow pads (for shooting in prone or off of a bench with something that will kick). Chest padded jacket, vest or shirt (for shooting something that will kick). Longish short sleeved top, long sleeved top or a shooting jacket (for putting a loop sling on when shooting prone, sitting or offhand with rifles).
- Pants- Pants are an important part of the shooting range outfit. If you show up without them, the police may be called. Your shooting range pants should be comfortable, not easily dirtied, machine washable and easy to get clean. If you will be shooting seated or prone, pants are important to wear because you don’t want to scrape your knees against the ground in these positions. When shooting seated and prone it is also a good idea to wear lose fitting or elastic pants. You want to be able to breathe smoothly and evenly while you are shooting from these positions and you want to be comfortable. If you will not be shooting seated or prone, if your range permits it and you think it’s a good idea, you can probably get away with wearing shorts and capris. If you’re brave, you might be able to pull off a skirt. At the range, you’ll probably want to sit down, so be careful when choosing light colored bottoms to wear. The seats may be dusty or dirty. You want to wear a pant that won’t stain, won’t show a stain or that you don’t care about staining.
- At the range, you will spend a lot of your time standing and you will be shooting or will be near others who are shooting. As such, your range shoes should be comfortable and should be closed-toed to avoid any hot brass touching your feet. As with all of your range clothing, they should be washable if at all possible. They too will be coated with gasses, which include lead and could use a good washing with all of your other range clothes when you arrive back home. If you foresee shooting becoming a staple in your life, you may consider having a dedicated pair of range shoes that is worn only at the range. This way, you can skip the washing step without worrying about tracking lead into the house. If you will be shooting prone at the range, be sure you’re wearing shoes you don’t mind scuffing up the toes on. Shooting seated may also scratch the sides of your shoes.
That’s it! You are completely outfitted in range clothes and safety wear and are ready to go to the shooting range. Be safe and have fun. On this first trip, use big targets, put them close to you and forget about accuracy or competition. This is about getting you safe around firearms and having a good experience. The rest will come in due time.