Well, congratulations you’re taking a basic firearms course, have completed the classroom portion, and are now getting ready for the range live-fire shooting portion. Your instructors have said they will provide your guns, ammo, targets, target stands, magazines and pouches, holsters, range bag and basic firearm accessories. But is there anything that you should bring and are there any other things to consider before you actually shoot the firearm for your class at the range? There are at least these 8 things to think about before your range trip.
The instructors have hammered into your brain that SAFETY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION FOR YOUR FIREARMS COURSE, so you are well aware of that. In all of our firearms classes, EYE and EAR Protection are MANDATORY. Along those lines:
1. EYE PROTECTION IS CRITICAL when shooting a firearm, especially with others on the firing line. Wrap-around shooting glasses are preferred, as they will lessen the opportunity for hot brass to get stuck against your face. Pay attention to the light conditions that you will face and wear appropriate shaded eyewear. Although everyday sunglasses with plastic lenses are better than nothing, you’re much better off with a pair of protective, lightweight nylon-framed glasses specifically designed for shooting activities. It is preferable to have about 99.9% UVA and UVB protection and anti-scratch, anti-static shooting glasses. Most shooting glasses lens are made from three materials: Crown glass, CR 39 plastic, and Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is one of the best lens material available, weights less than Crown Glass and has a higher impact resistance rating. Polycarbonate is about the same weight as CR 39 plastic, but also has a higher impact resistance rating. Crown Glass and CR 39 Plastic offer little or no UV protection, while Polycarbonate, even in it’s clear form, provides excellent UV protection. Here are some polycarbonate shooting glasses that I use that are ANZI Z87.1 certified.
Lens Impact Resistance is probably the most important feature for shooting glasses and ratings are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the U.S. Military. There are standardized ratings from these three organizations to provide the minimum recommended impact resistance for safety based lens, e.g. OHSA Standard 1910.133(a)(2) requires impact resistant lens AND eye protection that provides side protection; ANSI standards for impact resistance and safety are ANZI Z87.1 and Z87.3, and the U.S. Military standard is MIL-V-43511C. Most instructors suggest choosing shooting glasses with lenses that meet or exceed at least one of these, while meeting two of the three is even better.
2. EAR PROTECTION IS ALSO IMPORTANT. It is possible that a single gunshot heard by an unprotected ear can lead to immediate and permanent hearing loss. For example, the average decibel noise level of a 9mm firearm is about 160 decibels, although of a short duration, and can be harmful. Most gun shots are between 150 and 160 decibels. For general use, look for Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of about 25 or greater for protection. The best way to block sound for shooting is with earmuffs that go over your ears. Some people prefer to wear earplugs. Electronic Earmuffs will help you to hear Range instructions and verbal communication while still blocking the sound of fire. They are more expensive than non-electronic earmuffs and plugs, but since you need to practice regularly and if you shoot often they are a worthwhile investment.
Also, if you feel comfortable and are dressed appropriately, this will usually help you perform better shooting. So:
3. Wear COMFORTABLE SHOES that you can move well in. You don’t need “tactical” boots, but a sturdy shoe, athletic, tennis, hiker, or cross-trainer sneaker/shoe is helpful. AVOID sandles, flip flops, and anything with open toes.
4. PANTS or SHORTS (AVOID tight pants and short-shorts) should be comfortable, allow freedom of movement, have plenty of pockets for magazines, ammo, etc. Jeans work fine, but consider cargo pants, capris, or appropriate shorts.
5. If it’s WARM, wear LIGHTWEIGHT CLOTHING that is breathable and/or moisture-wicking, like cotton fabrics. If there is a good chance of RAIN, consider bringing a lightweight rain garment or windbreaker to wear when you are not on the firing line (Optional.) Consider long-sleeved shirts for cooler weather.
6. AVOID wearing low-cut and sleeveless shirts and blouses, as ejected flying brass may find its way more easily to your skin.
7. Wear a cap or hat with a front BILL (like a BASEBALL CAP as shown) or brim to lessen the chance of flying brass hitting you in the face. Remember, if you wear hearing protector ear muffs they will fit OVER your cap or hat. Protector muffs that fit over the hat will tend to mash down the side brims of a hat, which will limit your peripheral view and be a safety concern.
8. Be HYDRATED and keep your ENERGY level up. Bottled plain water is good for this and will be available, so let your instructor know if you need it. If it’s warm weather when shooting, you may want to bring your own sports drinks. Fruit, like an apple, is a good quick energy boost when you feel you need one. For an energy boost consider bringing quick snacks like dried fruits, nuts and trail mix, as appropriate for you. We suggest the night before class that you drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. AVOID alcohol, since firearms and alcohol do not mix and can be a safety concern. Get up early and have a good breakfast, so you will have energy to focus and shoot your best.
Hope these basic equipment and clothing tips listed here can serve as a short Checklist to supplement the other instructor-provided things for your range trip for your firearms fundamentals shooting course. Be SAFE!