Your first few dates went well. You made it known that you like shooting…and now your date has an interest in it. The two of you could have a blast while you teach skills that are a lot of fun to learn and could save someone’s life later. Going to the range will be a perfect date!
Without proper planning and execution, your range date could become a disaster. Here are 12 tips to ensure a date at the range won’t be your last.
1. Plan ahead
Ensure against fiascos by scouting the range in advance. Even if you’ve been there before, make sure you know its layout, rules, and schedule. “Once I showed up for a Wednesday evening date at my range to discover it was reserved for police training,” said friend and avid shooter Brian Hall.
2. Meet before you go
Winging a date at the range is the quickest way to land on the Top 10 Worst Dates Ever list. Unless your date is an experienced shooter and owns a gun, meet somewhere an hour prior for a brief primer. The firing line is the place for tips and reminders, not first-time instruction.
“When we get on the range,” say to your date, “it’ll be extremely loud and you won’t be able to hear well, so here’s what’ll happen.” Then walk through an entire shooting sequence, from uncasing the gun, setting it on the range table, establishing the firing line, placing a target, loading the gun, getting the correct grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger squeeze. Also show them how to dry fire the gun, making it safe, and set it down. If you can’t use a real gun in this situation, pretend.
At the very least, watch other shooters from behind the soundproof glass while giving a play-by-play of what’s happening.
3. Give dress advice
Jeans, tennis shoes, a round-necked t-shirt and a light jacket or vest is best. No heels. If your date wears a V-neck, count on a hot shell casing going down the shirt.
4. Choose a firing lane strategically
When renting a lane at an indoor range, advise the range officer that you’d like a lane away from any AR-15 rifles or other super-loud guns if possible. Lanes on the end are generally a good choice.
5. Shoot a .22 pistol
If you want your shooting date to be your last, break out the .44 Mag. Now is not the time for showing off your arsenal. Stick to one gun to learn safety and fundamentals. A .22is ideal for this. Your new shooter will have fun, not worry about recoil, will hit the target, and likely will want to shoot a larger caliber next time.
6. Stress safety, fundamentals and fun—in that order
Recite the three cardinal rules of gun safety, and ask your date to remember them. Point out that it’s fine to set the gun down, pointed downrange, and do nothing if there’s any uncertainty about what to do. You’ll be there to help. Teach basics about grip, sight picture, and trigger squeeze, then focus on fun.
7. Dry fire often
Do this between each shot string. It allows a new shooter to take a break, focus on form, and work on any flaws, such as jerking the trigger.
8. Use paper plates for targets
Shooters become fixated on hitting bull’s-eyes, and are disappointed if they don’t. Explain that once the fundamentals are learned groups will tighten and then the gun’s sights can be adjusted—on a subsequent date. Have your shooter aim for the center of the plate, and save the plate that reflects the best shooting.
9. Use proper-fitting protection
Make sure your shooter’s hearing and eye protection are in great condition and comfortable. Wear both foam plugs and electronic muffs simultaneously if shooting indoors. The double protection has a calming effect, while the electronic muffs will amplify your words.
10. Be a teacher, not a shooter
This isn’t the time to impress anyone with your skills. Your focus is on your shooter being safe while having a good time.
11. Compliment often
No matter where the bullets are hitting, your shooter is probably doing something well—a proper grip, for instance. Find something positive to say, and say it.
12. Keep the shooting session short
Give new shooters a 30-minute taste of the range to pique interest. Just because you paid for an hour doesn’t mean you have to shoot for an hour. After all, your goal is another date!
Here’s a tip: If you’re not a solid shooter with some instructing experience, consider hiring a professional. Nothing is worse than acting like an expert and then not delivering. There are NRA Certified Instructors in your area. All of them administer certified 8-hour courses, but many will give an informal lesson at the range for less money. You can find a list here. Sometimes paying for a pro is the best choice of all—and you may learn something too.