There are countless expressions and idioms in the English language that emphasize the importance of being safe. Going to the shooting range can be fun, but that fun is not complete without the proper safety equipment.
In this article, you’ll read about essential shooting range safety gear. While some items are mandatory, others are designed to make your experience more pleasant.
Did you know that millions of Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss? Occupational and recreational activities are both at fault, and guns are involved too. That is why it’s essential to purchase ear protection for your trips to the shooting range.
You have two choices, each with its own pros and cons.
You could go for earplugs. They’re cheap and easy to slip into your pocket or bag. But some people find them difficult to get in and out all the time. And then there’s the hygiene thing. What’s on your hands after loading and shooting your gun has no business getting into your ear canal.
At the same time, earplugs don’t offer much protection when you’re shooting a high-caliber gun, do they? And that brings up option number two.
Earmuffs seem to be the favorites. Yes, they’re bigger and more expensive, but they provide excellent protection. Do loud muzzle breaks sound familiar? Surely you’ve had the pleasure of their company at the range, and you know how loud they are. Foam earplugs have nothing on them.
Some people like to double up using earplugs and earmuffs at the same time. There’s no such thing as too much ear protection.
One thing you should keep in mind here is that when choosing the right earmuffs, make sure to remember the cheek weld. It’s an easy thing to overlook, especially as a beginner. When shooting pistols, the earmuffs’ size is irrelevant, but they can get between you and your scope when shooting a rifle.
Now, if you want something fancy, you could go for a pair of electronic earmuffs. You don’t have to keep taking them off whenever you stop shooting. They block only loud noises while allowing you to hear normal conversations. Plus, they’re not as big as regular earmuffs, meaning that your cheek weld gets away untouched.
Getting hurt from ricochets at the range is not unheard of. The bullets themselves are unlikely to rebound, but fragments of them can, and that’s precisely what the eye protection is supposed to protect you from. Can you imagine what a piece of a bullet can do if it hits your eye at that speed?
Some people choose to keep on their prescription glasses (if they wear any,) and others go with sunglasses. While that’s common, it would be best if you went with something more appropriate. After all, prescription glasses and sunglasses offer no protection from the sides. They’re also not designed to survive the impact.
Since the two options above are inappropriate, you can choose between safety glasses and ballistic glasses. They may seem similar, but they’re far from it.
Safety glasses are designed to keep debris out of your eyes. They may be appropriate for cutting a board with a circular saw, but you will not be protected from a bullet fragment. Plus, safety glasses will not survive a high-speed impact. That is why ballistic glasses are by far the best choice.
Ballistic Shooting Glasses
Ballistic shooting glasses have been tested in military conditions and meet the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) requirement for high velocity impacts. Basically, they’re designed to stop birdshot and bullet jacket fragments. Ballistic glasses are highly recommended, especially when shooting indoors.
You don’t have to worry if you need prescription glasses. Some manufacturers give you the option of adding prescription lenses, although this solution is rather expensive. A cheaper alternative would be to buy safety glasses that can be worn over your prescription set.
Hand injuries are not a common occurrence at the shooting range. However, it’s enough to know that it can happen to convince people to buy protective gear for their hands. Being too safe is never an issue, is it? Especially when talking about firearms.
For instance, there was a case in which a man lost the top half of his thumb when he misplaced it on the gun. The injury was a result of the vapors that escaped from the chamber when firing. That could have been prevented if the man had worn shooting gloves.
Shooting gloves are widely available. Once again, you have a choice to make – between shooting gloves and tactical gloves.
Shooting gloves offer enough coverage and protection to prevent hand injuries. They are padded, but not much, and some models are designed with some form of reinforcement.
Tactical gloves, on the other hand, are shooting gloves on steroids. They offer far more protection than shooting gloves and are more expensive. Depending on the model, tactical gloves can be made from Kevlar and are cut-resistant. Or they are made with Nomex, which makes the gloves fire-resistant.
Some shooting gloves are made with all kinds of gimmicks, such as reinforced knuckles, but that’s overkill for a shooting range. As long as the gloves offer some level of protection, you should be fine.
Lung protection is not something a lot of people think of before going to the range. However, if you go there frequently, you may want to consider a tactical respirator to avoid lead poisoning. This is necessary mostly in indoor shooting ranges.
It does not apply to all ammunition, but some contain lead in the primer and the bullet. When you fire, the lead is discharged right into your face. Surely you are familiar with that gun smoke smell. When you inhale, the lead gets into your lungs, and from there, it’s a one-way trip to your bloodstream.
It’s common knowledge that shooting range staff gets tested regularly for lead poisoning, and it’s precisely because lead is present in that environment. That’s why you’re told not to eat, drink, or smoke there. But, as this section points out, ingestion is not the only problem.
Knee & Elbow Pads
When going to the shooting range, you may want to practice your shots from the prone position. Or down on your knees. Whatever the case, your elbows and knees are the ones to take the hit. And in some cases, like when you adopt the prone position on gravel, for instance, it can get pretty bad.
Without any protection, some people walk away from the range with bloody elbows or knees. That is why elbow and knee pads should be in your tactical bag.
When it comes to pads, there are no special requirements. The padding just has to offer excellent support so that your experience at the shooting range is not painful. Quite literally.
If you’re not the one to walk around with elbow and knee pads every time you go to the range, perhaps you may be interested in a shooting mat. It does pretty much the same job, except that you don’t have to put it on and take it off. You just position it where it’s needed.
When looking for a good shooting mat, there are a few things you have to consider. For one thing, it has to have enough padding so that it meets the purpose for which you buy it. Secondly, the material it’s made of must be resistant. Don’t cheap out. Imagine the conditions in which that mat will be used, so it has to withstand the abuse.
Lastly, and this is optional, the shooting mat should have tactical pockets. If your shooting mat can convert into a convenient tactical bag, why not? However, the most important factor is that the shooting mat is durable.
First Aid Kit
No matter how much people try to prevent injuries when engaging in dangerous activities, some get hurt. It’s a fact of life. In that case, it’s best to be prepared. A first aid kit is present everywhere. At home, in everyone’s cars, in public spaces, and so on. When going to the shooting range, a first aid kit is mandatory.
Whether you get a small cut or get seriously injured, a first aid kit can make a significant difference. Naturally, if the injury is severe, the first thing you do is stop the bleeding (if necessary) and call an ambulance. And how do you stop the bleeding? Using a tourniquet, which can be found in a first aid kit.
Of course, that’s a random example. First aid kits include bandages, disinfectants, antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive tape, etc. All of which may prove to be useful. You never know. It’s not as if a shooting range is the safest place on earth.
People are taught from a very young age that safety comes first. When talking about a trip to the shooting range, which is not exactly a safe space, safety should be taken more seriously than in other day-to-day activities. And that’s where safety shooting gear intervenes.
You can find a wide range of protective gear on the market. However, the most important are listed in this article. It’s mandatory to purchase ear and eye protection. Gloves and pads for your knees and elbows are optional, but they will definitely improve your experience. If you find pads inconvenient, perhaps a shooting mat is a little bit more comfortable.
Lung protection is more of an investment in your long-term health rather than immediate safety, but ultimately, that’s the whole point – to be safe and sound. And of course, let’s not forget that a first aid kit can make a huge difference when someone gets hurt. You have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.