What to Wear at the Range

What to wear at the shooting range

When I first started shooting, I really didn’t know what to wear to the shooting range. Here are some quick tips on what to wear, and what not to wear, so you can hopefully avoid some of the painful mistakes I made.

Always remember there are several hazards at the range (besides the obvious) that you should take into account when deciding what to wear:

1) Brass is ejected from your, and your neighbors, gun every time they shoot. This brass is HOT and it can (and HAS) caused burns when it touches skin; and

2) there is lead particulate all around the range, including on every surface, on your clothes, skin and hair, on your shoes, bags, etc.

My recommendations are focused on how you can minimize the impacts of both of these hazards with your clothing choices, and always remembering that any range, no matter indoor or outdoor, or how new or “clean” it is, is inherently dirty.

Eyes & Ears & Hair

You should ALWAYS have proper eye protection and ear protection when shooting. No matter what. No excuses. Eye protection protects your eyes from flying bass, debris and particles. Ear protection protects your ears from the extreme noise of shooting firearms repeatedly.

How you style you hair at the range is partly personal preference, partly practical. I have long hair, and I find it easier to concentrate on my shooting when hair’s not in my eyes, so I always pull my hair back into a bun or ponytail. It also helps reduce some of the lead particulate from spreading around after the fact.

Some women, and men, with shorter hair wear a hat (baseball style is great as the brim helps deflect flying brass). Again, it’s recommended, but unlike eyes and ears, optional.

Range Day outfit option
You CAN look stylish and be practical at the range
Tops

For women especially, choice of top is critical, because there’s this thing called the “hot brass dance” that happens when a woman decides to wear a low-cut or v-neck top to the range.

Let’s just say those little suckers have some sort of homing beacon for women’s cleavage, I kid you not. If you remember ONE thing, besides your eye and ear protection, it should be to wear a crew-neck or high-necked top when shooting at the range.

Whether you choose short- or long-sleeve, whether you choose to wear a button-up shirt or jacket over your top is all a matter of the temperature, the location (indoor or outdoor range), and personal preference.

I do recommend that ALL of your range clothes be machine washable, again because you’re going to want to clean them separately, with a lead-removal laundry detergent, when you get home from the range.

Bottoms

Choice of bottoms is again, mostly personal preference, but with some practical consideration. Shorts and skirts can be worn, but know you will likely get hit in the legs with flying brass (which is not as painful as the “hot brass dance” but you will end up more direct lead exposure through contact with your skin), and depending on what, where and how you’ll be shooting (indoor vs outdoor, handgun vs rifle), you may end up kneeling or laying in the dirt.

My preference is either jeans or tactical pants (even though I am very much a skirt/dress girl in my daily life).

I often wear jeans when we’re going to our weekly range date at the indoor range, because frequently we may stop for dinner out beforehand. I will wear tactical pants when we go for weekend-long training courses, because they can better accommodate an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster and belt, and are more comfortable and sturdy for all-day shooting marathons in the dust and dirt. I personally love 5.11’s tactical pants – they have good sizing and color options for women.

Shoes

Unlike clothes that can be machine washed with lead-removal detergent, my recommendation is to dedicate a pair of shoes to the range, or at a minimum, a pair of shoes that will only be worn outside. You want to minimize your and your loved ones’ exposure to lead, and the bottoms of your shoes are prime sources of tracking lead indoors once you’ve worn them at the shooting range.

The other thing to consider is comfort. If you’re shooting a handgun, you will be shooting standing up, usually for an hour at a time, on a concrete or other hard surface. Doesn’t sound like a lot but your feet can tire quickly.

I’m a big fan of the Merrell Moab Hiking Shoe for when I will be spending a lot of time at the range. I’ve worn these at weekend-long pistol training courses where you are on your feet in gravel and hard-packed dirt for 8-9 hours at a time, and they not only withstand the dust and dirt, they are also quite comfortable.

I also have a pair of “comfort” ballet flats that I wear sometimes when we’re just going for our weekly practice at the indoor range, and I know we’re stopping off for dinner or errands before we go to the range and I don’t want to look all “tactical.” Comfy tennies, like my favorite Chuck Taylors, are also a good and inexpensive option.

Just remember that lead exposure is a real issue when you spend time at the range, which just means you should take precautions.  See my previous post – Lead Poisoning – Shooting’s Hidden Risk – for more tips, techniques and products on how to manage lead exposure.

Be sure you’re washing your clothes after range time separately with a lead-removal laundry detergent, and that you’re removing the shoes you wear to the range at the door and not tracking lead dust through your house.  Just remember to practice often, and look stylish and practical while you’re doing it!

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

eves-first-day-at-range

5 tips for shooting range etiquette

Deb and Eve at the range
Deb and Eve at the Range

Recently we took my mother-in-law to our favorite indoor range for her first time shooting. She had recently completed the classroom requirement her concealed carry permit but hadn’t yet shot a gun.

Helping introduce someone to shooting is something we take very seriously, and really enjoy. At our home before we left we made sure to first discuss the 4 rules of Firearm Safety and gave her the opportunity to conduct some dry fire with the Ruger .22 pistol we were going to have her shoot first.

Once at the range we introduced her to Rick, one of the Range Safety Officers (RSOs) and he reviewed the firearm safety rules with her again and also the specific rules of the range.

It got me thinking about range etiquette, which isn’t something I had thought about much since we’re weekly visitors and take for granted what’s expected. But range etiquette is about more than just niceties, it’s about safety too, for you and for everyone else at the range.

While every range may have their own set of specific guidelines and rules, you’ll always be welcomed back if you follow these 5 basic range rules:

  1. Strictly follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. You know them, repeat after me:
    1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded
    2. Never point your muzzle at anything you do not want to destroy.
    3. Know your target and what’s behind it
    4. Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
  2. Obey all commands of the RSO. The RSO is the ultimate authority at the range. If you hear a “Ceasefire” command then IMMEDIATELY stop shooting, place your gun down with muzzle pointed down range and step away from the firing line awaiting further instructions from the RSO. Hands off the gun! Do not touch or handle your gun during a Ceasefire, not until the RSO calls “Commence Firing” or “Range is Hot.”
    • One interesting note about the Ceasefire command is that the RSO is not the only person who can call it. Anyone on the range who notices something wrong or a safety issue can call Ceasefire, which then usually gets repeated by the RSO. Here’s a good article on range commands and how to behave when they’re called.
  3. Gun always pointed down range. If you’re following the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety your gun’s muzzle
    The Side Slide Swipe
    Courtesy Ammoland.com

    should ALWAYS be pointed down range, but it’s such an important point it bears repeating. It can be easy to get distracted, turn to look at what’s going on in the lane next to you or to talk to a friend, with your gun in your hand. Suddenly you’re muzzle is pointing where it shouldn’t be. Another common example of this is when you’re racking your slide – the guys at Ammoland call it the “Side Slide Swipe.” The natural tendency when holding the grip in your dominant hand is to turn the gun sideways in front of you to rack the slide with your non-dominant hand (see the photo, right). When you do that, however, your gun is now pointed directly at the shooters next to you. It takes a lot of practice, but remember to always turn your BODY not your GUN.

  4. Keep your gun in a case to and from the firing line. Bring the case with the unloaded gun to the line and place it on the shooting table, don’t uncase it somewhere else and then walk it to the line. Same is true when you’re done shooting. Bring the case to the table and unload and case the gun before leaving the line, always remembering Rule 3 – Gun always pointed down range. I love these small range bag inserts that unzip all the way to also serve as a gun rug on the table.
  5. Clean up after yourself. Police your brass in the way the range wants it taken care of, dispose of all used targets in the appropriate receptacles, put away any range property you used (stools/seats, rifle stands, etc), pick up and dispose of any garbage and make sure you’ve left your area as clean (or cleaner!) as it was when you arrived.

If you follow these 5 tips for shooting range etiquette you’ll have fun and stay safe.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.