FAQ - NSSF Let's Go Shooting

My mom wants to buy a handgun for home protection. She used to compete in bull’s-eye when she was young, but it’s been a while since she’s owned or handled a firearm. Anywhere she should start?

Invite your mother to take a self-defense class at a local range. She’ll be able to discuss with the instructors and other students appropriate choices for both firearms and ammunition, she’ll get a refresher on safe handling, and she’ll learn about home storage options for any firearm she’ll purchase. That class will also introduce the range as a resource to her, something we bet will reignite her love for shooting competition.

My boyfriend took me to the range to shoot a rifle for the first time. I had a great time and hit the target, but didn’t like the pounding my shoulder took. He told me the rifle was a .308. Is there something else I can try?

Yes! In fact there are lots of other options. The first thing to do is seek out a firearms range that has a rental gun program, tell them about your first experience and let them work with you to get you comfortable shooting a rifle in a smaller caliber. While the .308 isn’t what most would consider to be a hard-recoiling round, it’s still a powerful centerfire cartridge. Once you’ve acclimated to shooting a smaller caliber and have a good foundation of skills in place, you can work your way up to the .308 or any other caliber you like.

I inherited a much-loved and good-quality revolver from my grandfather. It’s chambered for .38 Special. What’s a good ammunition choice for paper target practice?

Your local handgun range and firearms retailers should all stock something called wadcutters or semi-wadcutters in .38 Special. These bullet configurations have been used for decades for target shooting because they produce nice, clean-edged holes in paper targets, which make reading scores for shots that are “on the line” easier. The good news is that wadcutters and semi-wadcutters are among some of the most inexpensive rounds you can find for this caliber—just remember to do a thorough cleaning job after each shooting session with them to prevent lead build-up.

I’ve been shooting skeet for a while now, and I’ve gotten pretty good. I’ve heard some at my club talk about a new sporting clays range that opened in the area, but I don’t know much about the game. Do I need a different shotgun, different ammo, different gear?

Not at all. Whatever shotgun, ammo and gear you’re using for skeet will be just fine for your first time shooting sporting clays. The game takes place over a course, much like golf, with various stations to shoot along the way. You’ll shoot mostly pairs in various combinations at each station, and the targets are thrown at all sorts of distances and angels—it’ll be quite a different challenge than skeet, but the sport is tremendous fun. Absolutely make plans to visit the new range and give it a try—we bet it won’t be your last trip there!

Do I need my own firearm if I go to a range alone?

That depends on the range. You can visit the range finder here to search for a place to shoot. Those range that rent firearms will have that information listed.

What is the best gun to use to teach my wife how to shoot?

Teaching a new shooter is not so much a matter of what gun, as much as it is what caliber or gauge. For new handgun and rifle shooters, starting with a rimfire .22 LR is almost always your best bet, as they have little recoil and are low on noise. For shotgunning, a shotgun that fits the new shooter well—they don’t struggle to keep it on their shoulder and they can comfortably reach the trigger and forearm, neither reaching too far out for either nor feeling too cramped because the gun is too short—is the first place to start.

For shotgunners, the old school of thought used to be to start someone new with a .410-bore or 28-gauge. But both have very small pellet payloads, which makes getting hits hard for a new shooter. With today’s modern low-recoil and extra-low-recoil target loads in 12- and 20-gauge, new shooters have a better chance of connecting with a flying clay target while still having a gentle, pleasurable experience with the gun.

What are the costs involved in going to a range?

Most indoor ranges allow you to rent a shooting lane in 30-minute intervals and fees vary generally anywhere from $5 to $15 per 30 minutes. Outdoor rifle ranges should have similar fees and slightly higher. If you plan on visiting an outdoor range for some fun clay sports, you can expect to pay around $5 for each skeet or trap round of 25 targets, while with casual sporting clays courses of 50 to 100 rounds you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $25 to $50 depending upon the range. Ranges come in all shapes and sizes, from country casual and community friendly to full-amenity clubs and resorts, so be sure to call and ask a facility about its fees. Ammunition is not included in most range fees, so buy ahead or ask the range what kinds of ammunition it has for sale and prices.

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