New Shooters - NSSF Let's Go Shooting
New Shooters
Introduction to Shooting

Did you know that the shooting sports are some of the safest recreational activities you can participate in? Ranges and firearms retailers across the country are staffed with skilled professionals and instructors who can explain the rules of safe gun handling and the basic skills needed to become a top shot. Classes and clinics such as NSSF’s First Shots abound for first-time firearms owners, and when you’re ready, advanced skills classes keep your motivation high while adding to the entertainment factor.

Introduction to Shooting


On your first visit to any range, ask the range manager, safety officer or counter staff to go over the range rules and fees. If you're new to shooting, let them know so they can guide you through the appropriate safety orientation.



Firearm Safety Tips
Treat all the firearms as if they are loaded
By treating every firearm as if it is loaded, a habit of safety is developed.
Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction
A "safe direction" means that the gun is pointed so that even if an accidental discharge occurred, it won't cause an injury.
Always keep your finger off the trigger
Rest your finger outside the trigger guard or along the side of the gun until you are actually ready to fire.
Always know your target and what is beyond
For outdoor shooting, make sure you have an adequate backstop for your bullets to impact. Know what’s beyond that backstop, too, and keep your shots within the safe shooting zone.
New Shooter Tips
Get Comfortable
Find the eye and ear protection that feels good and your time spent shooting will be that much more enjoyable.
Go Back to School
Firearms instructors are everywhere and they’re passionate about showing you how to have fun, be accurate and be safe.
Ask Questions
The only wrong question is the one you don’t ask. Experienced shooters truly love to help others, so don’t pass up the opportunity.
Take Your Time
You didn’t learn to drive a car in one day. Be patient with yourself when learning new shooting skills.
Join a Range or Shooting Club
In addition to getting a reliable place to practice, you’ll find new friends and lots of help.

Owning A Firearm

Few things you’ll own in your life come with the kind of responsibility that a firearm does. Whether you’ve purchased your gun for self-defense, recreation or simply as a collectible, you bear the 24/7 responsibility of keeping that firearm out of unauthorized hands. Before you buy, explore the many resources for keeping your gun stored safely. Your local firearms retailer is a great place to start, with a wide variety of solutions to meet both your needs and your budget.

What Firearm Is Right For You?

With thousands of models and hundreds of calibers, the choice can seem overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be. Start with what you want to do with your firearm. Do you want to start competing in a particular sport? Is it for home-defense or concealed carry? Or do you just want to do some casual target shooting from time to time? Once you identify your need, head to your local firearms retailer to learn about the options, then plan a trip to the range to give a rental gun a try. With a little homework and help from your local experts, you’ll quickly find the one that’s right for you—at least the first one!



Handgun competition takes two general forms, action shooting and precision shooting. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll find your home in sports such as NRA-sanctioned bull’s-eye competitions, steel silhouette shooting, and Rimfire Challenge. This is where your skills are honed to a razor sharp-edge and small groups reign.

Need a little more action? Need a challenge on the go? Then “run-and-gun” sports like IDPA, IPSC, Cowboy Action Shooting and falling steel plates are the places to explore.

Both genres have categories for rimfire and centerfire, all with classes based on skill level so the playing field is even across competitors. And while semi-automatic pistols are the top choice for most games, especially the action-shooting sports, you’ll find plenty of challenges for your favorite revolver as well.




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Training Classes Are Available to You

From safe handling and basics building to advanced skills and sport-specific instruction, there’s a wealth of courses out there taught by people passionate about passing their knowledge onto you. What You’ll Learn:

  • Safe Handling—The first place to start, even before you buy your first firearm
  • How They Work—Discover how today’s modern firearms function and what ammunition to use in yours.
  • Skills Building—Grip, sight alignment and trigger control for new shooters, holster draw, reloading and so much more as you advance.
  • This is Fun!—Watch each group of shots get smaller, and the smile on your face grow bigger.

First Shots Program

Developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and hosted by independent shooting facilities, the program provides participants with a comprehensive introduction to shooting by qualified range operators and instructors that includes firearm safety, ownership requirements, shooting fundamentals, hands-on instruction and how and where to continue.

At a First Shots seminar, you’ll receive:

  • An educational introduction to the safe and recreational use of firearms.
  • An understanding of the local requirements for owning and purchasing a firearm.
  • Individual and group training.
  • A rundown of shooting sports opportunities for all levels of interest.


How comfortable are you with firearms?




We recommend a few ways to learn the basics of shooting and what to expect at the range. Find a range that offers instruction and one-on-one training or checkout a video about what to expect when going to a shooting range.

We recommend a few ways to become more familiar with shooting and handling a gun. A great way is to go with a friend to the range. Also, checkout our videos to learn about shooting sports and browse content based on your comfort level.

We recommend learning about all the different shooting sports you can do such as skeet and trap shooting. Invite a friend out and try something new. Also, browse our video gallery to see other shooting sports you can try.

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!

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