Back to the Range!

Spring has sprung in different areas of the country. If you live in a region similar to the North East like I do, the weather is much more favorable than it has been, and with that, it will undoubtedly bring more people out to the range. Granted, we should all be hitting the range at least once a month to practice and train.

Still, being a realist, the cold weather will push people away from heading to the outdoor range, and frankly, a lot of people have just stayed away due to ammo prices and the COVID pandemic.

I made it out to the range with a buddy of mine recently. He and I had not gotten together to punch some holes in paper in over a year.

In fact, through the whole pandemic, he focused on cleaning all his firearms, then cleaning them again, and probably gave them another once over, and by the time he was ready to hit the range again, bam, cold weather.

So, a year had elapsed, and we found ourselves finally enjoying both the nice weather and each other’s company.

Both of us have our quirks, ticks, and things that we are constantly working on. I have continued to shoot, train, and train others pretty steadily through 2020 and the first part of 2021. Sure, I have not been in love with the January winter in New Jersey, but hey, it is what it is.

I was knocking off the same old regular vanilla rust that I deal with when getting out there. My friend, on the other hand, well, it was a little different for him. He did well, for sure. But issues he had before were magnified. We worked through them, though, and have a plan for our next visit.

Here are some tips to get you through some sessions after not shooting for a while.

  • Brush up on safety. Remind yourself about safe gun handling and review the safety rules at the facility you will be utilizing. If it’s been a good deal of time, did regulations or policies change?
  • Review the fundamentals. Whatever discipline you are taking part in, there are fundamentals you are supposed to follow when shooting. Go through them.
  • Dryfire your gun. Dryfire practice is something we should all be doing regularly, but many of us don’t. Before throwing some live rounds downrange, do some dryfire practice. Focus on those fundamentals. Spending ten or so minutes before a practice session is not a bad idea, depending on your objectives.
  • A little goes a long way. Hey, so many of us enjoy those “days” at the range…You know, when you pack up several firearms and 100s and 100s of rounds of ammo. Those are great times shooting with friends. Well, when getting in some quality practice or training, you don’t need to shoot 100s of rounds. Training and practicing with purpose, using only a box or two of ammunition is all it might take. Have a set goal or idea of what you’re trying to achieve.

After you’re done with your range session, make a note of areas you want to improve on during your next visit. Incorporate those ideas into a dryfire practice regiment before getting back out there. Also, think about your next steps in training.

Continuing your education in whatever disciplines you practice is something that should be done. Whether it’s a session with an instructor to brush up on some areas you need improvement or a full-on class lasting a day or several days, this is something to consider.

Very few firearms owners make it to the range religiously. Just keeping and bearing an arm is not good enough. Like any skill, shooting is perishable. So, if you need a little nudge to get back out there and hit the range, now is a perfect time, especially if the weather is getting nice where you’re located.

Stay safe out there and think before you do!

John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and USCCA certified instructor, NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws.

You can find him on the web at
on Twitter at @johnpetrolino
and on Instagram @jpetrolinoiii