Shooting tips for the beginner

With the start of fall, shooting is a great sport to get outside and literally, “give it a shot.” It’s great at any time of year, but fall especially offers shooters a chance to enjoy beautiful scenery.

I myself have been shooting for four years and hope my experiences will help you when you go out for your first time. As a new shooter, here’s what you need to know before you pick up the shotgun, rifle or handgun.

Tip One- If you shoot on Crown land (public land outside the city), go with someone who has a Personal and Acquisition Licence (PAL). A PAL allows people to possess and acquire firearms and ammunition. It isn’t needed at a public range as they will partner you with a licensed employee. Remember, you assume full responsibility when you have a firearm in your hands — any accidents are of your making so use your head.  Also, alcohol and shooting do not mix.

Tip Two – If you head to Crown land or a friend’s farm, be careful. A missed target means your ammo has found another. On a farm, that can be livestock, irrigation mainlines or the farmer. On Crown land, that can be a hiker, a camper, a hunter, or someone riding a dirt bike or quad. When I go out, I take a walk down field and ensure no one is around. I also pick a location with a good steep hill to act as a backstop.

Fast Fact

Firearms vary based on many characteristics, including calibre.  A calibre is the measuring of the internal diameter of the barrel.  The smaller the calibre, the smaller the barrel, thus the smaller the action.

Tip Three – If you go to the shooting range, be prepared to foot the bill — it can be very expensive.Ranges require a day fee plus the cost of ammunition, which varies depending on the type of ammunition and number of rounds.According to the Shooting Edge website, for pistols, 50 rounds of 9mm is $27.00, of .40 Smith & Wesson, $33.00 and of Automatic Colt Pistol, $45.00.For rifles, 20 rounds of .223 Remington or .308 Winchester is $40.00.

Ear protection is necessary, especially when shooting a .30-30 Winchester. Photo: Katie FisherTip Four – Protect your hearing. I made this mistake shooting a .22 long rifle that makes little to no noise and stopped so my friend could fire his black powder rifle. My left ear started to ring but didn’t last long. However, ringing in your ears usually means damage. If he had been shooting a larger calibre like a double barrel shotgun, I would have had serious damage done to my hearing.

Tip Five – Start with a small calibre like the .22 long rifle. It was the first rifle I shot and is always the first I shoot. It’s a great warm up, especially if it’s outfitted with a reliable scope. With no kick back, it lets you get a feel for a rifle and understand how it works. The scope can also improve your odds of hitting your target.

Tip Six – When shooting, keep the butt of the firearm snugged against your shoulder. When I first went shooting I ignored this advice. I pulled the trigger and the 12-gauge shotgun kicked back (the recoil of the firearm) on me hard. Snug the butt of your firearm against the soft spot between your armpit and clavicle. If you are still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask your friend with a PAL.

Tip Seven – Relax your trigger finger — there is no need to go trigger happy, especially when you consider the cost of ammunition. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Think of where you are shooting and take focus on your target; that’s what it is there for.

Tip Eight – Shooting requires patience and lots of practice to develop a keen eye. It is possible that you will not have much luck your first time out, but with the right teacher, you can better understand why you may be missing your target. Always listen when someone has good advice for you, it will make your experience less frustrating.

Ask for help if you don’t know how to handle a misfire. Photo: Katie FisherTip Nine – Misfires do happen. This is when the trigger is pulled with no resulting action. Keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction because it can result in a delayed, or hang fire, a situation where the ammunition fires much later. If nothing happens, open and check the bore (the hole down the middle of the barrel) while pointing down field because you may have not properly loaded your ammunition. Always use caution if this happens and never be afraid to ask for help.

Tip Ten – Watch where you’re standing when someone is shooting. Make sure you’re at least one foot behind the line of fire; an invisible line drawn straight across from the tip of the firearm. Also, do not stand directly next to the individual who is shooting. When the shells pop out of the firearm they will be hot. This is why safety glasses and proper footwear are a must.

Be safe, responsible, but most of all, to have fun. Happy shooting!

kfisher@cjournal.ca