Have you ever wanted to begin recreational or competitive shooting, but are not sure where to start? This guide will walk you through the most important safety gear, as well as some popular gear and brands used by shooters and archers.
The most important aspect of shooting sports is safety. Always put safety first and make sure you have the proper safety gear and training, along with a valid gun licence and ownership, before handling any firearms. The basic safety gear you will need includes eye and ear protection, trigger locks, a gun safe, and gun handling experience with a trained professional.
Current Canadian laws require a gun owner to store each firearm safely locked and separate from your ammunition.
In terms of specific gear, the type of firearm, ammunition, and targets you need will depend on the type of shooting you want to do. For example, if you want to start by shooting clay pigeons, you will need a shotgun, a non-restricted firearm licence, ammunition designed for clay shooting, and clay targets.
If you want to shoot targets downrange in an indoor facility, you’ll need a handgun or pistol, a restricted firearm licence, paper targets, and ammunition approved for indoor shooting. If you’re unsure about what ammunition can be shot indoors, it’s best to ask your range safety officer - typically hollow point bullets and full metal jacket bullets are prohibited indoors.
Shooting Starter Kit
From the moment the range is hot, you need to have your eye and ear protection on properly. Shooting without proper safety gear is not an option.
1. Ear Protection
Shooting earmuffs or earplugs are essential to protect your hearing. Whether you're shooting indoors or out, you need to protect your ears from the harmful, high decibel sound levels of gunfire.
2. Eye Protection
Eye protection is just as important as ear protection. Glasses made specifically for shooting, or wrap-around style safety glasses are recommended. Look for a style that has been impact tested. If you require prescription eyewear, it’s a great idea to order prescription safety glasses so that you can see clearly while keeping your eyes fully protected.
3. Safety Acronyms: ACTS & PROVE
All shooters must learn the gun safety steps that are ACTS & PROVE. These 2 acronyms, detailed below, will ensure that you ACT safely around all firearms, assuming they are loaded, and PROVE that they are indeed unloaded and safe to handle.
A - Assume every firearm is loaded
C - Control the muzzle direction at all times
T - Trigger finger must be kept off the trigger and out of the trigger guard
S - See that the firearm is unloaded and PROVE it safe
P - Point the firearm in the safest available direction
R - Remove all cartridges
O - Observe the chamber
V - Verify the feeding path
E - Examine the bore
4. Tight Fitting Clothing
For any shooting activity it’s important to wear tight fitting clothes. Whether you prefer a zip-collar jersey, or compression style shirt, you’ll want to make sure that stray brass casings can’t make their way into your clothes. Shell casings can go any which way when you’re shooting, and if you’ve ever had a hot casing go down your shirt, or ping off your arm, you know to keep yourself protected so it doesn’t happen again. Get started designing your own custom shooting jerseys.
Targets are essential for practicing and honing your shooting skills. A shooting target is often painted with concentric circles and divided into scoring zones, with the smallest being worth the most points. You can find paper targets and other varieties at most hunting and sporting goods stores.
If you’re unsure whether the target you plan to use is safe for shooting, ask the range safety officer at your local club.
6. Trigger Locks
A trigger lock is a device that prevents a gun from being mishandled or tampered with, especially during transport. Trigger locks provide a secondary locked barrier to your gun, if removed from the locked gun safe. Trigger locks are often available with either combination or key locks.
7. Firearm, Ammunition and Safe Storage
Once you have completed the training and obtained the proper licensing, you will be able to purchase a firearm, ammunition, and ensure that you have a safe place to store all of your gear, as well as a kit to clean and maintain your gun.
Your firearms must be safely stored at all times when not in use. A gun safe protects your firearms from being tampered with or mishandled, and helps to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to them. There are many different gun safes on the market, available in a variety of sizes, shapes and price ranges, depending on the number and type of guns you own.
Shooting is a great sport that can be enjoyed recreationally or competitively, but always remember to put safety first. Review the gun safety steps ACTS & PROVE, and make sure you have the proper safety gear, training, and gun handling experience before handling any firearms.
When you’re ready to purchase a firearm, ammunition and other gear, be sure to visit a reputable dealer and follow all laws and regulations.
If you're interested in joining a Sportsmen's Club to practice your target shooting, consider the Sportsmens Club Galt. Founded in 1954, The Sportsmens Club Galt is widely considered one of the best shooting ranges in North America, on a 250 acre site with the finest equipment and facilities available. Membership options are available here.
Source: Canadian firearms safety course: Student handbook - 2014. 5th ed., Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2014.