When new neighbors moved in behind me, I did what I usually do—knock on their door with a bottle of wine. After the usual chit-chat, she asked what I did for a living. I told her I’m a freelance writer and an NRA-certified Firearm Instructor. She told me that she inherited a Henry lever-action rifle from her grandfather and recently purchased a small handgun for everyday carry. We agreed to meet at a local range so that I could give her a lesson. As soon as she stepped out of the car, I could tell she didn’t have much shooting experience just by what she was wearing—a low-cut blouse and large hoop earrings. Needless to say, our first lesson started before we even got to the firing line.
Going to a range for the first time can be intimidating, whether it’s indoor or outdoor. If you’re like most shooters, you want your range time to be successful, safe and comfortable. Follow these tips so that you can concentrate more on your shooting and less on wardrobe malfunctions.
Range Wear "DOs":
- DO call the range or check its website to see if there is a dress code. Some ranges and shooting clubs have specific dress-code requirements, such as no open-toed shoes or only collared shirts.
- DO wear a hat. Besides providing shade, a hat will protect your head and face from ejected cartridges. A hat will also keep the hair out of your eyes so that nothing is obstructing your view of the sights and target.
- DO wear eye and ear protection. They are required every time you shoot. Just make sure your eye protection fits snugly against your face with minimal gaps.
- DO pack a scarf in your range bag. In the event your choice of shirt still leaves some exposed areas of skin around the chest area, a scarf is an easy fix to protect it from hot brass.
- DO wear long pants. The more skin you have covered at the range means the less likely you are to go home with a burn! It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable, loose-fitting pants to make it easier to move while shooting or practicing your stance. I like tactical or cargo pants because they have plenty of pockets to store extra mags, etc. I shoot mainly at outdoor ranges, all year round, so they protect me against bugs (especially ticks) in the summer and keep my legs warm in the winter. In addition, if you plan to practice drawing from a holster, wear the pants and holster that will accommodate your equipment.
- DO choose an outfit that you can wear exclusively to the range. Most new, indoor ranges have state-of-the-art air filtration systems that help reduce the amount of lead in the air. But any remaining lead particles in the air end up on your skin, clothing and shoes. With a separate set of range clothes, you can wash them after each session and avoid mingling them with your everyday outfits. It is also a good idea to wash your range clothes separately from your other clothing to help reduce cross-contamination.
Range Wear “DON'Ts”:
- DON’T wear a tank top, low-cut V-neck or shirts with spaghetti straps. And as long as you can stand it, depending on the weather, try to wear long sleeves as often as possible. I struggle with this one, as I’m not a warm weather person. If the temperature rises above 75 degrees, I’m uncomfortable. But the more skin you keep covered at the range, the better your experience will be! Your clothes will act like a barrier between the ejected hot brass and your skin.
- DON’T wear open-toed shoes, such as sandals, flip-flops or ballet flats. Take my word for it, hot brass from ejected cartridges LOVES to find feet! Look for shoes that cover your foot as much as possible such as boots or sneakers. One of my friends always wears ankle boots to the range. She likes the added coverage over her instep and ankles. I wear sneakers with a very thick sole to the range, because they’re comfortable. They also lift my feet up a bit more than other shoes, keeping my skin even further away from lead and debris on the firing line ground or floor. In addition, wearing supportive range shoes will help with your stance.
- DON’T wear a lot of jewelry. Large, dangling earrings, bracelets, etc. could interfere with your shooting. I don’t wear any jewelry when I’m shooting (except for my watch), but I have heard from others that wearing large rings can affect grip, which would affect aim.
Range Wear for Women
In short, wear comfortable but concealing clothes to the range for an optimal shooting experience. If nothing in your closet fits the bill, check out these companies that specialize in clothing for female shooters: Girls with Guns, Tactica Fashion, Gun Goddess, Alexo Athletica, 511 Tactical, Propper.