I would much rather write articles here encouraging you to go to the range as often as possible than tell you what gun to buy or how to shoot. So we need to make the “going to the range” exercise as simple and comfortable as possible. Once you get into a routine with your range visits, it is often difficult to change them, even when you are obviously doing something silly, and I’m as guilty as the next person.
One of the first things you buy after getting your first firearm is eye and ear protection. Or maybe you didn’t and just borrowed some from the range where you shoot. Either way you can’t set foot on a shooting range without them. While I understand the need for mental focus while actually putting rounds downrange, more and more my range visits are social in nature. The range officers frequently give me and my guests instructions, people often ask questions about your firearms, and you do the same as you walk down the range line. If you have standard earmuffs or foam plugs shoved up your ear canals, it’s going to be difficult for you to hear anything, making conversations awkward.
Meanwhile, all of the people at the range with electronic earmuffs are having conversations at normal volume levels all around you. So save yourself the hassle and buy the electronic ear muffs first. Better yet, get two pairs. In my last article I reminded you of your obligation to train new shooters. Well you can’t train them very well if they can’t hear you without screaming. I keep two pairs of electronic muffs in the back of my car at all times. I used them both again yesterday. We had a nine-year-old with us and he needed a lot of instruction since it was the first time he had ever shot a firearm. Fortunately good quality electronic ear protection doesn’t cost a fortune. I don’t believe either of my pairs cost more than $50. If your local range is indoors, consider spending more. Sound in an enclosed space is much more intense than outdoors.
As for eyes, here’s the part where I was being silly. I own several pairs of cheap “shooting glasses” that I purchased online. But because it’s always sunny here in southern California, I would frequently just use my Oakley sunglasses at the range. None of the range officers ever gave me any problems with that.
Then I came across an article* that described the difference between the ANSI Z87.1 and MIL-PRF-31013 impact standards for eyewear. Bottom line: you want the latter. The ANSI standard will only protect you from very slow-moving projectiles. Buying mil-spec eyewear will cost you more than the cheap glasses they loan out at the range. But what are your eyes worth? Mine are worth a lot. I had lasik surgery a few years back and I kinda enjoy having 20/20 vision for the first time in my life.
So spending $60 to protect the eyeballs is not much to ask. If you have prescription eyewear you have some additional challenges. But most of the better eyewear companies have options for prescription lenses. This combination of eye and ear protection should be comfortable enough for you to wear for several hours without discomfort. If your shooting glasses are chafing the top of your ears because your hearing protection presses them into your skull, re-evaluate your equipment. Eventually you will come up with a combination that you barely notice while you are wearing them.
Now your visits to the range are as comfortable as a walk in the park if you enjoy random gunfire at your park. And who doesn’t? But I digress. So spend some time and invest in quality eye and ear protection for yourself. If you can, purchase an additional set for the guests you take to the range. You’ll be safer, your friends will actually be able to talk to you, and your local shooting range will become a lot less intimidating for everyone.
*Here’s the article on eyewear I referred to earlier: http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/eye-protection-shooting-glasses-review/ The author, Andrew Tuohy, runs an excellent gun blog here: http://www.vuurwapenblog.com