Hey, shooters! A lot of the RSOs at the ranges are telling me that they would like me to do a column concerning shooting attire. Trust me, it’s got nothing to do with fashion — this is all about function.
First and foremost is eye and ear protection. You only get one set of eyes, so protect them. When a semi-auto is fired, the empty casing flies out. Many times it hits the wall and flies back. If a red-hot casing hits you square in the eye, it will do great and lasting damage. A pair of quality shooting glasses is a must. The ones I use only cost me about $20 and I like them. You can get clear or tinted lenses. For outdoor range use, I prefer amber tint.
Hearing protection is also essential. One bad incident with your hearing at the range can cause permanent damage to your eardrums. I recommend avoiding cheaper headphones — they just don’t offer the decibel protection that you really need. When you’re buying a set, check the noise reduction rating on the package. I used to think a lower number was better, but I recently found out that the higher the rating, the more protection. Most decent sets are in the middle 20s but a real quality set gets up into the 30s.
The models I use have voice amplification. This means they reduce the sound of gunfire but boost the voice sound. This allows me to talk to a student without yelling. You can find a set of these for less than $50. Make sure you try them on before buying them — they must be comfortable.
A lot of rifle shooters don’t use headphones, preferring simple plastic ear plugs, but the real protection is not there. I saw an old-timer who just had a couple of spent .45 brass casings stuck in his ears. Better than nothing, but not by much. Some of the larger headphones interfere with getting your cheek down on the stock, but the new Caldwell slim-line models will allow your cheek to get a good weld on the gun. If you must use ear plugs, again, check the noise reduction rating and get the highest number you can.
OK, let’s move on. People are coming to the range with flip-flops or shower shoes, and this is just bad. Shell casings can land on your toes, and they are damn hot. So what happens is people start dancing around with a gun in their hand. Not good. Wear closed-toe shoes that protect your feet.
Gloves are completely optional. I don’t find them necessary, but I don’t think they’re a problem either. Some shooters like golf gloves with the fingers cut out. This gives you more feel on the trigger.
Now we get to a sensitive area. When I train ladies (about 70 percent of my current students), I insist on them wearing a high-necked shirt or blouse to shoot at the range. I have been doing this for a long time, and I have had too many women wearing low-cut tops point guns at me — way more than I ever saw in combat. For some reason, the hot brass casings ejected from a semi-auto pistol seem to gravitate toward a woman’s cleavage. When that happens, they start jumping around, and muzzle discipline is long forgotten.
I once had a lady shooter in a very low-cut blouse who wanted to shoot my Kimber .45 Ultra Carry. She fired it and the hot casing hit the screen, bounced off and attached itself to her left breast. I could smell the flesh burning. She was dancing around with the gun in her hand, finger on the trigger, and turned the gun right in my face. Not good.
What to do? Yell at the student and I get shot in the face. That wouldn’t be fun. Maybe the guy in the next booth shoots a .44 Mag and the recoil shock makes her jump and connect on the match grade 3-pound trigger. Again, I’d be dead. I calmly raised my left hand, pushed the gun to one side and then disarmed her. It’s not a pleasant memory, but it was certainly a learning experience.
Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.