What guns should I rent at an indoor range?
August 16, 2006 1:01 PM   Subscribe

What types of guns would be fun or interesting to rent and shoot in an indoor range?

My girlfriend mentioned in conversation last week that she had never fired a gun before, and had expressed an interest in doing so. As a result, we've decided to find an indoor range nearby, rent some guns, and make a day of it. I've done some soda can ventilating with pistols in my teens, but I don't really know much about guns outside of your usual first-person shooter video games. What sort of gun would you recommend for the first time user? What guns are wicked fun to shoot? Should I spend the extra dough to rent a full-auto?
posted by jeditanuki to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I recently had a blast shooting an AR-15.
posted by saladin at 1:03 PM on August 16, 2006

Ruger .22 target pistol. Because she'll actually be able to hit the target with it.
posted by luriete at 1:06 PM on August 16, 2006

An AR-15 is a total blast. I'd recommend, though, that you go to an outdoor range if possible. An indoor range is really loud and can be intimidating to people who have never shot before.

If you can rent a full-auto, DO IT! There's nothing like seeing the grin on the face of someone who's just used the "happy switch" for the first time.

Start your girlfriend off with smaller, lesser-recoiling guns. A .22 pistol or an AR-15 would be perfect for this.
posted by Addlepated at 1:10 PM on August 16, 2006

Full auto = H & K MP-5. A beautiful bit of kit if you can get it. For the lady I'd recommend a SIG P232 or Walther P5. For the Gentleman, an Colt M1911 or a SIG P220 series.

Be aware that with the MP5 you will likely chew through a few hundred rounds. It's that much fun and handles like a dream. The 1911 and the SIG are probably the best handguns ever made (feel free to disagree!) and I'd own one or both if I lived in the USA.
posted by longbaugh at 1:31 PM on August 16, 2006

Indoor ranges very often place limitations on the type of ammo that can be used because their backstop (the downrange bullet deflector/catcher) may not be robust enough to take highpowered ammo. As a consequence, your indoor range may restrict you to use of pistol ammo only, and possibly limit use of jacketed bullets. Check 1st as these kinds of limits will narrow your potential selections, and may push you toward use of an outdoor range, depending on what you want to shoot.

Unless you're just looking for a one-off & want to grab anything & jstart spraying bullets, I'd recommend starting out with a .22 target pistol to get used to feel & action - low recoil, not very loud - therefore shouldn't be intimidating. Much about her future attiitude towards guns and shooting can be set by a possitive or negative experience early-on.

From there, depending on how she reacts I'd move to something in the 38 caliber range --a .38, .380 auto or 9 mm (personally, I like autos). I'd plan on spending some time getting used to & developing confidence with whatever weapon/caliber you're using, rather than jump around between a number of them at first. Better to get one down and develop some success & confidence before moving up.

If its rifles you want to shoot, almost assuredly you'll be headed outdoors. Depending on your local resources, you may have a hard time finding a gunshop with an outdoor range (that also rents out their guns), so may have to network around to borrow a gun to take to the local NRA/National Guard range. Again - a .22 is a good start to get the fundamentals down before moving up to .223 or whatever. The advantage of an outdoor range is that often they have multiple pistol/rifle set-ups so you can shoot either-or.

Many local gun clubs/NRA groups over shooting orientation/safety courses, as well as sponsor competition. Hooking up with a group like that is a good place to network up - lots of those folks would be happy to let a newbie put a few rounds through their piece when they're out at the range anyway, as long as they are interested in learning and not acting whacked-out.

Borrow/buy some headphones for hearing protection - it's gonna be required at any respectable range & will make the experience (at least at 1st) much more enjoyable, as will spending some time talking about the fundamentals of general shooting and range safety, as well as handling the particular weapon of choice, before you ever go out to the range. Local gun clubs/dealers can help you there as well.

Good luck and safe shooting.
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:38 PM on August 16, 2006

If she's never shot a gun before, perhaps starting off with something that has less bite than a full auto might be a good place to start... like a simple handgun perhaps? Ain't no harm in having her learn a useful skill while having fun at the same time. Chances are that at some point in her life she might have to actually use a handgun (and this is your chance to show her how), whereas the likeliness of needing to know how to use an automatic weapon is less likely.

No need to start off with something as small as a .22, but maybe a nice .38 special or .357 magnum will do the trick. Go for a revolver to start off with, less intimidating than a semi-auto, less parts to have to understand for her first time shooting. I'm a female by the way, first gun I ever shot was the .357 Ruger GP100 (using .38's) which I fell in love with (because it's a perfect gun), and now own. The 4 inch barrel will help with accuracy on hitting the target.
posted by RoseovSharon at 1:45 PM on August 16, 2006

I've shot a Ruger .22 target pistol and it was an absolute joy.
I found a .45 to be more kick than I really like and an effort to remain relaxed enough to not pull off to one side.
Never saw the point to a shotgun on a target range. I'd rather pay someone the equivalent cost of the shells to get punched repeatedly in the shoulder, and I don't think I'd really want to do that.
posted by plinth at 2:55 PM on August 16, 2006

My favourite gun to fire at a range was the Colt 1911 - I didn't find it to be nearly as jumpy (or as cheap-feeling) as the various 9mms I've fired : (Glocks, Barettas, Sigs and H&Ks)

Sidebar: The H&K double-action trigger was awful - like a staple-gun. And I think their definition of ambidexterous must be, "Fits neither hand equally well."

I would choose a nice .22 target pistol like the Ruger as my second favourite - they are nice to shoot, and .22 ammunition is much cheaper to buy at the range than .45 ACP.
posted by Crosius at 3:55 PM on August 16, 2006

A friend of mine brought his girlfriend to a range under much the same circumstances - she fired one round, extracted the magazine & chambered round ( she paid very close attention to the safety lecture) put the gun down and declared that she didn't like shooting after all. She was quite shaken up by the experience.

Have a backup plan, just in case shooting doesn't measure up to her imagination.
posted by Crosius at 4:00 PM on August 16, 2006

Every range you go to will have boatloads of 9mm handguns to rent; those are entirely appropriate for a first timer. Even if you're convinced that something bigger and badder would be more fun, at least rent a 9 as a fallback option (or .22 or .357 as others are saying).
posted by rkent at 4:08 PM on August 16, 2006

I've taught loads of people to shoot, and all your answers are right here in this thread.

Ruger .22 (either as a semi-auto Mark 2 or a Single Six revolver). .22's are a joy for beginners. There is very little recoil, they aren't very loud and the ballistics scale up nicely; everything about safety and accuracy apply as much to the .22 as they do to the larger rounds. Also, .22 is by far the least expensive ammunition, so you can afford to shoot a lot more. Almost everyone I taught started with the .22.

9mm, .40, .45 are all loads of fun, they are going to be the most common available at any range. A bit more expensive to shoot, a bit more recoil, a bit more noise; this is totally dependant on the kind of gun as to whether or not the shooter has fun.

H&K, Walther, 1911 clones, Ruger... find one that fits her hand and make sure she can operate all the controls. That will have a lot more bearing on her enjoyment than the caliber here.

.357 and .44 mag. Go with a revolver here, automatics in this category are just too heavy for a beginner. Kick and noise get big here, but at least one girl I taught went straight from my .22 to my .44. She loved that cannon.

Long guns, you are going to need an outdoor range (unless you are shooting .22). As said several times above the .223 (5.56) AR-15's are great guns to shoot. My wife doubted she would ever touch one till she realized that there is almost no recoil and they are crazy accurate.

I can't honestly recommend anything bigger than .223 for a beginner, the rounds start getting much more expensive for not a whole lot more fun. (From the perspective of a first time shooter that is).

Full auto is great, but not this time. Way too intimidating for someone who is just getting into the scene. Take her to the range a few times, let her get used the the noise and the smell before you start tearing up paper five rounds at a time.

Sidebar: The H&K double-action trigger was awful - like a staple-gun. And I think their definition of ambidexterous must be, "Fits neither hand equally well."

Blasphemy. The H&K USP is one of the best hand-guns made. Fits my hand perfectly. Though the DA mode on any automatic tends to be rubbish when compared to the single action mode or a revolver. H&K is no different.

Be safe and have fun.
posted by quin at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

As long as we're going to state preferences about the 9's, I never found one that seemed a more natural extension of my had than the 1935 Browing Hi-Power, although I do like the Sig P226
posted by Pressed Rat at 5:54 PM on August 16, 2006

My bachelor party began with an hour or two at a local shooting range. The AR-15 was a blast, even better when one of the local members/employees brought out his souped-up version, complete with a wide array of doohickeys and sights, for me to fire.

The gun I enjoyed the most, though, was (I think) a .38 dual action revolver.

One thing I was surprised by was how helpful and laid back the range staff was. I was expecting a slew of John Goodman lookalikes with wild beards and dead boars under their arms. So pick wisely when you choose your range as first impressions (people that shoot guns are A) normal B) crazy/sketchy mountain men) are killer.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:28 PM on August 16, 2006

See if your local range has a gun safety class. Take it with your girlfriend.

The one I attended was $60 and not only was thorough & complete, but provided an opportunity afterwards to fire a number of guns with instructor overview. Plus they had free donuts and Guns & Ammo magazine. Learned many interesting things beyond don't point the gun at people.


After the class, having a solid foundation under our belts – I felt at place at the range, and had the confidence to venture to outdoor ranges, etc…
posted by donguanella at 7:05 PM on August 16, 2006

Now that I'm home and not rushing, a couple of additional thoughts; in my above post, I neglected to mention .25s and .32s and the like, there is a reason for this, they tend to be junk. Girls tend to be drawn to them because as pocket guns, they are usually smaller and fit more comfortably into the hand.

Another small gun to beware of is the Walther PPK; a fine and well made pistol that feels great in the hand, but one that is a bear to shoot. Seriously, it's like a hand cramp machine. (though I will never sell mine. It may be uncomfortable, but it's legendary.)

A couple of non-gun related thoughts that may also be of use. If possible, bring two kinds of ear protection. I suggest the smaller in-the-ear kind like you bring to concerts, as well as the headphone style. Some people have better luck with one or the other style, and a really fast way to have someone not have a good time is to have their hearing protection failing every time they shoot. As a bonus, if she has really sensitive ears, she can use both.

Go to a office supply store and get some of those brightly colored round labels. When you bring the target back to check your shots, put the labels over your holes, this lets you see where you've hit previously so you can track your improvement. It also helps the target to last longer. Failing that, get a white pencil from an art store and just circle your previous shots.) It helps.

Finally, and this is critical; make sure she wears something with a high-ish neckline. Nothing that shows any kind of cleavage (a t-shirt should be fine.) An friend of mine had a empty brass casing bounce off the partition and go right down the front of her shirt. She proudly bears the (small) scar to this day, but she's a freak and if you can avoid it, why run the risk?
posted by quin at 7:06 PM on August 16, 2006

What sort of gun would you recommend for the first time user?

The Ruger .22, like many others have stated. Every range I've been to has them for rent.

My buddy and I took our wives to a range on a double date last year. I rented my wife a .22 pistol, and my buddy gave his wife his H&K .40 to shoot. I think my wife had way more fun. She's interested in doing it again, and my buddy's wife is not.

What guns are wicked fun to shoot?

Most guns are wicked fun to shoot, if it's your cup of tea. I personally do not enjoy shooting guns that are incredibly loud, or have a huge kick.

Should I spend the extra dough to rent a full-auto?

Sure, if she seems into it.

That having been said, everyone I know was intimidated the first time they shot a gun as an adult. Since this is already a somewhat intimidating experience, why add to it by having them jump from training wheels to popping wheelies?

Another thing I might mention is that I've been to about six ranges in Texas (where I live) and never once has someone had a fully automatic rifle for rent. Indoors or out. I'm surprised that it's common where you are.
posted by popechunk at 8:54 PM on August 16, 2006

I didn't even know there were indoor ranges that allowed any long gun other than .22! Live and learn.

Ruger .22, either semi-auto or revolver = best .22, though the sights are coarse. Little recoil, relatively. Not too loud. Use subsonic ammo for minimum noise.

Any Sig 9MM - best patterns I ever shot with a caliber > .22. Very impressive and also has legitimate sights, not some clunky chunks of iron.
posted by FauxScot at 10:29 PM on August 16, 2006

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I enjoyed shooting a single shot, bolt action .22 rifle - it's accurate, working the bolt helps to slow you down and keep you focused on each shot, and you can start from a bench rest to get used to the sights.
posted by concrete at 1:39 AM on August 17, 2006

Flintlocks are fun, too. If you can avoid flinching when the pan flashes, the heavy barrel is easy to keep stable, those big fat balls are pretty accurate and they make a big hole in the target.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 AM on August 17, 2006

You're in Maryland, so you can actually have fun stuff, unlike here in California.

Let her get a few shots off with a .22. I let my g/f use my .22, and she warmed up to it pretty quickly. By the end of the day, she was up to the Glock 22, a Ruger GP100 (shooting .38 and .357) and a Browning BLR (.223)

THEN go for the AR-15. :-)
posted by drstein at 11:35 AM on August 17, 2006

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