Target Practice: A Shooting Range Experience

Content note: This piece contains mentions of the detailed use of firearms.

‘I wonder what it’s like to shoot a rifle,’ a friend said casually over a prawn chow mein lunch. ‘We should go to a shooting range one day.’

‘Sure, let’s go on Saturday,’ I said.

She laughed, ‘Really?’

‘Why not?’ I asked. 

All we had to do was Google local shooting ranges, make some phone calls, figure out the requirements, and show up.

But her hesitance was understandable, of course. After all, the misuse of firearms has frequently resulted in all sorts of tragedies across the globe. Fortunately, in Australia, we have robust and effective laws which regulate the ownership and use of firearms and ensure that shooting range visitors around the country are safe at all times. 

For our novice shooting experience, we opted for the Sporting Shooters’ Association Australia (SSAA) shooting range in Springvale—it turned out to be an excellent selection.

Family oriented, the SSAA range welcomes all members of the public from ages twelve and up. However, those under eighteen must have parental consent and be accompanied by an adult. Prices start from $46 and no bookings are required unless you’re specifically looking to use pistols. 

Also, whether solo or with company, you can rock up as you are anytime during opening hours. All necessary shooting equipment is available for hire at the range.

‘But is it safe?’ This is the number one question almost every beginner shooter has. It is. Target shooting is safe, affordable, friendly, competitive, challenging, and offers opportunities for all. It is also well-managed and monitored by the staff at the range.

At the beginning of your visit to the SSAA, a range official will promptly attend to you, check your ID, have you fill out a consent form, and take you through a ten-minute induction covering the ins and outs of the range, the rules of the game, and how to use your gear.

Provided with the starter package at the range are .22 long rifles and fifty bullets. Fifty  bullets may not seem like much but depending on your speed and arm strength, firing all of them can take over an hour. Shotguns, pistols, and additional bullets are also available for a higher price.  

As soon as you’ve settled on a package, the range officials will provide you with a rifle, bullets, paper targets, and earplugs (the shooting can be deafening), after which you’re allocated a spot—often a thick, mattress-like, sturdy, groundsheet that’s positioned on the floor. And that’s it, you’re on.

The shooting is done laying down on the groundsheet, as the rifle is supported by a sling attached to the upper arm.

Once well positioned and with your rifle and ammunition ready, you’re good to go. Now your only challenge is to try and hit the paper targets which are placed at a fifty metre distance. If you’re a beginner like we were, here’s a heads-up, aiming is as intriguing as it looks on TV, but it’s definitely not as easy.

With that said, target shooting for leisure is such a fun, exciting, thrilling, adrenaline-inducing, and stress-relieving experience. Before you know it, hours have passed, it’s dusk and you’re wondering, ‘where did all the time go?’

In case you get hungry or thirsty from all that shooting and arm cardio, the SSAA has a neat and nifty restaurant and bar by the shooting area. Here, you can take a break and mingle with fellow shooters before going back out to fire some more.

When done for the day, all you have to do is return all the hired equipment, get your final paper target, smile (or laugh) at your skills (or lack thereof), and when ready, leave at your leisure.

And yes, photos and videos are allowed at the range, thankfully. Just be careful to turn off the flash to avoid distracting fellow shooters.

Worth noting is that prone shooting is also a sport, and is impressively featured in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. So hey, if you happen to have great skills and greater aim, you could always sign up to become a member of the SSAA or your local shooting range. You never know, you could turn pro and win competitions—why not?

Here’s to taking shots, even if we miss more than we hit.

*Current shooting range rules may be subject to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check with your preferred shooting range for any changes.  

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