Guest Writer: Kenzie Fitzpatrick Trigger discipline, in my opinion, is the most important rule of firearm safety. It’s…
How old do you have to be to go to a shooting range? It’s a more complicated question than you might think. Knowing when the time is right to teach your kids how to shoot guns is different for every child. The other obstacle is knowing shooting range age requirements. Will the range even allow them there? While many ranges may allow younger kids to shoot, there are always a few requirements for them to be there.
Gun Range Rules
Each range is unique and some may not be open to allowing anyone under the age of 16, 18, or even 21 years of age. The liability ranges have, both indoor and outdoor, can be substantial. Indoor ranges have the added challenge of ensuring their range is ventilated properly. This is needed to prevent lead poisoning, which we’ll also talk about in this blog.
Have you ever actually read your range’s waiver? Not only should you read this so you know the rules, but most always, you can find the shooting range age requirements as well. If your range allows children under the age of 18, most likely, a guardian will be signing on behalf of them. Read what you’re signing. Especially because a lot of waivers release liability off of the range and onto the person, or in this case, guardian.
Read The Shooting Range Waiver
Look for the following key items that are almost always found in range waivers:
- You must be allowed by law to possess a firearm, are not a convicted felon, have a domestic violence charge against you, or are prohibited in any way from possessing a firearm.
- You will not file any legal action or suit against the range, range owners, or agents.
- Acknowledgment that you are of sound mind, and body to be handling firearms.
- You assume all liability and pay for any damage to range property or damage to any other’s personal property, or injury to any other person due to any action whether it is negligent or intentional action.
- The range is not liable for any damage, loss, or claims on the account of any injury to a person or property, including death.
Most all shooting range age requirements that allow for under 18-year-olds to be at a range, require complete adult supervision at all times. And for good reason. Kids are naturally curious. If they haven’t been raised around firearms or don’t know enough to treat every gun as if it’s loaded. They need to be constantly supervised.
Maturity Level Discussion
Some ranges allow kids on the range as early as 8 years old. Others require them to be at least 10 or 12, and more strict ranges require people to be 21 years of age or older. What a lot of ranges fail to understand is (in my opinion) it is never about age, but a level of maturity.
What do I mean by this? Do you remember the difference between your last day as a 20-year-old and your first day as a 21-year-old? There probably wasn’t a big change was there? Just because your age changed overnight doesn’t mean your maturity level did as well. This is the same for firearms. Each person learns differently and matures at a different pace. Make sure that no matter what age your minor is, that they have the maturity level to respect firearms. Remember the rules of firearm safety, and demonstrate safe gun handling.
Shooting range age requirements may or may not matter when it comes to shooting competition events. There are clubs such as 4-H and Scholastic Steel Challenge that were designed for youth to learn how to shoot guns. The National 4-H Shooting Sports allows all kids ages 8 to 18 to participate.
Steel Challenge is a great entry-level shooting competition that is welcoming to all ages. They have two divisions for minors. Pre-Teens have their own division and include all competitors under 13 years old on the first day of the event. Junior competitors must be 13-17 years old on the first day of the event.
The stipulation to having the younger competitors is that all competitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by their parent or guardian throughout the competition. If the parent/guardian is competing in the event, they must be grouped together. There is no age minimum. However, in the rules, all competitors under 18 years of age must be able to safely handle a loaded firearm. A liability waiver must be signed by both the competitor and their parent or legal guardian.
Other competitions include USPSA which also has a junior division for shooters under the age of 18 on the first day of the match. GSSF has the same junior division, but does require a parent or legal guardian sign-off to compete as a junior, volunteer as a Range Officer, or even spectate.
Concerns About Lead Exposure
“Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because they absorb 4–5 times as much ingested lead as adults from a given source.” – CDC
Lead poisoning is a serious issue at any age. Lead enters the body primarily through inhalation and ingestion of lead-containing dust. Indoor ranges are under legal requirements by the government to have a ventilation system to remove lead from the air shooters are breathing in. This doesn’t mean that outdoor ranges are free of lead though.
When you handle ammunition, the lead residue is left on your hands. If you reload ammunition, there are airborne lead particles you can accidentally inhale. When shooting or cleaning your guns, you can also be exposed to lead. Think about how often kids put their hands in their mouths or rub their eyes.
How often do you hydrate or eat a snack on the range? Make sure to always use lead removal wipes after shooting. Wash your hands before eating, and don’t be afraid to ask your indoor range for their lead levels. After all, you’re paying for it!
How Old Do You Have To Be To Go To A Shooting Range?
Although many gun ranges allow visitors as young as 16 to participate, a parent or legal guardian will need to sign a waiver. At the end of the day, we should always respect shooting range age requirements because they are in place for a reason. Just because a range allows for younger children to shoot, doesn’t mean that they’re ready to shoot.
All shooters of all ages should be able to repeat the four rules of firearm safety, demonstrate them, and understand why they exist. All shooters should also be able to hold a firearm, and safely manage the recoil. They need to be able to hold the firearm securely so it doesn’t fly out of their hands. They also need be able to clear malfunctions (or be supervised as they do). Firearms are powerful tools and dangerous in hands that have a lack of knowledge on how to use them.