I’ve gone to different indoor ranges because I like to rent and shoot different handguns. I can see the fans going, they all say they’re safe. But no matter where, after shooting 200 rounds or so I feel like I smoked three packs of cigarettes. My throat will be hoarse, eyes bloodshot, and I will feel a bit sick. A tissue rubbed in my nose will show powder residue. That’s f’ed up. I also noticed that after spending time at an indoor range, I get headaches like those I got after playing football in high school . . .
I think that is from the noise and vibrations but it got me thinking about health and shooting. Why practice self defense if I’m ushering in an early bout with cancer. (Cancer runs in my family btw.) Do recommend any health practices for indoor ranges? Should I just stick to outdoor ranges? That will be a bummer because they are a lot farther away.
Let me tell you about the range my ex-girlfriend uses. . .
I had driven all the way to the frigid north of the country to hang out and shoot some guns with her. She was pretty into guns, and seemed to spend a good chunk of time on the range, so I figured she had somewhere nice nearby that she liked to go. Boy, was I in for a shock.
We rolled into the range and it was a completely indoor facility bordered by a cement mixing plant next door. There was a gun sales counter up front, and a set of double doors leading to the range. Large glass windows separated the store from the range and to me it looked like they were either really scratched up or deliberately tinted for some reason.
Nope. It was just so smokey in the range that you could barely see inside.
As we were walking into the range, there were a couple gentlemen who were exiting at the same time. As they left the range, they removed the military surplus gas masks they’d been wearing. It was a pretty smart precaution, given the visible awfulness that was floating around in the air in there. Made me wish I’d packed a gas mask myself.
I almost hesitated to go in there when it was our turn to shoot. Then again, I was being led by the hand by a smokin’ hot chick who wanted to shoot my guns. You can probably understand my willingness to risk my lungs and enter the poorly ventilated range.
Anyway, after the range trip I was sneezing large black gobs of snot for about a week. Not healthy in the least.
The reason this range stays open is that it’s the only indoor range within reasonable driving distance. Winters in the frigid north parts of our country can get mighty cold, and when you absolutely need to put some lead downrange, there are very few options that let you do it and stay warm at the same time. So, even though visiting that range probably shortened my lifespan by a few weeks, it was the only option for local snowbound shooters.
Still, there are plenty of excellent indoor ranges out there. The NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia has the best indoor range I’ve ever seen — well lit, well ventilated and well maintained. And in between the two examples I have discussed, ranges follow the bell curve pretty well. Most are okay, while some are excellent and others are virtual death traps.
If you absolutely positively need to use indoor facilities and the range doesn’t have good ventilation, a gas mask isn’t a bad idea. The ones sold at local hardware stores, with the rubber gaskets that seal the mask around your face and replaceable cartridges, will work the best. Paper masks may be okay, but I wouldn’t take the chance.
Wear clothes that you have designated as your “range clothes” and only wear them when going to the range, removing them as soon as you get home. Shower with cold water when you get home, paying special attention to your hair (hot water opens your pores and lets the contaminants in). And, most importantly, don’t eat or drink anything while at the range or before you’ve washed your hands.
However, if there’s an outdoor range that you can get to, that would be my first option. Stay safe, guys.