Let’s face it: Guys who go to the range don’t worry about their fingernails breaking or their faces developing a sun glasses tan that makes them look as if they stepped out of a blast zone. And they don’t worry about dust-encrusted hair that hurts to try to brush through.
But gals definitely do not want to deal with these little quirks of range life.
While women can enjoy the range just as much as men, understanding we might have expectations for a few of the finer things in life is perfectly reasonable. You can shoot with the boys without having to smell and look like the boys.
Here are a few things I’ve learned at the range that I hope will help the ladies prepare and enjoy range time more, as well as help the guys understand where their gal pal is coming from when she has concerns.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF FINGERNAILS
I’ll start this off with fingernails. Nobody wants snaggly nails—ripped, torn, dirty. I hate feeling that on my hands! Ladies and men do not want to catch their nails on their clothing and rip them off or have bits of dirt stuck under them.
Shooting is hard on the hands. From reloading magazines to picking up brass and resetting targets, it can tear up your nails and skin, so do some planning ahead. Pack gloves for setting up targets and working at the range. You don’t want to soak up any more lead than you do already, so gloves can help keep lead dust off your skin, especially with shotgun targets getting caked in lead from birdshot.
Keep a nail clipper in your bag to trim broken nails. And I’d advise going with shorter nails to start with. I have seen female shooters who have longer nails catch them on a rail. It brings them to tears, and sometimes, they even bleed. (This definitely sells me on not having a manicure!)
I’ve seen a husband fail to “get it,” and I caution you to realize that if you’re just plinking or having fun on the range with your friends, this isn’t a concern—go ahead and rock those long nails.
As for me, loading a shotgun—especially in years I am working toward a world shoot and practice loading frequently—I want to be sure I keep my nails short, especially my thumbnail. At least a couple times a year, I have to super-glue split nails to keep them from splitting even further.
A nail file in your bag is really useful, too. I try to keep a couple of those tiny, disposable emery boards in my range bag so I can address not only any nails that chip or tear, but sometimes,
I use them in lieu of sandpaper for my shotgun lifter or other random gun parts.. An emery board/buffer makes a great fine sander and polishing tool to keep in your tool kit.
TAME YOUR MANE
Dusty ranges make hair nasty. I tend to put mine in a braid if I know I’m going to be in a lot of dust, partly to keep it out of my way, but mostly because it will otherwise be so dirty, I can’t comb it.
A hat definitely helps, because it keeps your hair cleaner and your scalp from getting sunburned. Some gals keep dry shampoo in their cars. But covering or securing your hair will help you focus on shooting … which is what you want to focus on at the range anyway.
I also pull my hair back out of the way on the range, because I’ve had my ponytail fly up in front of my shoulder as I run up to grab and mount my shotgun; then, the recoil pad was resting on a layer of hair between the stock and my shoulder. This led to the gun slipping every shot until I moved it. This is not something you want to deal with in a timed event. So, get your hair out of the way.
Carrying a hairbrush to get rid of “hat hair” at the end of the day can go a long way to making you feel better. And if I have my hair pulled in the wrong direction and pinned under a hat for eight or 10 hours, my scalp hurts—not just a little, but enough to cause an actual headache.
BEAUTY IS SKIN DEEP
Skin. Our largest organ. Just as you would do for your fingernails, protect your skin: Once again, wear gloves when you can for resetting targets or working to set up or tear down a match. Harsh sun and wind will leave your hands dry, cracked and often cut by staples if you work at a match.
So, even if you go to the range just to watch your man shoot and to help out, throw some work gloves in the car. Additionally, protect your face with sunscreen. And don’t forget to reapply it after you’ve perspired for several hours on a hot day, because it will run off or get wiped off. A forehead that’s burned, along with sunglasses tan lines, isn’t great.
And that brings me to another way to keep the sun off: hats. If a hat gets too hot for you (they do for me, with all my hair), get a visor.
KEEP THINGS IN FOCUS
Eye drops and eye protection are two things that are definitely necessary to protect your eyes. There are some great singledose eye drops for moisturizing made by Boiron. I keep these in my range bag with my first aid kit, and I love them.
I also never go without glasses while shooting is going on. The chance of pieces of anything coming back at you—a bullet jacket, dirt and rocks—is too great. I keep a spare pair of glasses wrapped in a thin neck gator inside my bag just for shooting stages. These are glasses I don’t worry about getting scratched when I’m not shooting. In bright sunlight, use tinted, UV-filtering shooting glasses to protect your eyes from harmful rays.
SEAL IT WITH A KISS
I get really dry lips at the range from the dust and sun. I drink water to try keep hydrated, lips included. I try to keep lip protectant in my pocket. And often, girly lip gloss-type gunk stays on longer than ChapStick (Burt’s Bees “Pomegranate” also does a good job). Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking you can’t put something on your lips to keep them from cracking and getting chapped.
These tips will hopefully help make range time more pleasant. Shooting isn’t a beauty contest, but it shouldn’t leave you looking and feeling as if you got dragged through the mud (unless getting dragged through the mud is intentional … and you are enjoying every minute of it).
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.