A very large number of violent encounters, SWAT standoffs and military operations occur at night. Professional shooters know that training at night is a necessity.
Shooting at night holds some benefits for recreational shooters as well. Ranges are generally deserted. The temperature is cooler in the summer. The winds are mild. Did I mention the range is deserted?
Night shooting is a perfect time to do load development or zero a rifle scope. The lack of other shooters allows you to go downrange when needed. There is minimal mirage to distract you from a precise aiming point. You can really get a rig dialed in.
Night shooting is not without its own problems. First of all, unless you are using night vision equipment, you will need artificial illumination. If you are lucky enough to have stadium lights at your range, you are all set. If you don’t have facility lights, you have to bring your own. For close range targets, a weapon mounted light can work just fine. For longer range targets, a battery powered spotlight set downrange can do the trick. If you are just banging steel, hang a chemlight on the target. When you bust it, you will still get some light splattered on the target until the reaction peters out.
If you are shooting steel with battery powered illumination, make sure you mind where you place the light. You will want to keep if forward of your target and out of the range of any splash. You will also want to minimize the light coming back at the shooter. This can cause some very distracting glare in some rifle scopes.
If you are working on a very tight budget, then one final option is to dance with the one who brought you! Drive your vehicle out there and position the lights to illuminate the target. Headlights are bright enough you can get the vehicle back out of splash range. Just make sure you trust the guys who are shooting with you. Also make sure you have a full tank of gas and don’t run the lights with the engine off. I shouldn’t have to say that, but folks have forgotten before. I would not recommend doing this with a high end vehicle, but with my sixteen year old 4×4, I have little fear of scratches.
Illumination at the target is not the only concern. You will need light at the firing line. Light at the line is not just convenient, it is a safety concern. You will want to make sure you can visually and physically inspect your weapon to make sure it is clear. If you are not working with overhead range lights, a head lamp with a red option is great. It allows you to work with your hands unimpeded and the red light will preserve the light sensitivity of your eyes. If you are using range lights at the firing line, be careful to limit light shining on the ocular lens of your scope. Just a little bit of reflection between your eye and the target can cause big problems in low light.
Finally, when shooting at night be mindful of your neighbors. If you have the option, utilize a sound suppressor. Also keep track of time. Even if you are shooting on private property without time restrictions, try not to shoot past 2200-2300 hours. This is generally considered “quiet time” and will keep you on better terms with the residents near your range. Even if you are using a sound suppressor or silencer, your bullet will still make a sonic crack or a loud “bang” when it hits steel. This will carry for a long distance in the still night air.
Let me tell you a little story? I once knew a guy who could have been a great golfer, could have gone pro, all he needed was a little time and practice. Decided to go to college instead. Went for four years, did pretty well. At the end of his four years, his last semester he was kicked out… You know what for? He was night putting, just putting at night with the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Dean…Ty Webb, Caddyshack
If you haven’t before, get out and give night shooting a try. If you currently get out and target shoot after dark, please let us know what tips you have for an enjoyable and safe, night range trip.