Whether you're new to shooting or you've lived your entire life around firearms, at some point, you've probably asked a question common to everyone with ammo to fire: Where can I shoot my gun?
It doesn't matter if you're practicing for accuracy, training for self-defense, getting more accustomed to how your gun shoots, or preparing for competitions, you'll need somewhere to shoot. But where should that be done? Where can you safely practice while staying within the bounds of law and reason?
Thankfully, a few options are available to you. Read on to find out where you can safely shoot your gun.
The best part about gun ranges is they're dedicated spaces specifically designed for you to fire your gun. Another helpful feature is that you often find ranges either attached to or run by a local gun shop.
What makes a dedicated gun range so wonderful is that the owners have already taken time to develop the space, cover the legal grounds, and plan out the area to allow for the best possible experience when it comes to shooting your firearm.
Most ranges are typically indoor or outdoor ranges, though some locations offer both types of shooting. Both have their pros and cons. Depending on what your needs are, you may end up having a personal preference for one or the other as time passes and you've had the opportunity to shoot at both types.
Pros and Cons of Indoor Ranges
Indoor ranges have been built so you can do your shooting inside. This is one of their biggest benefits. At an indoor range, you can conduct your shooting completely unencumbered by the elements. It doesn't matter if it's scorching hot or there’s a torrential downpour, you can shoot comfortably. This can be especially helpful if you're trying to familiarize yourself with a new gun or if you want to get used to proper form and shooting mechanics. Because you don't have to worry about any outside interference, including wind, you can focus on getting comfortable so that if or when you do have to shoot in a less than ideal environment, you’re confident using your gun.
Sounds perfect, right? For a lot of people, it is. However, there are some limitations to be considered. Perhaps the biggest limitation of an indoor range is space to accommodate a large number of shooters or greater distance to targets. As a result, you may find yourself wishing you had a little more room when shooting at an indoor range.
Another issue is noise. Due to the nature of shooting, a lot of noise is created; in an indoor range, this can sometimes be amplified by the enclosed space. This can make it more difficult to communicate with anyone accompanying you, cause auditory distractions, and in some cases uncomfortable, especially with larger caliber weapons. Some high-powered rifles and handguns can create rather large booms, literally changing the pressure in the room. It's not an issue of danger, but it is something to be aware of; over time, it may become annoying enough to dampen your overall experience.
Finally, some indoor ranges limit the type of gun you can shoot. You may not be able to shoot your weapon if it's too high powered.
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Ranges
As a result of being outdoors, these ranges are less constrained by building dimensions or space restrictions and can allow for more freedom in the type of shooting and permitted firearms. Depending on the way the range is set up, you have the potential for long range shooting at much farther distances than could be achieved at the average indoor range. You also have the capability of greater movement, which allows for more variability in shooting positions.
This does come with some drawbacks, the most notable being weather. Extremes in temperature can impact your overall experience drastically. So, too, can weather variations such as wind, rain, snow, or any combination thereof.
Can I Shoot in My Backyard?
The thought has probably crossed your mind: Can I just shoot in my backyard? Most firearm enthusiasts wonder about this at some point for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is convenience.
It would be fantastic if you could just step outside and enjoy your firearm on your own property. In some cases, you can. Firearm laws vary greatly from state to state and town to town, so the first thing you should do if you want to shoot in your yard is learn about the laws where you live. In general, you should be able to shoot on your own property provided you aren't shooting in the direction of other people and you have a sufficient backstop.
State or county laws that cover shooting in your backyard might be related to:
- How far away you are from a road
- How far away you are from your neighbors
- If you are within a certain distance of your neighbors, you may be able to shoot there if you have their permission
There are other factors at play as well. For instance, a certain state or county may not let you shoot your gun if you live near a nonresidential building, such as a hospital or school. Living near a park or a playground may also have certain restrictions around shooting in your backyard.
One of the most important things to remember is safety. You want to have enough room or protection to defend against errant shots and ricochets. You'll also want a backstop big enough to stop the rounds you're firing from traveling further than you want them to. Whether that's a man-made berm or just a hill behind your target location, you want something behind your shooting area large and thick enough to absorb the rounds and prevent them from continuing on to an unintended target.
Before you start shooting on your property, take some time to look into local laws and restrictions. If you have questions, you can always contact local law enforcement for more information.
Other Areas Where You Can Shoot
While by and large, the majority of people end up shooting at a range or on private property, you may wonder if you can shoot in other locations. Perhaps you don't have a range nearby (or want to avoid the expense), and your own yard or property isn't sufficient for safety. You may live in a neighborhood or area where shooting isn't allowed at all. In these cases, can you go to a national park or other public lands and shoot?
Shooting on national parks and public lands can be a bit tricky. There are many more regulations and red tape when dealing with the federal government, but it is still possible in some instances.
In many cases, if the shooting won't negatively impact protected wildlife or otherwise negatively disturb the forestry of the park, you're good to go. Hunting is allowed on a lot of federal land, so shooting is obviously not an issue in and of itself. The big issues usually center around restricted or protected areas. Contact the agency in charge of the area you plan to utilize prior to going out there just to be on the safe side. They'll happily let you know what's acceptable and any safety precautions or rules you should follow.
The important things to remember when it comes to where you can or cannot shoot are legality and safety. As long as you're not breaking any laws by being there with your firearm — and as long as all safety precautions are in place — you should be fine. If you have concerns, contact the local governmental agency or law enforcement responsible for the area you plan to be doing your shooting and find out for sure. This is definitely a situation where it's better to ask permission first and not forgiveness later. It's much better to know than to risk fines or worse, imprisonment, simply because you weren't aware you couldn’t shoot there.