The Bureau of Land Management department offers civilians the chance to safely engage in shooting sports and activities, promoting better marksmanship and general public safety. So, where to shoot? Target shooting is allowed on BLM administered locations as long as it's done safely, and you can also shoot guns safely at a shooting range.
More than 99% of the BLM-managed lands are open for recreational shooting, offering exclusive access to hunting and other shooting opportunities on public lands and waters. The department works with local communities and further expand access.
Where to Learn Practice Shooting Basics
The best practice shooting is at a shooting range, a specialized field or venue used for firearm training. Some of these are operated by law enforcement agencies, but most are privately owned by civilians and sporting clubs, catering to recreational shooters. These can be indoor or outdoor and are usually restricted to certain guns, such as a handgun or long gun — or they can also specialize in Olympic disciplines like trap or skeet shooting.
Additionally, if you're looking to let your kids learn more about the art of shooting, a shooting gallery is the best place. It's a recreational shooting facility with toy guns, teaching children how to safely carry and handle these weapons.
Types of Shooting Ranges
There many types of ranges, each one serving different purposes, and here are the most common ones:
- Indoor Shooting Range
Indoor shooting ranges are made for shorter ranged weapons like a standard handgun. However, some can cater to long-range weapons like a center-fire rifle as well.
- Outdoor Shooting Range
An outdoor range is usually located far from towns and cities, offering a broader range selection. These places typically let you test out large caliber weapons like a hunting rifle or other "shooting" sports like archery.
- Air Rifle Range
An air rifle range is an indoor range with unique specifications since air rifle shooting is one of the most popular companion sports. A standard air rifle range expands between 30 feet to 80 feet with different elevation changes for the targets and pellet traps for capturing air rifle pellets. Air rifle ranges are the best place for gun enthusiasts to brush up their rifle skills minus the dangers.
- Miniature Rifle Range
Miniature rifle ranges are available in junior rifle lodging, offering small-bore rifles such as the .22 caliber center-fire rifle. These places also provide full-bore rifle ranges, usually meant for larger caliber weapons like a center-fire rifle. Full-bore rifle target facilities have targets that increase distance radius as you progress, from 330 feet to 6,000 feet — often used by long snipers or rifle shooters.
- Archery and Shotgun Range
Archery and shotgun ranges are usually found together as both are situated outside. Archery ranges are designed with a 3D concept, where targets are located in multiple directions. But there are indoor archery facilities you can explore as well. Meanwhile, shotgun ranges are usually situated outside and used for clay shooting. Both shotgun and archery are companion sports.
Shooting Clay Targets
Clay target shooting is a recreational sport that involves shooting a gun at flying targets, where the machine projecting the targets is known as the shotgun trap. This sport uses a shotgun, and its disciplines are sub-classified by the type of game the clay targets represent — and the primary methods for projecting these are airborne and ground (rolling). Multiple targets are used for different disciplines, where the standard 108 mm size is the most common in clay target shooting.
Learning to Shoot at a Public Shooting Range
There are several reasons why you should visit and learn to shoot at a public shooting range. There's something for everyone, from interacting with fellow gun enthusiasts to trying out archery or shooting for the first time. Every facility provides an educational experience for all ages, such as junior rifle lodging for kids and precision pistol smallbore airgun courses for adults.
That said, here are some of the benefits of learning at public shooting ranges:
- Minimal Commitment
Although some facilities offer only memberships to frequent visitors, most of them will also accept walk-ins. Going in as a "walk-in" lets you show up at any time, pay for your session, and lead without signing up as a member — allowing you to test out the range first.
- Brush Up Your Skills
It's the perfect controlled environment to brush up on your existing skills or learn how to carry and handle new weapons safely. These facilities also offer courses for kids like junior rifle lodging, allowing them to sharpen their skills while young.
- Learn Safe Habits
They're the safest place to learn how firearms function properly and safely how to handle them. Most of these facilities offer training for beginners and veterans alike. Older children and adults have the chance to learn more about the fundamentals of gun safety, teaching them how to operate a weapon for safety purposes.
Becoming a local outdoor gun range member is an excellent idea for anyone looking to get into target shooting, providing the ideal environment to learn and discover a new fun hobby! Check if the place ensures basic functionalities and look at the facility details.
Target Range Gun Safety
Although each target range has its unique set of rules and policies, here are the universal shooting range safety rules you need to follow:
Whether your weapon is loaded or not, always keep the muzzle or weapon itself (for archery) pointed downrange. Plus, if you need to place a gun down, always keep it unloaded and facing the targets. Once you're ready to shoot, only then direct the muzzle at the targets.
When shooting at a target range, always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to your actions and other people in the vicinity. Also, know your target and what's beyond it — this applies to everything, whether for handgun, center-fire rifle, or archery. Even if your target range has a reliable backstop, it's best to have a clear understanding of your surroundings, especially when you're outdoors.
When in between shots, put your finger off the trigger until you intend on shooting. Doing this helps you prevent misfires. When practicing archery, avoid getting into a "shooting stance" until you're sure you can make the shot.
Treat all guns as if they're loaded at all times. Modern guns have security features to ensure that accidents don’t happen. However, the shooter still has to follow safety protocols. Even if you've checked its chambers, remember to handle it with the same regard as you would with a loaded weapon, as it won't only help you form "good habits." But it will also ensure you'll never make the wrong assumptions accidentally.
Even gun owners with years of experience can make a mistake like new shooters. When visiting a target range, make it a routine to represent good conduct and follow the rules mentioned. While most shooters have the "basic base rules," you should consider more courtesies and policies when visiting facilities with only memberships. So, make sure to read their facility details.
Pistol Shooting at an Indoor Range
An indoor range usually offers handgun training courses, including learning the basic functionalities of pistol shooting, defensive training, and reloading. The firing point for handgun shooting is typically defined on the ground, while the civilian range is usually flat and leveled. Most competitive targets come with a black circle with "scoring rings" on a white background, typically used with a center-fire rifle. Meanwhile, marks of different shapes are used in pistol or handgun target shooting.
Learn More at Gun Clubs
Joining a gun club is one of the best ways to meet other shooters and learn more about handling different firearms. Find a shooting range near you that can help you join a community. There are different types of gun clubs, ranging from pistol clubs to archery clubs — and here are the benefits of joining one:
- Learn How to Operate Your Gun Safely
Joining a gun club where only memberships are allowed typically comes with strict rules to follow, helping you learn more about proper gun handling and protect yourself if you're a new gun owner — and everyone else in the range. Gun clubs also procure user consent prior to allowing them the use of the facilities. That's why make sure to check facility details when looking for a place to shoot. After all, you don't want to go somewhere that isn't managed well and doesn't ensure shooters' safety.
- Master Shooting From Multiple Distances
Joining a local gun community can help establish shooting fundamentals to defend yourself and shoot from different distances. After all, you can end up firing yourself or misfiring your gun. Having a range providing you multiple options for distance radius helps you perfect these skills.
- Gun Rental
One of the best benefits of joining gun clubs is renting out guns, ranging from a powerful center-fire rifle, basic handgun to archery equipment. Renting these different guns offers you the option of testing out different calibers and grips. This benefit can help you find the "right" gun for you, so rent a couple of firearms before buying your first handgun.
Affiliation with the National Shooting Sports Foundation
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) leads the way in advocating for the firearm industry, keeping guns out of the wrong hands, and encouraging people to participate more in recreational shooting and hunting while helping gun owners better understand the industry's lawful products.
As the leading authority on firearm safety, the NSSF provides all kinds of information possible, from infographics to safety kits — making each industry member more knowledgeable. Plus, with memberships from thousands of organizations, the NSSF is influential, so to learn more about how to handle your guns safely, provide your range information free of charge at the NSSF website.