Why I Prefer Shooting On Public Land Over Ranges

by Vern Evans

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Growing up, I didn’t spend much time at official shooting ranges. We’d just go out, find some public land and go shooting. There was no range master. There was nobody coming by to make sure all the rules were being followed. When you were done shooting, you could just go right on out and change your target out or put it away.

After growing up with this, my first experience at a normal shooting range with a church group in town was downright boring. Once we got set up on one of the ranges, we waited for commands to load, fire and cease fire. Then, we had to wait for the command to go retrieve targets, then wait for everyone to be done doing that, then do it all over again. With 20+ lanes and some of the people out there shooting of very advanced age, this was a tedious and long process.

So, as you can imagine, I never went back there as a young adult.

Of course, not all ranges are like this. At many indoor ranges, there are lines where you can bring the targets in and take them out, so nobody needs to wait to change a target. You can fire when you’re ready and you don’t have to wait for anybody (assuming you aren’t part of a class or something). There are also many outdoor ranges where you can get your own action pistol bay or something and have no need to wait for everyone to be ready to check targets out.

But, at the same time, it just isn’t the same as finding a spot outdoors. You’ve got to load up, drive to a specific place, pay a fee (or pay a membership fee), and there’s usually someone there to watch out for safety. That’s a good thing, of course, but it’s never fun to have someone standing behind you scrutinizing everything you’re doing. Outdoors, you can go at any hour and go when you’re ready. There’s no need for any kind of special arrangement, and you can often find yourself out there completely alone or there with people you want to be around.

Of course, this isn’t easy for all of us. In many cities, you’d have to drive for an hour or two just to find some open land. Even then, places like Texas just don’t have much public land that’s open to target shooting at all. Some of those places have unsupervised public shooting ranges where you can get most of the benefits of shooting on public land, but many don’t.

So, at the end of the day, where you live can make a big difference in your shooting experience. Living in a place with no unsupervised ranges and no public land within a reasonably short drive means that you’ll have to find a paid or supervised range. But, if you can find a small town or live in a rural area surrounded by open land where it’s legal and safe to shoot, it’s a lot easier and a whole lot more fun!

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