Public shooting ranges like those all over the country offer great opportunities to get people together for some fun.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
If it had been colder, I might have expected to see Jude Law or Ed Harris.
They were nowhere to be found, though, so I stuck the muzzle of my rifle into the tube, took aim and pulled the trigger.
And so it went for several glorious, fun hours.
Shooting is like that, after all. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.
In this case, my oldest son, Derek, and I wanted to get together. But I was home near Pittsburgh, while he was in school near Washington, D.C.
That’s a far piece apart, with too many miles in between for either of us to go the entire way toward the other, shoot, then get back, all in one day. .
So we did a little digging and found a public range nearly in the middle.
It’s within the boundaries of Green Ridge State Forest, near the town of Flintstone in Maryland. Operated by that state’s Department of Natural Resources, it’s open to shooters seven days a week.
Hours vary, but a daily shooting pass is just $5, a season pass just $25.
That’s a pretty good deal.
August is National Shooting Sports Month. Check it out on social media at #LetsGoShooting.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
Permanent target frames stand at 100 yards. It’s possible to shoot at closer distances, provided you bring your own target stands and place those in front of the established berms.
We shot both near and far, with assorted rifles.
In the beginning we tested some then-new .22 rimfires, putting them through their paces at varying distances with iron sights, scopes and green dots. Later, we switched to our deer rifles.
We’ve done those kinds of things before, of course.
But the one thing unusual here.was the tubes.
Each shooting bench at Green Ridge’s range has a perhaps 4-foot-long, 18-inch-diameter piece of black corrugated pipe attached to the front of it. The rules say you have to shoot through the tubes.
That is, the signs said, a concession to neighbors. It minimizes noise.
I guess it works. I’ll take their word for it, anyway.
But sitting behind the tubes, and shooting through them, I was reminded of the movie “Enemy at the Gates.” Law plays a Russian World War II sniper, Harris his German counterpart.
They do battle throughout the movie, crawling through pipes, bombed out factories and more in the midst of a Stalingrad winter to shoot at one another from all kinds of hidden positions.
We didn’t have to worry about enemy snipers. Derek and I weren’t shooting at anything more reactive than splattering paper targets.
And I won’t say who shot better and won our little competition – because it wasn’t always me – but it was loads of fun. There’s a lot to be said for plinking in particular and shooting in general.
I only wish we’d discovered that range sooner.
And, frankly, we should have.
In addition to the countless private shooting ranges – run by businesses and sportsmen’s clubs around the country – there are ranges on public lands all over, too.
So, with August being National Shooting Sports Month, now is the perfect time to find a place to shoot. That’s especially true if you’ve got a youngster or even adult newbie who wants to experience some trigger time.
Get them out there. Share your stories and photos on your social media accounts with the hashtag #LetsGoShooting. Upload some to our Everybody Adventures website, too.
They’ll have fun and so will you.
As for where to go, here are some ideas on finding public ranges.
State parks and forests. Maryland, as Green Ridge proves, has public ranges. But other states do, too. Check with your department of natural resources.
State game lands and wildlife management areas. Sometimes, it’s your state wildlife agency that provides places to shoot. The Pennsylvania Game Commission operates 29 shooting ranges (and one archery range) on property it owns. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources have their own, too. Many other states are the same.
National Forests. George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia are home to seven designated shooting ranges. Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee has five more. They’re certainly not the exceptions. Many if not most national forests have ranges. There are general rules that apply to them all, as well as site specific regulations, though, so learn what’s what wherever you go.
Bureau of Land Management properties. In western states, a few Bureau of Land Management properties have designated shooting ranges. These are less developed and less regulated than some others, but there no less fun for all that.
Other options. If you’re interested in any kind of range, public or private, the National Shooting Sports Foundation operates a “where to shoot” website. It offers a wealth of information about ranges of all kinds. There’s even an app for your smart phone provides the same information in mobile fashion.
So there’s always somewhere to shoot. All it takes to get out there is desire.
You may not get to imagine you’re a World War II sniper, but it will still be fun.
Let’s Go Shooting, public shooting ranges and safety
Recreational shooting is a great way to spend time with family and friends. And there are plenty of ways to do it, as the website LetsGoShooting.org makes clear.
Visitors to the site can even register for a sweepstakes that offers some really nice prize packages.
But there is no room for accidents on the shooting range. None.
Safety trumps everything, even fun.
Visit one of the country’s many public shooting ranges during National Shooting Sports Month.
So be responsible with firearms, and make sure everyone there with you does the same.
How to do that?
Here are the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s “10 rules of firearms safety.”
1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
2. Firearms should be unloaded when not in use.
3. Don’t rely on your gun’s safety.
4. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
5. Use the correct ammunition.
6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle it with care: keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and open the action and unload the firearm.
7. Always wear eye and ear protection.
8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.
9. Don’t modify or alter your gun and have it serviced regularly.
10. Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of your firearm.
And for good measure, if you’re on a public range, treat it with respect.
The Green Ridge range we shot at once had target frames closer than 100 yards. But vandals destroyed them so many times it became cost prohibitive for the state to maintain them.
So care for these ranges – Tread Lightly offers some tips – and the lands they sit on. They’re ours, after all.
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