Many gun enthusiasts enjoy target shooting outdoors. Target shooting is a great way to improve hand/ eye coordination skills. Unsafe target shooting practices have resulted in wildfires including the recent Goat Fire in Washington State above Alta Lake which burnt 73,378 acres according to a February 16 2013 article, “Exploding Targets Linked to Wildfires Across the West” AP News. According to a 2012 report by an ABC news affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah by Newport Television LLC., The Centerville fire started near 1600 North just above the Rolling Hills neighborhood of Centerville. The forest service says that people target shooting sparked the blaze that forced three families to evacuate their homes and caused a lot of concern for about two hours.
Although it is fun to shoot out of doors some very specific guidelines should be carefully adhered to in order to prevent an enjoyable outing to become a wildfire catastrophe.
- Always shoot in areas designated for that purpose.
- Make sure you are aware of weather conditions. Some shooting areas are closed during severe fire weather conditions.
- Do not use steel bullets when shooting outdoors. Because some bullets are steel but have a brass color but are steel a good rule of thumb is to use a magnet. If the magnet is attracted to the shell it is a steel bullet and should not be used outdoors as steel flints when it hits hard objects such as rocks and could create sparks that cause wildfires. Lead and brass bullets are preferred.
- You should not discharge any firearm or explosive device in violation of any state law. Make sure that you carefully follow restrictions regarding the type of fire arms that you are allowed to discharge.
- Do Not Violate restrictions or closures. Some areas may be in a high fire hazard severity zone. Follow posted warnings.
- Some states, counties and cities have restrictions or complete prohibitions against the use of exploding targets. These targets are a mixture of an oxidizer -- usually ammonium nitrate -- and a fuel, such as aluminum. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not regulate the sale and distribution of these powder chemicals, even when they're sold as kits designed to become explosives, according to its May 2012 newsletter. Once mixed, someone must have a federal explosives permit to transport them. Sportsmen generally mix them onsite before using them as targets.
- Do not use tracer or incendiary ammunition such as flare guns.
As a responsible target shooter make sure that you follow other rules pertaining to personal safety and the safety of others, distances required from inhabited areas and roads, cleaning up litter including shells and not damaging cultural and environmental features. You should never shoot any firearm under the influence and some federal lands prohibit the discharge of firearms at night.Always check with the land management agency before you shoot to learn if permits are required, areas open, fire severity; and if ammunition and weapons are allowed. It is important to be Firewise while we recreate in the wonderful outdoors. For more information about federal shooting areas look on your local BLM and Forest Service websites.