plinking on public land
Pick up your garbage (and trash from other shooters) after plinking on public land. Ben Long

I had a free couple of hours free last weekend so I decided to put 100 rounds through my favorite rimfire, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

Now I like my local rifle range, but I also appreciate the freedom to shoot what I want, how I want, when I want. Happily, hundreds of millions of acres of national forest and Bureau of Land Management land are open for informal target practice.

Unfortunately, this privilege is sorely abused. My local woods are littered with the debris of slob shooters, which makes us all look bad. This matters because when shooting conflicts with other users, shooters generally face the brunt of restrictions.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve noticed some trends. For one, there are more people using the woods, and a smaller percentage of them with guns; we are sharing the woods. Two, we are burning up a lot of ammo out there. That’s no surprise given the popularity and firing capacity of ARs and the Obama-era gun boom.

Allow me to make a few suggestions to help keep our freedoms intact:

  • Pack it in-pack it out, plus. Keep a pair of leather gloves and some heavy-duty garbage bags in your shooting kit. Spend a few minutes each outing cleaning up your trash, and those left by others.
  • Leave the glass at home. Sure, blowing up old pop bottles is fun, but it leaves a jagged mess that’s nearly impossible to clean up. Same goes for old appliances, toilets and the like. Instead buy a variety of spinner targets. They’re satisfying to shoot and easy to clean up.
  • Leave the alcohol at home. It seems obvious that alcohol and guns don’t mix, but some folks haven’t got the message. Apply peer pressure as necessary.
  • Beware of fire hazard. Exploding targets have started more than one forest fire, but the more common culprit is the errant cigarette.
  • Consider a suppressor. Gunfire may be the sound of freedom to some of us, but it’s noise pollution to others.
  • Avoid obvious conflict zones. If there is private property or a busy trailhead nearby, consider driving a few miles to a more remote location. Be friendly to the locals. We are all ambassadors of the sport.