As the days get longer and the weather gets nicer, more and more shooters will be heading outdoors this summer to practice with their favorite firearms. With summer, however, also comes the increased risk of wildfires. As we saw last year in the western half of the U.S., fires are easily started and readily blamed on firearms use. If you plan to target shoot on public land this season, make sure you understand the regulations and take the necessary precautions to prevent the chance of wildfires. Here are 10 suggestions
1. Bring a bucket of water - This may seem obvious, but shooters often fail to bring enough water to put a fire out. A 5-gallon bucket of water at the ready while shooting could prevent a disaster if a fire does start. We recommend placing the bucket near the targets you'll be shooting. That way, if a fire starts, you won't have to waste precious time carrying a heavy bucket all the way to where your targets are set up.
2. Shoot on quality steel targets - Action Target's steel targets are designed to minimize risks to both the shooter and the environment. The flat target surface with no exposed bolts, clamps or brackets allows for predictable bullet splatter, and the angle of the target plate forces bullet fragments down toward the feet of the target. Uneven shooting surfaces produce unpredictable splatter and ricochet which increases the surface area exposed to sparks and hot bullet fragments.
3. Place your targets on dirt or gravel - Make sure your target is placed on a level, unvegetated surface of dirt or small grained gravel. Placing a target in tall grass increases the risk of fire.
4. Don't shoot trash - Trash like old couches and TVs can often be found on public land but are dangerous fire hazards when shot. Because there is often no surface hard enough to cause the bullet to break up, hot rounds can build up inside and eventually create enough heat to cause a fire.
5. Don't shoot with steel core ammo - Ammo that contains a steel core may spark when it hits a rock or a metal object. To avoid any chance of sparking, do not use steel ammunition and avoid shooting in rocky areas.
6. Bring a shovel and an old blanket - Use the shovel to dig a trench around your targets before shooting to ensure that any fire caused by sparks can be easily contained. Place the blanket near the targets you'll be shooting so it's easily available if needed. A blanket is one of the best ways to smother a fire and can be even more effective than water.
7. Never shoot exploding targets - Binary exploding targets made of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder (commonly known as Tannerite when combined) are popular among recreational shooters. While the byproducts of the explosion do not produce a fire hazard, they are often blamed for starting wild fires. Exploding targets (listed as "other pyrotechnic devices") are outlawed on public lands by the Bureau of Land Management's Fire Prevention Order.
8. Don't use incendiary or tracer ammo - Incendiary and tracer ammo are also outlawed on public lands by the BLM's Fire Prevention Order. Any ammo that "burns" can easily ignite grass and brush and should not be used in flammable areas.
9. Don't smoke - Even if you're following all safety precautions in regard to shooting, you can still easily start a wildfire by smoking. If you're shooting in a dry location, make sure that all cigarette butts are properly extinguished or avoid smoking at all.
10. Park your vehicle away from dry grass - Several fires last year were started by vehicles parked in tall grass. While it may not seem like a hazard, the hot undercarriage of a car or truck can easily create enough heat to ignite dry grass.
You may not be able to plan for every possible scenario, but just taking a few extra precautions while shooting can greatly reduce the risk of starting a fire. Just remember that every time you set foot on public land, you represent the shooting community, and one bad decision could affect everyone.
Tips courtesy of Action Target, Inc.