Laws re: personal shooting ranges

Let me preface, as usual, by noting that I’m from Canada where guns are much less common, and gun laws much stricter. I mention this just to underscore my total ignorance about guns and gun laws. In any case, my question refers to the USA.

What are the rules and regulations regarding target practice, pinging, etc. in the US? I assume that the specifics of the laws vary from state to state, but suspect there are probably some fairly common generic features.

So, for example, if I live on farm, can I simply put beer cans up on the nearest fence and ping them to my heart’s content? Or (in addition to common sense precautions) are there precise safety features which must be incorporated into my little “shooting range”?

OTOH, let’s say I live in a city. Would I then be allowed to shoot away at Osama targets in the privacy of my own basement?

Thanks in advance!

As long as you don’t live in any city or town limits, the only laws that would restrict you are generally just noise and general nuisance regulations plus common sense. In most of the country by land area, you can just set up some cans or whatever else and start plinking away and it is rather common to do so. I grew up on about 100 acres in Louisiana with a gun dealer father and we had a rifle, pistol, and skeet shooting range at our house. Commercial endeavours would obviously be different but personal shooting is mostly allowed as long at is reasonable and doesn’t disturb the neighbors much. Many if not most city limits make it illegal (although sometimes with only minor penalties) to discharge any firearms within the city limits without some type of permit and you usually can’t do it at all.

I should add that there are shooting clubs in cities that are more regulated and at least one giant home down the street from me has a shooting range in an altered basement. People can get approval for most things if they are designed for safe shooting for temporary private ranges in the country can usually just be made on a whim (again, very generic ideas). There are certain types of vermin that are allowed to be killed year round so farms often have a rifle or two that need to be sighted in and shot for proficiency whenever.

We live in a rural area of Ohio. I shoot all the time on our property.

As far as the law goes, there’s only one thing to keep in mind: *If there’s no law that says you *can’t ** do something, then you can. (This is true with regard to any action.)

There is no law that says I *can’t * shoot on our property. Therefore, I can.

At any rate, even though I can shoot on our property, it doesn’t make me immune to criminal charges. I will be up poop creek if (for example) one of my bullets ricochets into a neighbor’s house.

I’m not entirely sure the laws where I live, I live in a semi-suburban/semi-rural type area not that far from Richmond. I have neighbors that wouldn’t be nearly close enough to hear me having a huge fight with my wife (if I was married) or be bothered by one of my dogs barking, but target practice in my back yard may cause enough annoyance that it’d be unneighborly.

So I typically go to some property I have way out in the wilderness when it’s time to target practice or sight in a weapon, I fire into targets with a hillside behind them for maximum safety.

I do have a silencer, so I might consider shooting my pistols at home if I felt so inclined. It could be illegal, but since no one would hear me I wouldn’t be too concerned with it.

Fairfax County, VA, (a suburb of Washington DC.) has a law restricting firing of any firearm to licensed ranges. You can get a range license without respect to your commercial or private use, but the requirements are the same, and include the material, and functional safety of the bullet trap, and the means and methods of removal of lead. Inspections for first issue, and both scheduled, and unscheduled observations of the maintenance of the facility, including access to the property are also a requirement. Outdoor ranges have similar, although specifically different regulations. Nearby counties have similar restrictions, although most Virginia counties do not.

Firing, and carrying are separate issues, of course. It is legal to carry a weapon, but it is illegal to discharge it, even in circumstances where such action is otherwise legal. (Such as self defense, which is legal, but the discharge can be considered a misdemeanor, even so.)


In Missouri there are classes of counties. In a third class county, where I live, you can shoot on your own property as long as your projectiles land on your property. As mentioned above, in a town or city they may have ordinances stating otherwise. But out in the countryside not too many folks care.

The Sheriff’s office gets call from time to time with folks complaining, but they are usually told that “it’s the country, don’t worry about it”.

I shoot down into a ravine on my property to test a new rifle or handgun, but not often.

Rural western Pennsylvania resident here. My neighbors target shoot in their yards with .22s all the time. They use the hills as backdrops. In November, there will be booming from high powered rifles being sighted in for deer hunting.

I have a .357 mag for personal protection, but I don’t fire it at home. For $20 a year, I belong to a local sportsman’s club. They have indoor/outdoor ranges, a lake stocked with trout, etc. I take my gun there once a year and shoot a box.