Recreational shooting is one of many activities that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may allow on public lands as part of its multiple use, sustained yield mandate contained in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). The BLM typically manages a wide range of multiple use activities, including recreational shooting, on most public lands provided that they do not impair the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, and archaeological values, and that they do not endanger human health, safety or property.
On public lands in Montana you are generally allowed to target shoot as long as you are taking appropriate safety measures and able to clean up your targets, shell casings, and trash. The BLM does not manage any designated target shooting sites.
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Shooting is strictly prohibited in some areas due to high public use and resource concerns. Prohibited areas include all developed recreation sites and other areas where posted. Shooters remain legally responsible for knowing the rules and should check with local BLM Offices before venturing onto public lands to shoot. Where possible, major access entry points to areas open to shooting will display current shooting information containing shooting regulations and safe shooting practices.
It is illegal to shoot (or place targets) on trees, signs, outbuildings, or other objects on federal lands that are for the public's enjoyment or use. It is also imperative to follow all state laws and county ordinances concerning the safe and legal use of weapons and ammunition. Shooters are responsible for knowing applicable laws and for the safe use of their firearms.
Please contact the BLM field office in your area with any questions you may have regarding target shooting on the public lands. The National BLM regulations are listed below, but each local area may have additional requirements or restrictions.
BLM Target Shooting Regulations:
- Shooting and possession of firearms is allowed on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management provided that the specific shooting activity involved:
- Does not create a public hazard, public nuisance or direct threat to public safety and use. (paraphrased from Title 43 CFR Sec. 8365.1-4.)
- Does not damage or destroy natural features, native plants, cultural resources, historic structures or government and/or private property. (paraphrased from Title 43 CFR Sec. 8365.1-5)
- Does not facilitate and create a condition of littering, refuse accumulation and abandoned personal property. (paraphrased from Title 43 CFR Sec. 8365.1-1)
- Does not violate an existing use restriction, closure order or supplementary rules notice. (paraphrased from Title 43 CFR Sec. 8365.1-6)
- Acts restricted by Fire Prevention Order (43 CFR 9212.1(h)) prohibiting the use of tracers and explosive material.
Things to consider when selecting a location
- Proper access to public lands must be through public roads. Crossing private lands to access public lands is not permitted unless you first obtain permission from the private landowner.
- Check with local sheriff or land management agencies before using an area for shooting. Private and state lands are located adjacent to many public lands. Do not shoot on private lands without the owner's permission. Shooting is not permitted in state parks or state trust land.
- Know your target and what is beyond it. Shots fired across the open areas can travel for more than a mile. Find a safe backdrop. A spot with a large mound, hill, or cliff directly behind the target is ideal.
- Firearms must not be discharged within 150 yards of residences, buildings, campsites, occupied areas, recreational areas or domestic livestock.
- Shooting across a road, trail, or wash is not permitted.
- Shooting should only take place in areas well away from other concentrations of people and property.
- Shooting from a vehicle is not permitted.
- When driving to your target shooting location, stay on designated routes. Cross-country travel is not permitted outside of designated OHV Open Area boundaries.
How Do YOU Shoot?
When shooting on public lands
- Tracer rounds and exploding devices such as binary explosive targets are not allowed.
- Use the correct ammunition for your firearm and wear the appropriate eye and ear protection devices.
- Shoot only retrievable, freestanding targets.
- Shooting glass objects, electronic waste and items that may contain hazardous materials (i.e. Freon, propane, etc.) is prohibited.
- Do not attach targets to living plants or attach targets to rocks, plants, or solid objects. It is illegal to deface or destroy trees, signs, outbuildings, or other objects on federal lands that are for the public's enjoyment. ( CFR 8365.1-5 (a) (1) & (2))
- Always pick up and remove targets, empty shells, and any other shrapnel or debris before you leave.
- Do not act in an aggressive or threatening manner towards other public land users.
- Avoid being under the influence of alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs while shooting.
BLM areas closed to target shooting:
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Due to high fire danger, wildlife management, public safety concerns, and litter problems, several areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management are closed to target shooting. Shooting is also restricted within one quarter mile of recreation sites, visitor centers, and areas posted by the authorizing officer for the protection of natural resources. Some examples include:
The Bureau of Land Management has color-coded 1:100,000 scale Surface Management maps available displaying public and private land ownership, roads, water features, points of interest and other topographic information. The maps do not display specific shooting sites, but can provide guidance to those seeking appropriate public lands for target shooting. The maps may be purchased from the State Office and at various field offices. Each map is $4. Maps are available from the Public Room at the BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office at 1500 Southgate Drive, Billings, Montana.
Contact Us First for Safety
Many BLM Field Offices have unofficial shooting areas in old barrow pits, gravel pits, or other disturbed areas where there has been a history of such use by the public. BLM staff are familiar with most of the places and may be able to direct you to these sites.
Shooters are responsible for knowing the rules, so please call or e-mail either the Recreation Staff or Law Enforcement Ranger in the BLM Field Office where you want to shoot for more information about places to target shoot safely on public lands. We are here to help you.