Visitors should use caution when target shooting on public lands

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Bureau of Land Management, Carson City District, is asking visitors who plan on target shooting on public lands to be mindful of the conditions and take precautions if they are planning on shooting.

The Chaves Fire, that started June 3 and burned over 3,000 acres in a little over 24 hours was started by target shooting and serves as a reminder of how quickly fire can start and spread.

“Despite the rain we’ve gotten over the past month, there is still fuel that can burn,” said Ryan Elliot, a fire investigator assigned to BLM’s Carson City District. “While some of the heavier fuels like logs and sage brush can remain wet for longer periods, lighter fuels like cheat grass can dry out in a matter of hours increasing the danger of starting a fire.”

If you are planning on shooting on public lands, here are some tips to help ensure you have a good time while protecting public lands and preventing wildfires:

  • Place your targets on dirt or gravel areas clear of vegetation and avoid shooting into rocky areas. Placing a target in dry grass increases the risk of fire.
  • Shoot at quality steel targets designed to minimize risks to both the shooter and the environment. For steel targets to be functional and safe, they should be made of high quality through hardened steel that has a Brinell hardness number of at least 500. Refrain from shooting steel targets during hot, dry and windy conditions.
  • Bring a shovel. Use the shovel to dig a trench around your targets before shooting to ensure that any fire caused by sparks can be easily contained.
  • Don’t shoot at exploding targets, you can increase your chances of starting a fire.
  • Don’t use incendiary or tracer ammo – Incendiary and tracer ammo are always prohibited on public lands.
  • Be aware that all types of ammunition can start fires under the right conditions especially steel core ammunition. To avoid a chance of sparking, do not use steel core ammunition and always avoid shooting in rocky areas. A study of ignition by rifle bullets was published by the USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station. The paper can be found at
  • Bring a container of water. This may seem obvious, but shooters often fail to bring enough water to put a fire out. A five gallon bucket of water readily available while shooting could prevent a disaster if a fire does start.
  • Don’t shoot trash. Trash like old couches and TVs can often be found illegally dumped on public land but can be dangerous fire hazards when shot.
  • Be cautious with smoking. 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.
  • Park your vehicle away from dry grass. Wildfires have been started by vehicles parked in dry grass. While it may not seem like a hazard, the hot undercarriage of a car or truck can easily create enough heat to ignite the grass.
  • Please shoot responsibly, clean up after shooting and “Tread Lightly” on public land.

Person(s) responsible for starting a fire while target shooting could be held liable for paying suppression costs occurred to fight the fire. Anyone who causes a fire and leaves the scene without reporting the fire could be charged criminally.

Additional information about on going fires and fire prevention can be found at

This year, we invite everyone to reimagine your public lands as we celebrate 75 years of the BLM’s stewardship and service to the American people. The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. 

Release Date


Bureau of Land Management


Carson City District Office


Chris Rose