Safety of Shooting On Personal Property


May 30, 2009, 07:22 PM
I just signed a purchase agreement to buy 130 acres of heavily forested property (about 40 miles from Houston). The proprty measures approximately 2,650 ft by 2,100 ft. At the moment there is nothing on the property except trees - and lots of them - but we are going to build a house there soon. The property, a retangular shape, is rimmed on one long side by a quiet road, on the two short sides by property occupying one single home each, and on the other long side by a small development of eight or ten single family homes.

I shoot mainly pistols (9mm, .40 and .45 cal) and ocassionally a rifle (30-06) and a 12 guage shotgun. My question is, assuming I shoot into the trees in a direction where I know no houses are and where no cars or people are likely to be, do you think that would be safe or should I build a berm? Also what about hunting? You can't use a berm for that. I'm hoping that 130 acres of heavily treed land should be safe for shooting as long as I am mindful of neighboring homes, etc., but I'd thought I ask here for any advice. Thanks...

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Hungry Seagull
May 30, 2009, 07:32 PM
2 Kilometers radius from your firearm is the fall zone for various shot. Some wont make it that far.

I say get a dozer and dig yourself a 50 yard range. Just go downhill about 10 feet and pile the backstop twice as high and here is your safe firing range.

Some of my neighbors live on a acre and shoot anyway. I wonder sometimes what they are shooting or who.

As long as no one near your property hears shooting and complains, it can be very nice.

Good luck!

May 30, 2009, 07:35 PM
I would say that is good advice except I would probably go for a 100 yard range.

May 30, 2009, 07:36 PM
What you're asking is what constitutes a calculated risk--for you--and only you can determine whether or not the risk for your desire to shoot into the trees is small enough to offset any safety issues.

My opinion: were it my property, I would put in some sort of berm / backstop for your range shooting. The reason for that berm is not only for safe shooting, but taking into account possilbe "cultural" issues with neighbors--particularly the small development.

As for hunting, that should depend on your state codes. What--if any--they say about population density, etc., in your area.

Jim H.

May 30, 2009, 08:19 PM
Use the way your land lasy to your advantage and learn the way your nieghbors land lays. I didnt see where your from, but if it anything like where i live you dont have any flatland! Find a place in your property that would make almost a natural berm or a place that would require only having a dumptruck load or two of dirt being dumped in a strategic point. Theres no need to higher a dozer if you plan this out carefully. And for hunting, hunt from a stand and your shots will go into the ground. If you hunt on the ground the best thing you can do is be mindful of the way your nighbors properties lay and then use your head from there. Oh, google earth can be a great help in doing this aswell! Good luck!

May 30, 2009, 08:23 PM
I have a similar arrangement except that there are no neighbors in my shooting direction, only occasional campers and some cattle. I have a 100 yard range about 8 feet wide through some dense aspen trees. I am shooting into a gently sloping soft dirt hill and at the butt end of the range I have a large pile of aspen logs to shoot into, 8' or so high and maybe 15' long and 20' deep. Something along these lines should serve you well.

May 30, 2009, 10:28 PM
You will need a berm backstop for any handgun and rifle shooting. Earth berms are best; wood backstops get chewed up awfully fast and are not as ricochet-proof as a great big ol' pile of dirt.

You should also likely contact your closest neighbors and let them know your intentions, so that they're not surprised by the gunfire.

May 30, 2009, 11:06 PM
+1 to what rbernie said....

It is just safe and prudent to KNOW where your bullet went. That is what a backstop is for.

May 30, 2009, 11:33 PM
Thanks all for such good advice. The land is very flat so to be safe I'll design a range with targets at various intervals but with the last one against a tall dirt berm. As for hunting, I'll probably need a stand so my shots will be pointed down at the ground.

Hungry Seagull, you mentioned the possibility of neighbors complaining. Although I don't want that to happen and will be sensitive about shooting too early or too late in the day, my guess is that if I'm shooting safely on my own property I'm within the law, right? This is in the country; it's definately not an urban setting.

May 30, 2009, 11:57 PM
You can add some features to minimize the noise when you build your berm. Plant some low busy trees like juniper or cedar along the sides and back. Hang some canvas tarps to the immediate sides of your shooting station or put up couple of berms. The whole idea is to muffle the sounds of your shooting to the point where only an unreasonably jumpy person would complain.

john paul
May 31, 2009, 12:06 AM
texas state law says if you have at least 10 acres you can shoot as you like. as long as you're not in the city limits. which direction from houston? i live up north myself.

May 31, 2009, 01:58 AM
My family ranch started as a 100 acre tract, shaped exactly like a capital T. I've been shooting there for over 25 years without any sort of embankment, and so far without incident. I have two neighbors within a few hundred yards, but I'm generally shooting in the opposite direction and into the woods. The land is about half old pasture land with a few trees peppered here and there and the other half is heavily wooded creek bottoms.

Several hundred additional acres have been purchased over the years that border the original tract, but mostly up towards where the neighbors live. So that same T-shaped tract is where I do probably 85% of my shooting. A lot of shooting. As in many thousands of rounds per year. Probably half hand gun (.32ACP, .380ACP, 7.62x25mm, 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm, and .45ACP), and half long gun (.22LR, .22 Mag, .223, 30/30, .357 Mag, .454 Casull, 30-06, and 12 gauge). Again, never a single problem that I'm aware of within that time.

I'd say shooting in a direction where you know is not inhabited, you should be fine.



May 31, 2009, 04:42 AM
It doesn't sound like you are in city limits. I don't know of city that allows shooting within. Check your county laws to avoid trouble later. The District Attorney or legal department of county (whatever they call themselves) should be able to help you w/a phone call.

The idea of you (or hiring) someone to come in and move some dirt sounds like a great idea. They could rough it in in a day easy. What fun that would be! Design your own shooting range.

May 31, 2009, 08:48 AM
"which direction from houston? i live up north myself."

John Paul, the property is just inside the east side of the Waller County line and is approximately 5 miles west of Magnolia. If you live close enough, grab your guns and come on over. Seriously...

May 31, 2009, 08:49 AM
Definitely go with the berm. I can't see how there could be any downside to increasing safety.

Man, I wish I had 130 acres just outside of Houston!

May 31, 2009, 10:34 AM
If you are building your berm behind the furthest set of targets, be sure the trajectory of the rounds you shoot at your close targets does't let them hit the ground in front of the berm instead of the berm itself. These bullets will then often ricochet off the ground and go OVER the berm (and possibly your trees). Shooting slow pistol bullets at 25 yard targets set 125 yards in front of a berm 150 away can really be dangerous unless you really be sure you place the close targets high enough. A safer way is to build a close berm for handguns and a far one for rifles.

May 31, 2009, 10:48 AM
I have a place about the same size, 100 acres. I've used it for hunitng and other kinds of shooting since it belonged to my grandfather when I was a kid.

One thing to look into is grant money for construction of water holding ponds, we called them "tanks" in West Texas.

The dams for those make excellent berms, and if you can get some kind of farm subsidies to pay for part of it, even better.

We'd even get them stocked with freshwater fish every few years through a state program for a very low cost, though it hasn't rained enough in the last few years for me to bother with that one anymore :(

Win win all the way around.

May 31, 2009, 11:22 AM
I was shooting at a slight down hill with a slight up hill on the other side, all open and rolling hills. I could see the entire back ground. (All my property so no one SHOULD be there but you never know.) Just as your woods No one Should be there but.

Now a local farmer has planted that area I shoot into a side of a burm.

May 31, 2009, 11:52 AM
I just signed a purchase agreement to buy 130 acres of heavily forested property (about 40 miles from Houston). The proprty measures approximately 2,650 ft by 2,100 ft. At the moment there is nothing on the property except trees - and lots of them - but we are going to build a house there soon. The property, a retangular shape, is rimmed on one long side by a quiet road, on the two short sides by property occupying one single home each, and on the other long side by a small development of eight or ten single family homes.

Congrats on the new property purchase and future home. :)

May 31, 2009, 01:05 PM
My folks in Morgan Hill, California, have neighbors across the street with about 10 acres. I hear shotguns going off every now and then. I figure they have a range on their property. I'm not sure if it's legal, but I'm not calling them on it. I'd like to be invited to shoot. Other neighbors don't complain because it's country living. Again, this is California I'm talking about here.

May 31, 2009, 06:28 PM
Here's my range, on 25 acres out behind my house. The backstop was built with a dozer, average 10' tall. After Hurricane Katrina scrap wood was cheap(free!) and plentiful. I love having the wood wall, makes attaching gongs, targets, whatever so much easier. It is 8' high and each section 4' wide. Entrie cost was around $3000 to build. It has water and power, range is 75 yards long although as you can see I can shoot longer range if desired.

I've spent many peaceful relaxing afternoons down there.

May 31, 2009, 07:14 PM
First make sure you're not within any city/town limits where discharging a firearm might bring bad ju-ju down on you. The city limits where I live reaches far into the country, into areas that I would have thought were safe.

Good luck to you, a large country property with my own range is my fondest dream!

gbw - I'm sooooo jealous!

May 31, 2009, 07:28 PM
Those worn-in lanes between the shed and the targets are great to see!

June 2, 2009, 08:55 AM
Thanks. I have to re-build the wall (just 2 or 3 sections, and then only the centers) every year or so. Takes a day and $30 for planks. The gongs (4) are are 3/8" steel plate, fine for nearly any lead pistol bullets at any range, but a rifle .30 Ball rd. will penetrate them. You can hit them reliably from 80 yd. offhand with a good 1911 or revolver if you pay attention to business. Gizmo mounted on the front table is a machine rest (can't recall the name, but the new competitor to the Ransom). It works well, reduces average group size about 30% from hand held. Chronograph goes next to it. Nearest neighbor home is about 700' to NW, range fire direction is South, nothing that way for a couple miles. It's a nice toy to have.

June 2, 2009, 10:05 AM
I would just use common sense. What would you like your neighbor behind you, who could be shooting at you, to be using as a backstop.

I only have 2 acres, then there is about a half mile of hay field behind me, a small woods then field.

When I shoot my Pistol or Shotgun, I'm not shooting more than 20yds while standing and point at a target on the ground.

When I get out the rifle, I lay on the ground, and shoot at targets maybe 50yds, that are also less than a foot high.

I do it this way just to guarentee I won't have any that get to far.

My nearrest neighbors are 1/4 mile on the east and west, South of me is on the other side of the block, about a mile.

June 2, 2009, 10:31 AM
I just finished clearing my spot on some acreage I purchased. While the machines were clearing the property I found a spot where I have a little over 75 yards, slightly down hill, and had the cut tree logs stacked 15 feet high. then the dozer and back hoe dumped dirt on it. It not only save me from burning the trees but makes a very nice backstop.

Hungry Seagull
June 2, 2009, 10:39 AM
Next big question.

Will that rain drain properly from it?

Had to ask. Dont let them equiptment get away and have it turn into a lake in a storm.

Ours were cut into the side of a hill with a quarry dozer and it was downhill into the hill itself but the slope was actually slightly uphill so runoff is easy.

Did that make sense?

Does it really matter? That lead and shot will fall down to bottom to be slowly buried by silting water/sediment anyhow.

That leads me to another thought. You have well water? Will any of that run off leach into your water well?

June 2, 2009, 12:36 PM
In most rural areas shooting on your own property is OK with a few qualifiers.

One thing that seems almost universal is that no shooting goes toward a road, or within so and so feet of a road.

General safe practices are the rule - no shooting toward any occupied building even if it seems too far to hit. Make SURE of your backstop.

Other than those two pretty strict thoughts I think it's good to try to be considerate of any neighbors.

I shoot pistols here on my homestead - right out the back door with 25 yards to a target holder I welded up and put against a natural terrain backstop. It works great and I generally don't shoot on weekends or during hours when I think someone might be bothered by the noise. I have three neighbors that I can't see from here but are close enough to hear my gunshots. I try not to bother anyone but I've never gone to check what hours might work best for any of them. I figure to do that would just open the door for them to bitch, and they've got no bitch because I'm completely within the law in what I do here.

I've got room to have 200 yards if I wanted, or even a roving range through the back woods here. There's six acres of woods on my place that I could do whatever I want to with - I don't because I've gotten too old and lazy. :)

June 2, 2009, 02:18 PM
Build a berm.

Here's a sad news story about some folks though trees were a good backstop for an SKS. They are being charged with manslaughter:

June 2, 2009, 11:07 PM

That article is right on point and answers the important questions here.

You may be confident in your shooting ability. However, if your range is inherently dangerous, then you could still be charged with involuntary manslaughter if a less-than-stellar shooter is off target and kills someone.

June 2, 2009, 11:39 PM
That would be so dope! I want my own private range! But I'd definitely make a berm backdrop about 8-10' high and to the most unpopulated and untraveled direction. Maybe your neighbors will wanna borrow it sometimes!

June 2, 2009, 11:58 PM
The bottom line is you are responsible for any bullets originating from your property, that for the most part includes guests at least in part (due to you allowing them to shoot on your place).

June 3, 2009, 01:20 AM
That's a lot of work you've got ahead of you.. I'll gladly volunteer myself and my vehicle to assist in getting your range going if you let me shoot there occasionally.

Also, I've got a lot of experience in shaping my own firing lanes in dense brush and forested areas for deer hunting.

have you scouted the property yet to see where the best location would be? There's a pretty good chance you can find a natural berm, or atleast an accessible area so you can move whatever material you're going to use.

June 3, 2009, 03:09 AM
I keep threatening my sister to move to her "farm" in TX, south of Dallas. She's got about 40 acres, but is a bleeding-heart anti....

I could put at trailer near the road and she'd never know I was there if we didn't drive over to use the pool.... I think she even has a dozer! But if one of the coyotes gets a horse, she may change her mind....

Overall, I'd build the berm, somehow. Although that fish pond "tank" idea may have merit, and using existing ground features isn't a bad idea either.

(I've got 150' behind my house now, which would be a nice pistol range, but the local PD and the guy living at about 151' might object. :()


June 3, 2009, 03:23 AM
I'll add to the chorus: Build a berm. Shooting into the woods just isn't a good idea. I've been in the woods when somebody was doing that. Big time bad news. Never been in war, but now I have an idea what it's like to be shot at.

June 3, 2009, 09:04 AM
It's my range in the photo. Any competent dozer operator could build the same setup (build and shape 10'-12' high vertical front wall 25' wide berm, cut even lanes, and scrape in some drainage, not including the wall and shed) in 3 or 4 hours. Clearing large trees will add significant time / money. Still $1000 or so at the outside, not bad for what you're getting. You can always add the amenities later as you go along and decide what you want. I can't think of much I'd do differently except buy more land when I had the opportunity. A couple of years of carefully publicized political contributions to the local sheriff never hurt either, still being careful to follow the letter of the law.

Lamb of Gun
June 3, 2009, 07:25 PM
gbw: That must be liberating to have a gun-club worthy rage right on your property. Fantastic job.

There is a clearing in the woods behind my house the I shoot at. I don't use a back stop (although I'd like to have one) because I am shooting at about 20 yards, and always in into the ground. I only shoot back there about twice a year or if I purchase a new gun I feel is OK to be shooting in the neighborhood. They don't mind considering the neighbors on both sides of me have backstops and the people accross the street are always shooting large bore rifles.

I don't feel comfortable shooting more then just some small to medium caliber pistols and rifles back there. It would be nice to but it's just not in the cards.

My suggestion would be to build a range that feels like a pay to shoot range (if it's financially viable). You feel safe, secure, and free to do what you like.

June 3, 2009, 09:01 PM
I am lucky in that I have 600+ acres with a berm of 200 tires filled with dirt as a stop. I step out of the shop for 100-200-300 yd benches. It is almost 2 miles to the back of the farm. Life is good!

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